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Boxing: AIBA rules amended so that Pro boxers - but Males only - can compete in Rio 2016
by Michael O'Neill
June 4, 2016

(JUNE 4)  There’s widespread anger in AIBA and Professional boxing circles following the news from the International Boxing Association (AIBA) that Professional boxers can now stake a claim for a place in Rio 2016.

(L-R) Ted Tanner, AIBA Vice-President, Franco Falcinelli, AIBA Vice-President, Dr Ching-Kuo Wu, AIBA President, Karim Bouzidi, AIBA Executive Director, Osvaldo Bisbal, AIBA Vice-President, Serik Konakbayev, AIBA Vice-President

Few ‘amateurs’ are prepared to be quoted thus far for fear of being disowned by their own Federation or by their sport’s Governing body.

AIBA boxers apart, many Professionals have also voiced their strong disapproval and simply see it as an attempt by the AIBA to dominate boxing around the world.

It is widely predicted that professional bodies such as the WBC and others will seek to challenge the changes within months.

It is difficult to see why any current Pro world champions would risk a 2 years suspension and give up their World titles in the off chance that they might get one of the 26 remaining Rio slots.

First let us look at the Press Release issued by the AIBA in Lausanne 1 June, which we include here in its entirety, so you can study it for yourself. We welcome your comments as always whether via email, Twitter, Facebook or other Social Media.

AIBA Press Release reads:

“The International Boxing Association (AIBA) convened an Extraordinary Congress in Lausanne today, June 1st, in a bid to remove Article 13 (J) of the AIBA Statutes. The new article will open the doors to boxers from all organisations to participate in AIBA competitions. This amendment was ratified by an overwhelming majority of 95% of the delegates attending the Extraordinary Congress.

“This is a momentous occasion for AIBA, for Olympic Boxing, and for our sport as a whole, and represents another great leap forward in the evolution of boxing. We have embraced reform at AIBA over the past decade, making historic changes that have shaped the present health of boxing and precipitated its ongoing surge in popularity worldwide. This move will ensure the empowerment of National Federations and enhance all future competitions including the Olympic Games. Our mission is to continue to make brave decisions in the best interest of our boxers and for the good for the sport,” declared AIBA President Dr Ching-Kuo Wu after the vote.

The amendment of Article 13 (J) will immediately allow all National Federations to register all non AIBA professional boxers for the APB/WSB Olympic Qualification Tournament in Vargas, Venezuela on July 3-8 according to the criteria for registration of pro boxers. The competition will offer 26 quota places available for Rio 2016.

AIBA’s decision supports the IOC Agenda 2020 which seeks to ensure that the world’s best athletes are eligible to compete at the Olympic Games. Boxing was one of the few sports not to have been open to all professional athletes, and the changes reflect the levelling of the playing field and the culmination of reforms and new competitions that AIBA has been responsible for, particularly the inauguration of AIBA Pro Boxing and World Series of Boxing competitions.

The change comes as AIBA, the only official boxing body recognised by the International Olympic Committee with 197 National Federations affiliated, marks its 70th year at the forefront of the sport. Its policies are aimed at nourishing boxing and providing a solid career path for determined athletes all over the world, from providing essential grassroots training facilities through to its elite-level global competitions. A significant element of that care for boxers also covers their health, as evidenced by the current HeadsUp initiative and the AIBA Medical Commission’s research that informed the decision to remove headguards in men’s competitions in 2013.

The new Article 13 J of the AIBA statutes:-

National Federations and provisional members have the following obligations:

“To govern, organize, promote and represent the sport of boxing in accordance with the AIBA Statutes, AIBA Bylaws, AIBA Technical Rules, AIBA 3 Program Competition Rule, AIBA Code of Ethics, AIBA Disciplinary Code, AIBA Procedural Rules and the AIBA Anti-Doping Rules within its territory by establishing appropriate rules and regulations concerning the practice of the sport and the eligibility of boxers to participate in national competitions and AIBA Competitions.”

Two points to note:

Despite the AIBA and IOC having previously talked about the importance of “Equality” you will note that the rule changes ONLY apply to Male boxers in Rio and NOT to any Women Pro champions.

A clear case of “discrimination” many influential experts in several countries have already pointed out and that includes males and females alike.

It also appears to be in clear violation of the IOC’s own Olympic charter on equality.

Due to time differences around the world, many countries have not yet issued any statement but we have included here a number of comments from various sources in Europe.

London 2012 Olympic medallist, Michael Conlan : "It wouldn't bother me, I'll beat all of them," the Ireland bantamweight confidently predicted.

