rio 2016

Matt Bevan (@MBevs68)

So AIBA have finally managed to get their way and convince their delegates to vote in favour of giving pro boxers the opportunity of fighting for an Olympic gold medal at this year’s Games in Rio.

It is another in a number of changes over recent years that have brought the two sports closer together. These other changes include the removal of head guards and computer scoring system, which are understandable, but this is a step too far.

Amateur boxing should be the clean face of boxing. Where the best do fight the best, culminating in some showdowns between potential future superstars with Olympic medals up for grabs.

Four years worth of hard work and sacrifice to even get to the Olympic Games in the first place and do yourself and your country proud. However, AIBA have decided that the principle of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” doesn’t apply to them.

My first experiences as a boxing fan were watching the boxing at the Olympic Games and seeing how fast and frantic it was. It captured my attention and I loved it from the first time I watched it. I’m still a huge fan of the amateurs.

When the head guards were removed and computer scoring got rid of, I was prepared to give it a chance. The formation of the WSB and the APB, which does have some pro fighters in it, definitely caused some interest around boxing fans, especially when the Cuban’s got involved with the WSB, but what about this most recent stunt?

For me this is just a way of getting some press and interest about amateur boxing. Let’s change the goal posts and see if we can attract some big names to the Olympics for some real glitz and glamour so we can be talked about more than any other sport.

Well with just 10 weeks to go, I can’t see many pro’s dropping everything to go to a qualifier and try and get there, so this publicity stunt has promptly failed massively. It was a daft time to announce it was possible for a pro to qualify, so they’re being very optimistic.

AIBA courted Manny Pacquiao throughout the World Championship’s last year in Qatar, inviting him to the tournament and you can bet they’ll be praying the Filipino legend decides to have a go. But let’s be honest that’s pretty unlikely.

The main difference between the two sports is obvious. The pro’s fight for anything up to 12 rounds, whereas in the Olympics it’s over three frenetic, intense rounds. So to ask a pro to return to the three round format is no easy task.

Their speed, reaction and timing would be off, whilst they would also be in bigger gloves. The assumption that the pros would wipe out the amateurs if they met is ridiculous because let’s face it, some of the world’s top amateurs are outstanding fighters now and good enough to beat a lot of professionals who are ranked near the top of the sanctioning bodies ratings.

Plus their is the difference in schedules. Pro’s at the top level are used to long, gruelling training camps to get in shape and prepare for a single opponent. Amateurs have to compete in tournaments, where they may have a day off and fight the next up until the final stages where they are in every day.

Suffer a cut you may be ruled out, but as happened with Michael Conlan and Scott Fitzgerald in the Commonwealth Games in 2014, they were allowed to continue going, despite the risk of the first shot landing and causing the cut to re-open.

If a pro suffers a cut in sparring during camp, in particular in the latter stages of the camp, then they will withdraw from the fight. No such luck in the amateurs and there is definitely no chance to pick and choose your opponent, as well just a day to prepare.

It is potentially dangerous and disrespectful to all the fighters who have put everything on the line to try and achieve their Olympic dream. Their is an argument that the Olympics would be tarnished if a pro won the gold medal. I have to agree.

This publicity stunt will get it’s first chance to see if any pro will take the opportunity to try and get to Rio in July, where the last qualifying tournament takes place in Venezuela with 26 places up for grabs.

That is the only chance a pro will get to qualify, whilst the amateurs, those that have competed in the WSB or APB will get another chance before. Team GB for example will only be looking to secure two more spots in the welterweight and light-welterweight divisions. To pick a pro over the likes of Pat McCormack or Josh Kelly would be ludicrous.

I don’t see this causing any real ruptures as it is too late to really have a massive effect on this cycle of Olympic boxers. However it will be interesting to see what happens during the next cycle. If Dr Wu, the moronic President of AIBA, gets his way we will see the top pros against the top amateurs.

But for me that just signals the end of amateur boxing and puts everything under one umbrella as Wu wants. That can’t happen as the amateurs and pros are two totally different sports, no matter what he thinks. With one decision he has pretty much wiped one out and gone against the spirit of the Olympics.

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