Professional boxers are closing in on the chance to fight in the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, with the final obstructions to the major policy change set to be removed in the coming months.
That's according to AIBA president Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu, who told the Press Association (h/t ESPN.co.uk) his organisation believes it can push the necessary changes through in time for the 2016 Olympics:
We want the best boxers to come to the Olympic Games. It is AIBA's 70th birthday, and we want something to change -- not after four years, but now.
It is an IOC policy to have the best athletes in the Games, and of the international federations, AIBA is probably the only one without professional athletes in the Olympics.
We already have our own professionals, APB and WSB boxers, in the Games - [and] we will go further.
The AIBA is boxing's world governing body and has been working hard at getting professional fighters into the Olympics, per the Press Association.
With Olympic qualifications already well under way, major rule changes are needed, handing power to each national federation to select fighters to participate in the remaining qualifying tournaments.
Boxing is one of the few remaining Olympic sports that requires full amateur status for all its participants. Plenty of international stars, like heavyweights Wladimir Klitschko and Anthony Joshua, have worked their way up through the amateur ranks and used Olympic glory as a springboard to the professional stage.
But several professional fighters have expressed a desire to participate in the Olympics, including Great Britain's Amir Khan, who told the Statesman (h/t Edward Chaykovsky of Boxing Scene) he's a big supporter of the proposed changes:
The AIBA wants professional boxers to work with AIBA and they will allow them to go to Olympics. So imagine, I may have a second chance at the Olympics. That will be amazing and massive because everybody wants to go to Olympics.
I have heard that they are changing the rules and this would a great thing because pro boxers want to compete in the Olympics. I think it's very good that they are (thinking of) bringing amateur and professional boxers together because end of the day it's boxing and people want to watch good fights.
AIBA's attempts to bring professional fighters to the Olympics is highly controversial, however. Up until now, the Olympics provided young, talented fighters with a fantastic opportunity to go up against other talented amateurs, playing a key role in the development of these boxers.
By allowing professionals to fight at the Olympics, AIBA would effectively force these inexperienced youngsters to go head-to-head with seasoned veterans, which could be disastrous for their development.
Per Yuri Tarantin of Boxing Scene, Roy Jones Jr. is one of many who has spoken out against the changes:
I don't think this is a good idea. After all, the road to the Olympics is for the young. As a teenager, I wanted to represent my country at the Olympics. When I moved to professional boxing, it became my job. Everything comes in good time. Imagine your 19-year-old son gets sent to the Olympic games, and now he has to fight Wladimir Klitschko. My honest opinion, no [it shouldn't happen].
The Daily Star's Chris McKenna also isn't a fan:
Horrendous move by AIBA if they allow professionals into the Olympics.— Chris McKenna (@cmckennasport) February 24, 2016
Wu became president of AIBA in 2006 and has been trying to move the organisation away from its amateur status ever since. Per the Press Association, AIBA has officially dropped the word "amateur," no longer requires vests or headguards in events it sanctions and is already staging professional competitions.