AT an extraordinary congress on Wednesday, AIBA, the governing body for Olympic boxing, passed a motion to allow professional fighters to enter the Olympic Games. Pros would still need to be selected by their national federations and they could enter one qualification event. That final qualification event for boxing at Rio 2016 will take place in Venezuela in early July.
This qualifier will be for boxers from the World Series of Boxing, AIBA’s APB and now professional boxers.
Speaking to Boxing News at the Women’s World championships in Astana, president of AIBA, Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu said, “AIBA are organising for the APB, WSB and outside professionals, if they come, an event for them to qualify in Venezuela, that will be our event [for pros].
“I believe that event will really be a highlight, because all the WSB, APB, professionals, will be mixed together.”
After the Worlds there are now no more qualification opportunities for female boxers but two tournaments do remain for male boxers. A World qualifier takes place in Baku, Azerbaijan June 14-26 (which is not open to professional boxers), with 39 places at Rio 2016 available there. 26 places would be up grabs at this competition in Venezuela.
Dr. Wu maintains that potentially opening the door to pro boxers is in keeping with the IOC’s Agenda 2020. “We had to take action,” he says. “We are the last sport without professionals.”
He also warns that trying out for the Olympics is not an easy option for a current pro. “The public want to see the best boxers,” he said, adding, “I don’t mean professional boxers are the best… All the boxers who go to the Olympics are really good. They’re not like young kids.”
As well drawing attention to the tough qualification process, the AIBA president points to comments from Mike Tyson. “He said there is no guarantee [for pros boxing three rounders] you can win. AIBA boxers are very strong, he saw,” Wu continued. “Tyson had a good observation himself, he made his remarks telling people don’t underestimate AIBA boxers, you go to the Olympics and you can’t guarantee you can win.”
To enter this last qualifier a professional boxer would still need to be selected by his national federation and comply with anti-doping regulations. The Olympic Games begin on August 6, so there would only be a short turnaround after this final qualifier in July.
There is a deepening economic and political crisis in Venezuela but local authorities have made assurances that the tournament will go ahead there.