Rio 2016 set to be open to professional boxers after AIBA propose changing rules
An Extraordinary Congress is set to be held by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) in May to pass new rules that would allow top professional boxers like Wladimir Klitschko and Manny Pacquiao to compete in this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
AIBA President C K Wu confirmed to insidethegames that top of the agenda at the meeting would be to discuss amending the world governing body’s statutes in time to make Rio 2016 eligible to every boxer.
“In my mind this is a real important step for boxing in the Olympics,” Wu told insidethegames.
Wu stressed, however, that any boxer interested in competing at Rio 2016 would have to go through the AIBA’s Olympic qualifying tournament.
The impetus for changing the rules comes from the International Olympic Committee adopting Agenda 2020, whose Recommendation 9 declares the intention of “ensuring participation by the best athletes”.
Wu claimed there is a lot of support for the plan, which was the main point to emerge from two days of meetings held at Old Trafford in Manchester, where several of AIBA’s Commissions met to discuss the future of the sport.
Since Wu was elected President of AIBA in 2006, it has already dropped the word amateur from its official title, removed vests and headguards from international men’s events and launched competitions such as the World Series of Boxing and AIBA Pro Boxing (APB), where athletes could be paid and retain their Olympic eligibility.
Also, under new rules introduced in 2013, professional boxers became able to go to the Olympics provided they had had fewer than 15 paid bouts and signed a short-term contract committing themselves to AIBA’s professional arm, APB.
Amending this rule will be the last barrier to stopping boxing at the Olympics becoming fully open.
“This will have a big impact on the Olympic Games if these big names show up,” he told insidethegames.
Wu claimed the change was driven by AIBA’s membership and it would remain up to each country to decide which boxers they chose.
“The National Federations will have more power and responsibility,” he said.
“But every athlete who wants to go the the Olympic Games must go through the qualifying tournaments which have been approved by the IOC.”
Wu had discussed his plan at a dinner in Manchester last night with Britain’s Anthony Joshua, winner of the Olympic super heavyweight gold medal at London 2012.
Since turning professional after the Olympics, Joshua has won all 15 of his fights by knockout.
Earlier this month, tickets for his next fight against America’s Charles Martin at the O2 in London on April 9 sold out within 90 seconds.
Joshua would not be interested in defending his Olympic title at Rio 2016 but the British Amateur Boxing Association (BABA) which manages the world-class performance programme, have not ruled out recruiting other professional fighters.
“The proposals have the potential to broaden the talent pool from which we are able to select boxers and we are look forward to hearing more about them in due course,” said a spokesman.
“In the meantime, we have a squad of talented boxers that are all training hard to qualify for Rio 2016 and all of our efforts are focused on helping them to achieve this.”
Any professional boxers hoping to make a late bid for selection will probably only have one opportunity to qualify.
That will be at the AIBA World Olympic Qualifier in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, an event due to take place between June 14 and 26.
“Many professional boxers will start to think about competing at Rio 2016 but they will need to prepare quickly,” said Wu.
The tight time frame would appear to rule out Klitschko.
The Ukrainian is currently negotiating for a re-match with Britain’s Tyson Fury, the man who took away his WBA and WBO when he surprisingly beat him in Düsseldorf last November.
That fight is expected to take place in either May or June.
Pacquiao is another who in the past has been enthusiastic about the prospect of competing in the Olympics.
The Filipino is the first and only eight-division world champion.
He is currently preparing to fight Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas on April 9 in what he claims will be his final fight before retiring.
Pacquiao, though, could be persuaded to carry on, lured by the prospect of becoming his country’s first-ever Olympic gold medallist, ending a barren run stretching back to its debut in Paris in 1924.
- By Duncan Mackay
- This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, www.insidethegames.biz