The International Boxing Association made a historic decision in Lausanne, Switzerland on Wednesday, whereby it allowed professional boxers to compete in amateur boxing contests at the Olympic Games, effective from the Rio games starting on 5 August.
This ruling has been done with a view that the best athletes of a sport must be a part of the Olympics and therefore all boxers must be given the opportunity to compete under the common umbrella of the Olympics.
But unlike other sports like tennis, there is a huge gap between the amateur and pro levels of boxing. In fact, one can almost think of pro-boxing and amateur boxing as different sports. This is because in sports like tennis, the amateur level and professional level are separated by factors like skill level, age and experience.
Former world champion Carl Frampton tweeted his verdict of the Olympic boxing decision.
Re professionals fighting at the Olympic games. The IOC should have put an end to this as soon as it was suggested #Fiasco
— Carl Frampton MBE (@RealCFrampton) June 1, 2016
In amateur boxing the objective is to score points in a 3-round contest where every round is three minutes for men and a 4-round contest that is two minutes per round for women. The third (fourth round for women) round ensures that speed and accuracy take precedence over power and stamina. Amateur boxing is regulated by the AIBA, and adequate safety measures like head gears, 10 oz gloves are used. The purpose of boxing in this case is to overcome the opponent with skill.
Pro-boxing on the other hand is the version of boxing that is meant to be entertaining. The objective of pro-boxing is to be aggressive, knock out or 'mark' (cuts/abrasions) your opponent. Pro-boxing lasts anywhere from four rounds of three minutes each to 12 rounds of three minutes each, depending upon the country and the organisation. More knockouts mean more earnings and the change in objectives make both pro-boxing and amateur boxing different sports.
The decision to allow pro-boxers to compete in the Olympics has not gone down well among many former greats. Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, has called the move 'ridiculous' and 'foolish'.
''Some of the pro-fighters are going to get beat by the amateurs. It's just going to happen. Some of them are going to get beat I think. I really believe that. For three rounds, four rounds, some of the professional boxers aren't going to be able to catch these guys. "These guys are going to be fast for three rounds, four rounds. These guys are not going to be accustomed to that," said Tyson.
Legendary boxing coach Freddie Roach talked about his fighter, Philippines' Manny Pacquiao considering participating in the Olympics.
“I’m not sure. In boxing, in one-on-one sports, this would be like men versus kids. You can do the [pros in the Olympics] in team sports, but it would be too overwhelming, I think in a sport like boxing,” said Roach.
Another major aspect that has been highlighted is the timing. The Olympics start on 5 August and the preparation time for pro-boxers to condition themselves to Olympic style boxing is simply too short. Indian pugilist Vijender Singh has ruled out participating in the Olympics citing preparation time as the reason.
“I have been hearing about this proposal from the start of this year. It’s strange that you take a decision with such little time to go before the Olympics,” said the boxer, who recently turned professional.
The absurdity of pro-boxers in the Olympics is akin to asking British long distance runner Mo Farah to take part in a 100m sprint against Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt, because both of them are essentially 'runners'. A better option that the AIBA could have done was to propose a pro boxing event in the Olympics. This would have fulfilled the objective of inviting the best boxers of the world and separated the amateur and professional levels of boxers.
Updated Date: Jun 02, 2016 14:36:06 IST