Mike Rowbottom ©ITG

Bidden this past week to the 19th century splendour of Lausanne’s Beau-Rivage Palace, dutifully masked members of the international press - and other virtual participants - witnessed the President of the International Boxing Federation (AIBA), Umar Kremlev, make his case for a Brave New World.

Almost 100 years earlier this chandeliered edifice of Corinthian capitals and art nouveau trimmings by Lake Leman had witnessed the signing of the Lausanne Peace Treaty, which established the borders of modern Turkey.

It replaced the Treaty of Sevres, signed three years earlier in 1920, which had called upon Turkey to deliver those responsible for massacres of civilians to the Western Allied Powers for trial.

The second Treaty was described by Britain’s former Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, as "abject, cowardly and infamous".

That was life. This was sport. But the human quandary of how far one can or should persist in addressing wrongdoing, and at what point one has to look forward still applied.

In all he said, Kremlev was addressing the key question of how best to proceed in charge of a body that has fallen so far short of competence and morality that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) removed its historic right to oversee boxing at the Tokyo 2020 Games, citing grave concerns over its finances, governance and refereeing and judging.

And the clear implication is that boxing stands in peril of losing the Olympic status it has enjoyed since 1904, other than the Stockholm Games of 1912 due to Swedish law at the time banning the sport. Status and funding, that is.

Kremlev’s attitude to the quandary was implacable: "Sometimes people say 'Forget about the past'. I say 'No.'"

Umar Kremlev has been AIBA President for six months ©AIBA
Umar Kremlev has been AIBA President for six months ©AIBA

Since taking up his position in December last year, this enigmatic 38-year-old from Serpukhov - who has been involved in boxing as a participant and promoter and now administrator alongside a career within public utilities and construction that has had the approval of those in very high places within Russia - has engaged vigorously in a programme of reforms.

Sitting alongside him at the Lausanne press conference was Ulrich Haas, a professor and expert in sports law at the University of Zurich, who will lead a team that will overhaul AIBA governance, having done a similar job in the past at the International Cycling Union.

Joining us all by live link was Richard McLaren, the Canadian lawyer whose agency Global Sport Solutions produced the 2016 report on state-sponsored doping by Russia and last year investigated financial and doping irregularities within the International Weightlifting Federation.

McLaren has been given the job of investigating two areas of corruption within AIBA. The first is the alleged perversion of judging at the Rio Olympics and the more recent Asian Championships and anywhere else it pops up. The second relates to historical, individual corruption as it has affected the amateur sport over many years.

A report on stage one is expected by the end of August. Stage two may take a little longer.

AIBA has been stripped of the right to run the Olympic boxing tournament at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images
AIBA has been stripped of the right to run the Olympic boxing tournament at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

AIBA’s dire finances have been turned round by Kremlev and a big new two-year sponsorship deal with the Russian energy giant Gazprom.

He vowed that debts which had reached $16 million (£11.4 million/€13.4 million) - one of the reasons cited by the IOC as a reason for stripping AIBA of the right to organise the Tokyo boxing tournament - would be wiped out.

This followed announcements that AIBA had repaid $10 million (£7.1 million/€8.3 million) debt to an Asian company - a loan for the now defunct World Series of Boxing.

But for Kremlev, the way forward is a journey that first loops backwards to the morass of murky politics into which the amateur sport sank.

"To put a full stop, how far into the past do we have to delve to close the page, to achieve justice, to eliminate wrong judging?" he said. "If we need to delve further into the past we will do this. Our major task is to finalise this and start a fresh page. My personal opinion is that I think boxing is a flagship sport.

"I must understand why it happened. Because nobody has given me, us, the names and I want these names to be voiced, why we have problems.

"We need to name specific people. Yes it was a wrongdoing, we have to do away with this mistake, we don’t want these people to be with us. We have to do away with this group because boxing is one of the most popular sports. It is something people love to watch.

"We all know that what happened before us – to put it bluntly it was a crime - but we are not only doing away with out past, we have our vision, and we have tangible results.

"What is important is that all the boxing family is behind us. We are working together.

