Plans to include top professionals in the Olympic boxing tournament at Rio 2016 have received a massive boost after Manny Pacquiao, the sport’s first and only eight-division world champion, has claimed he would like to take part.
The controversial proposal by International Boxing Association (AIBA) President C K Wu has been criticised by many experts, led by Britain’s 1988 Olympic gold medallist and former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, who described it as “preposterous”.
The 37-year-old Pacquiao, however, is set to lend legitimacy to Wu’s plan, which has been among the topics discussed here during the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board meeting, by exploring the idea seriously.
If he did compete, it would offer the Philippines their best ever opportunity to win their first-ever Olympic gold medal.
“It would be my honour to represent the country in the Olympics,” Pacquiao said in a statement to French news agency Agence France Presse.
“If I would be asked to represent boxing, why not?
“I would do everything for my country.”
Pacquiao did not compete in the Olympics as a youngster but did carry the Philippines’ flag at the Opening Ceremony of Beijing 2008.
Pacquiao has long been courted by Wu as potentially the big name to compete at Rio 2016.
He was invited to Doha last October for the 2015 AIBA World Championships as his special guest where Pacquiao claims he has been “personally invited” by Wu.
The Taiwanese has made clear, though, that any professional boxer who takes part in Rio 2016 must go through AIBA’s qualifying process.
Pacquiao, who has won world titles in weights ranging from flyweight to light middleweight, is due to fight American Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas on April 9 in what, he claims, will be his last fight as a professional.
Pacquiao, already a member of his country’s House of Representatives, is currently running for a Senate seat in the elections in May, with most people believing it will be another step in an eventual bid to become President.
That would still leave him one opportunity to clinch a place at Rio 2016 at the AIBA World Olympic Qualifier in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, an event due to take place between June 14 and 26.
There will also be five places available in the boxing tournament at Rio 2016 that can be awarded at the discretion of the Tripartite Commission, a joint group controlled by the IOC, Association of National Olympic Committees and the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations.
Awarding one of the places to someone like Pacquiao, though, would be hugely controversial as the Commission’s remit is to try to encourage participation among smaller countries who would not normally have the opportunity to compete at the Olympics.
Pacquiao’s appearance at Rio 2016 would prove controversial in more ways than one, however.
He recently lost a multi-million dollar contract with American sportswear company Nike after he made a series of homophobic remarks, claiming people in same-sex civil marriages as behaving worse than animals.
Floyd Mayweather, Pacquiao’s great rival, has ruled out of coming back for Rio 2016.
“For my body to recover from all my fights will be for the rest of my life,” the American, an Olympic bronze medallist in the featherweight division at Atlanta 1996, said.
“I’m truly blessed to have been fighting for so much of my life.”
“I had a great run.
“Ain’t no more for this body to heal but rest.”
- By Duncan Mackay at the Palace Hotel in Lausanne
- Republished with permission insidethegames.biz