As May reaches its conclusion this year’s Olympic Games in Rio draw ever closer, and thousands of athletes will either have their dreams for filled or shattered. For boxing fans it’s a chance to take a glimpse at tomorrow’s future stars and for the big promoters to scout potential signings, and of course all the participants involved will aim to make the last four years of toil count and capture the much prized and treasured gold medal.
Having watched a sizeable amount of Olympic qualifiers and World Series of Boxing in 2016 I can honestly say I have been more entertained and felt more enjoyment and satisfaction than anything that has taken place in the professional ranks, and I am thoroughly looking forward to watching the plethora of elite talent that will be on show in Brazil.
Unfortunately the talk has been dominated with matters outside the ring, with the proposal of professional boxers possibly taking part in this year’s games causing a real stir and leading to many in the pro game to voice their derision and horror. This piece aims to bring the truth and common sense whilst dispelling the misnomers, scaremongering and general nonsense that has been spouted from those with seemingly little if any knowledge of amateur boxing and how it has drastically evolved in recent times.
First of all the suggestion of pros competing in the Olympics is a crackpot idea and completely unfair to those boxers who have slogged their guts out and traipsed all around the world fighting in countless tournaments just to book a place at the games for their nation. The process has also felt rather rushed, and far more time needs to be taken to iron out the specifics, but the notion of Olympians being badly hurt or even killed by pro boxers is not only highly unlikely but is a completely condescending insult to the top flight amateur pugilists.
Will every contest in Rio be 50/50? No. Will there be mismatches? Of course, but the saying ‘Don’t throw stones in glass houses’ is fitting considering the abhorrent and often dangerous bouts seen in pro rings all over the globe on a weekly basis. With the ditching of head guards and computer scoring there has been a much greater emphasis placed upon combination and body punching and also a noticeable increase in intensity in the amateur encounters that I have viewed. This has resulted in the bridge between the two codes becoming significantly smaller and the gap will only decrease in time.
This will sound like an annoying cliché but just being at the Olympics is an achievement in itself given the qualifying process is more complex than a university maths exam, with sometimes only the finalists gaining a spot at certain tournaments. Also with places available in the WSB and APB (AIBA Pro Boxing) it’s a real scrap and trust me, everyone who will be fighting in the 2016 games will have damn well earned it.
Given the plentiful supply of resources available for the fighters in the top Olympic boxing nations this has enabled them to thoroughly prepare, train and dedicate their lives to winning medals and have a proper career. So the ‘poor, weak, meek amateurs’ line is yet another piece of utter rhetoric nonsense trotted out by the ill-informed.
Finally an issue that has been largely ignored is the maintaining of weight throughout the tournament, a requirement that is completely alien to all professional fighters who have the luxury of packing on the pounds after every weigh-in.
Due to the very short window, if the proposal is given the green light, any professional fighter taking part would have very little time to assess which weight class is suited for them. Most would almost certainly need to move up to maintain any sort of strength, health and the ability to make weight for every contest. Couple this with the adjustment from 10/12 round title bouts to a three round sprint and suddenly the transition doesn’t look so easy.