Pro boxers in the Olympics

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Conrad M. Cariño

Conrad M. Cariño

(First of two parts)
That proposal of the AIBA (International Boxing Association, originally the Association Internationale de Boxe Amateur) to allow professional boxers to compete in this year’s Olympic Games makes sense to me because basketball and tennis pros have been playing in the quadrennial event.

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Besides, the Olympics is about pitting the best against the best in the world, and in tennis, basketball and boxing, most (if not all) of the best are in the pro ranks.

If the best boxers in the world were Olympic gold winners, then we would have more Oscar Dela Hoyas, Pernall Whitakers, Muhammad Alis, Joe Fraziers, George Foremans, among others, ruling the boxing world during the last 50 years or so. And as proven by Marvin Hagler, Mike Tyson and Manny Pacquiao, many of the best boxers in the world are not those who come home from the Olympics with gold medals dangling from their necks. Also, there have been a lot of Olympic gold medallists who never made it great in the pro ranks, with Tyrell Biggs being one of them. Biggs, who insulted Tyson for not making the Olympic team when they were amateurs, would become a knockout victim of Tyson when they met in the pros.

So imagine the result if Pacquiao, Nonito Donaire, the Pagara brothers, among other top professional Filipino boxers, compete for the Olympic boxing gold this year? And if professional boxers take part in the 2016 Rio Olympics en masse, expect most of the amateurs to fall by the wayside because let’s face it—professional boxers are better conditioned than the amateurs because they (pros) train for longer fights or up to 12 rounds than the three rounds of the amateurs. And since professionals throw more punches in a 10- to 12-round fight, their movements are more “automatic” than the pros – just look at closely how most top amateurs and top pros boxers throw their punches.

Eventually, the amateurs will have to become as tough or even tougher than their professional counterparts, and that cannot be done overnight. I even expect the pros to sweep aside most of the amateurs in this year’s Olympics if AIBA’s proposal comes to fruition.

Olympic boxing has 10 weight divisions and there are 17 in the professional ranks. So that means if professional pugs are allowed to compete in the Olympics, there would be no shortage of talents for the 10 divisions in the amateur ranks.

Eventually, amateur boxing coaches will have to start learning from their professional counterparts, and this exchange of knowledge won’t take place immediately if pro boxers are allowed to compete in the Olympics.

Allowing the pros to trade leather with amateurs in the Olympics will also likely result to amateur boxers varying or changing their styles to cope with the array of styles the pros will be bringing to the ring. Take for example the Cubans, whose largely counter-punching boxing style will eventually have to evolve to a more flexible style that boxers from the United States, among others, have been using successfully. Anyway, what are the similarities between the fighting styles of Dela Hoya, Whitaker, Foreman, Ali and Frazier who all won Olympic golds for the United States? Very little.

But will allowing professional boxers to trade leather in the Olympics result to the Philippines getting its first gold in the games?

That will be discussed in the second part of this column-series.

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