Last week, Al Otaiba — an AIBA vice-president and also a member of the body’s Executive Committee — became the third official to publicly declare his intention to stand for the top job at the embattled organisation.
Azerbaijan’s Suleyman Mikayilov and the Dominican Republic’s Domingo Solano are the other two who have promised to run for the vacant AIBA President’s seat. It is also widely believed that Russian Umar Kremlev will become the fourth official to enter the race before the set deadline of November 2.
The AIBA Presidential election is scheduled to be held virtually during the Extraordinary Congress of the world body, on December 12-13.
The UAE’s Al Otaiba revealed his bid to become AIBA President in a statement released by the United Arab Emirates Boxing Federation (UAE BF), which he has led since 2017. The 44-year-old said AIBA had reached a “tipping point” after it was suspended as the Olympic governing body for the sport because of issues with its governance, finances, refereeing and judging, among other ailments.
“We need complete transparency in the way we are running our sport. We need to listen and we need to be fair to all member nations,” Al Otaiba told Gulf News after announcing his candidature for the top post.
“We need to work harder, smarter and with agility by seizing the last opportunity of AIBA’s rebirth provided by the International Olympic Committee (IOC),” he added.
The AIBA has been without a permanent president for more than a year and a half after Rakhimov stood down in March 2019. The troubled federation has since been led on an interim basis by Mohammed Moustahsane of Morocco.
Recently, the IOC said it was “very worried” with the progress made by AIBA with its governance reforms, which it has promised since it was stripped of any involvement in the boxing tournament at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“Look at what we’ve got ourselves into. Boxing is an honourable sport like any other and we owe it to member nations and our athletes that they have a sport that they can be proud of while practicing. We need to set a lot of things right in boxing and this journey starts now,” Al Otaiba stressed.
Born on May 18, 1976, Al Otaiba completed his Bachelor of Arts degree and his Business and International Affairs studies at the Lewis & Clark College in Portland, United States. He then obtained his Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Abu Dhabi University.
Since 2012, Al Otaiba was closely involved with boxing in the UAE when he became a member of the United Arab Emirates Boxing Federation (UAE BF). He was then appointed an Executive Committee Member of the Asian Boxing Confederation (ABF) in 2014, and then as President of the UAE BF, in 2016.
Interestingly, the UAEBF President had been considered a close ally of Gafur Rakhimov, who stood down in March 2019 following allegations that he was involved in heroin trafficking. The accusations against Rakhimov and his subsequent election sparked the IOC into action and contributed to the decision to suspend AIBA in June 2019.
Al Otaiba automatically became a vice-president of AIBA by virtue of taking up the position with the Asian organisation and has since served on the ruling Executive Committee.
This year’s election is considered vital to AIBA’s chances of being reinstated by the IOC before the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
“Bringing back boxing into the Olympic fold is certainly one of the main tasks I have. We have to preserve the long heritage of AIBA as the representative of one of the first Olympic sports ever. And then, we have to also listen to what our members are saying. They have concerns and issues, but the AIBA is too busy to listen to any of this as there’s so much of infighting going on. Things have to change, and I think now is this time for change,” Al Otaiba stressed.