Monday 22 January 2018

The Irish Amateur Boxing Association explain why they voted in favour of professionals in the Olympics

Will Slattery

Will Slattery

Today saw what could be a landmark shift in Olympic boxing as the sport's world governing body and its members voted overwhelmingly to allow professional boxers compete in the upcoming Rio games.

84 out of the 88 delegates present at today's emergency AIBA congress voted in favour of the motion, with four abstaining.

The IABA was one of many nations who backed the proposal, which has drawn criticism from many within Irish boxing and abroad.

Olympic silver medalist Kenneth Egan called the decision to allow pro boxers to compete against amateurs as 'scandalous', but IABA President Pat Ryan disagrees.

Speaking to, Byrne reaffirmed his organisation's commitment to the High Performance Unit run by Zaur Antia and explained why the IABA voted in favour of letting pro boxers compete.

"This decision will have no bearing on our boxers who have already qualified and we will be going forward with those who have already been chosen for the remaining qualifying events," Ryan said.

"The reason we voted in favour of the motion is because we have already been immersed in progressive reforms over the last 10 years in this regard. Things like the World Series of Boxing have been very successful for us, we qualified three of our boxers to the Rio Olympics that way."

The World Series of Boxing allows pro boxers with less than 15 fights compete while maintaining their Olympic eligibility. The difference that today's decision makes is that now a fighter with any amount of fights could hypothetically qualify for the Olympics.

Outside of that, one of the main criticisms people have of the decision is that professional boxers are often more physically developed, and to match them against amateurs could lead to mismatches at best, and injuries at worst.

However, Ryan disagrees with that assessment and thinks that the cream of Irish amateur boxing would beat their professional equivalents.

"It could also increase our success," Ryan replied when asked whether the influx of professionals could dilute the amount of medals won by Irish boxers.

"I would have no fear in Paddy Barnes or Michael Conlan going up against professionals. Three round boxing is a sprint, twelve round boxing is a marathon. The energy system is completely different.

"I have never seen a pro boxer out-box one of our top boxers and I am confident that our top boxers would out-box anyone over three rounds."

Ryan says that the IABA will discuss the proposal with ''all of its stakeholders' in the near future and while there is no immediate plans to use professional boxers, he says that could change in the future depending on the circumstances.

He also feels that critics like Egan and Carl Frampton will change their minds on the decision over the coming weeks.

"Many of the sentiments expressed may have been expressed because people weren't up to speed with the many reforms. Over the coming days as there is more clarity around the issue, I think such sentiments will go away."

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