Patrick Burke ©ITG

There is never a dull day covering the Olympic Movement, but every so often, one comes along that stands out like the damage done by a well-placed punch in a boxing ring.

The morning when I woke up and found that the top story on the insidethegames e-alert was "Russia at centre of doping mystery as Beijing 2022 team figure skating medal ceremony delayed" and social media had simply exploded about our coverage is one that springs to mind. 

As things developed on that February day, insidethegames would lead the world in revealing that 15-year-old Kamila Valieva was the athlete concerned in one of, if not the biggest story in recent Olympic history.

Another is my trip to the Puskás Aréna for the International Swimming Federation's Extraordinary Congress in June, where the global governing body took a decision that would bring high praise and equally vehement criticism in effectively banning transgender women from its competitions if they have gone through any part of the process of male puberty.

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games brought memories to last a lifetime for my colleagues and I, chief among them from a personal perspective being Scotland's Eilish McColgan's stunning women's 10,000 metres victory at the Alexander Stadium.

But despite all of that, you can send the International Boxing Association's (IBA) Extraordinary Congress at the Karen Demirchyan Sports and Concerts Complex in Armenia's capital Yerevan straight to the top of the list.

After a couple of days of reflection, my conclusion is that IBA has done itself no favours as far as its Olympic prospects are concerned after an event that was a headline-writer's dream. 

The 15-year-old Kamila Valieva's doping scandal at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics was among a range of shocking developments in the sporting world this year ©Getty Images
The 15-year-old Kamila Valieva's doping scandal at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics was among a range of shocking developments in the sporting world this year ©Getty Images

Simply holding an election, swallowing a little pride if need be, would certainly have resulted in a decisive victory for the incumbent President Umar Kremlev and spared the organisation much of the criticism and the charges that have come its way.

But I don't think it's the end as far as boxing at the Olympics is concerned.

That is fast forwarding quite a bit, so let's rewind a few days now that the dust has started to settle from the immediate aftermath, in which "speechless" was my reaction.

"Expect the unexpected", "they're always fun" and "it will be different to anything you've ever seen before" were just some of the warnings about boxing Congresses I'd been given prior to making the trip to Yerevan, whose Zvartnots International Airport has the distinction of concentrating most of its arrivals very late at night and its departures very early in the morning from a Western European perspective. 

And I admire it. Character-building. Enjoyed the city too from the glimpses I saw of it in between the boxing-related madness that unfolded. 

Spectacular is an apt description for the views in all directions from the Extraordinary Congress venue atop an ascent. A wonderful backdrop for the national football stadium incorporated into one of the many hillsides too.

Before Sunday, the Extraordinary Congress was widely perceived as pivotal to boxing's hopes of salvaging its Olympic status from Los Angeles 2028, having been left off the initial programme and with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) publicly displaying no let-up in its dissatisfaction with IBA.

After the outcome, many, mainly from the bigger boxing nations in the West, have effectively declared the end of boxing's long and in many ways proud history - although that women's medal events did not feature until London 2012 is an indictment on all whose attitudes were too slow to change - at the Games which dates back to Paris 1904.

The IBA Extraordinary Congress in Yerevan opted not to re-run the Presidential election ©IBA
The IBA Extraordinary Congress in Yerevan opted not to re-run the Presidential election ©IBA

Russian Kremlev, of course, easily held on to the IBA Presidential role after nearly three-quarters of voting delegates deemed that there should be no re-run of the election from Istanbul in May.

In the Turkish city, Kremlev was re-elected by acclamation after Dutch challenger Boris van der Vorst was deemed ineligible by the recently-formed Boxing Independent Integrity Unit (BIIU) Interim Nomination Unit. Another story I recall my colleague Michael Houston breaking brilliantly before my disbelieving eyes as I travelled on a believably sub-standard British railway service.

Van der Vorst challenged the BIIU's call, which from the outside looked dubious at the time and a real blunder when the Court of Arbitration for Sport found in the Dutchman's favour. Onlookers might have expected a fresh election to be held. And National Federations would have their chance to have their say again, but in a round-about way. First a vote on whether to hold a vote, and if that was approved then an election.

