István Kovács has a depressing opinion about the conditions prevailing in amateur boxing in the world (Photo: Imre Földi, archive)


– I'm sorry, but where did the idea come from?
– I have known Umar Kremlev, the Russian president of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) elected in December, for a long time, and he has capacitated me to run for the Secretary General position. – said István Kovácswho hasn't kept a secret that he has a depressing opinion about the conditions prevailing in amateur boxing in the world. – So, I prepared my application material, applied, and I was finally chosen from five candidates by the AIBA videoconference. In the last round, I won the election 15-3.

– Are you moving to Lausanne, to the AIBA and the IOC's headquarters?
 We're not there yet, and because of the pandemic and the travel restrictions it would be impossible anyways. It will change in the future, though. When Mr. Kremlev had first contacted me, I wasn't sure if I wanted to change countries at the age of 50. He then convinced me in the beginning of February when he visited Hungary for the Bocskai Memorial Tournament, so I accepted it.

– Compared to the fact that here hasn't been a bigger critic of amateur boxing than István Kovács in recent years...
– I have always believed that coaches, boxers, and great champions need to team up, and not sports leaders. When sport leaders who were exempted from PE make decisions, such as the former President Anwar Chowdhry from Pakistan, we saw where it was going. Now we are on a different path.

– In what ways?
 There was no point in changing the basics until Tokyo, but in the future, it will be necessary in order to remain in the Olympic program. That is, if we want to keep the sport alive. We need a scoring system that everyone understands, and the sport requires a more easily consumable system of competitions. Some age limits should also be clarified. Daily giga programs should be forgotten; there should be Class A, B, and C in boxing, too, and BKV Előre shouldn't meet with the world champions also for health protection reasons. We shouldn't be afraid of the changes, and we have to take the path that, for example, gymnastics, figure skating or judo has taken already, and yes, the path on which also modern pentathlon started. We need boxing that's viewer-friendly, loving, and easy to understand.

– For a year and a half, you've been the member of a working group called the Boxing Task Force, set up by the IOC. It was set up precisely against the AIBA and became responsible for organizing the Tokyo Olympic program. What do they say there for your current appointment?
 I don't know yet, but Mr. Watanabe Morinari and Marius L. Vizer will be among the first ones I'll talk to. I've worked with them in the working group. My current assignment obviously precludes my work there.

– Just as you can no longer hold a European presidency in the WBO, I assume you can't continue being the European president in the WBC either.
 I talked to the WBO first and since the HQ is in Puerto Rico, Francisco Valcarcel, the president and my good friend responded with a local saying: "Even if your friend's joy hurts you, still be happy for him!" I worked with him for nineteen years, and the WBO is proud that a sports diplomat who was raised there received this position. If I succeed in cleaning up the mess in amateur boxing, or I see no solution, they'll welcome me back.

– With many years of systematic work, the AIBA has turned itself into a stepchild of international Olympism and cannot represent its sport at the Olympics either. Nor can it be a coincidence that they have now elected a Secretary General who is, so to speak, an in-house member of the IOC's competent working group.
– Of course, Kremlev and his staff also thought that an Olympic champion, aka IOC President Thomas Bach, might speak more easily to another Olympic champion, namely me. From now on, recovering international amateur boxing, repairing the battered renown, and restoring the positions in the IOC are my priorities. In this regard, Umar Kremlev has relatively well-outlined ideas, and I will be the engine, or if necessary, the brake in this work. The AIBA has reached a historic low in twenty years, which cannot be fixed with the same people and methods. Reform is needed at all levels. That is what I will work for in the future.

– Whom with?
 Among the former great champions, Vladimir Klitschko was with me a few days ago, and we talked about all the essential questions. He slept in my son's bed and his feet were sticking out. The current Russian president is a great friend of my mine, the WBO supports me, but Frank Warren and Oscar de la Hoya from professional boxing are also on my side. My international support is even greater than the number of votes I got elected with.

– You'll be in Tokyo, won't you?

– In what capacity? Obviously not as the AIBA Secretary General, hardly as a member of the working group. Maybe as a TV presenter? Or with the Hungarian Olympic Committee?
 Good question, I still have to work on that. But I need to put my future life in order first.

Translated by Vanda Orosz