LONDON: Former World and Olympic champion Lennox Lewis has slammed a proposal to allow professional boxers to compete at the Olympics, saying that it could be dangerous for young amateur boxers.
Lewis won super-heavyweight gold for Canada at the 1988 games in Seoul before turning professional and switching to represent Britain as unified heavyweight world champion.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek program: “I kind of think it is preposterous, to a certain degree. The amateur system is based for amateurs – this is why we put in the headgear to protect them because they have a lack of experience and they are not that primed as a professional yet.
“Now all of a sudden, you get a world champion or somebody in the top 10 as a professional now going against basically an amateur, somebody with a lack of experience – I don’t look at that as being fair.”
Lewis pointed to current British world champion Anthony Joshua, who won the gold medal in the same super-heavyweight division at the 2012 Olympics in London to illustrate his concerns.
He said: “Anthony Joshua went to the Olympics – all of a sudden, if he had boxed Wladimir Klitschko at the Olympics, it wouldn’t have been fair for him because Vladimir had his time at the Olympics and was able to go through that learning and then all of a sudden now, has 70 fights as a professional.
“Now it’s going to be a situation where he is going to be boxing for a gold medal as a professional boxer with that type of experience going against a kid that’s 18 with, let’s say, 10 international fights.
“It’s just such a broad line there that I don’t really understand it.”
Had the system, which has been proposed by the International Boxing Association AIBA, been in place in Lewis’ day, he could have found himself in direct competition in South Korea with then world champion Mike Tyson, a challenge for which he freely admits he would not have been ready at that point in his career.