After months of debate and uncertainty, professional boxers have finally been allowed to compete at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro after a landmark vote by boxing’s governing council, AIBA.
The historic decision was passed by an overwhelming vote in an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday, with the result that any boxer, be they professional or amateur, can now try to qualify for the Summer Games in Brazil, ABC Sport reports.
Of 88 federations who came to Lausanne for the single-issue meeting, 84 approved the rule change less than 10 weeks before the first bouts in Rio. The other four members abstained, AIBA said.
This move has been strongly criticised within the boxing community because of the likelihood of potential mismatches between professional fighters and amateurs.
“At the moment it is difficult to anticipate (how many), but there will be some who want to get qualification,” AIBA President CK Wu said after a special meeting of member federations.
Wu has consistently pushed to extend AIBA’s influence over professional boxing, and already relaxed rules to allow paid fighters to compete at the Olympics.
A total of 26 entry places can be earned at an Olympic qualifying tournament in Venezuela next month, AIBA said.
However, it is unclear how many professional fighters would be attracted by an Olympic tournament — fighting up to five times over two weeks and going unpaid, while some would likely not meet the demands of already being in a testing regime with the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao had been slated to be a superstar attraction in Rio, but he decided last week to focus on his political career after being elected a senator in the Philippines.
The boxing world has reacted, albeit not favourably, to the latest development.