The world regularly gets the chance to see the best of Ukrainian boxing à la carte, but the “behind the scenes” footage reveals a quivering soap opera ready to boil.
If there is one sport for which Ukraine has acquired a solid reputation abroad, it is boxing.
Olympic gold medalists, world champions – even political leaders – have all made a name for themselves through sport.
But according to a large group of regional federations, maybe that shouldn’t be the case.
And he infuriated the General Secretary of the Boxing Federation of Ukraine (FBU), Ilya Gurovich.
“We can only guess at the real motivations of those who are now fueling this hysteria,” Gurovich said in a statement posted on the FBU website.
“Although, I guess, boxing for these people isn’t the main priority – what’s more important to them is their own ambitions.“
Since 2008, the FBU has been chaired by President Volodomyr Prodivus, businessman and former deputy of the Party of Regions led by Victor Yanukovych.
He was re-elected for a new four-year term on December 17 in a contested vote.
The representatives of 11 regions (Chernihiv, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Khmelnytsky, Kirovograd, the city of Kiev, the Kiev oblast, Odessa, Poltava, Rivne and Zhytomyr) did not participate in the elections, questioning the achievement of the quorum.
For quorum, two-thirds of the 24 regions must be present. The splinter group says the FBU only collected 14, two of which were questioned by the group.
“A leftist voted for the federation of the Soumy region [and] the president of the Poltava region, Mikhail Melnyk, was at home – but the FBU also took his vote into account, ”said Kirill Shevchenko, president of the Kyiv City Federation and main opposition candidate for Prodivus , during a press conference held in December. on the 22nd, after the vote.
“The federation has seriously violated its charter … (and) FBU officials are well aware of the absurdity of the situation.“
The FBU stressed that there was nothing untoward in the vote.
“We ensured the direct presence at the conference of representatives from the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the International Boxing Association, who confirmed compliance with all necessary statutory procedures,” said Gurovitch.
But Gurovitch can’t help but go on the offensive.
As the Federation turns
In his statement, Gurovich publicly called out Shevchenko.
“In fact, the situation here is very simple. A certain opposition group led by the president of the Kyiv City Federation decided to disrupt the reporting and the FBU election conference, where they would probably not get the desired result of sufficient support to elect Kirill Shevchenko as president of the FBU ”, he declared.
He then goes on to accuse “someone” of having orchestrated the departure.
“Someone advised our opponents to give up their right to attend the conference. They did – and now everyone is yelling into their microphones that someone has violated their right to participate in the presidential election.
To counter the FBU’s accusations, the splinter group held its own press conference on December 22.
The event attracted some star power.
In addition to the 11 regional federations, former world champions Serhiy Dzyndzyruk and Andriy Kotelnyk – who won silver for Ukraine at the 2000 Olympics – were in attendance, as was former national team coach Dmitriy Sosnovsky.
The group has made its own accusations against the FBU.
“I can cite as an example the Lviv federation, where the brother of Vladimir Prodivus is in charge and where not a single tournament has been organized in three years – only the state money is affected,“
“They also run training camps for national teams who stay at Vladimir’s hotel and then walk for twenty minutes to the gym, although it is much cheaper to stay on the same. [street]. “
The dissident federations demanded a new election. If the December 17 election was allowed, the group vowed to appeal – first to the Youth and Sports Ministry and later, if necessary, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Young people and the non-engaged
Bad blood has been brewing for some time.
Last year, the FBU replaced several longtime coaches and challenged how No.1 super-heavyweight Victor Vykhryst turned pro just months before the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Kotelnyk is the manager of Vykhryst.
Vykhryst had just lost to Tsotne Rogavi and believed the newcomer would take his post in Tokyo. The FBU insisted that it had invested in Vykhryst and would have chosen it had it not turned professional.
So they took away her apartment and her allowance – which sparked legal action against Kotelnyk. They also banned them both – along with Vykhryst’s trainer Oleksandr Lyakhov – for three years.
Kotelnyk insists that these measures were politically motivated.
“Today, the federation does not carry out a transparent selection of coaches,” he said at the press conference on December 22. “They appoint coaches for the national team – people who have never been boxers and who have accomplished nothing as coaches.”
Then, like a boxer before the bell, he left a tee shot.
“I read an interview with Vladimir about how well he builds Ukrainian boxing,” said the former champion, “Maybe he builds a lot of bridges, but there are problems with boxing” .
He wasn’t speaking metaphorically – Providus is chairman of the supervisory board of Mostobud, known for building literal bridges.
Desperate Days – of our lives
The problems with boxing go deeper than the FBU.
Last month, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) warned AIBA – the international sports federation – that it could be pulled from the 2028 Olympics due to match-fixing.
“AIBA must demonstrate that it has successfully responded to persistent concerns about its governance, financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its arbitration and adjudication processes,” said at the time the chairman of the CIO, Thomas Bach.
Former AIBA President Wu Ching-kuo was found to have orchestrated large-scale match-fixing at the 2012 Olympics – and most likely the 2008 Olympics.
The report states that there is a “culture of favors” – especially among post-Soviet countries, although Ukraine has not been involved in any of the pay-for-performance programs and only one Ukrainian judge has been appointed. involved in one of the manipulated matches. The Ukrainian judge was not charged with anything illegal.
Wu Ching-kuo was banned for life, but the election of his successor caused waves in Ukraine.
Russian Umar Kremlev was ultimately elected to take his place, securing 86 of 155 votes – including Prodivus from the FBU president.
More than voting, Prodivus wrote AIBA a letter of support for his candidacy.
While it caused a sensation in some circles in Ukraine, the FBU doubled down on its decision.
“No one has a clue of the pressure on our sport. No one knows the financial situation we were in, and no one knows who, how and why helped [us] to get out of it all, ”said FBU press service chief Oleksandr Podvalenko.
“It kept boxing on the Olympic Games program.”
The question remains: can they do the same for boxing in Ukraine?