Exclusive: Every other Olympic sport has professionals so why can’t boxing, asks AIBA President?
Plans to roll-out Olympic boxing to all professional fighters are in line with the sporting spirit of inclusivity, International Boxing Association (AIBA) President CK Wu told insidethegames here today and claimed the risk of injury is not as great as has been claimed by former top fighters like Lennox Lewis.
Wu’s plans, theoretically raising the possibility for some of the world’s highest-paid professional stars to compete at Rio 2016, has been fiercely criticised by some fighters and organisations.
They have warned it could pose possible health risks and potentially allow professional fighters to compete at the expense of those who have spent the last four years chasing qualification.
The World Boxing Council (WBC) claims it marks the “shameful lowest stage” in the history of Olympic boxing.
Lewis, the 1988 Olympic super heavyweight gold medallist and former world heavyweight champion, meanwhile, has called the plans “preposterous”.
Others, such as former world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, have been more keen, with the Ukrainian saying he would fight if he could and it fitted in with his schedule.
Wu have claimed, though, much of the reaction has been exaggerated and that the proposals, which are still to be ratified at an Extraordinary Congress in May, is more an eligibility move.
It is an “opening of the door” rather than a marker of immediate and sweeping change, he claims.
“It means the National Federations can choose which boxers to put into qualifying.
“But they still have to go through qualifying.
“It’s not a case of, okay, you come to the Olympics.
“That is ridiculous – how could we operate like that.”
Wu claims 90 per cent of the world’s National Federations support the move, which is “not a change, just the opening of the door”.
He added: “It is in line with [the IOC’s] Agenda 2020 [reform process].
“This was very clear.
“Bring the best athletes into the Olympic Games.
“All the other 27 sports have professionals, so why can AIBA not have them as well?”
Many of criticisms concern the possible risks surrounding an inexperienced fighter being drawn against a leading professional in the first round at an Olympics.
Wu, however, was keen to point out the strength of the current crop of fighters, most of whom have been schooled in the World Series of Boxing and AIBA Pro Boxing circuit.
“They are good boxers, don’t underestimate them,” he said.
As well as those that qualify, however, five spots across the 10 events will be allocated to host nation fighters while a further five will go to Tripartite Commission Invitation entrants.
Boxers from Czech Republic, Iraq, Angola, Ivory Coast and Montenegro took advantage of these places at London 2012, with these figures appearing most likely to be involved in mismatches.
- By Nick Butler at the Palace Hotel in Lausanne
- Republished with permission insidethegames.biz