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Professional Boxers Cleared to Participate in Olympics

When the Olympics are conducted in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the boxing competition is going to have a slightly different feel to it…..kind of.

That is because the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) has cleared the path for professionals to participate, following the lead of other sports….kind of.

AIBA had been moving toward this for a few years, ever since the establishment of the World Series of Boxing, in which amateurs were paid to fight in matches that took place within the AIBA-sanctioned league but were able to protect their amateur status at the same time. In effect, that marked the end of pure amateur competition in boxing. The reality is that many pros actually did compete in these last Olympics.

Now that AIBA is embarking on forming its own professional promotional organization, which operates under the same parameters, it has basically directed the national governing bodies under its jurisdiction to discontinue the use of the word “amateur” within the context of Olympic-style events. Now, boxers who have less than fifteen bouts under their belt will be allowed to go for the gold, as long as they have signed with AIBA’s organization at least two years prior to any Olympic qualifying.

That means two things – one, that the Floyd Mayweathers and Manny Pacquiaos of the world can forget about fighting under their nation’s flag, because they are to experienced; and two, whoever wants to be eligible had better join up with AIBA within the next year.

Aside from AIBA’s angle in this new dynamic, the move to “professionalism” also carries with it some very significant changes that might make things much more pleasing to fans. The scoring system that was used at the last Olympics, which confuses the hell out of everyone, is being scrapped in favor of a ten-point must system, and the fighters will no longer be required to wear headgear, which has always brought about conflicting opinion when it comes to its safety value in the ring.

It would seem that there will be ancillary changes that go along with all this. For example, assuming that the scoring criteria will be different, with less actual “counting” of punches, the line may blur a bit more between the definition of a professional style vs. an amateur style, and that would be reflected in training and preparation, as well as who will be in charge of such things on a national level.

Also, boxers in the United States are probably more likely to forego opportunities to go into conventional pro boxing a little longer if there exists the structure by which they can earn money from salaries and/or sponsors while they train for Olympic gold. Actually, USA Boxing had made some provisions for this already, but not to extent that the AIBA is going to currently allow. The new model should have the effect of producing better overall teams with an increased chance at winning medals. The 2012 London Games constituted the first Olympiad in which the Americans had failed to earn any medals in boxing, and it caused a great deal of embarrassment and consternation throughout the U.S. amateur boxing ranks.

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