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    Fears for amateur boxers' safety as Aiba pushes for pros in Olympics

    Aug 30, 2013

    ONE good Haymaker definitely deserves another.

    A week ago, this corner wrote about the move of the International Amateur Boxing Association (Aiba) to convince the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to lift the prevailing ban on professional boxers in Olympic competition. There appears to be no let-up on the part of the Aiba to bring into fruition its proposal. Just recently, the Aiba changed its name to International Boxing Association, notably dropping the word "amateur" to give impetus to its drive to tear down the barrier between amateur and pro boxers. Surprisingly though, it still wants to be known as Aiba, arguably because it has yet to obtain the official approval of the IOC. Later this year, the Aiba will launch the Aiba Pro Boxing, a new professional boxing league. Also in the cards is the World Series of Boxing, a semi-professional team tournament that will form part of the Aiba's calendar.

    The relentless push of the Aiba for the participation of pro boxers in the Olympics has sparked debates among followers of the sweet science. From the time boxing debuted in the modern Olympics in 1904, only amateur pugilists have been allowed to take part in the quadrennial meet. If the Aiba's proposal gets the IOC's approval, pro boxers can see action in the Olympics as early as the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

    Opinions, however, vary on whether pro boxers should be allowed to step inside an Olympic ring. Reigning Orient Pacific Boxing Federation bantamweight champion Rolly Lunas, who also won two bronze medals at the Palarong Pambansa as an amateur boxer, told that pro boxers mixing it up with amateur counterparts in the same ring can bring about serious, if not fatal, consequences.

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    "Sa tingin ko po masyadong delikado pag yung mga pro boxers ay pinayagang lumaban sa Olympics," said Lunas. "Iba po kasi ang suntok ng pro at amateur at madali tamaan ang mga amateur boxers kasi forward-backward lang sila at hindi sila marunong ilubog ang ulo nila. Nag boxing din po kasi ako sa amateur kaya alam ko."

    As Lunas puts it, pro boxers are far too skilled and will handily beat up a boxer who comes from a country that strictly adheres to amateur boxing. For safety reasons, Lunas believes the status quo should just be retained.

    Former World Boxing Council (WBC) minimumweight title challenger Denver Cuello has a different take on the matter. The way Cuello sees it, the arrival of pro boxers in the Olympics will inevitably bury into oblivion amateur boxers.

    "Oko po yun (Aiba proposal) para sa amin (pro boxers), pabor sa amin ang laban," said Cuello. "Hindi naman po siguro madidisgrasya ang makakalaban namin kasi kapag nalaman ng ibang bansa na pro ang makakalaban nila eh puro pro na din ang papalabanin nila."

    Yet another interesting opinion comes from former WBC flyweight champion Sonny Boy Jaro. Jaro is in favor of allowing pro boxers in the Olympics, but avers that reigning world champions should be excluded as they are way ahead in terms of skills. Jaro wants the competition limited to pro boxers who are relatively new in the punch-for-pay business, noting that the skills of these boxers are not yet fully developed.

    "Sa tingin ko pwede naman po (ang pros sa Olympics)," said Jaro. "I-pwera lang siguro yung talagang world-caliber na kasi sigurado may kalalagyan sila (amateur counterparts)."

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    Noted boxing manager and writer Virgi Romano frowns on the idea of allowing pros in the Olympics, stressing that it will kill the Olympic dream of every young, aspiring amateur boxer. Boxing superstars like Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya all followed the same path to greatness: they started on the Olympic level and worked their way up to world champion status in the pro level. According to Romano, this pattern should not be changed because ingrained in it is the overall development of the boxer.

    "Kung ako lang, amateur na lang," said Romano. "Para kasing pag binuksan natin sa pro dini-deprive na natin ng pangarap yung mga amateur boxers natin."

    And so the debates continue. One thing about this issue on pro boxers in the Olympics, it cannot be settled with just one vicious haymaker. The pros and cons will definitely have to be weighed.


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