AIBA's Olympic ruling invites sharp reactions

Celebrated heavyweight world champion Mike Tyson reportedly said, "It’s ridiculous, it’s foolish, and some of the pro fighters are going to get beat by the amateurs."

Mike Tyson has called AIBA's decision to let pro boxers participate in Olympics 'ridiculous and foolish'.   -  AP

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) allowing the non-AIBA professional boxers to take part in the Rio Olympics has triggered a raging debate worldwide.

Former heavyweight world champion Mike Tyson reportedly said, “It’s ridiculous, it’s foolish, and some of the pro fighters are going to get beat by the amateurs.”

The social networking sites are abuzz with sharp reactions, many rejecting the idea of pitting amateurs against professionals. Another former heavyweight world champion Lennox Lewis, who was a 1988 Seoul Olympic gold medallist, tweeted, “The AIBA decision also devalues the Olympics as the pinnacle of achievement for amateur fighters.”

Several other issues may also pose questions about the amalgamation of amateur and professional boxing. World Cup medal winning boxer Venkatesh Devarajan, who turned professional, said it might be difficult for an amateur to take the hit against a professional.

“The amateurs thrive on their speed and can pose problems. But the professionals are brutal, it is pure business. They train so hard and have immense strength. For an amateur relying on his strength, it will be difficult to face a pro,” said Devarajan.

“When I got into pro boxing in 1996, I had a training stint with a champion and for the first three rounds I kept hammering him. After three rounds he showed his real fight.”

Mohammad Ali Qamar, the first Indian to win a Commonwealth Games gold medal, sounded alert for the amateurs too. “Professional boxers are more experienced and have more power, they fight six, eight or 12 rounds. It will be tough for amateurs who are used to three-round fights.”

Qamar said the move might hamper India’s interest. “After Olympics slots were allotted to semi-professional leagues, like the World Series of Boxing and the AIBA Pro Boxing, Indians struggled to get quota places. It may be more difficult now.”

Multiple National champion Dilbag Singh, now a professional, looked at the brighter side. “It is good for the professional boxers. Now they can make money and represent the country as well.”

Brig. P.K. Muralidharan Raja, a referee-judge and former Indian boxing federation secretary, said the move could face many hurdles. “Since the AIBA wants pro boxers to get registered through the National federations, there can be issues relating to professionals requesting affiliation from an amateur body. How many amateur bodies will like to take professionals!"

Brig. Raja, who has floated a professional body, Indian Boxing Council, argued that the professional boxers might not like to be judged by amateur boxing officials. “Some blows which are okay in pro boxing are not allowed in an amateur fight. Also, the pro boxers are not used to the referee stopping the contest too often. It is like asking a marathon runner to run a 100m sprint.”

Nevertheless, it is quite clear that the move would help AIBA achieve its long-time ambition of getting more control over boxing all over the world. The Rio Games will give an idea as to how the change will impact the boxers.