To move barks and go forward with the right people. Chris Roberts talks about the future of IBA © IBA

We met with the International Boxing Association (IBA) general secretary in Yerevan during the 2023 IBA Junior World Championships. Roberts was chosen as Interim Secretary in June 2023 after serving as the Development Director for several years. Later in September he was elected as permanent Secretary and Executive Director.

“It’s a privilege and a great appointment. I was put in the position by the board of directors. The work that we do within our organisation, the work in our department is fantastic, and the culmination of it we could see there in Armenia during this superb event,” told Roberts to Insidethegames. “These months passed quickly. They were intense, because there were lots of things to do with this movement from IOC, and also that rogue-organisation - “World Boxing”, which was trying to create issues that do not to be created. We just want to do our business and do it professionally.”

Roberts believes the IBA future is strong. 

We have a great team, we work hard, we get good people in place to advise, guide, support. Currently we can see the proventy we have got. 2014 was the last World Junior Championships, and now you see these kids are boxing here. It is fantastic for them to get an opponent in an international stage, win the championship medals. Also we created a new product - The Champions’ night. We try to close the gap that nobody else can do. And the gap is what the boxer does by the end of his career. IBA takes care of it now with the Champions night. We bridge the gap between amateurs and professionals. We even got back the professionals that have left the organisation. We create conditions for the success of our boxers. Prize money is the key. We are currently working on the strategic review on what the organisation will look like, how it will move forward. 2024 is a big year for us. It’s the end of the year, and who else can organise a world championship like this. We organise the IBA congress, Champions nights. Our reach is huge,” said Roberts.

Chris Roberts at he award ceremony during IBA Junior World Championships 2023 in Yerevan © IBA
Chris Roberts at he award ceremony during IBA Junior World Championships 2023 in Yerevan © IBA

One of the main questions for IBA remains the relationship with the International Olympic committee. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has stripped the IBA of its rights to organise boxing events at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games “due to ongoing concerns over governance issues within the organisation”. Roberts believes that everything IBA is doing is right.

“I have been on this point from the beginning, because I was the chairman of the judges committee. Everything we were asked to do we did. We followed what they call “best practice”. I don’t call it “best practice”, I call it “good practice”. Selection process, vetting of officials, how we look at the breakdown of officials to support events. This was the biggest area for manipulation elements. During the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham I was told by the IOC that we had fixed manipulation. I was the development director then. Go back to 2016, the Rio Olympics. We don’t have anybody from there in this organisation. The whole team is new. We don’t have anyone from the old element of AIBA. It is key for us to take this IBA brand forward. We have done everything we can, we will continue to do right things, we will continue to have the right people and by doing it we will demonstrate that we have everything in place to carry on with the IOC in the future. They need to look at us. We are the International federation doing everything right.” 

Speaking about the newly formed World Boxing, Roberts once again called them a rogue-organisation, and said that there can’t be any comparison between the two organisations. 

“I think it is disappointing for them. We can all sit in the dark room for months without strategy. But when it comes to the strategy it is concrete business from the grassroots. Without it you don’t have a strategy. There is no substance. Look at Mr. Kremlev, the work he does. He is in one country, on another day he is in another country. He supports our members, our national federations that are loyal to IBA. I don’t see anyone within “World Boxing” who can do the same. Do they inspire? No. Does the president of “World Boxing” inspire? No. We don’t even recognise this organisation. We have the right people in IBA. There is no comparison. The members have left… It is their choice. It is very disappointing. We are still open for them to come back. If they want, they can come back. What we say is that there is no dual membership. Many lies have been spread by this rogue-organisation. You can’t be in both organisations. IBA don’t tell lies. We say it as it is. 180 countries come to the IBA congress. The size of the work we do does not have any comparison.” 

Chris Roberts during IBA Ordinary Congress 2023 © IBA
Chris Roberts during IBA Ordinary Congress 2023 © IBA

Speaking about the refereeing during 2023 IBA World Junior Championships, Roberts stated that there were no complaints and appeals. “The judgement was really good during the championship. We got Mr Richard Mclaren last year, who did our ringside vetting, made sure that everything went with plan. Everything was good in this championship.” 

Roberts also praised the Boxing Federation of Armenia for hosting the championship at the highest level. 

“This is a fantastic championship. President of the BFA Hovhannes Hovsepyan has done a fantastic job. To bring all these kids to Armenia is really good. It is important for us to get them to see, to feel what the World Championship event is. Great organisation. The National federation has run numerous events in Yerevan; the European championships, the IBA congress… This is a really good, solid, strong federation which supports IBA. We are happy to organise this event here.” 

At the end the General Secretary of IBA stated that the boxing ring is not the place for geopolitical discussions.

“I have been involved in boxing for 25 years. I have gone through CEO Boxing Scotland, I was director in Great Britain Boxing. For me it is a great privilege to be the General Secretary of IBA and I 100 percent believe that everything we do is right for the boxers. It’s all about the sport, not about politics. There is a place for geopolitical discussions but it must not be in a boxing ring. We provide the conditions for our boxers to come and box in a safe environment.” concluded Chris Roberts.