The International Boxing Association (IBA) governing body held its annual Ordinary Congress in Abu Dhabi yesterday (December 11) amid a host of delicate issues that will determine the future of the organization.

Only a matter of days prior to the congress, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had reiterated its intention to shut the IBA out of future Olympic programs unless a “drastic change of culture” is implemented, prompting an indignant and defiant letter of response.

However, presenting his findings yesterday, Richard McLaren, the Canadian professor who has been compiling a three-part report on the IBA’s governance, said: “IBA is changing significantly, there’s been observable progress within the organization.”

McLaren’s report, the final part of which was released in June, determined that the IBA's former president C K Wu was at the root of many of the issues at the organization over recent years.

In November, the IBA’s board declared Wu persona non grata, cutting all remaining ties with the former president, and the congress “voted unanimously in favor” of that decision.

The IBA has characterized this as having “shown unity within the boxing family.”

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The congress also voted by 95.5% in favor of adopting into the IBA’s constitution the recommended reforms of its Governance Reform Group, which was established in 2021 to improve IBA’s work in the three areas of governance integrity, sporting integrity, and financial integrity.

Last week’s letter from the IBA to the IOC sought to outline the progress made in these areas.

Speaking to the congress, IBA president Umar Kremlev, whose own election has been a bone of contention for the IOC, said: “The IOC must hear us. We have the same goals as them, to create the best conditions for the athletes. We should fight for our sport at the Olympics. I want to stress that not a single boxer, coach, or national federation will be participating in the Olympic Games without IBA. This is a request from the boxers.”

One issue that will continue to concern the IOC is the IBA’s continued relationship with Gazprom, with the congress having voted to approve the renewal of the organization’s sponsorship deal with the Russian state-owned energy giant.

Sporting organizations widely scrapped partnerships with Russian companies in response to the country’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine this year, with the IOC having taken a lead on the issue and having recently expressed its concern about the IBA’s ongoing tie-up with Gazprom.

However, speaking yesterday Kremlev, who is Russian, said: “Gazprom helped us to become independent and made us financially stable.

“Through this partnership, we have been able to help many athletes and have been able to offer prize money at the continental and World Championships level.

“It has also ensured the participation of National Federations that would otherwise not have been able to send teams to these events.”

Separately, insidesthegames has reported that the IBA has lifted its suspension of the Ukrainian Boxing Federation (UBF) and recognized the leadership of Kyrylo Shevchenko.

The Ukrainian member federation was suspended in September essentially because the IBA did not recognize Shevchenko as president of the UBF following his selection, but the suspension was lifted at a meeting of the IBA board in Abu Dhabi.

IBA secretary general George Yerolimpos is quoted as saying: “We approved the minutes of their congress and the decision of their congress.

“We had a lawyer dedicated from our legal department supervising all of the proceedings who made us a report which was positive, and we didn't have any reason to keep them suspended as they fulfilled all of our requests.

“They followed the instructions of the IBA and the constitution.”