David Owen ©ITG

Most Presidents can expect at least a short honeymoon period. Umar Kremlev, elected last Saturday (December 12) as President of the International Boxing Association (AIBA), will have no such luxury.

As explained in a recent auditor’s report, dated November 10, AIBA needs to secure almost immediate payment of some of the monies related to two 2021 boxing competitions if it is to be able to repay its debts.

Should continuing as a going concern prove beyond it, the report goes on with meticulous clarity, "the financial statements would have to be prepared on the basis of liquidation values and the Executive Committee would have to consider the Association as insolvent which will lead to its dissolution".

Only after extinguishing this most pressing of the conflagrations threatening AIBA’s house will Kremlev be able to turn his mind to other matters, notably repairing relations with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which last year suspended AIBA as the Olympic governing body for boxing and stripped it of any involvement in the boxing tournament at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. There are those who think that electing a Russian, given everything that has transpired since the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, will make this task all the more difficult.

Having said that, AIBA’s immediate financial position may be less precarious than it appears. The first cheque it needs to see land on its doormat relates to a competition called the Global Boxing Cup.

As explained in Kremlev’s "Make AIBA Great Again!" election manifesto, this ambitious two-month tournament is earmarked for Russia. Since Kremlev has been secretary general of the Russian Boxing Federation since 2017, you could be forgiven for imagining that he is pretty well-placed to ensure that the vital cheque - for somewhere in the region of CHF4 million (£3.3 million/$4.4 million/€3.6 million) - arrives.

When I ask the new 38-year-old AIBA President in an email exchange when this CHF4 million will be received, he replies succinctly, "We plan to receive this amount by the end of this year".

Umar Kremlev was one of five candidates on the ballot for the AIBA Presidency ©AIBA
Umar Kremlev was one of five candidates on the ballot for the AIBA Presidency ©AIBA

In answer to another question, he also makes clear that, "We do not question the auditors' report".

However: "An agreement has been reached on the receipt of funds for the Global Boxing Cup 2021, so we see no cause for concern.

"AIBA will fulfil all of its financial obligations."

With regard to another big 2021 competition, the men’s World Championships, slated for the Serbian capital Belgrade, Kremlev discloses that COVID-19 has forced a delay in the payment schedule.

He explains: "We took into account the arguments offered by our colleagues in Belgrade and decided to be flexible about this issue. Due to the situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, their payment has been delayed until the spring of 2021."

The event fee in this case is put at CHF5 million (£4.15 million/$5.55 million/€4.55 million), and the tournament was moved to Belgrade from New Delhi earlier this year after AIBA said the Indian capital had failed to pay a host fee stipulated in the Host City Agreement.

AIBA has eight years in which to repay $8 million (£5.8 million/€6.4 million) to Baku-based Benkons, so it looks like this delay should be manageable.

There is another potential cloud on the horizon in the shape of an order to pay amounting to some CHF22.5 million (£18.7 million/$25 million/€20.5 million), served on AIBA last September by an entity called First Commitment International Trade (FCIT).

Hong Kong-based FCIT appears to have arrived on the scene in 2014. On July 16 of that year, AIBA announced it had received "the largest investment in its recent history after signing an incredible CHF35 million (£28.7 million/$38.9 million/€31.9 million) deal to support its exclusive global marketing company, the Boxing Marketing Arm (BMA)".

While CHF22.5 million would clearly constitute a very large sum for AIBA to have to magic up, the auditor’s note states that it is currently "not possible to predict whether, and to what extent, [AIBA] will have to pay for any damages".

The amateur boxing body’s latest financial statements reveal, meanwhile, that it has filed an objection to the order to pay, while rejecting the claim "on the basis that AIBA does not owe anything to FCIT".

BMA itself was dissolved in April 2018.

AIBA has no involvement in the boxing contest at Tokyo 2020, having been suspended by the IOC ©Getty Images
AIBA has no involvement in the boxing contest at Tokyo 2020, having been suspended by the IOC ©Getty Images

COVID-19 continues to be another imponderable for AIBA, as for sport in general.

Asked how he currently assessed the prospects of actually staging major boxing competitions in 2021, in light of the pandemic, Kremlev offers a more discursive response.

