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Why Don’t Professional Boxers Compete in the Olympics?

Last Updated: 04.07.22


Olympic and amateur boxing differences are many and, if you are curious, you can find more info here about them, especially in terms of professional quality boxing gear. Heavy MMA bags and freestanding bags for kickboxing can help you train, disregarding the boxing style you choose. Even despite that, the truth is that these two types of the same sport have grown to be very different, and this only serves to add fuel to the fire to those who criticize professionals competing in the Olympics.

Furthermore, this debatable topic is marvelously intertwined with the fact that amateur boxers are no longer allowed to wear headgear at the Olympics. While this is seen as a medically-based decision, the efforts to remove the differences between the two are often criticized by the public.

This is such a widely-debated topic that it has taken us quite a lot of time and research to be able to offer you the full picture. Keep on reading to find out where exactly this issue is heading, especially considering the fact that the 2022 Olympics are almost upon us.


Some needed information

If you were not aware of what we are going to say already, you’re probably not the biggest boxing fan in the world but fear not! Even the best of us have gaps and we are here to straighten this one out for you.

As we said, something happened right before the 2016 Summer Olympic Games which made the event maybe not better, not worse, but certainly a lot more interesting to watch in terms of boxing. For the first time ever, professional boxers were allowed to compete in the Olympic bouts.

Up until the summer of 2016, boxing and wrestling were the only two sports left which did not allow professionals to showcase their abilities on one of the biggest stages in the world. In June, the International Boxing Association, also known as A.I.B.A., overwhelmingly chose to let paid boxers compete in the Olympics.



In the context of the upcoming festivities, this was an obvious decision to make because they hoped it would help boost the ratings and draw in more people. The prospect of having Manny Pacquiao drop his suit and represent his native Philippines or Ukrainian star Wladimir Klitschko forgetting his age and coming back for one more representation was too enticing.

However, this positive side came with an immediate negative outburst from doctors, boxers, and promoters around the world. While the former argued against the safety regulations that would have to be changed, the other two were adamant against professionals who train every day squaring off against amateurs who have to fit in training, studies, and maybe even work.

The authorities argued that the Olympics have become a phenomenon that is more global than ever before and many people want to see the top stars in every sport compete once every four years, so it is every sport’s duty to make this happen. We are thus seeing a trend toward lowering the importance of the “amateur” level in a sport where it is crucially important.


Arguments against it

From a medical viewpoint, it’s fairly easy to see why professional fighters competing in the Olympics are a tough challenge. The differences in regulations really create a big problem in this context, and here’s why:

The main goal of a paid boxer is to inflict as many heavy blows as possible upon his opponent, injuring or incapacitating him. The main goal in an amateur boxing match, on the other hand, is to simply score points. Moreover, an amateur match lasts for 3 rounds while professional matches can even go for 15 rounds.

Amateur boxers have to wear headgear, which is banned in paid fights. All of these differences combined would serve to create more dangerous, more violent matches where fighters who train to be able to go for 10 or 12 rounds suddenly have 3 in which they can unleash their full power upon another fighter who is not wearing his usual protective headgear.

Maybe the only advantage an amateur boxer would have in this scenario is the fact that the Olympics require the use of 10 oz. gloves which have to be A.I.B.A certified and don’t allow heavier gloves to see a piece of the action.

Furthermore, this is a situation which will lead to bloodier fights and don’t forget these will be events watched by tons of people. A child tuning in to watch his brother compete may have to watch him get completely overpowered by a professional athlete making millions every year.


How do the pro boxers feel?

While legal now, many professionals still don’t like to talk about this or get involved because they prefer to keep the status quo and work around it. Since they only get a few fights every year, the last thing they want is their status questioned and people wondering whether they are good enough or not.

In order to gain Olympics eligibility, a paid boxer has to sign a 5-year contract with the A.I.B.A. and also compete on pro cards before the tournament. In spite of the organization trying to make some changes to entice these fighters into participating, professional boxers are really not flowing toward Olympian status.

If you think about it, this decision really makes sense. Imagine a pro getting outclassed in a 3-round bout by somebody who is considered an amateur of the sport! This would surely mean the end of that boxer’s career and he would become a laughing stock. On the other hand, with the regulations the A.I.B.A. has put in place, losing to an amateur does not seem that unlikely.

Therefore, it’s understandable why professional boxers usually opt-out of this high risk – low reward maneuver and seek to protect their image. Only 3 of them participated in the 2016 Olympics, even though this can partly be attributed to the fact that the announcement came very late and most teams were already established.


Differences between them

In the following, we want to identify some key differences between the two types of boxing matches just to give you an accurate picture of what pro fighters will have to go through, even though they are considered favorites.

To begin with, as we said, head guards are prohibited in professional boxing and mandatory in the amateur one. The gloves can be freely agreed upon in pro matches while amateurs have to wear – 10 oz – A.I.B.A. certified gloves. Vaseline is allowed during paid matches as an additional way of protecting the boxers while amateur wrestling bouts forbid it completely.

The referee can stop the fight under amateur rules while professional ones only admit outside intervention in the case of a Technical Knockout (TKO). Also, paid boxers will go toe to toe with pretty much everybody while an amateur’s objectives are to land as many correct scoring blows as possible and they can only compete with their peers.

Last but not least, the role of the referee is strikingly different. Professional-match referees are there simply to ensure the fight is fair while the ones in amateur bouts focus on protecting the boxers and making sure both of them leave unscathed.



On the verge of the 2022 Olympics

Historically, the Olympics were always used as a stepping stone that would-be professionals had to climb to get to the big leagues (See, for instance, Michael Jordan). While the low “professionals” attendance rate at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro was mainly considered to be an effect of the late announcement, we shall see where Tokyo 2022 leads us.

Will that be the place where many paid boxers choose to basically risk their whole careers in order to achieve a little bit of extra glory? Did the early exits of the 3 professionals who competed in 2016 scare the rest of them? We shall see, especially because that 5-year contract period is pretty long.




Leave a comment



January 18, 2020 at 9:48 pm

No this should not be allowed , the amateur ranks are there to help boxers grow and develop . It is somethong to work towards and if pros step into the olympic ring amateurs will step out .

This is a sinple money grab from the olympic commity who would stand go gain alot if bog names enter their ring , who wouldnt want AJ , Fury , wilder and ruiz for 3 fights each while pawing nothing but a fake gold , siler and bromze medal ?

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