"I am not just here to govern, I am here to help. To assist. My job is to help to set up conditions, the environment and every functionary in our field must understand. You are here to serve the boxers. Me included."

Roy Jones Jr is among those to have backed AIBA's reform process ©AIBA
Roy Jones Jr is among those to have backed AIBA's reform process ©AIBA

The words were strong. The delivery was convincing.

"From my side I will repeat – for me refereeing it is a major crime when it is not fair. Say we have got a good fighter, people invest five to 10 years of their lives, and then a group of corrupt people ruin his career, his life," he said.

"It’s about doing things right, like building planes. If you do something wrong the plane will crash. I don’t want this to happen in boxing,

"As sports functionaries we have our own rules and we must abide by them. I was elected President to start communication with all involved parties in order to create such an environment that nobody else would ever be in a position to violate those rules.

"If we take a decision it’s a family decision, so we have chosen a person who knows something about investigating in Mr McLaren. I’m sure he and his team will be in position to deliver a fair investigation.

"We are not just talking about Rio 2016. In Dubai we had an Asia tournament and there again there were new allegations of wrongdoing so we will in the future get involved well established independent experts to help us to cleanse our sport.

"I personally will never let it happen again to crush the lives of boxers. I know all this from inside."

Sitting one to his right as he spoke was Roy Jones Jr, retired and revered multiple world champion, who as a 19-year-old at the 1988 Seoul Olympics was infamously cheated out of the gold medal in the light-middleweight division by judges who favoured the soundly beaten home fighter Park Si-Hun.

Jones is behind the new march of AIBA - "not one hundred, but one thousand per cent."

Kremlev referenced him often as he returned to his point that everything started with the boxers, and was about the boxers.

"As you can see we have a winning team with independent, autonomous experts," the President said. "We need their help. And we need political will to review our philosophy and vision.

"We do have resources than enable us to hire the best of the best.

"I promised that in six months we would deal with our problems and start on our reforms. We have managed to do that and we are quite happy. We want to send a message to boxers about having confidence. The boxing family has invested into me and so we are united and working on these commitments.

Roy Jones Jr pictured en route to the infamous final at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games ©Getty Images
Roy Jones Jr pictured en route to the infamous final at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games ©Getty Images

"Thanks to people like Roy Jones, who has done everything in boxing, we have boxing as a sport. Thanks to them we got Gazprom on board as sponsors, because the grass roots movement is the basis of our sport.

"We must show boxing is here to stay and one of the most popular sports. I would say even now it is the black sheep in martial arts but that is something we have to work on."

On the key question of how the IOC will view his efforts to revivify and rehabilitate AIBA, he responded: "Let me say, just from AIBA’s side, the recommendations produced by the IOC will be implemented by the end of this year and I will be responsible for this as President. Our team will be able to achieve it.

"This decision for the Tokyo Olympics was taken by the IOC. After that, our position is to become one of the best Federations so there will be no reason to exclude us. You have just to look at how boxing is developing, with completed reforms that have put a full stop to the past.

"The judgement is down to the IOC. Our most important task is to interact with them."

A remote questioner recalled the position in which AIBA found itself in 2018, when the IOC President Thomas Bach said that the appointment as interim President of Gafur Rakhimov, who since 2012 had been on the United States Treasury sanctions list of those suspected of having criminal links, was among "serious problems" within the organisation.

Bach also said at the time that the IOC had not accepted AIBA's claim that no bouts at the Rio 2016 Olympics had been affected by match-fixing, adding: "We are extremely worried about the governance of AIBA."

Richard McLaren, tasked with leading an investigation into judging in boxing, appeared at a press conference in Lausanne via video link ©AIBA
Richard McLaren, tasked with leading an investigation into judging in boxing, appeared at a press conference in Lausanne via video link ©AIBA

The question was put to Kremlev - how could he guarantee such a situation would not occur again within AIBA?

"That’s why we shall conduct an independent investigation and that is why we have to change the DNA of our organisation," Kremlev said. "We need to have an independent disciplinary commission and ethics commission.

"We are changing the constitution of AIBA and we shall have another reform of the constitution in the autumn.

