Indian Boxing Council (IBC) president P.K. Muralidharan Raja on Monday termed the International Boxing Association (AIBA)’s decision to allow professionals to compete at the Olympics as a “publicity stunt”, asserting that the 2016 Rio Games are too early for the change.
In a vote on Wednesday, 84 of the 88 member-federations of the AIBA approved a rule change allowing professional boxers to compete at the 2016 Olympics.
However, Raja said that allowing pro boxers in Olympics in August’s Games was uncalled for and it was a gimmick.
He also pointed out that the unpopularity of AIBA’s pro leagues -- AIBA Professional Boxing (AIPB) and World Series of Boxing (WSB) -- also played a part in the decision of the world amateur boxing governing body.
“It was a complete publicity stunt. Allowing the pro boxers to compete from 2020 Games (Tokyo) would have been reasonable. With only two months to go for the Olympics in August to start, it was done only for gimmicks,” Raja said.
“AIBA’s own pro leagues are not successful and no one is talking about AIBA. It will be very difficult for the professionals to go for the Olympics qualifiers and the Games because of the scheduling.
“Also, they will play against teenager amateurs and the judges and the referees are also amateurs,” he added.
Raja also felt that Beijing bronze medallist Vijender Singh’s participation in the Olympics qualifiers is unlikely. The qualifiers start on July 3, while the 30-year-old will compete in the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) Asia Super Middleweight championship decider on July 16 in Delhi.
“He is saying that he will give it a try (at the qualifiers) but it will be very tough -- depending on the time and the schedule. He has a bout here on July 16 and only two weeks before that are the qualifiers,” he said.
Raja acknowledged that the sport will receive a big boost in India as the professional boxers will receive government funds.
“Earlier, a boxer willing to turn professional was worried about not getting government support as they were not part of the Olympics programme. But now, with this decision, it will change for the better,” he said.
Raja also hoped that Shiva Thapa will not be the lone boxer to represent India at the Rio Games, with a qualifying event for the men to be held from June 16 in Baku, Azerbaijan.