Liam Morgan

It is approaching 50 days since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) rubber-stamped the suspension of the International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) recognition as the Olympic governing body for the sport, a decision hardly steeped in surprise.

The AIBA Executive Committee has met twice since then, once in person and the other by conference call. The latter gathering had to be postponed because of technical issues, a fitting analogy for the crisis at the embattled governing body if ever there was one.

At the first meeting in Geneva, held the day after the IOC Session did what it usually does and ratified a proposal from the Executive Board, AIBA had seemingly taken tentative steps in the right direction, while also providing a reminder as to the reasons why it finds itself in its current situation.

Fast forward over two months and none of the decisions taken at the meeting in the Swiss city have been implemented, while uncertainty surrounding the future of the organisation shows little sign of abating.

In fact, these question marks have intensified following Mohamed Moustahsane’s resignation as Interim President after less than six months in the role.

At the time of writing, the AIBA Executive Committee has not yet confirmed a date for its next meeting, where Mouhstasane’s successor as caretaker manager is due to be chosen.

To continue the football analogy, the AIBA Executive Committee hardly has a strong squad to choose from.

Italian Franco Falcinelli could be set for a surprising return as Interim AIBA President ©EUBC
Italian Franco Falcinelli could be set for a surprising return as Interim AIBA President ©EUBC

Under AIBA’s statutes, the Interim President must come from the four vice-presidents, comprising the heads of the Continental Federations which make up the worldwide body.

The next Interim President of AIBA will be one of Argentina’s Osvaldo Bisbal, Anas Al Otaiba of the United Arab Emirates, Italian Franco Falcinelli and Edgar Tanner of Australia.

They will be the third official to lead the troubled body in nine months.

None of the above stepped forward to take on the position after Gafur Rakhimov "stepped aside" as President in March, paving the way for Mouhstasane to be elected unopposed.

Falcinelli has, of course, held the role before and his return to the top job would be a near-perfect example of the IOC’s "severe" concerns with AIBA’s governance.

It is worth recalling here that the Italian was suspended for trying to solicit support from the membership for Serik Konakbayev, Rakhimov’s challenger in the ill-fated AIBA Presidential election, by the Executive Committee but was cleared to stand for re-election as vice-president two months later. He has also happily switched sides on numerous occasions, so much so that it will never be clear where his loyalties lie.

Bisbal is facing a vote of no confidence from National Federations in the Americas after the Argentinian was directly mentioned in the IOC report on AIBA. The Argentinian was chair of the Referees and Judges Commission at the boxing tournament at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, marred by a corruption scandal which saw all 36 officials suspended by AIBA.

Tanner is rumoured to have been warned against standing by a prominent Australian official, while Al Otaiba only became Asian Boxing Confederation President in November of last year.

Moroccan Mohamed Moustahsane, right, resigned as Interim President last week ©AIBA
Moroccan Mohamed Moustahsane, right, resigned as Interim President last week ©AIBA

As well as selecting the latest Interim President, the AIBA Executive Committee is also set to discuss a proposal to delay the election of the permanent replacement for Rakhimov, who tabled his formal resignation last month.

If the mill of speculation is to be believed, the IOC is putting pressure on AIBA to change its statutes to allow for the Presidential election to be held beyond the March 29 deadline.

As it stands, the vote is due to be held at an Extraordinary Congress, scheduled for November 15 in Lausanne, but the staging of the meeting remains up in the air amid AIBA’s perilous financial situation and there is no guarantee it will take place.

The plan to hold two different Congresses makes little sense. AIBA can barely afford one meeting of its entire membership, let alone two. Staging another meeting would drain resources the worldwide body simply does not have.

Not only that, but electing a new President in November, rather than kicking the issue into the long grass and into the second-half of next year, can only be beneficial for an organisation which is teetering on the brink of a final knockout as it would provide an opportunity to start afresh and begin tackling the concerns outlined by the IOC.

Voting on Rakhimov’s replacement would surely also be a preferable option compared to appointing Falcinelli or Bisbal, for example, and keeping them at the helm until potentially after next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, by which point AIBA hopes to have been reinstated by the IOC.

It seems the IOC are keen to ensure AIBA does not repeat its election mistake after a majority of Member Federations voted in favour of Rakhimov - a man described as "one of Uzbekistan’s leading criminals" by the United States Treasury Department with alleged links to the heroin trade, claims which he denies - last November.

The IOC will want an AIBA President it approves of. One suspects the organisation already has a name in mind.

This gives off the impression of undue influence from the IOC over AIBA’s affairs and, in some ways, goes against its own autonomy principles it only protects when it is easy to do so.

AIBA is set to hold another extraordinary Executive Committee meeting later this month ©AIBA
AIBA is set to hold another extraordinary Executive Committee meeting later this month ©AIBA

It will be interesting to see whether the Executive Committee rebels against the delay when it finally convenes for its latest crucial meeting. There is a belief within the AIBA ruling body that it has been ignored and the decisions taken have been at the behest of the leadership, in conjunction with the IOC, rather than the Executive Committee.

This is the Executive Committee’s time to stand up and prove to the IOC that it will not be dictated to. The ball may firmly be back in AIBA’s court but it appears the IOC is still very much involved behind the scenes and in the shadows.

Where the IOC is correct is to push for a move away from the troubles of the past. Those implicated in the crisis which has plunged the existence of AIBA into doubt have to go, although a blanket removal of the Executive Committee members would deny the organisation some of the expertise it so desperately needs.

After all, some of the members have shown their competency by rallying against the top brass and making sensible suggestions, such as declaring bankruptcy, and even insolvency, which some believe to be the best option for the cash-strapped body.

AIBA could still elect a full-time replacement for Gafur Rakhimov as President in November ©AIBA
AIBA could still elect a full-time replacement for Gafur Rakhimov as President in November ©AIBA

National Federations have also grown tired of being sidelined. Officials from Angola and Ivory Coast recently expressed concern on the "lack of information on the steps and strategies considered by AIBA to get back quickly into the Olympic Movement", a view no doubt shared by other countries across the world.

A group of American members also issued a statement earlier this month, which called for a cull of Americas Boxing Confederation and AIBA members implicated in the crisis.

Whether AIBA listens is anyone’s guess. After all, AIBA, which is no closer to resolving its issues than it was two months ago, has ignored the warning signs before.