Controversy as top-level professional boxers could compete at Rio Olympics

BoxingBy Sean McGoldrick
Manny Pacquiao is among the names who could compete in Rio
Manny Pacquiao is among the names who could compete in Rio

Controversial plans to allow big-name professional boxers to compete at the Rio Olympics have moved a step forward.

The shock announcement was initially made by the President of AIBA (the governing body of the Olympic sport) Dr Ching-Kuo Wu following a Congress in Manchester at the end of last month.

However, it was unclear how this could be achieved. But in an interview with Boxing News magazine Dr Wu has explained how top-level professional boxers such as Manny Pacquiao (who has been the subject of controversy himself recently), Amir Khan and former World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko – all of whom attended last year’s World championships in Doha – could qualify for Rio.

Dr Wu revealed that the AIBA will hold an extraordinary Congress – probably on June 1 – to ratify the controversial proposal. He pointed out that in a survey prior to the Manchester Congress, 90 per cent of the national federation confirmed their support for the move.

In a recent radio interview Joe Christle, chairman of the IABA Board of Directors, said that the Irish Federation had supported the suggestion though there were no details available at the time of what precisely was being proposed.

However, it is unlikely that the AIBA will go ahead with the extraordinary Congress unless they believe their proposal will be carried. 

Professional boxers would be allowed to participate in a qualifying tournament which was initially meant to cater for boxers who had participated in the World Boxing Series and the AIBA Pro Boxing series this year.

Originally scheduled for May, according to the AIBA website the tournament will now take place at the end of June at a venue yet to be confirmed.

Significantly there are three Olympics places available in each of the nine men’s weight divisions in Rio and one place reserved for the super heavyweight division at this tournament.

According to Dr Wu, national federations could nominate professional boxers to take part in this tournament, though it’s not clear whether they would have to pre-qualify as all the other participants must do.

Even though this project has the potential to undermine the entire fabric of Olympic boxing, Dr Wu seems determined to proceed with it. Still, it remains to be seen how many big-name pro boxers will end up competing in Rio in August.