FORMER world middleweight boxing champion Steve Collins has thrown his support behind the decision to allow professional boxers to compete at the Olympic Games this summer.
During the week, the International Boxing Association (AIBA) approved a constitutional change after 84 of 88 delegates voted in favour of allowing professionals to take on amateurs in Rio.
Irish Athletic Boxing Association president Pat Ryan was one of those to vote in favour of the move, which has been widely condemned by the boxing fraternity.
Pros boxers being allowed to fight in Olympics is ridiculous! They're two different sports. It's like a badminton player playing tennis
— Carl Frampton MBE (@RealCFrampton) June 1, 2016
Let me be clear. Pro boxers and removal of headgear in Olympic and amateur boxing is a BAD idea. VERY disappointed in @AIBA_Boxing ??????
— Lennox Lewis (@LennoxLewis) June 1, 2016
AIBA are gonna ruin the magic of the Olympics for the hard working young amateurs. #boxing
— Dave Coldwell (@davidcoldwell) June 1, 2016
However, Collins – who won 26 Irish titles as an amateur before turning professional in Boston – does not see what uproar is about and has warned the pros not to expect an easy ride because of the diverse styles.
“If professionals want to go and compete in amateur competitions, why not?” the 51-year-old told The Irish Post.
“Amateur boxing is boxing, professional boxing is fighting. There have been great amateurs who have won gold medals who didn’t make it in professional boxing because it’s a different sport – it’s 12 rounds, that’s a long time being in there, and there’s more punishment because it’s fighting.
“At the same time, there’s plenty who didn’t shine as amateurs yet they were cut out for the professional game and were very successful without having done much in the amateurs because they had a different style.”
With amateur boxers generally taking four years to prepare and qualify for the Olympics, Collins concedes the timing of the decision is wrong.
“I think they should perhaps hold it off until the next Olympics to give people time to enter competitions and get themselves an amateur rating,” he said.
“But if professional boxers take on rated amateurs who have Olympic qualification and beat them, then they should take their place.
“But I agree it shouldn’t be in these upcoming Olympics, it should be the next Olympics to give people more time to adjust to it and prepare for it.”