I chuckled when Count Binface promised in the 2019 United Kingdom general election to hold a "referendum on whether we should have another referendum" over the country's status in the European Union, I'll say that.

The decision to award the Extraordinary Congress to Yerevan. Kremlev's and van der Vorst's respective records in leadership positions. Boxing's future at the Olympics. These were just some of the issues that would be contested in an increasingly bitter campaign period as the weeks progressed.

After all of that, we reached Yerevan.

Prior to travelling - and these were purely personal musings I must stress - I sensed that a run-off between Kremlev and van der Vorst was not going to the formality some had it down as. Or at least wanted it to be.

And, of course, it should have been just that - a formality.

By the time I had settled in on the Friday night, I'd moved to around 75 per cent confidence that there would be no election, based on the overpowering mood in boxing circles.

By Saturday night, it seemed a formality that a majority of delegates would vote no to an election.

Russian official Umar Kremlev has firmly cemented his status as IBA President after the Extraordinary Congress ©IBA
Russian official Umar Kremlev has firmly cemented his status as IBA President after the Extraordinary Congress ©IBA

Three-and-half hours passed, and you had to be there to believe the drama as it unfolded. After Swedish Boxing Federation President Per-Axel Sjöholm conjured up a microphone and suddenly addressed the room referencing "free speech", then a power cut that was initially due to cause a 15-minute delay ultimately disrupted proceedings for an hour, it was clear that the seven-item agenda was not going to be concluded the easy way.

Then after the restart, we had an additional 24 National Federations present at the roll call from the initial total of 127. Then another during a test vote. The Dutch were outraged. 

Newly-appointed IBA secretary general George Yerolimpos - who had a baptism of fire having only been given the role on a permanent basis on Friday - was assisted by a representative from voting platform Lumi in explaining that late arrivals, and an additional member joining during the test, were what caused the quite dramatic increase.

And that was all before members actually got to discuss the fundamental purpose of the Congress. Deciding on whether to hold a Presidential election. Deciding on boxing's Olympic future for many.

Boxing New Zealand President Steve Hartley had cautioned that "this assembly of members decides whether or not we commit Olympic suicide". 

USA Boxing President Tyson Lee made a passionate plea for an election to be held, stressing "it doesn't matter who you vote for". 

The French delegate warned "we are becoming a laughing stock to the world". If this had been a comedic sketch, it would have had some value in parts - notably the lengthy row between the Dutch delegate and Yerolimpos over whether the IBA secretary general would answer his two questions separately or together. In the end, the delegate only got as far as one question.

But this was not a comedic sketch, this was what Hartley described as "the most important day in the history of our sport".

And despite the pleas from van der Vorst's supporters, it was quickly becoming clear that there were swathes of support from across the globe for elections to be shunned, particularly countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. A total of 106 National Federations said no to the question on the agenda. 

A convincing result that IBA has said marks a "vote of confidence" for Kremlev. Van der Vorst and many of his supporters had seen enough and immediately left the room, meaning they would miss a remarkable speech from the IBA President where he suggested that the organisation should look after its own interests first, and declared: "We shouldn’t say Olympic boxing, we should say IBA boxing."

IBA's hopes of restoring its IOC recognition and securing boxing's berth at Los Angeles 2028 have not been aided by how the Extraordinary Congress panned out. The IOC wasted little time in expressing its displeasure. "Extremely concerned" was its verdict. Building on prior "grave concerns". And Thomas Bach being left "not amused".

The decision from National Federations not to hold an IBA Presidential election has cast fresh doubts over boxing's status as an Olympic sport ©IBA
The decision from National Federations not to hold an IBA Presidential election has cast fresh doubts over boxing's status as an Olympic sport ©IBA

The IOC raised three issues in particular, two of which were unnecessary own goals from IBA's point of view.

Firstly, not holding an election. A redundant exercise that many observers are struggling to get their head around. Love him or loathe him, Kremlev has built a loyal support base within IBA. Eswatini Boxing Association President Webster Lukhele told the Extraordinary Congress "in Africa, we are celebrating Umar", and there were numerous similar examples of delegates holding Kremlev in high regard. 

