Alan Hubbard: Unrealistic and unfair to allow top pros to box at Rio 2016

Under AIBA President C K Wu, headguards have been removed for men's Olympic boxing ©Getty Images

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Lennox Lewis, himself a former Olympic boxing gold medallist, calls it "preposterous". Barry McGuigan, another distinguished ex-Olympian who also became a world champion, condemns it as "crazy".

Me too. These same words are how I feel about the idea of allowing fully-fledged professional boxers to compete in the Olympic Games.

Not only preposterous and crazy, but dangerous. A recipe for disaster.

It has all kicked off because the president of the International Boxing Association (AIBA), Dr Ching-kuo Wu , has indicated the last remaining barriers preventing full-time professionals from competing at the Games are set to be abolished within a matter of months..

Dr Wu made the revelation at an AIBA Commission meeting at Old Trafford, Manchester, last week, saying some pros could fight at Rio this summer, though Tokyo 2020 appears to be the more realistic target.

AIBA say they have been working on broadening their eligibility criteria for Rio 2016 for some time, but were given implicit encouragement to fast-track the process by the publication of an International Olympic Committee (IOC) document in 2014, which recommends the intention of “ensuring participation by the best athletes”.

Reform of Olympic eligibility criteria has been top of Dr Wu’s agenda since he was elected President in 2006. It has been impressive.

Under his influence the word "amateur" has been removed from its official title as well as all international boxing tournaments, including the Olympics, where headguards have been abolished (curiously apart from in women’s boxing) and a pro-style ten points scoring system introduced.

It’s expected AIBA will pave the way for pros to compete in the final Olympic qualifier in Azerbaijan in June at their extraordinary meeting in May.

This has led to the World Boxing Council President Mauricio Sulaiman expressing “deep concerned about the shameful stage AIBA has reached in the entire history of Olympic boxing.”

Sulamain claims there is a lot of ignorance and lack on information of what is happening in amateur (now officially re-named "Open Boxing” and accused AIBA of ruling by authoritarian imposition and abusing its powers.

Moreover, he claims AIBA do not seem to care about the physical well being of fighters by forcing them to fight in multi-day boxing events without headguards.

All of which, of course, won’t wash with Dr Wu who , it must be said,has admirably cleaned up a sport where corruption and bent judging was once endemic, plus instigating “professional” competitions such as AIBA Pro Boxing and the increasingly successful, team-based franchise World Series of Boxing.

Under new rules already place pro boxers who have had fewer than 15 fights and are committed to APB are now eligible to compete in the Olympics. Surely that should be sufficient.

I believe allowing top pros, including current and former world champions to take part in what is already a complicated qualification process (or would they be handed wild cards?) is not only unrealistic but unfair.

It may be all very well in theory but it simply wouldn’t work in practice.

And consider this possible scenario. If, say Gennady Golovkin, currently the world’s most fearsome fighter, is tempted to win a rare gold medal for Kazakhstan he could be drawn in the first round against a teenage qualifier who has never had a pro fight in his life.

Such a raw opponent would be put seriously at risk of severe damage.

Similarly if the likes of jack-hammer hitters Saul "Canelo" Alvarez or Sergey Kovalev were in the Olympic mix the Olympic tournament could throw up horrendous up mismatches that would be prohibited by any decent professional governing body.

AIBA now find themselves seriously in conflict not only with the WBC but other pro ruling bodies including the much-respected British Boxing Board of Control whose general secretary Robert Smith says UK pros would have to hand in their licences if they wishes take part the Games.

He asks:” "Are you really going to put in Floyd Mayweather against some little boy who has qualified through the Olympic system? There is a gulf in class and ability.It is farcical.”

Lennox Lewis also believes the safety of less experienced boxers would be jeopardised.

"All of a sudden you could have a scenario where someone like Wladimir Klitschko (one former Olympic kingpin who hints he might consider the move) who has so much experience, could go up against a kid of 18 who has had just 10 fights. I don't think it is fair.

Theoretically Klitschko, Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan are among a host of world class pros who would be eligible to compete in the Olympics if the proposals are ratified, and they so desired.

And imagine that AIBA would love Mayweather to come out of retirement to try and win in Rio the gold medal of which he claims he was robbed at Atlanta in 1996.

The standard recompense from USA Boxing for Olympic champions (not that they have had many of late) is $25,000. For Mayweather that’s a tip to a croupier at a Las Vegas casino.

So, as Muhammad Ali used to say, the chances of that happening are slim to none – and Slim just left town.

As McGuigan queries: “How can you have a 12 three-minute-round fighter coming in and boxing over three three-minute rounds, which is a sprint? It seems bizarre. I just don’t see how it can practically work.”

Me neither.

Moreover AIBA are on treacherous territory. For there remains an element in the IOC who would happily boot boxing out of the Games in favour of less hazardous pursuits like squash or snooker. All it might take is a single ring tragedy.

Dr Wu, a 69-year-old Taiwanese multi-millionaire former construction mogul who helped build Milton Keynes, is an ambitous cove with a genuine passion for a sport, all forms of which he desires to bring together under his personal umbrella. He must know that such is the nature of professional boxing’s global governance this is a folorn pipedream.

I know that he argues that as IOC have fully professionalised the Olympics by allowing America’s Dream Team to compete in basketball and inviting superstar tennis players like Djokovic, Federer and Murray to dominate the tennis tournament, boxing should be given similar treatment.

But LeBron James dunking a ball into a net and Andy Murray lobbing one over it are hardly equivalent to getting bashed on the head by Gennady Golovkin.

This surely cannot be what the doctor orders.

The Olympics have always been a platform for aspiring young boxers, not battle-hardened old pros. And so they must remain.

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