The World Boxing Council (WBC) has labelled an International Boxing Association (AIBA) proposal which could see professionals compete at Rio 2016 as the “shameful lowest stage” in the history of Olympic boxing.
An Extraordinary Congress is due to be held by AIBA in May to pass rules which would see the world governing body’s laws changed in time to make the Rio Games available to every boxer.
Rules introduced in 2013 allowed professional boxers to go to the Olympics provided they had fought fewer than 15 paid-for bouts
They also had to sign a short-term contract committing themselves to AIBA’s professional arm, AIBA Pro Boxing (APB).
AIBA have already dropped the word amateur from its official title and removed vests and headguards from their World Series of Boxing and APB, which enable athletes to be paid and retain their Olympic eligibility.
The proposals have been criticised by the WBC, one of the four major pro boxing organisations, who claim amateurs will be put at risk by facing professionals if the proposals are passed.
“The World Boxing Council is deeply concerned about the shameful lowest stage that AIBA has reached in the entire history of Olympic boxing,” said WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman Saldivar in a statement entitled “AIBA has reached rock bottom”.
“Boxing cannot be considered without keeping separate amateur and professional boxing, for the most basic principle of safety, by avoiding such dangerous mismatches between experienced professional fighters and amateur boxers.
“This is something AIBA is not able to understand, because it seems their leadership does not have a clue of what boxing really means and represents, AIBA’s priority appears to be the commercial and business aspects of the sport.
“Boxers are obligated to sign commercial contracts with AIBA and its affiliates, which positions AIBA in an undeniable and clear conflict of interest.
“For example, by matching amateurs against professionals and eliminating headgear, AIBA is showing that it does not seem to care about the physical well-being of the fighters or the correct practice of the sport around the world.
“How can multi-day boxing be conducted in tournaments safely and fairly without headgear?”
AIBA have rejected the claims by stating that their commitment to putting boxers first was “cemented in 2015 with the launch of the HeadsUp! campaign”.
The programme focuses on training boxers to maintain a heads-up stance to help prevent concussions and cuts, based upon the four pillars of health, education, sport and sustainability.
It is claimed the right training will change the behaviour of boxers who lead with the head because of the psychological protection of guards.
AIBA claim they had “robust support” for the proposal during the AIBA Commission Meetings which took place earlier this week in Manchester, as well as from boxers.
They state they will work alongside National Federations and AIBA Commissions ahead of the Extraordinary Congress.
“AIBA has continuously sought to evolve the sport of boxing, always acting in our boxers’ interests, the health of whom is of utmost importance to us,” an AIBA statement read.
“Progress and change require flexibility and communication between all involved parties.
“The decision to study pro-eligibility at Olympic Games level is guided by the vision of AIBA President Dr Ching-Kuo Wu, who is constantly working to unite the boxing family and create the best possible platform for our boxers to thrive upon.”
Reception from boxers has been mixed to the AIBA proposals, with Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anthony Fowler telling the Daily Mail: “I think it’s very unfair, I’ve given up years to get ready for this, put off turning professional so I can have a shot at a gold medal.”
The British middleweight’s thoughts were echoed by David Price, who turned professional after winning bronze in the super heavyweight division at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
“It would end Olympic boxing as we know it, qualifying has become so complicated, I don’t see how it can work,” the 32-year-old told the BBC.
India’s Vijender Singh, a bronze medallist in the under 75 kilogram middleweight division at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, has come out in favour of the proposal.
The 30-year-old would currently be unable to compete at Rio 2016 having signed a professional contract last July, but should the rules be changed he admitted he would target a medal at the Games.
“If the decision is made official soon, I am definitely going to give my all for the Rio Games,” he told The Times of India.
“I will go through the process of qualification as being in the Olympic Games is a huge thing.”
With the statues potentially being changed in May, the AIBA World Olympic Qualifier in Baku could offer professional boxers the opportunity to book their places, with the event being the final qualifying competition.
The event was pushed back from June 7 and 19 earlier this week, with the competition now scheduled to take place between June 14 and 26.
The move has been claimed to be as a result of a request from the local organizing committee, to guarantee optimal transportation and to increase awareness.
- By Michael Pavitt republished with permission insidethegames.biz