Mohamed Moustahsane has been AIBA Interim President since March. (Getty Images)
(ATR) There are ominous signs that the IOC-suspended International Boxing Federation is headed toward another leadership collapse.
AIBA vice president Osvaldo Bisbal says he will resign as head of the Referees and Judges Commission amid criticism in an IOC report.
“I do not want to talk about these issues anymore, for the time being. I am willing to leave, I do not want to know anything else. And I am in total freedom,” Bisbal tells Around the Rings.
Bisbal, president of the boxing confederation for the Americas, predicts that an AIBA Executive Committee meeting in two weeks will likely lead to a call for new leadership of the federation. Since 2017, there have been four different presidents, the latest chosen in March, Moroccan Mohamed Moustahsane.
Moustahsane is now under attack by a member of the AIBA executive committee. He was slammed in a letter from Emilia Grueva, vice president of the Bulgarian Boxing Federation.
The ExCo member said she was concerned at the lack of any actions by federation leaders in response to the IOC decision to drop AIBA as the governing body for the Olympic boxing competition next year. The sanctions are a result of a report from an ad hoc IOC inquiry that says AIBA has serious issues with its leadership and operations. The report confirms a bevy of problems that have been spotlighted in the past two years.
AIBA issued a muted response following the IOC report which Grueva says is unsatisfactory.
“AIBA made a very short statement, but no further actions were undertaken - there was not even one official statement to acknowledge the unprecedented situation we are all in,” she wrote in the letter sent to the AIBA leadership and 140+ national federations.
Russia Promises Help
A more optimstic tone is offered by Umar Kremlev, Secretary General of the Russian Boxing Federation and member of the AIBA Executive Committee.
Speaking at the annual Global Boxing Forum held in Ekaterinburg this week, Kremlev urged the world boxing community to unite for the preservation of the Olympic boxing federation.
"As for the situation in Olympic boxing, it is now more important than ever to unite and make serious decisions. I believe that it is the boxing community that should decide the future of Olympic boxing," said Kremlev.
"Regarding the recommendation of the IOC Executive Board to deny AIBA's recognition, which was presented at the meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, I think that this is an issue, which we can solve together. But first, it is necessary to make reforms, to change the structure of the organization completely before closing the debts," said the Russian sports leader in a statement.
The IOC Executive Board met in May to review AIBA sanctions. (Getty Images)
Kremlev says the AIBA EC meeting this month after the IOC session will set up a commission to pursue restoration of ties with the IOC. Kremlev has pledged to be able to deliver some $16 million in financial support to the Federation to clear up debts of that magnitude. The IOC has warned that AIBA faces serious financial challenges. And it has expressed doubts about whether Kremlev can make good on the pledge and whether strings might be attached.
"There are no concerns about debts, everything is possible to achieve, but at the same time, it is necessary to do everything correctly and transparently, so that there is no doubt where the money came from," Kremlev says.
"It will come from the boxing community, there are a lot of people who want to pay off the debts. But it will happen only after we achieve all the goals inside AIBA," he says.
Kremlev asserts that once the debt is paid "I think it will be possible to reinstate the status of AIBA because there will be no reason not to do so," he said.
Kremlev, Bisbal, Grueva and the rest of the two dozen EC members will head to Lausanne for the June 27 extraordinary executive committee meeting to discuss the crisis.
Grueva believes AIBA’s future interests are best served with federation crisis talks in the next week before the IOC Session.
“IOC wants to see our immediate actions,” she writes. “We must discuss what kind of range of reform will satisfy IOC in order to avoid continuous punishments from IOC, even after the Tokyo 2020 Games.
“Most importantly, I am personally so worried whether the IOC Session will also discuss the possible removal of our sport from the Olympic Games if we do not take any action now.”
Directly addressing Moustahsane, she said: “As you are well aware, once the IOC Session decides, not much we can do as it is the ultimate decision body in the Olympic movement. We should not make the common mistake to wait until the ship has sailed”.
“People and media are talking about the possible AIBA bankruptcy more often and raised the possibility to launch a new IF to govern our sport.
“You insisted the necessity of unity in AIBA EC and global boxing family. It will be only possible if you do not ignore the critical voices from our members,” says Grueva.
A source familiar with AIBA tells ATR that moves are afoot to overhaul the federation’s leadership. Ousting Moustahsane as well as AIBA executive director Tom Virgets could be imminent.
Bisbal says a leadership change for AIBA will be needed to win the favor of the IOC. But he says he’s not certain who could take over the AIBA presidency.
Bisbal Says Not to Blame for Rio
Bisbal says he will be devoting his attention to overseeing the tournament of the Pan American Games in Lima. But he says health reasons will prevent him from attending all but the final four days of the Pan American Games that begin July 26.
Bisbal is not directly accused of wrongdoing in the IOC report, but he believes he is “indirectly" being held responsible for judging issues.
"I've worked honestly, with my head high, since I got in the ring at the 1984 Games," Bisbal tells ATR.
"I will wait for what happens in the meetings of the IOC and the AIBA ... later we will see," he says.
Bisbal says that former AIBA president C.K. Wu, who remains an IOC member, was the one who controlled the work of the judges and referees involved in the scandal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, along with then executive director Karim Bouzidi. All 36 referees and judges at the 2016 Games were dismissed after the competition following complaints.
The AIBA world championships for men and women set for Russia this year could be in doubt. (Getty Images)
Bisbal says he does not believe the IOC will turn to one of the professional boxing organizations to handle the Olympic tournament in Tokyo. The IOC has designated IOC member and International Gymnastics Federation president Morinari Watanabe to oversee the tournament.
Bisbal also raises doubts about the upcoming men’s and women’s AIBA Boxing World Championships. Both are scheduled in Russia in a few months, against the wishes of the IOC. Bisbal believes that neither will take place as they no longer will be recognized as qualifying events for the Tokyo Olympics.
That could exacerbate the financial problems facing AIBA, which no longer receives revenue from the IOC while suspended. The world championships ordinarily provide AIBA with broadcast rights fees and sponsorship revenue.
Russia is said to have invested about $5 million for both events.
Reported by Mark Bisson and Miguel Hernandez
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