Former sports minister Richard Caborn has warned that boxing could be axed from the Olympic programme if its disgraced world governing body AIBA wastes its final shot at meaningful reform.
Seven candidates have declared in the race for its vacant presidency, one of whom, Azerbaijan’s Suleyman Mikayilov, is being advised by Caborn, also an ex-chair of England Boxing, through his company, Global Sports Investigations.
AIBA was suspended by the International Olympic Committee last year over widespread governance and financial concerns, and an IOC-led Task Force was created to oversee the sport through the delayed Tokyo Olympics.
Caborn told the PA news agency: “The IOC do not want to be in a position to be having to run boxing in Paris (in 2024) because it’s not their job to do that, so I think AIBA are drinking in a last chance saloon.
“If they don’t get it back, where will the IOC go? Boxing could be out of the Paris Olympics, there’s no doubt about that. There are only three years between Tokyo and Paris, so we have to got have a reformed AIBA now.”
Five of the seven candidates – Mikayilov, Umar Kremlev, Anas Al Otaiba, Bienvenido Solano and the current interim president, Mohamed Moustahsane – are past or present members of AIBA’s executive board.
Boris Van der Vorst, the president of the Dutch Boxing Federation, and Ramie Al-Masri, chairman of the Referees’ Commission of the German Boxing Association, make up the group from whom a new president will be appointed at an AIBA extraordinary congress next month.
Mikayilov, a six-time national boxing champion of the Soviet Union, is set to run on a ticket of handing more power to the boxers themselves, as well as a major equality drive around women’s sport.
Caborn added: “I had long discussions with Suleyman about what he wants to achieve and it became patently obvious to me that he sees getting back into the Olympic family as the essential issue.
“The prize is to take boxing back in as a clean sport, one that commends itself to commercial sponsorship, and one with which people want to associate.
“What is crucial to this, in my view, is that you can’t continue to mark your own work – you have got to have an ethics committee that has a big chunk of independence and secondly, a system by which all major decisions of governance are subject to scrutiny.”
England Boxing and USA Boxing published an open letter to AIBA last week, expressing fears that proposed reforms to its statutes “have fallen short of our high expectation”, and “will be insufficient to overturn the suspension.”