The announcement that professional boxers will be able to compete at the 2016 Rio Olympics is certainly controversial, but is undeniably one of the most interesting developments in the amateur game in a long time.
It remains to be seen whether any pros feel the need to try for a medal and can stand the pay cut and taking the hard-earned Olympic spot of a young amateur.
2016 Olympic boxing, starting on Saturday, Aug. 6, is just about two months away. Here are a few pro fighters who may be up the Olympic challenge more than most.
Acelino ‘Popó’ Freitas
Although not heard of much since his bouts with Joel Casamayor and Diego Corrales in the early 2000s, Freitas (pictured above, via) retained a title at junior lightweight for four years, before claiming the WBO lightweight title.
Born into poverty, Freitas is now a politician and a national hero in Brazil.
It seemed that he ended his career on a high in 2012 when he came out of retirement and knocked out undefeated prospect Michael Oliveira, a man 14 years his junior.
However, a second comeback and KO against another young fighter last August may mean he’s not done yet.
Still fighting at 40, he clearly has the heart to compete in the Olympics. The fact that he is still calling out Pacquiao shows he has the guts.
But what might tempt him the most could be the chance to win an Olympic medal as his country hosts its first Olympics.
Brazil have only won four Olympic boxing medals – one silver and three bronze. How great would it be for an aging national hero to capture the first gold at home?
Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
What do you give the man who has everything? Mayweather has cemented his status as the greatest fighters of his generation after his defeat of Pacquiao.
Yet with talk of a bout against MMA fighter Conor McGregor, he is clearly yearning for the adrenaline and the attention. A gold Olympic medal to add to the trophy case has to be alluring.
His bronze medal from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics must serve as a bitter reminder of the blip in his glittering career. 19-year-old Mayweather lost out to Bulgarian Serafim Todorov in a controversial semi-final decision.
Mayweather and his team protested that he was robbed due to the computer scoring system – or biased judges – but he left the games in third place, something which clearly didn’t sit well.
“Everybody knows Floyd Mayweather is the gold-medal favorite at 57 kilograms,” Mayweather said afterward. ”In America, it’s known as 125 pounds. You know and I know I wasn’t getting hit. They say he’s the world champion. Now you all know who the real world champion is.”
The only question is – could “Money” Mayweather bear to fight for free?
At 34, Orlando Cruz is approaching the end of his career and his dream of winning a world title seems as distant as ever.
An Olympic for Cruz would be extra special as he would become the first openly gay world title-holder in the sport’s history. He is keen to point out, though, that he wants to be defined by his skills and not his sexuality. “I’m a boxer first, I want to be a world champion and remembered that way and not as a gay boxer,” he said.
Nonetheless, Cruz along with bisexual Olympic women’s champion Nicola Adams and transsexual promoter Kellie Maloney are encouraging positive discussion of LGBT issues in the boxing world.
His native Puerto Rico has won only eight Olympic medals in its history – six were for boxing, the last of which was 20 years ago.
Cruz competed in the 2000 games in Australia but did not take home a medal. Could his experience as a pro help him to bring home his country’s first Olympic Gold medal in any sport this time?
The current heavyweight champ tried and failed to fight for two countries at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
After Fury was beaten by David Price in 2006, Price was offered the only super-heavyweight spot on the U.K. boxing team and went on to win a bronze medal. After also failing to represent Ireland at the games, Fury turned professional aged 19.
Eight years on and Price’s career is floundering with little sign of stardom in the future, while Fury is on top of the world following his defeat of Wladimir Klitschko.
In some ways losing out on the chance to go to Beijing may have been the best thing ever to happen to Fury. If he wasn’t forced to turn pro he may not be the lineal heavyweight champ now looking forward to, at the very worst, the biggest payday of his life in the Klitschko rematch on July 9.
A man of Fury’s showmanship and courage (or recklessness…) is just the type to try for a gold medal less than a month after facing Klitschko again.
This writer just hopes he fights for Ireland in the country’s best Olympic sport by miles. The last men’s gold medal was won in 1992 when Fury was just days away from his fourth birthday.
To celebrate pubs across Ireland dropped the price of beer to that of 1956. Thanks to Michael Carruth you could buy a pint of Guinness for four pence (6 US cents!) on that day. If that’s not a good reason to do it, Tyson, then I don’t know what is.
Roy Jones, Jr.
Roy Jones, Jr., a legend as a pro, was the victim of one of the worst robberies at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
After sailing through his opponents, Roy Jones lost out on a gold medal to South Korean fighter Park Si Hun due to corrupt judges. Two of the judges were later banned for life, while there were rumours that all three had been seen accepting money from a South Korean millionaire.
The fight was so clear cut that even Park himself admitted that Jones had won.
”He wasn’t supposed to say it, but he told me he could not believe what the judges were doing to me,” Roy Jones said.
Yet Jones was forced to make do with the silver medal and the small comfort that the Olympic scoring system was changed after the fight (Jones apparently outpointed Park 86-32).
The silver medal is now at his mother’s home in Florida. Jones calls it “a symbol of strength; it shows nothing can hold you down.”
I don’t think there is a boxing fan that wouldn’t wish a last great moment for Jones. His last fight, in March, was against an MMA fighter who won the right to face Jones following a vote on Facebook. A long way from Jones’ glory days.
At 47, Jones may be past his prime, but is it impossible that his experience could help him achieve an Olympic gold medal at last?