British Olympic boxing gold medallist Audley Harrison does not expect professional boxers to compete in large numbers at the Rio Games after a rule change allowing to them participate was approved Wednesday.
The International Boxing Association (AIBA) removed restrictions on professionals competing at ‘amateur’ events such as the Olympics at an extraordinary congress in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Concerns have been raised that hardened professionals could outclass amateur boxers.
But few pros are likely to make it to Rio given the final qualifying tournament is in in Venezuela in July.
Harrison, who won gold at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, said the lack of access to qualifying tournaments and the different challenges posed by an Olympic programme meant fears of a flood of pros in to Games boxing were unjustified.
“When you look at amateur boxing now, the line has been blurred to some degree because you now have amateur boxers boxing without head guards, basically punching for pay with the world sports programme that they are doing,” Harrison told BBC Radio on Thursday.
“So you have this already moving towards the professionals — they are doing five-minute (five three-minute) rounds, the head guards are gone and they are being paid, so what you’ve got to think about is (the) two sports are very different sports.
“Professional boxing and how you train for a professional boxing contest, 12 rounds, three minutes, and the Olympic cycle where you are fighting maybe four times over 10 days is a totally different sport.
“I think it’s more smoke and mirrors from Dr (AIBA president CK) Wu in terms of announcing they can do it because you have to go through a qualifying process to qualify for the Olympics — all of the amateur bodies are a part of that — and it’s only two more tournaments.
“One’s coming up on June 16 until the 25th and the other one is July 3rd until the 8th, so I just don’t think it’s plausible that a professional boxer is going to be able to change his training dynamic to go and try and qualify for that tournament.
“They’ve already said that no boxer is going to be allowed in on a wildcard, like Manny Pacquiao or some of the most high-profile professionals, so how are they really going to train for those tournaments coming up?”