LAUSANNE: Professional boxers can compete at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, if they qualify.
An overwhelming vote Wednesday by the sport’s governing body, known as AIBA, allows any boxer to try to qualify next month and earn selection for their national team.
“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.
AIBA’s plan, however, has been criticised across the professional ranks as a move toward dangerous mismatches between established boxers and inexperienced amateurs.
Although Manny Pacquiao had been slated to be a superstar attraction in Rio, he decided last week to focus on his political career as an elected senator in the Philippines.
Other big names could come from Russia. The head coach of that country’s Olympic boxing team, Alexander Lebzyak, said it was possible Russia could enter two reigning professional world champions: Sergei Kovalev and Denis Lebedev.
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.
A total of 26 entry places can be earned at an Olympic qualifying tournament in Venezuela next month, AIBA said.
Though few pros are likely to make the Rio lineup at such short notice, the longer term aim is letting paid fighters know they should target the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
“These are milestones for Tokyo. This is what is happening now,” Netherlands federation president Boris van der Vorst said.