New Zealand boxing chief gravely concerned over Olympic future of sport

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New Zealand Boxing chairman Keith Walker has expressed “grave concerns” over the Olympic future of the sport and the questioned the direction of the International Boxing Association (IBA) under Russian President Umar Kremlev.

In a wide-ranging interview with Radio New Zealand (RNZ), Walker cast doubt over Kremlev’s motives and said he was worried the money being pumped into confederations by the IBA would influence the suspended International Federation’s crucial elections later this year.

Walker, a former referee who officiated in the scandal-ridden boxing tournament at Seoul 1988, also rejected Kremlev’s claims that the IBA is on course to restore its status as the Olympic governing body for the sport in time for Paris 2024.

The IBA was suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in June 2019 because of long-running issues with its governance, finances and refereeing and judging.

Boxing was left off the initial sports programme for Los Angeles 2028 as a result but could be reinstated if it adheres to a “roadmap” drawn up by the IOC regarding the three key areas.

AIBA must “demonstrate it has successfully addressed the ongoing concerns around its governance, financial transparency and sustainability, and integrity of refereeing and judging process” for boxing to be included at Los Angeles 2028, the IOC said last month.

“We’re not after Russian money, we want Olympic funding,” Walker told RNZ.

“This is the crunch year, we’ve been threatened by the IOC the last two years to clean up our act.

“I have grave concerns about our survival, which will be a disaster.”

The experienced New Zealand boxing official also criticised Kremlev, elected IBA President in December 2020, for claiming the organisation was on the right track towards reinstatement.

The Russian allegedly changing his name was cited as a concern by an IOC group whose report led to the suspension in 2019.

“He [Kremlev] thinks he’s on the right track, but we don’t get that from the reports that we’re getting from those which have been set up to investigate boxing.

“We feel he’s not too worried about the Olympics, he’s more concerned about the IBA running its own ship and doing their own thing.

“I’m sure the IOC will wait to see who is elected to the IBA later this year and then they’ll decide if we have a future at the Olympics.”

The IBA, which rebranded from AIBA in December, has promised to hold its elections this year, which it is constitutionally obliged to do.

Walker, who was attacked by disgruntled officials after he warned a South Korean boxer for the use of his head during a bout at the 1988 Olympics, said he was “very concerned” National Federations would be unduly influenced by money in the elections.

“Unfortunately in most of the confederations around the world they’re being dictated to by the people at the top and getting involved with who they want to be elected,” he said.

“The influence they’re having by the amount of money they’re making available to the confederations.

“We’re a small confederation and a lot of those in the Pacific aren’t rich and so we’re also concerned about how money will influence the voting rather than getting the right people on board.”

In response to Walker’s comments, an IBA spokesperson said: “The IBA is in regular contact with its National Federations across a wide range of issues and especially with regard to ongoing governance changes.

“For example, online seminars were held on a continental basis ahead of last December’s Extraordinary Congress.

“The development of National Federations remains a key priority for the IBA, as is the financial wellbeing of boxers.

“Prize money has been made available for boxers for the first time, up to $100,000 for winners at the World Championships, while $7 million is also being made available to federations and continental confederations for development.

“The IBA has welcomed many applications, including that of Boxing New Zealand for a Trans-Tasman competition.

“The Olympic future of boxing and the IBA’s reinstatement by the IOC remain priorities for the IBA that will be best served by a continued focus on governance reform, sporting integrity and financial integrity.

“The IBA has already delivered significant progress in each of these areas over the last year and will continue to do so in 2022.

“The IBA is grateful for the IOC’s recognition of progress, for the opportunity to work towards reinstatement at the 2023 IOC Session and for the opportunity to develop the Olympic qualifying system for the boxing tournament of Paris 2024, subject to the approval of the IOC Executive Board, said the IBA statement.

SOURCE: INSIDE THE GAMES /PACNEWS