Friday 6 December 2019

What will imminent ruling allowing professional boxers to compete in Olympics mean for the sport?

Manny Pacquiao
Manny Pacquiao

Top professional boxers are set to be given the right to fight in this summer's Rio Olympics under radical new proposals drawn up by the sport's governing body, AIBA.

But what does this imminent ruling actually mean for both the boxers and the sport in general as it continues to obliterate the barriers between professional and amateur codes?

Here Press Association Sport runs the rule over the proposals put forward by AIBA president Dr Ching-Kuo Wu in Manchester this week.

The qualification process is already well underway - haven't AIBA left it a bit late?

AIBA say they have expedited the process of changing their eligibility criteria since being given tacit approval by an International Olympic Committee decree in late 2014. They say once delegates have formally proposed the change at their Commissions meeting in Manchester this week, it must be approved by a meeting of AIBA's executive commission - which will happen before the qualifying process is complete.

Once implemented it will take immediate effect - leaving it up to the respective national federations to decide if they want to bus in big professional names at such a big stage.

Can we expect the Rio Olympics to be full of boxing superstars?

Not really. Most big-name professionals will have too much to lose by returning to the so-called amateur code - both in terms of reputation and cash. Some - notably Wladimir Klitschko and Manny Pacquiao - have expressed an interest, but Rio is likely to come too soon.

The reality is some nations, particularly those from eastern Europe who have a single governing body which does not differentiate between professional and amateur codes, are more likely than others to call up established professional fighters.

The United States too could be tempted, but the reality is we will not see the full impact of the imminent ruling until the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

What impact will it have in Britain and Ireland?

Great Britain and Ireland will stay loyal to their established programmes, at least in the short-term. Theoretically, if they did not have a genuine contender at a particular weight, they might enquire about the availability of a professional. In Great Britain, however, this process would be complicated by the British Boxing Board of Control, who would require any professional seeking to enter the Olympics to relinquish their professional licence - meaning it is unlikely to tempt any of the truly big names.

Of course, once the new eligibility rules are established, it would have much greater longer-term implications for the future of the so-called amateur programmes.

Why the push for change?

Boxing is the only sport, unless you also include wrestling, which prohibits professionals (in the traditional sense of the word) from taking part.

AIBA have been pushing to make the so-called "amateur" code more professional since Wu was elected president in 2006. It has removed headguards and vests from AIBA competitions for men, and introduced both the APB - an individual competition based on professional principles - and the increasingly popular World Series of Boxing team event - contested over five rounds.

Wu is determined to obliterate all barriers and effectively turn AIBA into another global sanctioning body for the sport - albeit one which has the significant benefit of Olympic ratification.

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