LONDON (Reuters) - Magomedrasul Medzhidov was among the first amateur boxers to sign up to the Olympic governing body’s new professional ranks and the gulf between the Azerbaijani and those not so lucky was evident on Wednesday.
World amateur champion Medzhidov, the favorite to take gold in the super-heavyweight category, pummeled Meji Mwanba in his first round bout, knocking the Democratic Republic of Congo fighter down twice before the referee stopped the contest after Medzhidov hit him so hard, his helmet flew out of the ring.
The International Boxing Association (AIBA) are setting up AIBA Professional Boxing, or APB, next year in a to bid to stop boxers leaving the Olympic movement to join the traditional pro ranks and have so far signed up five highly ranked fighters.
It plans to give almost a quarter of available Olympic spots to professional fighters in four years’ time, still leaving space for fighters from developing countries, some of whom it held a free two-month training camp for prior to the Games.
However Mwanba, who works as a security guard by day, is not provided with gloves or some of the basic facilities needed to train in his home city of Kinshasa.
At an Olympic qualification tournament in May, he struggled to find a helmet big enough for his head, a mandatory piece of equipment to box. He secured a place in London as part of an AIBA policy to include as many countries as possible.
“My opponent is a professional, he’s just boxing all the time, it’s his job,” the imposing Mwanba, who was nevertheless furious that judges had scored the first round 8 points to 1 in favor of Medzhidov, told reporters through an interpreter.
His coach, Adelard Ibula Masengo, said the country could not pay for enough fighters to travel to Morocco for May’s qualification tournament and that the Congo Athletics Federation had to buy five plane tickets to send their four competitors and a coach to London.
Masengo, a former amateur fighter who was in the crowd for the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ fight of 1974 when Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman in Kinshasa, said the country has some great boxers but can only do so much.
“There is nothing suitable in Kinshasa for training, there is no equipment or anything like that so we just get by.”
Mwanba, however, said he would still like to turn professional some day.
Reporting by Padraic Halpin, editing by Justin Palmer