VASYL LOMACHENKO has thrown his support behind the decision to allow professional boxers to compete at the Olympics.
The two-time Olympic champion has picked up the WBO featherweight title since turning over in 2013, and will vie for the super-feather belt against Roman ‘Rocky’ Martinez on June 11.
While AIBA’s decision to allow pros at the Games has been met with widespread derision, Lomachenko likes the idea.
“[For] this Olympics, 2016, I don’t think it would be a wise idea for any professional who just heard the news and would run to the Olympic games right now. I think there needs to be more time to prepare for it,” he said.
“The idea of having professional boxers in the Olympics – I am all for it, I like the idea. If you take any other sport – basketball, tennis – any other sport – they support professional athletes and they participate in the Olympic games and it makes it that much stronger.
“I think in the 2020 Olympics there will be a lot more [professional] fighters because they will have a lot of time to prepare. But, I do not think the big stars in boxing, like [Manny] Pacquiao and [Floyd] Mayweather, will take the risks in the Olympic Games. When they go to the Games, there is a chance the amateur can win and they won’t want to take the risk.”
Those who oppose AIBA’s ruling argue that it is unfair on amateurs who have prepared for years to make it to the Games – the pinnacle of the unpaid ranks. Some also feel it would be dangerous to pit seasoned pros against younger amateurs, though Lomachenko provided a different argument.
The Ukrainian, who won his medals in 2008 and 2012, made the valid point that amateurs are trained to excel over three, three-minute rounds while professionals are used to pacing themselves over longer fights.
“If someone told me that in the 2012 Olympics there would be professional fighters fighting I would be very happy – it would be a big challenge for me,” he said.
“But you can’t forget, just because you are a professional fighter doesn’t mean you can beat the amateurs. It’s a different fight.
“We have three rounds and then you have to fight every day five or six times. It is completely different preparation, but that doesn’t mean good professionals cannot beat good amateurs. Don’t forget the most important thing – you have to weigh-in every day before the bouts.”
Lomachenko has not been stripped of his featherweight title, despite vying for the 130lb title in New York. Top Rank Vice President Carl Moretti cleared up the situation.
He said: “Vasyl is currently the WBO featherweight world champion and he will enter the ring as the champion and if he is victorious in challenging Rocky Martinez, who is the WBO 130lb world champion, Vasyl and his team will have ten days to decide which belt and which weight class they will continue to campaign in, 126 or 130, and they just have to let the WBO know. If he loses or if it is a draw he wills till retain the 126lb title.”