On Friday, August 27th, the Serbian capital Belgrade hosted the International Boxing Day 2021 central celebration, organized by Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA).
Belgrade became the boxing capital of the world for a day. Big boxing names such as the legend Roy Jones Jr, AIBA president Umar Kremlev, AIBA secretary-general István Kovács, champion Zeina Nassar, Olympic and world champions were all a part of the celebration. The event was hosted by a famous Serbian actor with international career Miloš Biković and was backed by the Serbian authorities who organized COVID-19 safety protocols.
As a part of the celebration, Roy Jones Jr. and Zeina Nassar held an open workout to showcase their skills on Republic square, Belgrade, after which a big celebration started featuring local music stars.
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AIBA in Belgrade organized the whole International Boxing Day celebration to promote boxing as a sport to a broader population and as an introduction to the AIBA Men's World Championships that will take place in October, again in Belgrade.
International Boxing Day - A Celebration For All People Involved With The Noble Art
As AIBA president, Umar Kremlev, highlighted multiple times during the event - International Boxing Day is a celebration for everyone involved with the sport. That means not just amateurs, but professional boxers too,and anyone who is looking to get involved in boxing. "If you stepped a foot inside a ring, you are a part of the boxing family, and International Boxing Day is your holiday too!" Kremlev said.
International Boxing Day is celebrated on August 27th as a memory of the first edition of the AIBA World Boxing Championships, held in Havana, Cuba, back in 1974 on the same date. Roy Jones Jr. said that "If it weren't for boxing, there wouldn't be Roy Jones Jr, and I wouldn't be standing here in front of you today. Boxing made me who I am, and I am grateful to it, and I owe it everything." Jones insisted how boxing is more than a martial art, as it teaches young people one of the essential life skills - how to bring yourself up once you go down and advance, rising to the occasion.
President Kremlev explained how the whole world realized the importance of health when COVID-19 struck and he sees boxing as an excellent way for people to stay healthy.
AIBA Makes Boxing Accessible To Anyone
Although the main celebration takes place in Belgrade, International Boxing Day is also celebrated in other countries. AIBA insists it is a global manifestation. As Mr Kovács explained, various countries are simultaneously celebrating in their unique ways. In Scotland, boxers showcase open workouts wearing traditional kilts; in Nepal, athletes donate blood to local hospitals; Czech republic and Hungary organize events to familiarize children with the sport; other countries donate funds for the charity to help people in need.
Zeina Nassar, the famous German champion, is an excellent example of how far the boxing world has come. She explained that she was not only one of the rare girls involved in the sport but was also the only Muslim who wore her hijab while training at her gym. She said her mission is to show how boxing is no longer reserved only for men. It is open to people of all races and religious groups. She feels that her success can help break stereotypes, motivate girls to try the sport, and maybe find their life's purpose in it, as she did.
Roy Jones Jr. even said how boxing is an excellent way for people with certain disorders to get involved in the sport. He mentioned working with a boy who has autism - Jones explained how the boy, because of his condition, cannot play team sports but can practice boxing as he is alone in the ring. Because of that, boxing became a central part of the boy's life, which serves as an inspiration to other parents who have children with autism or similar conditions.
AIBA wanted to show how International Boxing Day as a celebration is for everyone, not just for boxers, and how boxing is a sport anyone can and should try.
Belgrade As The 2021 Boxing Capital Of The World
International Boxing Day is in Belgrade as an excellent introduction for the AIBA Men's World Championships that will be held from October 26th – November 6th, 2021, also in Belgrade.
When asked about choosing Belgrade as the place to host the biggest boxing event of the year after the Olympics, AIBA president Kremlev said how the local COVID-19 situation, alongside the support of the local government and Serbian president Vučić were the critical deciding factors. Free vaccines and proper safety protocols combined with solid infrastructure allow AIBA to organize a competition in safe conditions for everyone involved, which is especially valuable in uncertain times like these.
International Boxing Day was a great intro to the main event. Olympic champions, stars, and boxing legends were all in Belgrade to attract audience attention and invite people to come to the AIBA Men's World Championships in October. Even Roy Jones Jr. said he would come back to the event too.
AIBA Rebuilding Its Reputation
AIBA has taken significant strides to rebuild its reputation after past scandals involving Summer Olympics. As president Kremlev said, they took full responsibility and are working hard to clear everything. AIBA is now fully transparent and working with independent experts who are doing their investigations in separate fields.
Professor Richard McLaren's report is expected in late September, and it will give the details about the refereeing and judging in Rio Olympics in 2016. A separate organization lead by Mr Ulrich Haas and his legal expert group is there to access AIBA from a governance perspective, doing thorough interviews with the members of the organization but also outside associates. AIBA's finances are also being investigated, but president Kremlev said how the organization is now debt-free, generating most of its funds through healthy marketing campaigns such as the International Boxing Day, which helps them find new sponsors.
AIBA hopes to be the governing body responsible for organizing boxing at the Paris Summer Olympics in 2024. Tremendous progress has been made, but AIBA continues to do more, operating entirely transparently. President Kremlev said they are following the recommendations and are listening to the independent experts, meeting the highest standards, and doing their best to make things right and promote the noble art of boxing internationally.
Belgrade hosted this wonderful event in 2021, and AIBA plans to make International Boxing Day a tradition. The main event will happen in a different city each year, but AIBA wants International Boxing Day to be exactly that - international, happening all across the globe simultaneously, with the whole planet celebrating the phenomenon of boxing.
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