Yesterday the International Boxing Assocation (AIBA) announced that they had voted in favour of allowing professional boxers to compete in this year’s Rio Olympics. The AIBA will make 26 places available at a qualifying event set to take place next year in Venezuela.
The move has been welcomed by some professional boxers, most notably Amir Khan who has mooted the possibility of representing Pakistan in Rio. However, on the whole the move has been criticised by boxers, with Carl Frampton, David Haye, and Ricky Hatton all reacting negatively to the decision, and rightly so.
It is not that the move is especially dangerous, as has been suggested by some. In short four round bouts, wearing softer amateur gloves, the move is unlikely to be anymore danger than is already present in boxing. Indeed, it has been suggested by the likes of Carl Froch and Mike Tyson that it would be no surprise to see the best amateurs beat professionals that take part in the competition.
The issue with this decision is that it harms the Olympics. The tradition of the Olympics has been one of the Olympics being the most prestigious event that the athletes taking part have been able to win at this point in their careers. For track and field athletes, swimmers, track cyclists, and rowers this is absolutely the case. Although there are clearly football tournaments which players would consider more prestigious, at least steps have been taken which limit the number of players in each squad who are over the age of 23 to just three. However, with boxing there is little chance that professionals who have already become world champion at professional level will consider an Olympic medal as being prestigious. There is a similar problem with the inclusion of golf in the Olympic Games. It seems exceedingly unlikely that golfers will consider the Olympic title to be on a par with or a higher honour than The Open, The Masters, and The Ryder Cup. For these reasons, golf should also not have been given a place in the Olympic Games. In the London 2012 Olympic Games, Anthony Joshua won the Heavyweight Gold Medal. Joshua has subsequently become IBF professional champion. If Joshua were to take part in this year’s Olympics (which is rather unlikely), and were to defend his title, then it seems unlikely that the gold medal would mean as much to him as the one he won in 2012. This would be in contrast to the amateur boxers who have been training for four years for the chance to compete in the Olympics and will regard it as the highlight of their careers so far. For these athletes winning an Olympic medal will be a pinnacle in their careers and will mean what winning an Olympic medal should mean.
Ultimately, this decision by the AIBA undermines the integrity of the Olympics. The Olympics is supposed to be the pinnacle of the sports which are included in the games, and this decision threatens this. Therefore, the AIBA should reverse their decision before it is too late. Failing this, the IOC should get involved and stop this terrible idea from progressing any further.