In Lausanne, Switzerland, the new leadership of AIBA promised a bright vision for the future of amateur boxing while fully acknowledging the organization's troubled past. The gloves were off and AIBA was willing to take the punches for decades of mishaps, while paving the way for a brighter future.
The new president of AIBA, Umar Kremlev, had an obvious intent to not defend a word of criticism of AIBA’s past actions. In fact, many of the elevated speakers were those who had decried the organization's historic corruption. It all sounds radical, but this was Mr. Kremlev’s way of announcing himself as the new guard. It was his way of saying that the boxers came first and he would fight alongside them to make for a better sport.
And from the beginning, boxers were put in the forefront. While people in the audience looked for a careful way to ask the legendary Roy Jones about his controversial Olympic loss, AIBA themselves implored Roy to reflect on the pain he felt. Roberto Cammarelle, Mary Kom, Zeina Nassar, István Kovács all were given chances to talk about the various inequalities they’ve encountered.
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Beyond boxers, AIBA gave a speaking role to Prof. Richard McLaren, who had been assigned to look into numerous allegations of AIBA’s unfair refereeing and judging history. Prof. McLaren went so far as to admit past investigations may have been skewed, but emphasized he only agreed to help after being granted full independence and cooperation. Joining him was Prof. Ulrich Haas, who will serve as an independent governance expert for AIBA.
When all is said and done, AIBA openly chastised, repented, and addressed their many past sins. But it was not all just about the past - it was about the future of AIBA and the whole world of boxing. Mr. Kremlev shared his vision of reimagining his organization as “the home for boxers around the world”, where officials like him serve the community of athletes, where the judging is fair and decisions are transparent, where athletes are paid well for their performance, without regard to their gender, race, or religion, and where the sponsors and the fans are happy to support and enjoy their favorite sport. Both Umar Kremlev and István Kovács, AIBA Secretary General and former World Champion, are thinking about the future beyond addressing the current issues. Many initiatives have started that will bring boxing to the next level.
It was reassuring to see a strong unified voice of support from Mr. Kremlev’s colleagues and comrades during the press conference. Acknowledging the challenges ahead, Roy Jones mentioned that he feels a tide rising in an optimism that has never before been felt in the 75 year history of the AIBA. And for Umar Kremlev, it is a fight worth fighting. As a former boxer he has a personal reason for it. “Boxing is my life, not a job or a hobby.”
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