Alan Hubbard

Those venerable enough to remember Mikhail Gorbachev, the benevolent Putin predecessor who opened up the Soviet Union to the western world, may well liken him to the new head honcho of the International Boxing Association (AIBA), who seems to have brought his own form of gloved glasnost to the Olympic rings.

Rich Russian benefactors may bring trouble on the international sport scene but the timely arrival of Umar Kremlev may well have rescued boxing as it floundered on the ropes under the scrutiny of the International Olympic Committee.

No axe - or in this case hammer and sickle - had to grind. I have never met or spoken with Mr Kremlev - but it appears that so far in his stint as AIBA President he hasn’t put a fist wrong.

The 39-year-old certainly knows he has a fight on his hands as boxing, for, despite its inherent traditions within the Games, is not popular with the woke wing of the IOC who would like it to see it replaced with something more fanciful and less contentious.

Kremlev must sort out the tangled web left under the jurisdiction over the years by former Presidents. 

He has taken over an organisation beset by fiscal impropriety, dodgy (some might say diabolical) judging and refereeing and various other aberrations which took the IOC to the brink of declaring the sport non-grata.

This would have been a tragedy for, as I say, in the past boxing has provided more than its fair share of glorious episodes of skill and courage which have become Olympic bywords.

Looking back on the late 1980s, Gorbachev emerged with a philosophy that was alien to his hardline predecessors in the Kremlin. We recall Margaret Thatcher, then the British Prime Minister, declaring after meeting him that he was a man she could do business with.

Might the IOC President, Thomas Bach, now be saying the same about Kremlev? One hopes so for boxing will be a core sport in the COVID-hit Tokyo Games, having shown in the run-up to the delayed Olympics that it can cope with the pandemic and provide scintillating entertainment for the TV cameras and whatever crowd the organisers may allow in to observe the tournament.

New AIBA President Umar Kremlev has made a good impression on observers since being elected to lead the organisation ©Getty Images
New AIBA President Umar Kremlev has made a good impression on observers since being elected to lead the organisation ©Getty Images

On his watch the preliminary tournaments we have seen so far have been perfectly organised and scandal free. True, in the Youth World Boxing Championships a young Jordanian boxer died, but this could not be blamed on any Presidential lack of duty of care. Such tragedies can happen in any sport - as we almost witnessed recently at Euro 2020.

Thankfully it now seems that pledges of reform will become reality and that the officiating horrors of Rio 2016 and Seoul 1988 and many others will not be repeated. But if they are, swift retribution will follow from on high.

It would have been a tragedy indeed if boxing, one of the inaugural sports of the Olympics, was lost to The Games.

Again, as I say, I do not know Olympic boxing’s new chieftain but I like the cut of his jib.

In an exclusive interview with editor Duncan Mackay he emphasised his determination to put AIBA back on a firm financial footing and deal with any ringside scandals among biased judges.

He vowed that debts which had reached $16 million (£11.4 million/€13.4 million) would be wiped out, something which had been cited by the IOC as a reason for stripping AIBA of the right to organise the Tokyo boxing tournament.

This followed announcements that AIBA had repaid $10 million (£7.1 million/€8.3 million) debt to an Asian company - a loan for the now defunct World Series of Boxing – and that a new two-year sponsorship deal with the Russian energy giant Gazprom would provide financial stability for the immediate future.

"Finance has been a long-standing issue for the leadership of boxing, the sport I love," he told

"It has put our position in the Olympic family in danger… I am thrilled that we have been able to seek to ensure a stable financial future for our organisation."

It is good to see that Kremlev has useful wealthy Russian contacts Olympic boxing can do business with and not keep lifting the ring canvas to see what dirt has been swept under it.