— Published 2 October 2023

Africa puts on the gloves to face the IBA

The troubles continue for the International Boxing Federation (IBA). The body chaired by the Russian Umar Kremlev, which has already been stripped of its IOC recognition and threatened since last spring by a rival organisation – World Boxing – is now under attack on its supposedly strongest flank: Africa.

A group of thirty African national boxing federations is up in arms over the recent decisions of the Boxing Independant Integrity Unit (BIIU), a body set up by the IBA and entrusted to a group of international lawyers presumed to be above suspicion. He blames its nominations committee for decisions concerning candidates for the forthcoming elections to the African Boxing Confederation (AFBC).

In a document that has come to the attention of FrancsJeux, the thirty federations point to three examples of the highly questionable positions taken by the BIIU in the run-up to the forthcoming AFBC elections.

The first concerns two African leaders whose candidacies have been validated by the IBUI Nominations Committee, despite the fact that their personal situations are contrary to the IBA and AFBC statutes and regulations. Morocco’s Mohamed El Kabbouri should not be allowed to stand, the group argued, because he is not supported by his national federation. Uganda’s Moses Muhangi, who was also deemed eligible, was fined 5,000 Swiss francs by the AFBC Integrity Unit. This fine has still not been paid.

The second bone of contention was the “enigmatic” candidacy of Bertrand Magloire Mendouga, which was also validated by the IBIB. The Cameroonian leader was forced to resign as president of the AFBC last August, after being accused of mismanagement and embezzlement of bonuses intended for athletes.

Finally, the Group of 30 points the finger at the exclusion of a candidate, perfectly eligible in its eyes but rejected by the IBEU. Ilunga Luyoyo Ferdinand, the president of the DRC boxing federation, will not be able to stand in the elections, a decision taken “without any plausible explanation, based solely on rumours.” A former head of the national police force, in charge of protecting former head of state Joseph Kabila, he had been placed on the list of people sanctioned by the European Union. However, he was removed from this list in May 2022. In their letter, the protesters suggest that the IBA’s integrity unit never contacted the European Union to find out the Congolese leader’s current status.

The thirty African federations insist: “The BIIU’s nomination unit has lacked professionalism, accepted to act under external influences and jeopardised its transparency and integrity. We cannot place our trust in it.” They are asking the AFBC to entrust the candidate selection process to its own ethics committee. They are also campaigning for a one-month postponement of the elections to the African Confederation, scheduled for 13 October in Durban, South Africa.

In both form and substance, the move by the thirty African countries – out of the 50 members of the AFBC – is very bad news for the IBA and its president, Umar Kremlev. Since his arrival at the head of Olympic boxing, the Russian leader has always been able to count on the unfailing support of Africa. Above all, Africa remains the only continent without a single country that has chosen to turn its back on the IBA and join World Boxing.

With just a few weeks to go before the first elections to the new world boxing body, scheduled for the end of November, the wind of protest from Africa does not bode well for the IBA.