Liam Morgan

After what feels like an age of political wrangling and just days before the vote itself, we finally have a confirmed two-horse race for the Presidency of the International Boxing Association (AIBA).

The announcement from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) today that Serik Konakbayev had been cleared to stand, following a dispute over whether his nominations were received in time, ensures there will be another name besides interim head Gafur Rakhimov on the ballot paper.

The statement marked the latest twist in an election, due to take place at the Congress in Moscow on Saturday (November 3), which has far-reaching consequences for the sport of boxing and AIBA's standing within the Olympic Movement.

The CAS result is not just a victory for Konakbayev, but it is also a triumph for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which effectively declared its backing for the Kazakh when sending a letter to Rakhimov directly urging him not to run in the election.

It is a win for Member Federations, many of whom have become increasingly concerned for boxing's Olympic future given the ramping up of denials from Rakhimov and his refusal to stand aside even as the severity of the warnings from the IOC intensified.

If you believe Rakhimov, it is also the best result for AIBA, whose troubled governance has been at the forefront of the perilous state boxing's Olympic place finds itself in.

After all, the alternative scenario - Konakbayev being excluded from the race - does not bear thinking about for some of the members and would have almost certainly sparked the IOC into action.

Serik Konakbayev was officially cleared to stand in the Presidential election by the CAS today ©Serik Konakbayev
Serik Konakbayev was officially cleared to stand in the Presidential election by the CAS today ©Serik Konakbayev

To an extent, the Uzbek, whose links to alleged organised crime - which he denies - have led the IOC to exert considerable public and private influence on the race, is correct.

From a perception standpoint, having just one candidate often has negative connotations; either the official in question has stayed too long or has wielded their power behind the scenes to stave off the possibility of facing a challenge.

In AIBA's case, an actual election, rather than appointing someone to their most important position essentially by acclamation, at the very least gives them the chance to highlight how they went through a democratic process.

It is likely AIBA and Rakhimov, should he be elected President, will use this in an attempt to avoid the expected immediate intervention of the IOC.

"I am pleased to welcome another candidate and, as I have said before on numerous occasions, for AIBA it is good when we have competition especially at the highest levels, and now we can let the AIBA membership decide who they believe is the best leader to guide our sport out of financial difficulty and towards a sustainable future," Rakhimov said in a statement.

Despite the electorate having two candidates to choose from, Rakhimov, on a United States Treasury Department as "one of Uzbekistan's leading criminals", remains the favourite to assume the top job later this week.

What happens next is, in many ways, more fascinating than the election itself. The rumour-mill has been buzzing with suggestions that Rakhimov may in fact stand aside even if he emerges triumphant in the Russian capital to fend off the IOC.

The 67-year-old himself has refused to rule this out, telling insidethegames earlier this month that he would "never stand in the way of an Olympic future for boxing, and our new regulations provide a solid process on how to handle such a temporary situation".

"AIBA and Olympic boxing are more important than any candidate, and that includes me, of course," he added.

If the latter is true, why did Rakhimov not withdraw his candidacy following the explicit warnings that him standing for President puts boxing's Olympic place, and AIBA's ability to organise an Olympic tournament, in jeopardy?

The Member Federations should be asking that question of Rakhimov when they meet the Uzbek in Moscow. He had the chance to end this weeks ago but chose to press on with his campaign.

They are certainly entitled to know, particularly with the threat level as severe as it ever has been.

Gafur Rakhimov remains the favourite to be elected AIBA President despite the CAS decision ©AIBA
Gafur Rakhimov remains the favourite to be elected AIBA President despite the CAS decision ©AIBA

Konakbayev, the head of the Asian Boxing Confederation, may also have some explaining to do to members, particularly over how he has pledged to take AIBA into a new era when he served as an Executive Committee member in the previous regime - one which the two candidates have each been quick to denounce in a bid to strengthen their own credentials.

Both have cited repairing AIBA's governance as their priority in manifestos released last week, with Rakhimov vowing to "personally lead" the development and improvement of the current structure.

Konakbayev has promised he will "immediately address the issues of trust and governance facing AIBA and work with the IOC to ensure that AIBA retains its status as an Olympic sport".

As is often the case with manifestos and election pledges, these sound good on paper but it is their implementation which will matter after the vote.

Here, the Kazakh has the upper hand over his Uzbek rival. Konakbayev is the preferred candidate of the IOC, who have demonstrated their opposition to Rakhimov both directly and inherently in recent months.

Rakhimov, though, will point to the strides taken towards a supposedly better future for AIBA since he took interim charge in January.

It is no surprise this dominates the start of his manifesto, in which he describes how they have "created a new AIBA with a refined, transparent governance system, implemented comprehensive changes in our refereeing and judging system, and we have secured our financial stability".

There will certainly be those among the AIBA electorate who are persuaded by Rakhimov's arguments, especially his claims over how he has ensured the embattled governing body does not descend into the financial abyss.

For some of the membership, however, it will simply come down to a choice between one candidate whose election is a "grave" concern for the IOC and another who is actively supported by the same organisation.

The IOC and its President Thomas Bach have directly and inherently warned Rakhimov's candidacy puts boxing's place at the Games in jeopardy ©Getty Images
The IOC and its President Thomas Bach have directly and inherently warned Rakhimov's candidacy puts boxing's place at the Games in jeopardy ©Getty Images

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the two candidates may even come to some form of agreement prior to the election following the Uzbek's refusal to quell suggestions he may resign shortly after being elected.

Konakbayev declined to address this when asked by insidethegames but, conversely, did not rule it out either.

Such an outcome adds another layer to an already captivating and absorbing election, a trend which will continue before the vote takes place as the candidates and their teams step up their intensive lobbying efforts.

After the CAS announcement today, the onus is now firmly on the Member Federations, who have the fate of AIBA in their hands.

Only time will tell whether they make the right choice for the future of AIBA and of amateur boxing.