No one knows whether Muslim Gadzhimagomedov will win fight number 446 of the world championship tournament in Olympic boxing. The 26-year-old heavyweight from the Russian Republic of Dagestan is the favorite when he duels with Brazilian Keno Machado for a place in the semifinals this Wednesday in the ring of the Humo Arena in Tashkent. After all, he has already won the 2019 World Championship title and won silver at the Tokyo Olympics.
What is clear, however, is that, if successful, he would be one of the last four to stand on the podium at the weekend. And it is equally clear that the Russian flag would then be raised in the airspace above him. If he wins gold, the official anthem of the Russian Federation will also sound at the same time.
13 boxers from Russia were accepted
According to the IOC, the complete protocol for athletes from Russia, if they participate at all because of Putin's war of aggression against Ukraine, should be avoided at all costs in such competitions. However, the International Boxing Association (IBA) has been ignoring such guidelines for quite some time.
For some time now, it has been organizing a new, international tournament series in which Russian boxers slip through the ring ropes with full gear, so to speak, and has accepted twelve other Russian boxers in the world championship decisions in 13 weight classes in addition to Gadzhimamomedov. Two of them are also expected in the ring on Wednesday. The IBA President sits in front of it on all 14 days of the competition. His name is Umar Kremlev and he once headed the Russian federation before becoming the most powerful man in Olympic boxing at the end of 2020.
The course taken since then is also the reason why the title fights in the capital of Uzbekistan have to make do with significantly fewer participating countries than usual. 21 national federations, including those from the USA and Canada, Sweden and Finland, Ireland and Great Britain, have not sent fistfighters. They are deliberately holding back their best forces so that they can reach their peak in the continental qualifiers for the Summer Games in Paris (starting in June).
But in the majority also because they do not want to support the policies of Kremlev and Co. – and reserve the right to follow the example of the US Boxing Association. The latter terminated the IBA's membership and helped to establish a competing organization, World Boxing (WB).
Fierce battles between the federations
That's why not only the boxers from 107 nations, but also the two quarreling official camps are fighting fierce battles these days. Months ago, for example, the IBA wrote to athletes from renegade member countries to personally invite them to the World Cup tournament: travel and accommodation would be covered, and medal winners would receive bonuses of between the equivalent of about 46,000 (bronze) and 183,000 euros (gold). So it may have been the longing for attention and money that drove two Germans from the third row to accept the invitation. However, neither Youssef Lazar (BC Hochheim) nor Devrim Gökduman from Karlsruhe (who had already been eliminated) had discussed this with the German Amateur Boxing Association (DBV), as the latter noted in a note to the IBA and various media.
"We attach great importance to the fact that the athletes and the coach are a travel group of private individuals with German passports who in no way represent Germany or our association," DBV sports director Michael Müller emphasized at the request of the F.A.Z. In this sense, the head of the association had also asked the organizers of the World Cup to immediately classify the status of the cheerful globetrotters as neutral. So far in vain. After all, what could be more urgent for the IBA than to pin as many country flags as possible to its lapel?
Kremlev's leadership is still struggling to dispel the IOC's concerns about its governance (and the unspecified millions of sponsor Gazprom) – for example, with a detailed, 400-page report delivered a few days ago. However, the decisive factor will be what the Olympic executive decides at the end of May – and with which federation it wants to work with regard to the next Olympic tournaments. If you follow hints behind the scenes, World Boxing could soon be well above the IBA on the podium.