This topic turned into a hot potato, following the community backlash, which in all honesty, doesn’t have a consolidated opinion on this matter.
For what it’s worth, the International Olympic Committee approved the participation of professional boxers at the Summer Olympics in 2016.
However, nobody expected the outcome. Professionals struggled, and many didn’t even want to take part.
Brief History of Boxing as an Olympic Sport
Boxing is considered by avid fans as a the ultimate proof of discipline, training and endurance. However, the majority of the general public thinks otherwise. Common folks consider boxing a brutal sport, which is why only amateurs were allowed to participate in the Summer Olympics.
Esteemed professionals were asking for a permission to enter one of the most popular sporting events, but unsuccessfully. In essence, amateur boxing differs from professional boxing on so many levels. Like a gambler is always looking for the new casino, a pro is always looking for a new way to stay a step ahead.
From 2012 onwards, this topic stole the spotlight in the boxing community, and it was only a question of time when pros were going to be allowed to measure their skills with other pros but amateurs as well. We saw them in Rio in 2016, but the performance didn’t live up to the expectations. A single professional fight attracts more attention than what boxing did in the Rio 2016 Olympics.
The Summer Olympics Were a Chance for Amateur Boxers!
Before we dwell on the reasons why it was never an Olympic sport, we’re going to focus on the merits of this seemingly over restrictive approach. For the most part, the Summer Olympics were a great chance for amateur boxers to prove themselves and carve their name in the history of sports. It was an opportunity pursued by many.
That bloke from down the street who’s a member of the local boxing club, he’s eligible. That guy you know from the bar, the one who told you how he’s preparing for the Olympics, he actually might be the next national Olympic boxing representative.
The basic principle, the important thing in the Olympic Games is to participate, winning is only a secondary objective.
What’s a Professional Boxer?
The definitions of professional and amateur boxers are pretty straightforward. That being said, a professional boxer is one that gets paid for boxing. Regardless of the importance of the fight, both boxers get paid, they are remunerated. Moreover, they get money from sponsors, ads and other sources.
On the other hand, amateur boxers don’t get anything. Amateurs are not entitled to any remuneration for their performance. People who are not into boxing are stunned by thins, but that’s the reality. Nevertheless, amateur boxers can pursue other careers besides boxing. It can be demanding at times, but they have the Olympics as the gateway to stardom.
In addition, professional boxers are not allowed to wear protective headguard, which, according to relatively recent studies proved to be the right way to go. Protective headguard increases the risk of concussion. Believe it or not, amateurs had the short end of the stick.
In short, professional boxers get paid to do what they want to do most, amateurs are the dentists, the engineers and full time sports coaches and at the same time being aspiring Olympic boxers.
Professional Boxers in the Olympics – What’s the Problem?
Over the past century, professional boxing has been reshaped a number of times, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is that there’s a lot of spilled blood. Pros prepare for months before a fight, for a single fight!
They train, prepare both physically and mentally for that 12 bouts, or rounds. Pros are landing the punch to score points, but to hurt the opponent as well. The underlying problem is obvious. Professional boxers are not just boxing for the sake of participation, they’re in for the win, and they’ll do anything in their power, and go beyond, to take the opponent down.
This contrasts with the basic principles of the Olympic Games.
On the other end, there are amateurs. Unlike their professional counterparts, amateurs are not used to such extreme performance. We’re not saying they can’t handle it, but the chances of things going wrong are too great.
With the headguard removal, pros and amateurs are put on the same level, yet there are differences. An amateur can have several fights over a week, but with 3-4 bouts, which is way less than 12 rounds. Say, for example, a boxer is injured on Tuesday, and has another fight in 2 days time. This is too short of a period for a recovery.
The Difference in Style Will Result in More Injuries
The problems with professionals participating in the Olympics, the REAL PROFESSIONALS, such as Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko, is that they can cause some serious injuries. Amateurs boxing calls for landing the right blows, whereas professional is all about knockdowns, aggression, basically hurting the opponent.
Headguards reduced cuts and ear lobe injuries completely. Without them, the general public following the Olympics will witness a lot of blood. Not only that, but the boxers will take more time to heal and recover between fights. This only makes matters worse.
Then again, imagine a pro wearing a headguard, going head to head with an amateur who’s into boxing just because he loves the sport. The disparity in force and skill is colossal.
New Boxing Rising Stars Will Shine Even Brighter!
Without any doubts, the Summer Olympics will become the ultimate place where boxers can meet and find out who is the greatest. However, the 2016 Olympics showed that most pros are not willing to represent their countries.
Maybe this will change in the near future. Maybe it’s supposed to be this way. With the real professionals taking part in the Olympic Games, boxing will surely attract more attention. It will become way more popular!
Let’s just hope that amateurs will prepare adequately, at the very least, enough so to avoid serious injuries. The Summer Olympics of 2020 in Tokyo will be the center of attention in the boxing community!
Header photo by Frank Franklin/AP