Sunday 25 February 2018

Plans for professional boxers at Rio games gaining momentum

Manny Pacquiao has indicated an interest in competing at the Olympics
Manny Pacquiao has indicated an interest in competing at the Olympics

Sean McGoldrick

Controversial plans to allow big name professional boxers to compete at the Rio Olympics have moved a step forward.

The shock announcement was initially made by the President of AIBA (the governing body of the Olympic sport) Dr Ching-Kuo Wu following a Congress in Manchester at the end of last month.

However, it was unclear how this could be achieved. But in an interview with Boxing News magazine Dr Wu has explained how top level professional boxers such as Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan and former World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko – all of whom attended last year’s World championships in Doha – could qualify for Rio.

Dr Wu revealed that the AIBA will hold an extraordinary Congress – probably on June 1 – to ratify the controversial proposal. He pointed out that in a survey prior to the Manchester Congress, 90 percent of the national federation confirmed their support for the move.

In a recent radio interview Joe Christle, chairman of the IABA Board of Directors, said the Irish Federation had supported the suggestion though there were no details available at the time of what precisely was being proposed.

However, it is unlikely that the AIBA will go ahead with the extraordinary Congress unless they believe their proposal will be carried.

Professional boxers would be allowed to participate in a qualifying tournament which was initially meant to cater for boxers who had participated in the World Boxing Series and the AIBA Pro Boxing series this year.

Originally scheduled for May, according to the AIBA website the tournament will now take place at the end of June at a venue yet to be confirmed.

Significantly there are three Olympics places available in each of the nine men’s weight divisions in Rio and one place reserved for the superheavyweight division at this tournament.

According to Dr Wu national federations could nominate professional boxers to take part in this tournament, though it’s not clear whether they would have to pre-qualify as all the other participants must do.

Even though this project has the potential to undermine the entire fabric of Olympic boxing Dr Wu seems determined to proceed with it. Still, it remains to be seen how many big name pro boxers will end up competing in Rio in August.

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