PA Archive/Press Association Images Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan celebrate their Olympic bronze medals in 2012.

Olympic Games opened to professional boxers after landslide vote at AIBA congress

Until now, boxing at the Games had been restricted to the amateur level.

PROFESSIONAL BOXERS CAN compete at the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the sport’s governing body ruled in a landmark decision today.

Meeting at an extraordinary congress in Lausanne, Switzerland, 84 members of the International Boxing Association voted in favour of the move, while none voted against and four abstained.

Given that head protection will not be a requirement in Rio, the rule change will inevitably bring fears of mis-matches between powerful seasoned pros and amateurs who are so often younger fighters who later look to make the move into elite ranks. Though many, like super-bantamweight Carl Frampton, believe the short, fast format of Olympic boxing would favour amateur.

While the move is another obstacle to Ireland’s medal prospects like Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan, it could provide an opportunity for the likes of Los Angeles-based Ballybofey man Jason Quigley, Andy Lee or 2012 Olympic silver medallist John Joe Nevin.

The revolutionary decision, however, is unlikely to see boxing’s biggest names enter the Olympic ring in Rio.

For most professionals, like former heavyweight champion, Wladimir Klitschko, it is already too late to take part in a qualifying contest. The last tournament is in Venezuela in July, where 26 places will be available.

Inspirational one-armed surfer Bethany Hamilton claimed third in a pro event last night

‘Going to Rio would be an opportunity to say thank you to Ireland for accepting me’

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