Gafur Rakhimov has offered an “olive branch” to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after securing the presidency of the International Boxing Association (Aiba) on a full-time basis, however the appointment is set to cast further doubt over the body’s position within the Olympic Movement.
Aiba held its presidential election at its Congress in Moscow on Saturday, with Rakhimov, who had held the position on an interim basis since the departure of the disgraced Ching Kuo Wu late last year, facing opposition from one rival.
The governance of Aiba has been under the IOC spotlight since the removal of Wu and boxing has yet to guarantee its place on the programme for the 2020 summer Olympic Games, with the IOC demanding substantial reform. Rakhimov has also proved a controversial figure, with the Uzbek businessman having been accused of links to organised crime.
However, Saturday’s election saw 137 voting members choose Rakhimov with a convincing 86-vote majority, as the incumbent leader defeated the challenge of Serik Konakbayev. Speaking at a press conference following the vote, Rakhimov claimed Aiba had made progress at addressing the IOC’s concerns under his leadership, adding that it is ready to make further changes.
“From today, we are more confident and more determined than ever to bringing our sport back to where it deserves to be,” he said. “I mentioned earlier that there are two points that we need to focus on: the future of Aiba in the Olympics and the future of Aiba as an organisation.
“As an organisation, we at Aiba have made huge progress. We moved forward in our transparency, our governance, our statutes, our refereeing and judging rules, our anti-doping and our finance procedures. I am proud to say that we are compliant across the board. But we don’t want to stop there, we want to be better. We want to be a model organisation, and we are well on our way to making this happen.
“When it comes to the future of Aiba in the Olympics, let me conclude by addressing our friends in the Olympic Movement. We have heard you, we have been listening to you and we have been learning a lot from you. We are committed to continue improving in any area you feel we should improve.
“I hope that you also view the outcome of the last two days as a confirmation of our commitment to the Olympic Movement and the Olympic values. So, on behalf of the boxers of the world, we are extending to you an olive branch in the name of Olympism. Aiba and the Olympics belong together.”
Rakhimov’s name is on a US Treasury Department sanctions list for alleged links to international heroin trafficking. The sanctions prevent US citizens and companies from conducting business with him. He has denied wrongdoing.
Responding to Saturday’s election, the IOC said in a statement reported by the Associated Press news agency: “There are issues of grave concern with Aiba regarding judging, finance, and the anti-doping programme, and with governance.” The IOC added that Aiba will be on the agenda at its next executive board meeting, which commences in Tokyo on November 30, and called for “a clear roadmap for long-term sustainable reform of the federation”.
Meanwhile, former Kazakh boxer and politician Konakbayev has indicated he will challenge the results of Saturday’s election and seek to form a rival group. “My team is reviewing the decision as well as the election process,” he said. “This is not the end but the start of a movement to reform the world governing body and save boxing. We will not give up the fight. Round one is over, the bell for round two is chiming.”