Tuesday, May 30, 2023  |



Not everyone opposes AIBA decision to let pros compete

Fighters Network

It was coming. It was the least-secretive secret in boxing. On Wednesday, The International Boxing Association (AIBA), the recognized international amateur governing body of the sport, chose to abolish Article 13 (J) of the AIBA Statutes at a conclave called the “Extraordinary Congress” in Lausanne, Switzerland, allowing pro fighters to compete in the Olympics.

AIBA President Ching-Kuo Wu said the change of the AIBA constitution was approved with 95 percent in favor — 84 of 88 voting delegates that attended the Extraordinary Congress. There are 26 Olympic spots still open when fighters compete at a qualifying tournament in Venezuela next month, with a total of 286 boxers — 236 men and 50 women — set to compete at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. AIBA spokesman Nicolas Jomard said there would be no wild cards, with the age limit at 40 for the athletes.

Many boxing experts, and many former world champs, lambasted the decision. Mike Tyson called it “ridiculous.” Lennox Lewis said it was “preposterous.”

Their concerns are when two fighters meet that have a gaping disparity of talent. What happens when a Gennady Golovkin, or a Sergey Kovalev, or a Canelo Alvarez faces some budding amateur from a third-world country. It could lead to a serious injury  and so the argument goes.

According to one future Hall of Famer, that scenario probably won’t happen at all in Rio.

“It won’t happen because superstar fighters aren’t going to open themselves up to make it happen,” said Bernard Hopkins. “I’m not completely against this move, and the reason I say that is because pros fight for paychecks, not medals. Put a two-million dollar check on one side, and a gold medal on the other. I’m fighting for the paycheck, not a gold medal. I can buy a hell of a lot of gold medals with a few million.

“Do you really think anyone out there, like GGG, Canelo, Kovalev, are really going to risk all they have for a gold medal? I’m saying limited pros can go, and should go, if it helps their brand. If a good pro has seven, eight fights and wants to make a name for himself, why not? But you won’t find anyone in pro boxing of real superstar status doing this. Too much risk. I’d say the highest pros might be guys who might be a year away from a world title. They might try it.”

AIBA’s decision falls in line with the International Olympic Committee’s Agenda 2020, which basically states it wants the Olympics to be open to the world’s best athletes – pros, in other words — by the 2020 Tokyo Games. Boxing was one of the few Olympic sports not to open to pros. AIBA’s change was supposed to level the playing field. Its real agenda is to stir up interest in a sport that’s gone dormant on the international Olympic landscape.

In the last four Olympics, boxing has been scuttled by the wayside when it comes to TV coverage, at least in the United States.

“People that (compare boxing to other Olympic sports) don’t respect boxing, because boxing doesn’t compare to any other sport,” Hopkins said. “Basketball players and track stars aren’t getting punched in the face. They have insurance. The only insurance you have in boxing is that you’re going to get hit, and you’re going to get hurt. No superstar fighter is going to be willing to get hit in the face for a gold medal. It won’t happen.

“I see where they can have pros in basketball and in track. But those guys don’t get hit for a living. Basketball, track and boxing are very different things. You can rest in those sports. They don’t have to worry about getting cut up or hit in the head. They won’t play with a swab on their heads, or a referee looking over them determining whether or not they could continue. We’re expected to continue. Blood and cuts and everything. You get back out there and fight. You’re cut and bleeding in any other sport, you’re watching on the bench.”

Philadelphia amateur welterweight star Paul Kroll, who has a strong chance of making the U.S. Olympic team, says he knew the decision was coming. He also says it doesn’t change anything.

Pros, Kroll points out, need a little time to get warmed up. Pros are used to wading into the deep waters of 10-, 11-, and 12-round fights.

“I can care less about this move,” Kroll said. “I’m not really worried about it. Pros have to pick their pace up again, and a lot of them may not be able to do that. It’s three rounds. I’m fighting for a gold medal, I don’t care who I have to face to get it. They still have to qualify. I really don’t care about the decision. I don’t care who’s on the other side of that ring. Pros start slow. It would take longer for them to warm up, and by then, the first two round are gone.

“Amateurs have trouble in deep water. But three rounds, we’ve been doing that forever. If I get a chance to, I’d love to fight one of those guys that’s a legend. It would make winning a gold medal worth it, because you’d be beating the best.”

Shakur Stevenson, probably the world’s best young fighter today, from Newark, New Jersey, says this move won’t shatter his Olympic dreams.

“Pros have to enter my world,” said Stevenson, a 123-pounder who will turn 19 next month and will be one of the young stars promoters and managers will be lining up to sign after Rio. “Do you think any pro is willing to make weight three-straight days the way we do? The fighters competing in Rio have already conditioned their bodies to go three hard rounds and to make the weight. I really don’t care if they let pros in or not. No one is going to stop me from winning a gold medal.”