It’s official: Professional fighters can qualify for the Olympics
As anticipated, professional prizefighters have been given the green light to qualify for Olympic boxing competition, beginning at Rio 2016.
In February, an International Boxing Association (AIBA) meeting took place in Manchester, England, out of which came a proposal for professionals to take part in the Olympics and, from there, the change looked like a formality.
On Wednesday, countless reports confirming the news surfaced and it is difficult, although not impossible, to find someone within the boxing community with anything positive to say.
Carl Frampton: “What about the amateurs who’ve been dreaming of the Olympics for years, have yet to qualify and some pro takes their spot at the last minute?”
Ricky Hatton: “Pro boxers in the Olympics. What are AIBA thinking? Goodbye amateur boxing now as far as I’m concerned. Can’t say I’m a fan of this.”
Eddie Hearn: Pro boxers in the Olympics only relevant to countries where their governments will effectively pay them to take part — definitely not us!
Billy Joe Saunders: “Love to win the Olympic Games, put the icing on the cake.”
For this reporter, the decision, which was approved by 84 of the 88 member federations of AIBA, is absolutely outrageous. Forget who would win between an amateur and a pro – that is irrelevant.
The main issue is that the amazing tradition of Olympic boxing, going back over a century, now comes to an end. Not once since the sport was formally introduced at the St. Louis Games in 1904 has this been allowed.
Rio 2016 is unlikely to be to be affected too much because there is only one qualifying tournament remaining and that is scheduled for next month. However, from Tokyo 2020 onward, we will have a hybrid mix of two different sports that appears to be driven only by dollars and cents.
Boxing was one of the only sports which remained unmolested in Olympic competition. Not anymore.
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing