Boxing at the Olympics saved? – AIBA President steps down


Boxing’s precarious position within the Olympics looks to have been given a boost today with the announcement that controversial AIBA President Gafur Rahimov is to step down.

The sport’s status is currently “frozen” as the IOC conduct an investigation into the AIBA, the results of which will be presented in June in Lausanne where the future of boxing at the Olympics will be determined.

The enquiry will assess the IOC’s “significant concerns” with the AIBA – namely the financial situation and the election of Uzbek Rakhimov to the organisation’s presidency last year.

The Asian has been named by the U.S. Treasury Department as “one of Uzbekistan’s leading criminals” and “a key member of a Russian-Asian criminal syndicate with a speciality in the organisation and the production of drugs in the countries of Central Asia.”

Rahimov denies these allegations, strongly, but has now stepped down from his position.

In a statement, Rahimov said that “there have been many discussions these last few months about the future of Olympic boxing. A lot of that was mainly focused on politics and not sport. While I had truly hoped and believed that sport and politics could be separated, and that the good work and positive changes being infused into AIBA would be recognized, the politically based discussions have put into question the progress being made throughout the AIBA organization.”

“Once again, as I have stated before on numerous occasions, I attest and confirm that the allegations against me were fabricated and based on politically motivated lies; I trust that the truth will prevail. Nevertheless, I have always said that I would never put myself above Boxing, and as President, I have a duty to do everything in my power to serve our sport and our athletes.”

“Therefore, given the current situation, I have informed the AIBA Executive Committee of my intent to step aside as AIBA President in accordance with the AIBA Statutes and Bylaws, which allow the President to renounce to exercise his powers and to be replaced by an Interim President.”

READ: Rahimov’s full statement

While the sport’s place at Tokyo next year remains unsure, today’s announcement is no doubt a positive move.

The IOC have always stated their desire for boxing to be included on the 2020 programme and beyond, with a tournament not facilitated by AIBA being suggested.

However, Rahimov’s resignation could pave the way for a competition within the more traditional model.

At present, while under investigation, the AIBA can not begin a qualification system – and boxing is the only sport at present without a pathway to Japan.

That said, it is understood that a blueprint is in place privately, with the respective men’s and women’s World Championships later this year in Sochi and Ulan-Ude being the first opportunity to qualify, with further tournaments next year – should boxing’s place be retained in Switzerland this June at the IOC conference.

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Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie