Amir Khan could once again grip the world in his bid for Olympic gold as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) refused to rule out the mouth-watering possibility of pro boxers competing in the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
Boxing at the Olympics is traditionally an amateur arena, unearthing and catapulting many to international boxing stardom in the professional ranks: Wladimir Klitschko, Lennox Lewis and a young Cassius Clay, to name but a few, have all won Olympic gold on their way to world heavyweight domination.
For many boxing and Olympic purists, the prospect of professional boxers fighting it out for Olympic glory is a foreboding one. Certain regulations enforced by the amateur sports governing bodies restrict linkages with the professional ranks so a total overhaul of the amateur game would manifest itself if the possibility of pro boxers fighting in the Olympics becomes a reality.
But the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) has added support to the proposition with the announcement of a pro tournament in 2013 with those fighting being eligible for the 2016 Olympic games. The AIBA has already initiated a bridge between the amateur and professional worlds of boxing through the introduction of the World Series of Boxing (WSB) which allows both pro and amateur boxers to fight with no vests and head guards, and with professional codes of scoring, without the amateur fighters losing their right to compete in domestic and global amateur events.
The calibre of fighters attracted to these events is in question however, with the WSB in its second year. The inaugural event saw the heavyweight crown going to 2008 Beijing Olympic heavyweight silver medallist Clemete Russo of Italy. The event is already breaking barriers as the AIBA has announced India have agreed a 10 year partnership to compete at the WSB. The blending of the amateur and professional codes of the sport pleases AIBA President Wu Ching-kuo who claims that the amateur game can only benefit through the association. The arguments for and against such a move are compelling. All the big stars of tennis, for example, compete at the Olympics – it is not reserved for amateur players or players ranked outside the top 100. The Olympics is a sporting event where the best sportspeople in their respective fields battle it out for supremacy and for a chance at that elusive Olympic gold. Why should boxing be any different? Why can’t the best in the world of boxing compete in sports’ greatest showcase of athletic talent?