LONDON: Leading professional boxers will become eligible to compete at this year’s Olympic Games in Rio under proposals put forward by the sport’s global governing body, AIBA.
There has traditionally been a strict dividing line between amateur and professional boxing, although Olympic success has proved a springboard for a successful career in the paid ranks for the likes of Muham¬mad Ali, George Foreman and Lennox Lewis.
However, AIBA president Dr Ching-Kuo Wu has made no secret of his wish to expand the organisation’s role in professional boxing, already an ‘alphabet soup’ of different global sanctioning bodies.
Now Wu wants boxing to follow the lead of tennis, where the sport’s elite professionals compete at the Olympics.
“We want the best boxers to come to the Olympic Games,” said Wu, speaking at an AIBA meeting in Manchester, northern England, on Wednesday.
“It is an IOC (International Olympic Committee) policy to have the best athletes in the Games, and of the international federations, AIBA is probably the only one without professional athletes in the Olympics.
“We already have our own professionals, APB and WSB boxers, in the Games — (and) we will go further.”
Wu insisted such a change could be implemented ahead of the Rio Games, even though an extensive qualifying programme is already underway.
“According to our statutes it is absolutely possible,” said Wu.
Countries could now put forward fresh contenders for Rio and, if this proposal is ratified by AIBA’s executive, the likes of Floyd Mayweather, who has always felt he was wrongly denied a gold medal at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, could have another shot at Olympic glory.
Rules introduced in 2013 made professional boxers eligible for the Olympics, but only if they had had fewer than 15 paid bouts and signed a short-term deal with APB, the professional arm of AIBA — which also runs the team-based World Series of Boxing.
Wu’s plan, however, would effectively end distinctions between amateur and professional boxing.
“When I took over the (AIBA) presidency in 2006 I made it very clear the term of amateur is not really relevant because when you look now at all the Olympic sports, who is really amateur?” said Wu.
“I think the process is very clear and we plan to consider it very thoroughly.
“We have already received a very strong, positive response from our members, and everybody is excited and would like to see it.”