Professional Athletes in Tokyo 2020

By Mauricio Sulaimán
President of WBC, Son of José Sulaimán

The ancient city of Tokyo, in Japan, is getting ready to receive and greet the entire world, to celebrate the most important global sporting event, the Olympic Games, which will be held in July and August of this year.

There are 33 sports which are part of the Olympic Games, including boxing, a sport that was one of the founders in the original Olympic games in Greece, and is part of modern games since 1904.

Unfortunately, amateur boxing has suffered from the administration of the International Boxing Association (AIBA), which had the exclusive rights and recognition by the IOC to administer amateur boxing worldwide and handle all qualifying competitions and Olympic Games.

Bad management, corruption, and multiple scandals led the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to suspend the recognition of that federation, but today amateur boxing, also known as the Olympic style boxing, continues suffering the consequences of the awful faults committed by AIBA.

Fortunately, the IOC confirmed the participation of boxing at the Tokyo Olympic Games and appointed an independent committee for the administration of the qualification process and the games themselves.

Unfortunately, the rules imposed by AIBA have been maintained for Tokyo 2020, including the acceptance of professional boxers to compete during the Olympic Games.

The World Boxing Council (WBC) has adamantly opposed this measure since 2013, when AIBA modified the regulation and took this step that is absolutely and totally rejected by the majority of the members of the boxing community worldwide.

Boxing is not a game, it is a contact sport.

The main problem in this matter is that there is no definition of the eligibility criteria regarding the level of competition of the fighters.

It does not matter if you are the most important professional world champion of today or if you are a rookie, just starting as pro, if you fight 4, 6, 8, or 10 rounds, or if you are an 18-year-old boy/girl who only has limited experience in the amateur field. It is far from being clear cut! There is no distinction whatsoever.

Let’s review how Baseball and Soccer have addressed the participation of professionals in the Olympic Games.

FIFA established very clear criteria, and the maximum age of the players is 23 years, and each team is allowed to take only three players over such age.

Major League Baseball (MLB) allows all teams and their branches to form the national teams for each country, however, the 40 players that are on the active roster of the MLB teams are excluded from participating in the Olympic Games.

If soccer and baseball can take care about the level of competition and promote the Olympic dream for young athletes, boxing has the firm obligation to do the same, but even more so because it is a contact sport, where an uneven fight can have tragic consequences.

Any professional boxer has the right to participate. It is in the competition rules that govern the Tokyo Olympic Games, but it goes directly against the basic safety principles of our sport.

The position of our organization has been crystal clear since the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. No WBC champion nor any boxer ranked in the WBC ratings is to compete in amateur boxing.

There is a total and absolute rejection of the vast majority of those who make up the world boxing community.

That is why our body in no way accepts that our world champions or the world ranked fighters by the WBC participate in the aforementioned competitions.


The WBC champions are the boxing elite, and those boxers in the rankings of our organization represent the values, principles, and the dignity of our sport.

To the best of my knowledge, most countries have not even considered the possibility of making their national team with professional boxers and continue to do their amateur competition and qualifying tournaments. The U.S.A., Japan, Russia, Canada, U.K., Philippines and so many other countries have rejected professionals in the Olympic Games.

There is nothing more sacred and humane than caring for and safeguarding the physical integrity of the boxer, as a single punch can change lives forever.

Thank you very much, I will happily accept any comment at [email protected]

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  • That are 8 year old boys who regulary beat the living crap out of grown men. This is a fact. So age has nothing to do with it. And should not.

  • Sullaiman talks about corruption and scandals. I guess he has never looked at not only his country, but his own organization. Soccer’s rules I don’t have much of a problem with, because first of all, the World Cup is much bigger than the Olympic title. Also it does not discriminate against any country, while the baseball one it does, but did not baseball end in the Olympics? Or has it come back.

    i am not against pros fighting in the Olympics. Would it not have been something had we seen Floyd Mayweather against Pacquiao in the Olympics when the were in there primes? Not saying it would have happened. Or how about today, Joshua and Wilder, even in a 3 round match. Also many boxers today are forced into long layoffs, which probably hinder there careers. Also what about countries like the Philippines, which do not produce medals, but with some boxers might? I remember the 76 olympics, when the US boxers basically were fighting pros (disguised as Amateurs) and because of there victories, and other factors, made boxing big again in the USA. With the Olympic exposure, and professionals there, could not new fans to the sport be born? Also lets look at some of the former world champions in boxing who did participate, that guy from Thailand lost pretty badly. So nothing is certain. Also that fighter from Cameroon, I think he fought either out of France or Australia.

    Also as far as safety, don’t they end these fights a little earlier than in pros, if a fighter is hurt? they could even end the fights early, if lets say all the judges have given two rounds to one fighter, that the other guy could not win the last round, and at least get a win, or even a draw on that judges score card.

  • I don’t understand this belief that boxing in the olympics are for amateurs. The olympic games are about the best athletes from each country competing against each other. Not the best amateur athletes.

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