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Added June 6th, 2016 by Ian

Pro boxers allowed to fight in Olympics

In a move that has been panned by most people, professional boxers will be allowed to compete in the Olympic Games starting this August in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as long as they qualify. The announcement was left a little late since it came down in early June and the Games are set to begin in just over two month’s time. The AIBA, which is the worldwide governing body for amateur boxing, announced the decision and the organization’s president CK Wu said it was agreed to by a wide vote. However, most professional boxing organizations and current and former boxers feel it’s a dangerous move since relatively inexperienced amateurs could be involved in mismatches against established pros.

There have been a few boxers who seem open to the idea though such as Britain’s Amir Khan, Russia’s Denis Lebedev and Sergei Kovalev and even Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao. A total of 88 national boxing federations voted on the issue in Lausanne, Switzerland with 84 of them agreeing to allow pros to compete at the Olympics while the other four federations abstained from the vote. The Olympic qualifying tournament is scheduled to take place in Venezuela in July and there are still 26 spots to fill. But while it’s unlikely many pros will be able to prepare in time for the 2016 Games, professional organizations fear they may decide to compete for places in Tokyo in 2020.

Even though the AIBA overlooks amateur boxing, it has dabbled in the pro version for the past couple of years by holding tournaments across the world. Nicolas Jomrad, an AIBA spokesperson, said the organization doesn’t believe pro boxers will dominate amateurs if they meet in the ring. He said the amateurs are often quicker and are also used to the three-round boxing format. Jomrad added that many AIBA boxers have already sparred with pros and have held their own. Most pros wouldn’t want to jeopardize their careers though to take part in an unpaid tournament. They’d be in a no-win situation since they’d be expected to beat amateurs and could damage their reputations if they lost to one.

In addition, many fans feel it wouldn’t be fair to amateurs who have worked most of their lives to make an Olympic team to be pushed aside at the last minute by a professional. Also, professionals haven’t been forced to take regular drug testing during the qualifying process. Kathy Duva, the promoter of light heavyweight champion Kovalev of Russia told the press her boxer won’t be competing in Rio. She stated, “It’s not going to happen. He’s definitely not going to the Olympics. I don’t even want to think about what he’d do to an amateur. It’s absurd.”

Former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis added, “Olympic boxing is built for amateurs. All of a sudden you could have a scenario where someone like former world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, who won Olympic gold in Atlanta and has so much experience, could go up against a kid of 18 who has had just 10 fights.” Several other former world champions such as Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes, Julio Cesar Chavez, Ricky Hatton, David Haye, Erik Morales, and Oscar De La Hoya all agreed with Lewis as did several promoters including Lou DiBella and Bob Arum.

The World Boxing Council (WBC), which is one of the world’s top professional boxing bodies, said any boxer that is ranked in the top 15 of any of its weight classes will be banned from the its rankings if they take part in the Olympics. Of course, this doesn’t mean they can’t box professionally for those two years, but they wouldn’t be able to earn a shot at a WBC world title. It’ll be interesting to see how this situation pans out this year and in the 2020 Olympics.

 
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