"Undoubtedly, the threat of cancelling the competitions due to pandemics is high," he acknowledges.

"However", Kremlev adds, "we see that with all safety requirements being met, international tournaments are already being held. European Boxing Confederation (EUBC) Youth Men’s and Women’s Championships were held in Montenegro, and EUBC Junior Men’s and Women’s Championships were hosted by Bulgaria.

"In addition", the new AIBA President goes on, "we see that doctors are actively working and many countries have already begun vaccination, or are getting prepared for it.

"Therefore, I am cautiously optimistic about the prospects of organising the competitions."

I ask him whether he has been in contact with United World Wrestling President Nenad Lalović, or other members of the IOC’s Monitoring Committee since his election.

Last Sunday (December 13), AIBA approved an updated constitution, introducing term limits and rebranding and shrinking the Executive Committee, which is to be known as the Board of Directors. It is hoped that the changes will be a first step towards repairing relations with the IOC and putting AIBA on course to getting its status restored in advance of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Kremlev’s reply is noticeably respectful: "No, I have not met with my colleagues yet," he reveals, while adding: "I understand all the recommendations put forward by the IOC to AIBA, and we have already started their implementation.

"I do not think that we need to meet just to make promises. But I will definitely hold a meeting with them to show the real results of our work."

Belgrade is due to host the 2021 Men’s World Boxing Championships, if the health situation allows ©Getty Images
Belgrade is due to host the 2021 Men’s World Boxing Championships, if the health situation allows ©Getty Images

Asked how likely he thinks it is that AIBA will handle the Olympic boxing competition at Paris 2024, he says: "As AIBA President my goal is to restore our organisation to its rightful place in the Olympic Games.

"We will undertake the reforms advocated by our colleagues from the IOC, so that AIBA can not only meet international standards, but also exceed them.

"We will make it happen long before Paris 2024. But the decision, in any case, will be made by the IOC."

Could AIBA survive without its Olympic money, I wonder. After all, as a Group C sport, the governing body received $17.3 million (£12.6 million/€13.8 million) for boxing’s contribution to the Rio 2016 Games. Having said that, expenses were down so much in the financial year ended 30 June 2020 that AIBA was able to post a net gain of CHF7.74 million (£6.4 million/$8.6 million/€7 million). 

This is where Kremlev slips in his most rhetorical response. "AIBA will not be surviving," he tells me. "Our boxing family will be living and developing."

Kremlev goes on: "We will attract large international companies as partners.

"In six months, AIBA will not be in debt and will receive funds to help national federations to develop boxing on all continents.

"Finance is very important. But control over its obtaining and use is no less important.

"The information about all our incomes and expenses will be open and public. It is essential for us that AIBA proves its integrity and transparency to the entire sports community."

Among Umar Kremlev's campaign promises  was increasing AIBA's sponsorship revenues ©ITG
Among Umar Kremlev's campaign promises was increasing AIBA's sponsorship revenues ©ITG

Finally I ask whether the body’s headquarters will remain in Lausanne, the Olympic capital.

The answer is a definite yes. What is more, Kremlev believes that "there should be a boxing training-centre near or at the office of each national federation - because we are developing this sport."

AIBA headquarters, he states will be "no exception" in this regard.

"We will organise such a boxing training-centre at our office in Lausanne. We will organise educational, professional development and certification programmes for referees and judges, international technical officials (ITOs), coaches, anti-doping control specialists and medical personnel from all over the world."

The new President concludes: "It is important to ensure that the people who work in boxing today and develop our sport are professionals of the highest level.

"This level will be confirmed through compulsory certification.

"All of this will be financed by AIBA."

Not only will Kremlev be a President without a honeymoon. As some of his responses suggest, he may well be a man in a hurry. His victory entitles him to serve out the remainder of former President Gafur Rakhimov’s term. This is due to expire in 2022.

Assuming he has ambitions of re-election - and, as such a young man, it would be surprising if he did not - he is likely to want to demonstrate meaningful results by then.

If AIBA is to battle back off the ropes, 2021 will have to be the year when it starts to do so.