Road To The Olympic Games

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Mandy Bujold weighs in on Olympic eligibility of pro boxers

Canada's Mandy Bujold says the decision to allow professional fighters to compete at the Olympics could be detrimental to amateur boxing.

2-time Pan Am champ doesn't expect immediate impact in ring

Canadian boxer Mandy Bujold, centre, could face professional competition at the upcoming Olympics in Rio. (Charly Diaz Azcue/Getty Images)

By Benjamin Blum, CBC Sports

Mandy Bujold isn't concerned over the AIBA's announcement allowing professional boxers to compete at the Olympics.

However, she does think it could be detrimental to amateur boxing.

"I feel like it's going to ruin amateur boxing," Bujold told CBCSports.ca over the phone. 

"Why are people going to stay amateur if they have the opportunity to go pro and make money on fights, and then still come back to the Olympics?"

The 28-year-old from Kitchener, Ont., will compete in her first Olympics this August in the 51-kilogram division. She cites the Games as the main goal for amateur fighters.

"As of right now, people are staying amateur because they want to go to the Olympics. Taking that away and then offering it to professionals, I feel like is going to make a lot more amateur boxers transition into the professional ranks," Bujold said.

Boxing Canada president Pat Fiacco was in favour of the rule change according to a press release from the national organization. The AIBA vote passed with 84 federations voting to approve the rule and the remaining four abstaining.

"The Olympic Games are only every four years and our goal is to continue to increase the number of boxers Canada qualifies and more importantly to win medals." said Fiacco in the statement. Boxing Canada won't nominate any professional boxers until after the final Olympic qualifier in Baku, Azerbaijan on June 14-16.

Impact in the ring

One of the major concerns about the new allowance involves potentially pitting experienced pros against relatively green amateurs. Bujold thinks there should be rules in place to account for this. For example, Olympic men's soccer is strictly 23 and under except for three designated players (often vaunted professionals) who can be overage.

"There's always a first time for everything so I think they're going to see how it goes down this time around and I'm sure they'll make changes as need be," Bujold said.

Outside of the initial buzz, Bujold doesn't see pros immediately changing the Olympic boxing landscape.

"[AIBA's] making it seem like there's going to be all of these big names coming and trying to qualify for the Olympics, but I don't really see anyone with a big name like Manny Pacquiao putting their record on the line or their name on the line fighting amateurs at the Olympics," Bujold said.

"I think you might see some average fighters from the pros, but in my mind any good amateur will beat those guys."

Adapting to the Olympic tournament

Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson weighed in on the debate while touring China, saying that pros would be "foolish" to take on amateurs. For Bujold, the advantage lies in the structure of amateur boxing.

"The amateur system is so different. We fight in tournament-style all the time, that's what we're used to. We don't, you know, watch video and prepare months and months ahead of time for a specific opponent. So I think amateur boxers adapt quicker to a situation," she said.

Bujold thinks shifting from one 10- to 12-round fight versus several shorter bouts won't be a major hurdle. But, the quick turnaround could slow down pros in her opinion.

"Here you fight three rounds, then you cool down and you get a recovery or continue to make weight if you're having trouble making weight, then do it again the next day," Bujold said.

"It's just that up and down that I think we're more familiar with as amateurs."

As for the two-time Pan Am gold-medallist, she's not thinking of making the switch to pro boxing just yet.

"There's not really anything in professional boxing in Canada for women right now, money-wise or fight-wise. It would be really hard to find competition, especially with the experience I have," says Bujold.

"As of right now I do not have plans of going pro but you never know, things might change."

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