Eighty-four of the 88 member federations of AIBA approved the rule changes, which will permit any world champion boxer to try to qualify next month and win selection for their national team.

Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn was also somewhat scathing in his comments, as quoted by the (London) Daily Mail.

He suggested only countries willing to pay top boxers to compete in the Games would be represented by elite pros under the new rules.

'The only appetite a top level fighter would have to take part in the Olympics is if their government were funding them to do so,' he said.

'I already know of some elite international fighters that have effectively been offered a fee by their government to take part - I see it as buying medals but it's not a model that would work here.

'Our government and funding system already does a tremendous job with the facilities at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield for the GB boxing team and I can't see, nor would I want to see, a way in for professional UK boxers into the Olympics.'

David Price, former British heavyweight titleholder and Olympic medallist from Beijing 2008 told the BBC Radio 5 Live:

"It's 10 weeks away from Rio, so I don't think we're going to see too many professionals go through.

I think it's too soon. I think what they're doing is just letting everyone know that in future this is how it's going to be."

GB Performance Director Rob McCracken said, before today’s announcement that he did not expect any major changes this year:

"It would be very difficult for a pro to take the place of someone who's been training for three years and who's been very successful over the three, three-minute rounds with the speed, reaction and timing.

"It's not so easy for a professional to come back in and do that, because they're 12-round fighters."

Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton former WBA and IBF super-bantamweight champion and an established Irish international until he turned Pro in 2009 said that allowing professionals into the Olympics was 'ridiculous'.

"They're two different sports. It's like a badminton player playing tennis," he said on Twitter.

"A lot of people are saying it would be unfair for amateurs because the top pros would wipe them out, but that's not the case," he said.

"I believe the top amateur boxers in the world would be able to compete with the world's top professionals over that three-minute round format with soft amateur gloves on."

What does former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, 49 feel?

The two time Junior Olympic Gold medallist he said : "It's ridiculous, it's foolish, and some pro fighters are going to get beat by the amateurs.

"It's just going to happen, I really believe that."

Later at the 33rd IBF convention in China, he added that professional boxers would find the fast-paced fighting style of their amateur counterparts difficult to contend with.

"If they are like the amateur fighters that I was fighting in the 80s... they are going to beat some of the champions, it's just going to happen," he insisted.

In a poll of its readers tonight the influential (London) Daily Mirror asked if it was right to allow Professionals to compete in the Olympics. A resounding 79% said NO, only 21% said YES.

Both Amir Khan and Manny Pacquiao have been ‘courted’ by AIBA’s Dr. Wu in recent years but tonight the “Philippine Star” had this to say on the subject of Manny seeking the country’s first ever Olympic Gold:

“Sen. Manny Pacquiao’s decision not to fight at the coming Olympics dealt a huge blow to AIBA’s campaign to introduce professionals in Rio, seriously eroding the credibility of the international federation in foisting itself as the global governing body for the sport in both the amateur and professional levels.

Pacquiao would’ve been the ace in AIBA president Dr. Ching Kuo Wu’s master plan to take control of all of boxing. Since the concept of AIBA opening its doors to pros was hatched six years ago, the process of expansion has been slow. AIBA launched two pro platforms, the team-oriented WSB (World Series of Boxing) and the APB (AIBA Pro Boxing), to encroach on the territory that has long been the domain of money-making enclaves like the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO. But neither the APB nor WSB could steal the thunder from the established pro organizations. Dr. Wu needed an icon to lead the AIBA charge and Pacquiao would’ve been the perfect Richard the Lionheart to lead the crusade”.

The newspaper continued: “If Pacquiao decided to fight in Rio, he wouldn’t have had to go through qualifiers. AIBA has five wildcard tickets to allocate in men’s boxing and one was conveniently in the light welterweight class which would’ve been Pacquiao’s division. Pacquiao would’ve been given a free ride to the event.

As for Pacquiao’s withdrawal, he said it was to prioritize his legislative obligations, now that he’s a Senator. The pulse was 50-50. So it appears that Pacquiao chose the path of least resistance, nothing wrong with that. He decided to end his Olympic dream for the country in favor of another patriotic mission – to serve in the Senate full-time, without boxing distractions, at least for the time being. The decision not to fight in Rio, however, doesn’t mean Pacquiao won’t ever stage a ring comeback, perhaps for one more outing – a rematch with Floyd Mayweather, Jr.”

Among former top Amateurs are many who later had very successful Pro careers including but not restricted to, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Lennox Lewis, Oscar De La Hoya and Vladimir Klitschko.

And finally, here is an exchange of correspondence between WBC, IOC and AIBA:


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