- Why did you agree to take this position as Interim President for AIBA?
- Following Franco Falcinelli’s resignation at the Congress in Dubai, the statutes were applied and the Executive Committee confirmed that I, as the longest-serving Vice President, should be the new Interim President.
I accepted this challenge as I have been involved in this sport for over 30 years and have tremendous love and passion for boxing. This motivated me to help AIBA – I couldn’t turn my face away when my beloved sport and organization needed my help.
- You have been involved with AIBA for many years. What do you think of the challenges facing the federation?
- It is important to tackle the key challenges facing the organization after a tumultuous 2017. First of all, AIBA has huge financial liabilities, which need to be addressed urgently. And I can tell you that we are already making good progress as the Executive Committee, including me, has been working effectively together as a team.
AIBA’s corporate governance and transparency were damaged by the previous management. We need to rebuild these and give them a strong foundation.
The image and reputation of AIBA have also been seriously tarnished. The organization will now have to work hard to recover its lost credibility.
There seem to be many misunderstandings with the IOC about the current and past situation in AIBA. We need to straighten out these misunderstandings in order to restore our relationship back to health.
And finally, we have to restore faith and trust in our organization. We owe it to the millions of boxing fans.
- How will AIBA improve relations with the IOC? Do you have a good relationship with Thomas Bach?
- It is hard to define the current relations with the IOC. Our past relationship was developed through just one person, the former President who has been an IOC member since 1988. Thus, AIBA never had any organization-to-organization relationship with the IOC. It was just one person representing the entire AIBA boxing family.
Personally, I have known President Bach for a long time, having met him on many occasions in international sport.
- What is the best way to resolve the conflict with the IOC about the weight classes for the Olympics?
- This is a very difficult task, which AIBA is facing now. We are working very hard to convince the IOC of the huge negative impact on future Olympic boxing competitions if we follow the IOC decision. No wonder then that the entire AIBA family is sending requests, statements and petitions to the IOC in order to persuade its EB members against reducing the weight categories in Men Boxing Events.
AIBA has given a special assignment to the AIBA Technical and Rules Commission to come up with a detailed analysis so we can provide the IOC with strong evidence and data.
- Can you confirm that AIBA headquarters will remain in Lausanne?
- Yes, of course. Moving the AIBA headquarters out of Lausanne is false information and a rumor. Perhaps the IOC misunderstood our motives when we decided to cancel the current long-term lease agreement with the new HQ office premises. However, this was intended to reduce AIBA’s operating costs. We will continue staying in the Olympic Capital City.
- Are you considering whether to become a candidate for AIBA President in the election in November?
- I’ve just been named Interim President so this is not my priority right now.
My focus is to bring transparency, stability and good governance back to AIBA. We have a lot on our plate that we need to achieve and solve before November.
- What role should AIBA play in the development of the sport?
- As the global governing body in all levels of non-professional boxing, AIBA has the full responsibility of promoting the sport around the world, developing the sport across all regions, social levels and genders.
We are currently focusing on developing better officials, coaches and administrators in addition to the development of youth and grassroots. Education and training is going to be a focus for 2018 onwards.
So we’re not only committed to developing our boxers but also to advance the sport’s next generation.
- What are your thoughts on boxing as a sport for young men and women? What are the benefits?
- Actually, there are physical, psychological and social benefits to boxing. The boxing training regimes are intense and healthy: running, rope jumping, quick footwork and mobility, while maintaining eye-to-hand coordination and pulling off fast punches. This does wonders for the body, balance and coordination. It keeps youngsters active and healthy.
Then there is the psychological aspect: boxing teaches self-development and discipline. It helps a person to find their inner strength, overcome challenges and builds confidence.
And perhaps most importantly, boxing keeps the youth busy and off the street. It takes them away from gangs, drugs and other wasteful activities. Through boxing they can decompress and channel their energy, aggression and restlessness.
So boxing really can create positive change and at AIBA we need to further promote that.
- Why did you box when you were younger? What did you enjoy about the sport?
- I loved the sport since I was a kid. My big idol was Muhammad Ali. He had incredible reflexes and was smart and funny as well.
Boxing is not just a physical sport, but a mental one as well. Psychologically it makes you more resilient and it improves discipline and concentration. Later in life this has helped me a lot.
It also teaches you to take a punch and come back stronger, something we hope to replicate at AIBA.
Interview done by Ed Hula in Dubai
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