Umar Kremlev, the Russian president of the embattled International Boxing Association (IBA), has said that the organization’s controversial commercial deal with Russian state-backed oil giant Gazprom has ended.
Speaking in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, at the Men’s World Boxing Championships, Kremlev told media: “Our contract with Gazprom ended in December 2022 …
“We are grateful to them for helping us in a difficult period. In June or July, we will have a new sponsor, but as of now there is no contract with Gazprom.”
The Gazprom tie-up has been one of the points of dispute (among many) between the IBA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over the last 18 months, with these tensions heightened ever since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year.
Gazprom is strongly affiliated with the Russian state, and the IOC had been putting pressure on IBA to terminate the deal as part of a crackdown on deals with Russian sponsors across all Olympic sports.
Just after the invasion, the tie-up between Gazprom and European soccer's governing body UEFA was terminated, for example.
The IBA (formerly the AIBA) has not been in charge of the boxing events at the Olympics since 2016. At the Tokyo Olympics two years ago an IOC task force was responsible, with the same approach planned for Paris 2024.
For Los Angeles 2028, meanwhile, the sport has been left off the initial program entirely, with the IOC having lost patience with the IBA's perceived failure to clean up its act.
The IBA has been banned by the IOC since 2019 because of issues across a range of areas, most notably its internal governance and its financial affairs.
Gazprom had been a major sponsor of boxing’s international governing body since early 2021.
Kremlev added that the loss of Gazprom as a sponsor had been made up for by commercial deals with other firms: “As of today, we have plenty of other companies sponsoring us. We are negotiating with bigger companies as well.
“As of today, the question is open … So far we have not renewed it. We are trying to be self-sufficient.”
He also said that “most [other] federations were against Gazprom being a sponsor, but at the IBA congress there were no objections.”
Last year, a report into all aspects of IBA as a professional sporting governing body by Canadian professor Richard McLaren found that the body would realistically have been unable to keep financially afloat without Gazprom’s sponsorship money.
The report said that: “The financial input by Gazprom put an end to the jeopardy that AIBA put itself in and saved it from financial collapse.
”Whatever the debate of the source of the funds, it has ensured the continuing survival of the IBA."
Kremlev claimed in Tashkent that the governing body will be able to do without Gazprom’s funding in the future, however, because of the licensing fees host cities will pay to secure IBA events.
He confirmed that the prize money for gold medallists at the annual Men’s World Championships will reach $1 million by 2027.
Kremlev also took the chance to lash out again at World Boxing, the organization created last month and now seeking recognition from the IOC.
Its interim board contains representatives from boxing in the US, UK, Germany, the Netherlands, and others, and late last month USA Boxing officially resigned from its IBA membership to join World Boxing instead.
Kremlev told media in Tashkent: “We say that there's always a black sheep in our family, there are always people who go their own ways… Someone tried to register an international association from their garage, why should we even consider them?
“Those who want to leave and go to another association, all I can say is: we have only one association. We have the right to govern boxing and the IBA has the right to organise tournaments.
"Some officials decided they wanted to create their own association, but I think it's all clear and simple. Some sports functionaries are like hyenas, like predators, they need to understand that they do not belong to sport."
Last week, the IBA filed an official complaint against World Boxing with the Boxing Independent Integrity Unit (BIIU).
The IBA has said individuals and bodies found guilty by the BIIU will be punishable according to the IBA constitution, as well as that body’s disciplinary and ethics code.
The BIIU, although operationally independent, does have its managing board report to the IBA's congress, and indeed to the IBA executive board between editions of the congress.