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Central Asian Boxers in Tough Fight to Restore Sport’s Luster

Revered Kazakh boxer Serik Konakbaev wants to supplant the current head of amateur boxing, who faces U.S. accusations of abetting organized crime.

12 October 2018

Kazakh boxing great Serik Konakbaev is appealing his disqualification from seeking election as head of the troubled international governing body of amateur boxing.


Konakbaev’s only challenger to lead the AIBA is the acting president, Uzbekistan’s Gafur Rakhimov, a former boxer like Konakbaev who moved into business after the fall of the Soviet Union.


Rakhimov’s alleged mob ties have further strained AIBA’s relations with the Olympic movement, to the point that boxing could be dropped from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He was chosen interim president in January to fill a power vacuum when a previous president stepped down facing questions of financial irregularities.


On 1 October the AIBA disqualified Konakbaev from the 3 November presidential election because letters of support from at least 20 national boxing federations had not arrived at the organization’s Swiss headquarters by the 23 September deadline.


Konakbaev, 58, who is presently the head of the Asian Boxing Confederation, then appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on the grounds that 23 September was a Sunday and the deadline should have been extended for a day, RFE/RL reports.


Rakhimov is nine years older and enjoyed a less successful boxing career than the Olympic, World, and European Championship medal-winner Konakbaev. After their native countries became independent both went on to become “wealthy owners of private agricultural companies with ties to the state sector,” RFE says.


According to U.S. officials, Rakhimov also belongs to a major post-Soviet criminal organization, a charge he strongly denies, Reuters reported earlier this month.


The Treasury described him as “one of Uzbekistan’s leading criminals” and a big heroin trafficker when it designated him and nine other individuals last December as members of the “Thieves-in-Law”: “a vast criminal organization which has spread throughout the former Soviet Union, Europe, and the United States, engaging in a variety of crimes, such as money laundering, extortion, bribery, and robbery.”


Last week he told AFP that he has "never been involved in transnational criminal organizations or whatever has been said" about him, according to RFE, and in July Uzbekistani President Shavkat Mirziyoyev agreed to his request to remove his name from a government list of alleged criminals, allowing him to return home for the first time since 2010.



  • The IOC earlier warned that boxing’s place at the next Olympics could be endangered unless the AIBA sorts out its finances and governance issues going back several years. This month the IOC executive board expressed its “ongoing extreme concern with the grave situation” at the AIBA, noting among other matters Rakhimov’s problems with the U.S. Treasury.


  • Amateur boxing’s credibility was further hurt when all 36 referees and judges who worked at the 2016 Rio Olympics were subsequently suspended and some top AIBA functionaries demoted, the Indian Express writes.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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