The discussion of whether to allow top fighters in professional boxing to compete in the upcoming Olympic games has recently resurfaced. In an interview with the Press Association, International Boxing Association (AIBA) president Ching-Kuo Wu made bold statements on the organization’s plans in the near future.
"We want the best boxers to come to the Olympic Games. It is AIBA's 70th birthday, and we want something to change—not after four years, but now,” said Wu in an interview in Manchester. “It is an IOC policy to have the best athletes in the Games, and of the international federations, AIBA is probably the only one without professional athletes in the Olympics.
"We already have our own professionals, APB and WSB boxers, in the Games - [and] we will go further."
News of professional boxers being eligible for the upcoming Games is not necessarily new. Word of the reform had been made a couple of years ago, but came with the stipulation that qualifying fighters have less than 15 professional fights, and sign promotional contracts with the APB (the AIBA’s pro version of boxing), or the semi-pro league The World Series of Boxing, which is also overseen by the AIBA.
What Wu is proposing now, however, allows all professional fighters to be eligible into the Games, regardless of experience or promotional contract, so if reforms do get passed, pro-fighters like Gennady Golovkin, Manny Pacquiao, or even a retired Floyd Mayweather could theoretically compete for a gold medal.
Wu went on to say that the changes could be ratified within the next few months, and when asked if they could be done in time for the 2016 Games this August, he said it was “absolutely possible.”
Views on the proposed change have been split amongst fighting professionals. Some believe it to be a move in the right direction, enriching better fights in the amateurs and an aid in cultivating amateur talent. One fighter of this opinion is Amir Khan, who won silver at the 2004 games in Athens, and is set to face Canelo Álvarez this May in one of the bigger upcoming fights in professional boxing.
“The AIBA wants professional boxers to work with AIBA and they will allow them to go to Olympics. So imagine, I may have a second chance at the Olympics. That will be amazing and massive because everybody wants to go to Olympics,” said Khan in an interview via Boxingscene “I have heard that they are changing the rules and this would a great thing because pro boxers want to compete in the Olympics. I think it's very good that they are (thinking of) bringing amateur and professional boxers together because end of the day it’s boxing and people want to watch good fights.”
Former pound-for-pound phenom Roy Jones Jr. held the opposing view, citing that the amateur circuit serves a completely different purpose from the professional ranks and should be kept that way.
“I don't think this is a good idea. After all, the road to the Olympics is for the young. As a teenager, I wanted to represent my country at the Olympics. When I moved to professional boxing, it became my job,” said Jones in an interview. “Everything comes in good time. Imagine your 19-year-old son gets sent to the Olympic games, and now he has to fight Wladimir Klitschko. My honest opinion, no [it shouldn't happen].”
The Olympics has traditionally been used as a springboard for those entering into the professional ranks, so it will be interesting to see how this would affect the boxing landscape should they attempt to flip that model on its head. There are a number of logistical complications to consider as well. How would professional boxers qualify in an elimination process that is currently designed for amateurs? Would this violate any professional obligations a fighter has to their promoter? What about safety concerns? There are a lot of loose ends to tie up to say the least.
With the qualifying bouts for the 2016 Games already underway, and 60 boxers having already secured their spots, it is unlikely that we will see top professionals competing in the next Olympics. Mike Martino, the executive director of USA Boxing, thought similarly when speaking with The Associated Press.
"Do I think it's going to happen this year? No," Martino said. "Practically speaking, we're looking at 2020. But it's something that's been on our radar screen, something we've talked about for the last four years, knowing that AIBA pro boxers were going to be in the Olympics. We've talked to the USOC about how it impacts the sport, and it's huge. The Dream Team changed basketball in the Olympics forever. This will obviously change boxing forever.”
So although we will not likely see any changes made for the upcoming Games, Wu’s comments are still something to consider. As the president of the only boxing organization recognized by the IOC, he would be the one that could install those kind of changes should the idea gain more traction down the line.
Check out these related stories:
The Mixed Martial Arts of Victorian London
Before BJJ, there was Bartitsu.
Jonathan Maicelo: The Last Inca
Peru's up-and-coming boxing star.
Kron Gracie on Jiu-Jitsu, Skateboarding, Older Brothers, and Famous Fathers
The ties that bind are strong.
Joel Tudor on the Art of Surfing, Fighting, and Style
A surf icon helps MMA keep its sense of tradition.
Japan's Karate Kid: Kyoji Horiguchi
Japan's brightest MMA prospect.