Legendary boxing promoter Bob Arum has slammed as “total madness” a proposal to allow professional boxers to fight against amateurs in the Rio Olympics.
The 84-year-old US promoter, who has arranged fights for ring greats from Muhammad Ali to Manny Pacquiao in a career spanning more than 50 years, believes boxers could be seriously hurt if the plan by the sport’s governing body for amateurs, the International Boxing Association (AIBA), goes ahead.
“To have guys who are experienced professional fighters against these amateurs, you’re looking at serious, serious injuries. It’s total madness,” Arum told reporters in Hong Kong.
“This is not like basketball where all you do is lose, a guy dunks over you, or baseball or other sports like that. This is a hard sport and guys can get hurt,” Arum said.
“Imagine putting in a 147lb kid novice from Nigeria, who could be a great prospect, with Manny Pacquiao? It’s ludicrous. It’s silly,” he added.
Arum was in Hong Kong to preside over local unbeaten Rex “The Wonder Kid” Tso’s latest fight, where he took his record to 19-0 by stopping experienced South Korean super flyweight Young Gil-bae in four rounds to pave the way for a potential world title fight early next year.
AIBA first floated the radical proposal to allow professionals into the Rio Olympics a few months ago and is to put it to the vote at its congress in Lausanne, Switzerland, early next month — just two months before the Games.
“To start it a couple of months before an Olympiad, are they crazy?” Arum said. “What about these kids who have trained for years for their Olympic chance?”
Arum clearly sees the AIBA’s move as an attempt to secure a larger portion of the riches on offer in the lucrative professional game, and warned the AIBA it would be better off serving the amateur side of the combat sport.
“The AIBA people have this idea that, like FIFA in football, they can take over the whole sport, which they can’t, and they shouldn’t,” Arum said.
“They are trying to take over boxing. If they want to take some aspects of professional boxing, such as scoring systems, and incorporate it into amateur boxing then that’s OK, but they should confine themselves to amateurs,” he said.
“They realize that the big money is in professional boxing, but they are going to encounter tremendous difficulty,” Arum added.
One boxer on the undercard of the Tso fight was London 2012 Olympic gold medalist Ryota Murata, who took his unbeaten record to 10 straight wins with a fourth-round knockout of Brazil’s Felipe Santos Pedroso.
However, the Japanese middleweight told reporters he would be attracted by the prospect of stepping back into an Olympic ring against amateurs — but only in front of his home fans.
“That’s something I’d like to consider for Tokyo 2020,” said Murata, who admitted that most boxers in the professional ranks did not share his ambition.
“Not too many boxers are showing interest, because it is not realistic, there are different rules and regulations,” Murata said, although he added that he did not agree that fighters might get hurt.
“I don’t think it’s dangerous,” Murata said. “There are a lot of good fighters in the amateurs and you’re only fighting three rounds.”
Arum understood Murata’s viewpoint, but was sticking to his guns.
“These guys are in a position where, of course, they say they would fight for their country,” Arum said.
“But will they fight for nothing? Are you crazy? They’re professionals,” he said. “But that’s not the point. The point is that people can and will get hurt.”
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