By Frank Warren
The decision of the international governing body of amateur boxing – AIBA – to award a free pass to professional boxers into the Olympic Games simply beggars belief.
I don’t believe they can really have thought it – or the consequences of such muddled thinking – through.
The madcap concept is the brainchild of AIBA who, after 112 years, are ready to detonate the discipline of boxing being practiced solely by amateurs at the Olympics.
Aside from the historical aspect, it is simply downright dangerous. I agree with the sentiments of Carl Frampton, who argues that amateur and professional are two different types of boxing – rather like a badminton player to take part in the tennis tournament – and this move by AIBA only serves to increase the risk-factor associated with the sport.
I don’t see how this works on any level. They talk about boxers like Amir Khan or Manny Pacquiao being parachuted into the Games, supposedly to widen the appeal of the shortened form of the sport.
I am a little disappointed that Amir, who I first signed and whose entire multi-million pound pro career has been built on winning Olympic silver as a teenager for GB in Athens, has declared that he is ready to box for Pakistan in Rio.
While I doubt this would be permitted as, like his brother Haroon whose similar request at London 2012 was denied the IOC, he has already represented Britain as an amateur international.
While some elite amateurs might well hold their own over three rounds against some professionals, what about in the early stages of the competition when these seasoned pros could be paired with genuine novices from emergent nations?
Yes professional practitioners have raised the bar in some Olympic pursuits, such as tennis, basketball and football, but these are not combat sports and there remains a level playing field – there is no difference in the games played by amateurs of pros.
It just doesn’t stack up. They’ve taken headguards away, which I approve of, because I always felt they offer a bigger target. So that is a good thing. But to do this simply presents young boxers with more danger than ever.
Professional fighters are trained to fight over 12 rounds. Three rounds would be a walk in the park for them. Most Olympians are young amateurs because that is the nature of it. You simply can’t put them in against hardened pros – they’ve got too much going for them.
It could change the very nature of the sport. Will it become like football, when you sign kids up at seven or eight as scholars and bring them through? I don’t see how it works, it could destroy boxing as we know it.
This, on the face of it, is nothing more than an attempted coup from AIBA. Do they want to rule the world of boxing? If AIBA want to dip their toe in the professional waters then he should set up an overall governing body. What AIBA should not do is try and mix the two and destroy years of tradition.
The whole infrastructure of boxing has been built on every country developing their amateurs to go the Olympics. The ones who want to turn pro after the Games will do so. Where do we go with this now? It just doesn’t make any sense.
I haven’t spoken to anyone in the game who agrees with this.
Here is another thought, what happens if an aspiring young pro happens to get beaten by an amateur in the Olympics – what does that do to his professional career? Plus how many pros will actually want to push themselves through the punishing Olympic schedule for no financial reward?
I doubt overcoming a largely amateur field would mean much to them anyway. Andy Murray won gold in 2012 against fellow professionals, but I suspect his Grand Slam triumph at Wimbledon will live longer in his memory.
I wouldn’t imagine Liam Smith, who defends his world title in Liverpool this weekend, would take much satisfaction from duffing up a rookie in Rio, even if he did get a medal for it.
I have no doubt all those you can see on our talent-packed BoxNation-televised bill would want to test themselves at the highest level, rather than jump aboard an Olympic bandwagon.
Ok, so AIBA says that now this now means anyone can compete in the Olympic Games in whatever sport. What next? Are they going to open up the qualification to pros of other combat sports such as MMA. The whole thing is a joke – and not a very funny one.
In Hubbard’s Cupboard tomorrow: Will Fury have the stomach for this fight?