Olympics-Boxing-Italian pair join AIBA's growing pro ranks

LONDON, July 30 Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:30pm EDT

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LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) - Italian former world amateur champions Domenico Valentino and Clemente Russo joined the Olympic governing body's growing professional ranks on Monday in the latest move to shake up the traditional route to pro boxing.

The International Boxing Association (AIBA), responsible for overseeing women box for the first time at this year's Games, wants to stop losing fighters to the professional game every four years and hopes to do so by offering them both a living and another shot at Olympic gold.

Currently professionals unaffiliated with the AIBA are forbidden from taking part in the Olympics, a rule that has provided promoters and scouts with rich pickings.

AIBA Professional Boxing (APB) is the governing body's main vehicle for stopping the exodus, a circuit where boxers are being told they can earn a steadier living with their training, coaching and insurance all taken care of.

The AIBA envisages that APB will provide 56 fighters for the next Olympics, with a further 10 qualifying from its affiliate World Series of Boxing (WSB) tournament, meaning almost a quarter of Olympians boxing in Rio de Janeiro will be professional.

Lightweight Valentino and heavyweight Russo join South Korean Jonghun Shin, Azerbaijani world champion Magomedrasul Medzhidov and Kazakhstan's Serik Sapiyev among the first names on the APB's books.

"These two exciting additions add further legitimacy to our new competition. We are convinced that it is the right time to provide something different for our top boxers," AIBA president Wu Ching-Kuo said in a statement.

"With APB, we will revolutionize the world of boxing and establish a blueprint for its development. Finally our athletes won't have to jump into the unknown while embracing a professional career." (Reporting by Padraic Halpin, editing by Justin Palmer)

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