WBC rips AIBA over Olympic boxing; some pros are intrigued

ABS-CBN Sports on Feb 26, 2016 08:57 AM
WBC rips AIBA over Olympic boxing; some pros are intrigued
(AP Photo)

GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer

  
The president of the World Boxing Council sharply criticized the International Boxing Association on Thursday for its intention to allow professional fighters to compete in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The WBC's Mauricio Sulaiman said AIBA "does not have a clue of what boxing means and represents." The head of pro boxing's most prominent governing body also predicted "dangerous mismatches between experienced professional fighters and amateur boxers" if the pros take AIBA's invitation.

AIBA President Ching-Kuo Wu confirmed his intention this week to change his organization's qualifying structure to allow pro fighters to compete for gold medals in the multi-day Olympic tournament in August.

AIBA's latest proposal to erase the line between pro and amateur boxing has attracted attention around the sport, and some pros are intrigued.

"I would if I could," Wladimir Klitschko told The Associated Press through a spokesperson when asked about the possibility of fighting for his second gold medal after winning for Ukraine in Atlanta in 1996.

But the former long-reigning heavyweight champion added that his rematch with Tyson Fury in the spring would take precedence over any attempt to make the Ukraine team, likely making it impractical for the 39-year-old to compete in Rio. For Klitschko to get a chance at the 2020 Tokyo Games, AIBA would have to change its age limit of 40 years old on competitors.

Most top pros would face major obstacles to participation in the Rio Games. Even after getting the imprimatur of their national sanctioning body, they likely would have to travel to AIBA's world Olympic qualifying tournament in Azerbaijan in June to earn a spot.

Injuries, financial sacrifices, pro commitments and the strictures of a multi-day, multi-fight tournament would all hurt elite boxers considering the move.

"I just think that it's highly unlikely" for any pros to make the U.S. team in Rio, USA Boxing executive director Mike Martino told the AP.

AIBA's proposed changes almost certainly would lead to veteran pros fighting inexperienced amateurs, a factor pointed out by Sulaiman in a news release headlined "AIBA has reached rock bottom."

"By matching amateurs against professionals and eliminating headgear, AIBA is showing that it does not seem to care about the physical well-being of the fighters or the correct practice of the sport around the world," Sulaiman said. "How can multi-day boxing tournaments be conducted safely and fairly without headgear? The youth of the world deserve to have the options and opportunities in amateur boxing."

Many professional promoters and governing bodies have spoken out against AIBA's evolution in recent years, at least partly because AIBA's attempt to control pro boxing is an invasion of their own long-held turf.

Wu has repeatedly stated AIBA's goal to control every level of boxing, and it began a version of pro fight promotion with its establishment of the World Series of Boxing and APB boxing leagues. The organization dropped the word "amateur" from its name and removed head guards from its male fighters in recent years to speed its transformation into a version of pro boxing.

Wu also championed the inclusion of women's boxing in the London Olympics, an addition met with widespread acclaim. Women boxers are allowed to wear headgear in AIBA tournaments, including the Rio Olympics.

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