"We don’t want one single person to make the all the decisions. That should be done within the Federations.

"We have created a champions council of former world champions who have devoted their lives to boxing, we have involved coaches, and it would become impossible for one person to make all the decisions.

"The most important thing when these investigations are over and the names of those involved in corruption are announced, there will be a tough decision taken to disqualify them for life so they cannot touch any more the sport of boxing."

Two-time AIBA world champion and Olympic champion István Kovács, appointed as the Federation’s secretary general in March, added: "When we say ‘we’, that means more than 11 million boxers worldwide and half a million trainers and officials ready to change the sport.

"We want to see our sport thrive in the future. We have already take some very important steps. I was a boxer for 20 years, and then for 20 I have been close to the boxing ring. We have started on programme that will be the finest in the 75-year history of AIBA."

Asked when an announcement would be made regarding the appointment of independent auditors to AIBA, Kremlev said: "As of today we are working on getting on board one of the major auditing companies. In the nearest future we will be informing you about signing an agreement with a  major company."

Plans are also underway to provide the more than 200 affiliated national federations with development money this year on an interim basis.

AIBA secretary general István Kovács claimed the organisation had already taken important steps in its reform process ©AIBA
AIBA secretary general István Kovács claimed the organisation had already taken important steps in its reform process ©AIBA

"For this year, just this year, we have around $7 million (£5 million/€6 million) to help National Federations with boxing development," Kremlev said. "They are to tell us what we can do to help them. We are not going to channel it all in one country, we will be taking into account who sends in the requests.

"Next year will be different, and we will be investing even more money into this area. We also have a system for distribution to Confederations.

"There are too many people who have suffered. You go to countries and see this is just huge. We need dozens of millions of dollars in order to rise above this carnage. Not every 10 years – more often than that.

"AIBA has been slipping down and down and down and so every time I come into a new country I have a plan for it. We need to customise our solutions in order to make the grass roots healthy, for in boxing this is the major thing.

"We need to look at this sport from the bottom up, so athletes are understanding what future they may have, and can see the sport as a social elevator.

"As I have said, we want to put a full stop to the past. We want to achieve 100 per cent honest judging. We are already working on how the scoring can be more transparent. There will be live scoring when the boxing is in progress, so the boxers can see and realise they change the situation even in the third round.

"We will also increase the number of weight categories because we want more men and women to be involved in boxing. We plan to do that by the end of this year.

"And AIBA will be involved in Continental Championships. We know they have lots of problems in this area and that is why we are getting into it. We will be changing the Continental Championship formats and working on this even further.

"We want to achieve the highest levels of governance and we want to complete our reforms so that AIBA becomes one of the best sports Federations in the world."

Umar Kremlev has vowed to meet the demands set out by the IOC as AIBA seeks to regain its Olympic status ©AIBA
Umar Kremlev has vowed to meet the demands set out by the IOC as AIBA seeks to regain its Olympic status ©AIBA

Asked about his long-term vision for AIBA, Kremlev responded: "What is important is that in 10 years we haven’t slipped back. We need to have proper grass roots development. We want all of our more than 200 affiliated countries to have their own system. We want boxers to be able to make money for themselves and their families, to secure their own future."

Kremlev’s election pledge that he would be able to get AIBA back on track within six months stemmed, it seems, from his experiences after taking over as general secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation (RBF) in February 2017.

"When I became secretary general of the RBF I saw there was a major problem in refereeing, the governance was awful, the Federation without doubt required change," he said.

"When I was entrusted by boxers to manage, the first thing I did was to enlist boxers in the administration. I wanted them to be involved in the reform and in six months we managed to settle all the problems of the Federation.

"That is why I was confident about settling AIBA’s problems. I know things from the inside. I know what is happening with refereeing and finance.

"Boxing should never have financial problems because it is such a popular sport. What is needed is to act honestly, openly.

"That’s all it takes. Then you have a sponsor. And then boxers will take part in competitions. Fans will love the sport, and children will come to take it up.

"You have to be honest when you do this. And you have to bring in the best independent people. We will solve this major task and we will manage to do this in a short time."