Summer Olympics: Adding Pro Boxers to 2016 Rio Games All but Inevitable

Avi Wolfman-Arent@@awolfmancomethCorrespondent IIMay 3, 2012

BEIJING - AUGUST 24:  Zhang Zhilei (red) of China and Roberto Cammarelle (blue) of Italy fight during the Men's Super Heavy (+91kg) Final Bout held at the Workers' Indoor Arena during Day 16 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 24, 2008 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Following in the gilded footsteps of sports like basketball and hockey, Olympic boxing is expected to feature professional fighters at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

International Boxing Association (AIBA) president Wu Ching-Kuo tells Reuters that over 50 professionals will participate in Rio.

But before you buy your Floyd Mayweather Team USA pullover, take note: This is not a free license for any and all boxers to participate in the Olympics.

Rather, it seems the plan is to create something of a middle ground between amateurism and the traditional professional path in order to keep young, promising fighters in the Olympic pool.

Under the new plan, only professional fighters based in the World Series of Boxing (WSB) and the soon-to-be-launched AIBA Professional Boxing (APB) will be eligible for the Olympic games.

Boxers in these leagues are somewhat akin to NBA, MLB or NFL players, receiving regular salaries rather than a fight-based lump sum, according to a Reuters report.

Via Reuters:

APB, Wu's brainchild, would mean that boxers coming through the amateur ranks would not have to turn their backs on the Olympic Games in their prime by going down the established professional route, he said.

Thursday's news must come as a blow to whatever remains of the pro-amateur Olympic contingent. Clearly the purists lost this fight long ago, but boxing was one of their last bastions.

That bastion is no more, swept away in the growing demand for world-class competition at the planet's premier athletic showcase.

In that way, this move was inevitable. As UFC and other mixed martial arts entities chip away at boxing's popularity, the sport could no longer pass on the potential exposure Olympic competition provides.

And yes, qualifying only amateurs equates to a pass in this age of rampant Olympic professionalism. Folks don't want to see the best amateurs anymore. They want to see the best, period.

Boxing didn't accomplish quite that with this move, and perhaps never will. But for a sport mired in anachronisms, this is at least a step forward.