Jubilant supporters chanted "Umar!" at the conclusion of the meeting. It is fair to recognise that an Olympic-centric analysis of where IBA finds itself, viewing the Games as the amateur version of the sport's pinnacle and pathway to professionalism, would not be one shared by all National Federations, each of whom have an equal vote. 

Kremlev's supporters, particularly from less established boxing nations, credit him for assistance provided to their countries by IBA under his watch.

The vote went 106-36 in favour of not holding an election. It is fair to assume that each of those 106 members would have backed Kremlev, and a handful of the 36 wanting an election may have too, which would have made it an even bigger margin of victory. 

It would have allowed IBA to fully move on from a saga that has rumbled on for months at a pivotal time for the sport. And maybe even have given him a mandate the IOC could not dispute. The will of the majority of IBA's members for Kremlev to serve a four-year term until 2026 is demonstrably there, but the history books will say that van der Vorst was twice denied the opportunity to run against him.

Secondly, suspending the Boxing Federation of Ukraine (FBU) two days prior to the Extraordinary Congress due to "Government interference". Yerolimpos defended the decision as in line with IBA's "Constitution and international practice". But a Russian-led organisation suspending a national governing body from Ukraine two days prior to a key vote - headline-writer's dream? It certainly feels as though it is a decision IBA could have held off.

The confusion over the presence of Ukrainian national symbols at the European Junior Championships in Montesilvano added more spice to an already flavourful affair.

The third criticism from the IOC covered the "chaotic circumstances of the voting procedure". Yerolimpos said that this was "completely out of any reality". It was not precisely clear what the IOC was referring to. The power cut was unfortunate but we did not see any suggestion of malicious intent, simply a frustrating incident for all concerned. 

The big increase in National Federations after the break was striking, but has not been extensively referenced since the explanation was provided by those overseeing proceedings, and besides would not have had any bearing on the outcome. Certainly the harshest of the three elements referenced in the IOC's statement.

Anyway, the state of play is this - IBA has been stripped of its rights to organise boxing at Paris 2024 for the second consecutive Olympic Games, and it is off the initial programme for Los Angeles 2028, with the IOC's Executive Board again set to discuss the situation in December.

Boxing remains a popular Olympic sport bringing value to the Olympic Games, despite the IOC's ongoing row with IBA ©Getty Images
Boxing remains a popular Olympic sport bringing value to the Olympic Games, despite the IOC's ongoing row with IBA ©Getty Images

Many have written Olympic boxing's obituary, but I am less convinced.

Firstly, it would be a big loss to the Games for the IOC if it was dropped. American Joe Frazier, Canada's Lennox Lewis, Ukraine's Wladimir Klitschko and Oleksandr Usyk, Britain's Anthony Joshua and Nicola Adams and Ireland's Katie Taylor are just a handful of boxing's Olympic alumni. 

The sport is guaranteed to drawing strong crowds and viewing figures, especially with the United States hosting in 2028 in LA. It is a high-value proposition for the IOC. 

It has allowed the sport to feature at back-to-back Games while its governing body has been suspended, and it could well be argued that it would have had sufficient ammunition from its tainted past with refereeing and judging scandals, most infamously at Rio 2016 under the Presidency of C K Wu, to remove the sport by now had there been an overwhelming desire to on its part.

Moreover, there are passionate advocates on both sides of the Kremlev-van der Vorst debate for keeping the sport at the Games. The Dutchman has vowed to "continue to fight for the Olympic dream". Even during his remarks following the Extraordinary Congress which hinted at IBA prioritising its own interest, Kremlev insisted "we have to get to the point where boxing will be part of the Olympic Games in 2024 as well as 2028" and declared "no one can exclude us from anywhere". 

It is an unusual position for the IOC to be in as it is faced with an International Federation escalating its war of words with the Lasuanne-based organisation rather than seeking public remedy, and that brings a sense of unpredictability.

The IBA President has big ambitions for its World Boxing Tour, but it remains in its and the IOC's interests for boxing to remain an Olympic sport.

Any game of brinkmanship carries the risk of there being a final straw. Initially, I thought Yerevan might have been it - IBA left itself open to criticism it could have easily avoided. 

However, I have changed my mind after a few days of reflection. It may be too early to say how involved IBA would be, but I'll leave myself open to blows by concluding with a prediction that boxing will be at Los Angeles 2028.