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Professional boxers eligible to fight in Rio Olympics this summer

Anthony Joshua could feasibly defend his Olympic heavyweight title in Rio this summer if the changes happen
Image: Anthony Joshua won gold at London 2012 and is now IBF heavyweight champion

Professional boxers will be allowed to participate at the Olympic Games in Rio this summer, the sport's governing body has confirmed.

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) voted on Wednesday to make a rule change allowing professionals to compete, with 95 per cent of member federations in favour.

A total of 26 places in the Rio tournament will be made available at a qualifying event in Venezuela next month.

AIBA's plan has been criticised across the professional ranks as a move toward dangerous mis-matches between established boxers and inexperienced amateurs.

Great Britain's men won two gold medals at the London Games, thanks to super-heavyweight Anthony Joshua and bantamweight Luke Campbell, who could now theoretically defend their titles four years on.

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Former WBO cruiserweight champion Johnny Nelson says allowing professional boxers to compete at the Olympics is dangerous.

"This is a key part of my master plan and is a big step forward," said AIBA president CK Wu.

"At this stage, it is difficult to say how many professionals will compete in Rio. But there will be some. They will all have to go through the qualification system.

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"In my belief every athlete should have the right to go to the Olympic Games."

The British Boxing Board of Control has voiced its opposition to professional boxers competing in Rio

A statement read: "It is the belief of the British Boxing Board of Control that such a move is against the spirit of the Olympics, disrespectful to the many GB Amateur boxers who, throughout the Olympic cycle compete around the world in qualifying tournaments and ultimately dangerous.

"It is the hope of the British Boxing Board of Control and many within the professional sport in Great Britain and throughout the world that AIBA reconsider such a move that is not beneficial to the sport as a whole."

Joe Joyce is ready to move into professional boxing
Image: Joe Joyce is one of the 10 British boxers already qualified for the Olympics in Rio

A statement from GB Boxing has, though, left the door open for a professional to qualify for the Games. They have already secured 10 berths in Rio, but have openings at light-welterweight and welterweight.

"Our efforts are focused on preparing our boxers for the next qualification event in mid-June [in Baku] when we hope to qualify the remaining two places." the statement read.

But should those spots remain unfilled, the statement continued suggesting that professionals could be considered.

"We will look at the decision to change the rules governing the eligibility of professional boxers competing in AIBA sanctioned competitions as part of our selection process," it read.

"Selection for the final Olympic qualifier in early July will be based on the views of GB Boxing's Performance Team who will pick the boxer(s) whom they believe is/are most likely to be successful at the event and meet the qualification criteria for Rio."

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