Inside Lines: Professionals in, seconds out is an Olympic boxing farce

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The Independent Online

Imagine this scenario. It is Rio 2016, and a 29-year-old Amir Khan, the now undisputed welterweight champion of the world, enters the ring in an attempt to win the Olympic gold medal that just eluded him in Athens 2004.

Later the same evening, in a super-heavyweight bout, Mike Tyson comes out of retirement to make his Olympic debut at 50, going on to contest the final with his namesake Tyson Fury. Farcical? So it may seem, but the possibility is real under plans to allow professional boxers to com-pete in the Rio Games.

The AIBA, amateur boxing's international governing body, are changing the rules to allow boxers to compete without headguards or vests under a pro-style scoring system, and their president, Dr C K Wu, who has received encouraging noises from the International Olympic Committee, says: "I hope we can attract the very best professionals."

Now I am all for removing the word amateur from boxing – the only Olympic sport still with that anachronistic prefix – and if Rafael Nadal and now Tiger Woods can compete in the Olympics, why shouldn't Manny Pacquiao? But is this really what the doctor ordered? Has he thought it through?

And if so, how does he reconcile the fact that, while Britain's WBC super-middle-weight champion Carl Froch would theoretically become eligible to compete in the Olympics, his long-time trainer Robert McCracken would be barred from his corner as the AIBA, while embracing professional boxers, are refusing to rescind their scandalously petty ban on coaches such as McCracken, who is in charge of Team GB – because of their association with pro boxing! Pro's in, but seconds out. How hypocritical is that?

What a balls-up!

A PR missive on behalf of adidas advises us that the official football for the Olympic tournament is to be known as Albert – "after Albert Hall, cockney rhyming slang for ball."

Cor blimey guv! Do leave orf. You've gotta be 'aving a laugh. As a Cockney born and bred I can tell you that's a load of orchestras (orchestra stalls – balls, to you mate). They've got the wrong Hall. Cockney for ball (singular) is a Henry – after Henry Hall, the wartime bandleader.

Apparently the naming Albert was the result of a competition. The winner came from Derbyshire, which suggests the nearest he has been to Bow Bells is Buxton.

The gentleman promoter

Sad that as the Albert Hall becomes re-licensed for boxing we should record the passing of the man who made it such an iconic fight venue.

Mike Barrett has died at 84, and at his funeral in Sussex last week was rightly lauded as "the gentleman promoter". For a quarter of a century from the early Sixties he was one of the most powerful figures in the game, a debonair, square-dealing father of six once labelled "the acceptable face of boxing".

Largely in partnership with the now ailing Mickey Duff, Barrett promoted more than 150 shows at the Royal Albert Hall,with top British fighters such as Howard Winstone, John H Stracey, Charlie Magri, John Conteh, Joe Bugner and Frank Bruno. He quit the sport in disgust in 1987 after a farcical fight in Cannes involving Bruno and the hopeless American Chuck Gardner, describing it as "one of the most disgraceful mismatches in boxing history". He suffered a heart attack at his home in Cyprus.

A turn-off for Sky

Evidence that Sky are loosening – rather than losing – their grip on big-time boxing is that rivals Prime Time have secured the pay-per-view rights for the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz world welterweight title fight in Las Vegas on 17 September.

Sky did not bid and their sports chief, Barney Francis, confirms the channel are so disenchanted with David Haye's last two fights there will be no more Box Office screenings until at least 2013. Mayweather is due in London tomorrow to promote Prime Time's coup.

Sochi feels the chill

Zhemchuzhina Sochi, the latest Russian League club to fold because of financial problems, were due to move into Sochi's new Olympic Stadium after the 2014 Winter Games. A chilling thought for West Ham?