LONDON (Reuters) - Amateur boxing’s decision to allow professionals into the Olympics for the first time drew fighting talk on Wednesday from champions and sanctioning bodies opposed to the break with tradition.
The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC), which governs the country’s professional fight scene, said the change was dangerous, disrespectful and “against the spirit of the Olympics”.
“It is the hope of the British Boxing Board of Control and many within the professional Sport in Great Britain and throughout the world that AIBA reconsider such a move that is not beneficial to the sport as a whole,” it added in a statement.
AIBA, the international boxing association for amateurs, earlier approved a constitutional change that would allow professionals to compete at the Rio Games in August.
AIBA boss Ching-Kuo Wu told Reuters in Lausanne that the change to the AIBA constitution was approved with 95 per cent in favor — 84 of 88 voting members.
It follows a decision in March to extend the scrapping of headguards in men’s amateur boxing — introduced three years ago — to the forthcoming Olympics.
Some 26 Olympic spots will be up for grabs when fighters compete at a qualifying tournament in Venezuela next month.
While an AIBA spokesman said the governing body was “acting for the Olympic legacy” and rejected fears that there would be a disparity between amateurs and professionals, boxers with experience of both disagreed.
“They’re two different sports. It’s like a badminton player playing tennis,” said Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton, a former amateur who has won WBA and IBF world title belts at super-bantamweight, on Twitter.
“What about the amateurs who have been dreaming of the Olympics for years, have yet to qualify, and some pro takes their spot at the last minute?”
Britain’s former professional world champions Carl Froch and Ricky Hatton also criticized the change.
“Goodbye amateur boxing now as far as I’m concerned. Can’t say I’m a fan of this,” said Hatton, the former world welterweight and light-welterweight world champion, on his Twitter feed.
Former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, who as an amateur won gold at the 1981 and 1982 Junior Olympic Games, last week branded the proposal “ridiculous”.
“It’s ridiculous, it’s foolish, and some of the pro fighters are going to get beat by the amateurs. It’s just going to happen, I really believe that,” the 49-year-old told Reuters.
American Oscar De La Hoya, who won boxing gold at the 1992 Olympics as a lightweight, and went on to become a professional world champion, has also spoken out against opening up the Olympic tournament.
“Nearly a quarter-century ago, when I was just an amateur boxer, I stood atop a podium in Barcelona and was presented with what I still consider the greatest prize of my career — the Olympic gold medal,” he wrote in the Los Angeles Times in April.
“Had professionals been allowed to participate in the ring that year, I would not have made it so far.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Editing by Neville Dalton