Olympic star Lomachenko: Pro boxers should wait for Tokyo
LOS ANGELES — Two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko thinks professional boxers should wait four years to pursue their gold medal dreams.
The most successful amateur boxer in recent history voiced his support Thursday for the decision by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) to allow pros to compete in Olympic boxing tournaments.
But the Ukrainian star’s generally positive opinion comes with several reservations. Lomachenko believes current pros shouldn’t attempt to crowd into the Rio de Janeiro field, saying they don’t have time to understand the unique demands of Olympic fighting.
“I don’t think it would be a wise idea for any professional who just heard the news (to) run to the Olympic games right now,” Lomachenko said through a translator. “I think there needs to be more time to prepare for it.”
Lomachenko cited daily weigh-ins, three-round fights and multiple bouts in the 16-day tournament as major obstacles for any pros eager to crash the Olympic game. The Ukrainian star believes the world’s best boxers will make an impact on the Tokyo Olympics instead.
“I am all for it,” Lomachenko said about the AIBA’s decision. “I like the idea. If you take any other sport — basketball, tennis — they support professional athletes and they participate in the Olympic games, and it makes it that much stronger. I think in the 2020 Olympics there will be a lot more fighters because they will have a lot of time to prepare.”
But Lomachenko doesn’t expect to ever see the sport’s top stars with gold medals around their necks, saying they will never accept the weight cuts, frequent fights and short bouts necessary in Olympic competition.
“I do not think the big stars in boxing, like (Manny) Pacquiao and (Floyd) Mayweather, will take the risks in the Olympic games,” Lomachenko said. “When they go to the games, there is a chance the amateur can win, and they won’t want to take the risk.”
Few fighters know Olympic boxing better than Lomachenko, who went 396-1 as an amateur for Ukraine and won gold medals in 2008 and 2012. He was voted the Olympics’ top boxer in Beijing, and he won two world championships before a similarly dominant performance in London.
After considering a pro career with AIBA and fighting six times in the organization’s World Series of Boxing promotion, Lomachenko (5-1, 3 KOs) signed with Top Rank and won the WBO featherweight title in his third pro fight. He will go for a professional title in his second weight class when he takes on Roman Martinez on June 11 in New York for the WBO junior lightweight belt.
AIBA formally agreed Wednesday to support President C.K. Wu’s latest plan to turn the amateur sport’s governing body into a professional power. While Lennox Lewis and Ricky Hatton joined a long-running chorus of disapproval from fighters, regulatory organizations and promotional companies, a few pro fighters have spoken up in favor of the idea.
Amir Khan, who won a silver medal for Britain in Athens in 2004, curiously said he is eager to represent his father’s native Pakistan at the Rio Games.
If Khan actually does it, the decision could hurt his fan support at home in England while damaging his pro career. The World Boxing Council, an aggressive critic of AIBA’s professional aspirations, has vowed to bar pro boxers who compete in the Olympics from fighting for its belts for two years. Khan is the mandatory challenger for Danny Garcia’s WBC welterweight title belt.
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