Sri Lankan boxers given a facelift | Sunday Observer

Sri Lankan boxers given a facelift

23 July, 2023
IBA presidet Umar Kremlev, IBA Brand Ambassador Zeina Nassar and Roy Jones Jr presenting gloves to boxers at the Royal MAS Arena
IBA presidet Umar Kremlev, IBA Brand Ambassador Zeina Nassar and Roy Jones Jr presenting gloves to boxers at the Royal MAS Arena

Sri Lanka is poised to become an international hub for boxing following the high-profile visit of a delegation from the International Boxing Association (IBA) and professional boxing promoters headed by the president of the world governing body for the sport, Russian billionaire Umar Kremlev.

A plane load of boxing personalities comprising American boxing legend Roy Jones Jr and IBA Brand Ambassador Zeina Nassar of Germany caused an earthquake of monumental proportions during their ground breaking two-day visit.

IBA president Kremlev not only brought gifts for athletes in the form of 300 boxing gloves but pledged a grant of $50,000 to the cash-strapped Boxing Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) with a promise to double it next year.

Sri Lanka’s boxing community experienced a day of celebration and renewed hope as the IBA team held discussions with key officials including Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe to develop the sport among schools and more significantly promote the country as an international venue for training and competitions.

“It is a historical time for Sri Lanka. When Sri Lanka needs support Umar Kremlev and his team have always supported me personally and Sri Lanka boxing,” said Sri Lanka’s boxing chief Dian Gomes on whose personal invitation Kremlev came with his entourage on a historic visit to Sri Lanka.

“It is a great victory for all of us today. We can be proud because there are 200 countries in boxing and for a country like Sri Lanka to be recognised and to accept a personal invitation from me to visit Sri Lanka is an honour.

“The whole contingent of IBA people and friends in professional boxing led by another Sri Lankan Dunstan Rozairo are here to make Sri Lanka a professional hub as well in conjunction with IBA. Sri Lanka will support the IBA embark on a joint venture with professional boxing as well,” added Gomes at a press conference.

Gomes also expressed his gratitude to Kremlev for sponsoring Sri Lanka boxers for the World championships.

“Today an investment of nearly 10 million rupees was made to give gloves to schools and major clubs. It was a personal contribution from Umar. We will take boxing forward in Sri Lanka and I hope there will be more support for us in years to come,” he added.

Umar Kremlev for his part said he was amazed and overwhelmed by the warm welcome he received and said he felt at home.

“I am happy to be here today. I feel at home here because of the warm welcome. I brought gifts to help you become world champions,” he said addressing boxers at Royal MAS Arena before handing over gloves. “Our main ambition is to create conditions and create opportunities for boxers to develop and to compete both locally and abroad. Today is a day of boxing celebration,” he said.

“I will help promote boxing with equipment. There are numerous plans to have different kinds of international tournaments and projects regarding boxing. We have also made a proposal to have training camps here,” said Kremlev.

Gomes, who also serves as a Director of IBA, highlighted the significance of IBA’s historic contribution of prize money to boxing.

“When Sri Lanka needed to send boxers for the Women’s World Championship in India and the Men’s World Championship in Uzbekistan, I spoke to Umar, and he personally supported Sri Lanka despite our limitations. The boxers received training, which was a great step forward,” he said.

Gomes also clarified the conflict between the International Olympic Committee and IBA.

“We will fight in IBA tournaments and also in the Olympics. There is no conflict. The conflict is in politics. Here as sportspeople we want to bring the whole world together. I know Umar will bring that major change where the money earned from all professional boxing will go to amateur boxing athletes as prize money. Next year a million dollars will be offered for a gold medal,” said Gomes.

Kremlev expressed the IBA’s intention to host international tournaments in Sri Lanka, including continental championships and the Asian Cup and expressed readiness to begin working immediately by inspecting available arenas, hotels and other venues.

Asked why he chose Sri Lanka as a boxing destination, Kremlev said: “It is all for the sake of development of amateur and professional boxing. IBA is the only organisation that holds the rights to organize and develop boxing across the globe. That’s why we take care of athletes to make sure that our boxers get opportunities to develop their careers after they retire.”

During his visit Kremlev met with national athletes, including school boxers, elite boxers from the Army, Air Force and Police before donating gloves.

“As IBA president, I am certain that crucial changes await us in the sports world of Sri Lanka and I am looking forward to the growth of the number of national team boxers in the international boxing arena,” Kremlev said. (AO)