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Sports

Professional boxers get green light to compete in Rio

Professional boxers could be set to compete at the summer Olympic Games for the first time. However, they'll have to get through a qualifying tournament to do so.

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) announced on Wednesday that it had approved a constitutional change that would allow professionals to compete for medals in Rio de Janeiro and at future summer Games.

This came after 84 of AIBA's 88 member associations voted in favor of the proposed change at a special meeting at the organization's headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

"This is a momentous occasion for AIBA, for Olympic boxing and for our sport as a whole, and represents another great leap forward in the evolution of boxing" AIBA President Wu Ching-Kuo said.

"We have embraced reform at AIBA over the past decade, making historic changes that have shaped the present health of boxing and precipitated its ongoing surge in popularity worldwide," he added.

Qualifying tournament in Venezuela

However, the professional boxers will only be eligible to take part in the Games if they earn one of 26 entry places at a qualifying tournament in Venezuela next month. Wu conceded that due to the short timeframe, and the fact that they wouldn't get paid it wasn't clear how many professionals would attempt to qualify.

"At the moment it is difficult to anticipate (how many), but there will be some who want to get qualification," he said.

Of the bigger names, former heavyweight champion

Wladimir Klitschko of Ukraine

and Philippine legend Manny Pacquiao, have in the past expressed an interest in competing at the Olympics. However, Klitschko's current focus is on preparing for his return bout against current world title holder Tyson Fury of Britain on July 9.

Pacquiao

said earlier this week that he now wants to concentrate on his career as a politician.

The Rio Games run from August 6 - 21.

pfd/ (AP, dpa, SID)

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