By Rohith Nair
(Reuters) – International Boxing Association (IBA) president Umar Kremlev blasted the national federations who broke away from the body to form a new world boxing federation, describing the officials as ‘black sheep’ and ‘hyenas’ who do not belong in sport.
A group including the United States and Britain announced a new federation – World Boxing – last month in a breakaway aimed at securing the troubled sport’s Olympic future while seeking recognition from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
With representatives from Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sweden and the U.S., World Boxing has an interim executive board and said there would be no bar on any national federation being a member of both bodies.
But Russian Kremlev, who is in Tashkent for the IBA men’s world championships, said the IBA is the only international association that governs the sport.
“We say that there’s always a black sheep in our family, there are always people who go their own ways… Someone tried to register an international association from their garage, why should we even consider them,” Kremlev told a news conference.
“Those who want to leave and go to another association, all I can say is: we have only one association. We have the right to govern boxing and the IBA has the right to organise tournaments.
“Some officials decided they wanted to create their own association, but I think it’s all clear and simple. Some sports functionaries are like hyenas, like predators, they need to understand that they do not belong to sport.”
The United States tops the all-time Olympic boxing medal table with 50 golds and 117 medals while Britain is third.
USA Boxing terminated its IBA membership last week, committing its “full support” to World Boxing’s efforts to seek provisional recognition of the IOC.
The Russian-led IBA — suspended by the IOC in 2019 over governance, finance, refereeing and ethical issues — has defied IOC guidance and lifted a ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers competing under their flags last October.
The strained relations between the IOC and the IBA, which was sponsored by Russian energy giant Gazprom, further soured after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
An independent investigation had found that the IBA was on the “verge of financial ruin” due to mismanagement by the previous administration until Gazprom’s sponsorship saved the body.
However, Kremlev said Russia’s state-controlled gas giant was no longer a sponsor after the contract expired.
“Our contract with Gazprom ended in December 2022. We are grateful to them for helping us in a difficult period,” he said.
“In June or July, we will have a new sponsor, but as of now there is no contract with Gazprom.
“We did not terminate the (Gazprom) contract as there were obligations to complete… Most federations were against Gazprom being sponsor, but at the (IBA) Congress there were no objections.”
Boxing’s place in the Olympics after next year’s Paris Games remains uncertain, with the sport not on the initial programme for Los Angeles 2028, pending reforms demanded by the IOC.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; editing by Pritha Sarkar)