ATR Extra: AIBA Presidential Candidate Reveals Deals

(ATR) Suleyman Mikayilov promises forgiveness of a $10 million debt and a new sponsor... if he's elected AIBA president

(ATR) Suleyman Mikayilov promises forgiveness of a $10 million debt and a new sponsor for the international boxing federation – but only if he is elected president.

Mikayilov said that Benkons, a company based in his native Azerbaijan, will waive the $10 million debt that makes it the chief creditor of AIBA.

In addition, Nobel Oil Services, also based in Azerbaijan, has pledged a minimum of 3 million Swiss Francs per year ($3.37 million) for at least two years.

"This sponsorship is conditional," said Mikayilov, who is also in discussions with more potential sponsors.

Mikayilov is one of now six candidates running for president of the embattled organization, which has been suspended by the IOC. Bienvenido Solano of the Dominican Republic pulled out of the race on Wednesday. The election will take place Saturday during a virtual congress.

Mikayilov has promised to clear all debts within his first 100 days, and would hit the ground running with the agreements with Benkons and Nobel Oil Services.

"Now there is no time to waste," Mikayilov said in a virtual press conference Wednesday with international media. "We must clear all debts and secure funds to rebuild our entire operations so that we can once again be a fully operational world governing body for the sport of boxing."

Mikayilov, who appeared before a backdrop that said "Deep Changes for a New Future," also sent a letter to all national federations announcing his agreement with Benkons.

Mikayilov said that the total amount of AIBA debt is approximately $10 million, not the 20 million Swiss Francs (about $22.5 million) that has been reported. He said the money owed is mostly due to Benkons.

He also wrote that AIBA has less than 1 million Swiss Francs ($1.125 million) in the bank and the majority of this balance will soon be spent to clear urgent payables.

"The AIBA Finance Director made it clear to us," Mikayilov told the national federations, "that AIBA does not have sufficient funds to pay Benkons the first scheduled payment of $1 million in January 2021."

Mikayilov said he told Benkons that if he is elected president, he will conduct an aggressive global public relations campaign to restore the image of AIBA. As a result, Benkons would be recognized as one of the partners in "the campaign to support a new movement in boxing." As a condition of forgiving the debt, Benkons will insist on a strong commitment from AIBA "not to tarnish its brand and reputation again, through a legal agreement."

In his 82-page manifesto, Mikayilov outlines his ambitious plans that include creating the United Boxing Alliance to secure funding.

He said it is imperative to restore the reputation of AIBA through deep reforms in order to bring on more sponsors.

"We are well aware of the current situation, with the current image, it is not in the position to involve more sponsors and secure new marketing fields," Mikayilov said, "but with the reforms that I committed to implement in the first 100 days, I think we will save the situation and we will rebuild the image of AIBA, which will be in the benefit of the companies that are ready today to support AIBA and to the benefit of the boxing community and AIBA itself."

Richard Caborn, a former Minister of Sport in the United Kingdom who is an external advisor to Mikayilov, said he studied the ways other organizations achieved financial stability, such as Formula 1 and international federations for triathlon, athletics, rugby and table tennis.

Caborn said the new AIBA structure would not only "give entrance back into the Olympic Family," but would also "be able to address in a very practical way the financial problems that are facing AIBA and could wreck it if not resolved in the very near future."

While it is under suspension, AIBA receives no funding from the IOC and has no part in the organization of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Mikayilov said he has engaged in a dialogue with the IOC.

If he is elected, he said, "Yes, I think we will be accepted by the IOC. Because I am the only candidate who has carefully analyzed what reforms the IOC has asked for and I can gather the resources to implement these reforms and to build an operational AIBA. I will keep the IOC and also you informed at every point, so they know I am committed to reforms."

As a former boxer, Mikayilov said, "I believe I am the only candidate who truly understands what the boxers need, which is why I am putting them at the forefront of my manifesto."

The IOC has expressed concerns about the candidates for president. Mikayilov is a current member of the Executive Committee, but he said his name "shouldn’t be linked and associated with the negative past of AIBA."

"To be honest," he added, "I am mainly focusing on the positive changes and the positive contributions that I can bring to AIBA rather than focusing on my competitors, rather than focusing on blackmailing them. So I will not comment on what has been spoken about those candidates. But I want to assure everyone that I am one of the most experienced and well-qualified boxing experts on the current executive committee of AIBA."

Said Caborn, "Boxing is in his DNA."

Mikayilov vowed to "bring back fair judgment" by establishing an integrity unit to regain the trust of boxers, coaches and judges. He also will implement an innovative new scoring system that will minimize human intervention..

Mikayilov said that while he is opposed to professional boxers in Olympic-style competition, instituting a prize money fund at the World and European Championships "is one of the issues that we are studying and trying to implement slowly." He said he is negotiating with sponsors to set up a prize fund, likely in the near future, "so that the amateur athletes are motivated and interested in terms of competing and winning the championships."

The other remaining candidates for president are Ramie Al-Masri of Germany, Anas Al Otaiba of United Arab Emirates, Umar Kremlev of Russia, Mohamed Moustahsane of Morocco and Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands.

Written by Karen Rosen

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