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Despite rift with IOC, IBA aims to make progress in Olympics dispute

Despite rift with IOC, IBA aims to make progress in Olympics dispute

IBA President Umer Kremlev addressing media before Women's Boxing World Championships.



Updated: 2 May 2023 4:19 AM GMT

Seeking to resolve a years-long dispute with Olympic officials, the International Boxing Association said it will update the IOC this week and no longer has Russian energy giant Gazprom as a sponsor.

Boxing's financial dependence on Gazprom is among governance and integrity concerns for the International Olympic Committee, which cut ties with the sport's governing body in 2019 and is planning for a second straight Summer Games without the IBA's involvement.

The schism led USA Boxing to terminate its IBA membership last week ahead of the men's world championships in Uzbekistan, which is also being boycotted by teams including Britain, Canada and Ireland. The IBA and its Russian president Umar Kremlev used the first day of competition on Monday in Tashkent to stage a 90-minute press briefing that was both conciliatory and defiant.

“My mission is not to attract the International Olympic Committee or to make them like me,” Kremlev said in translated comments that included a vulgar expression to suggest he had not shown deference to the Olympic body. “Sorry for saying it in such a straightforward way,” Kremlev said on Monday.

He noted that medals of “pure gold” will be awarded to champions over the next two weeks rather than gold-plated ones. Olympic champions in Tokyo two years ago got medals plated with at least six grams of gold over pure silver. The IOC also does not award prize money.

“Maybe they don't like us giving prize money which is even greater than the Olympics,” said Kremlev, who has promised USD 200,000 to champions this month. The IBA has pledged that will rise to USD 1 million prizes in the coming years. Kremlev was flanked by former world champion Roy Jones Jr as both stressed the IBA was committed to boxers and helping them support their families, who often came from poor backgrounds.

“We don't want to pay for five-star hotels or for travel of sports officials,” the IBA president said in what seemed another jibe at the Olympics. The Kremlev-led IBA has also let boxers from Russia and Belarus compete with their own flag and anthem contrary to IOC guidance that athletes should compete only as neutrals under certain conditions.

The IOC has stressed it has “no problem” with boxing and boxers, just with its governing body. Relations deteriorated after 2017 when national boxing federations helped to oust C.K. Wu, a long-time IOC member, as their president.

The IOC has declined to confirm boxing's place in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics and has cut the IBA out of organizing the qualifying and finals tournaments for the 2024 Paris Olympics. The IBA will respond by Friday to the IOC's latest request for details of governance reforms and changes, its chief executive George Yerolimpos said on Monday.

Asked for details of the IBA's financial future without Gazprom, Yerolimpos said Adidas signed a four-year licensing contract and 10 other “big names” he did not identify wanted to support boxing. Yerolimpos also suggested the Olympics was not the IBA's core concern, using an image that described all the sport's athletes as like a forest.

“The Olympics is a very nice and very beautiful tree. We love this tree, but we need to take care also of the forest,” he said. Still, not all of the boxing family was happy with organizers of the men's worlds. Kosovo, whose independence is not recognized by dozens of countries, said it was denied entry visas by Uzbekistan.

“Are you IBA Boxing or IBA Politics?,” the Kosovo national Olympic committee wrote on Twitter, citing visa issues also at previous boxing host nations Serbia and India since 2021.

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