Olympians slowly trickling into the pros
It’s been just about two months since the end of the Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. For boxing, it was the first under the reformed rule set implemented by AIBA in 2013 – no headgear and pro-style scoring with the 10-point-must system. As Olympic boxing typically goes, there were breakout performances across the board, as well as numerous controversies plaguing the sport. Typically many participating boxers turn professional after the Olympics, taking a step further in their careers, where they hope to turn their stints as Olympians into fame, money and glory as pros.
Some fighters will look to turn pro right away, after the Olympics, while some others will wait until they’ve figured out how, where, when and with whom their careers will be handled. After all, there are a lot of decisions to make that include getting with a trainer, manager and promoter.
This year, just two months after the Olympics, former Olympians are slowly trickling into the pro ranks. Some like Teofimo Lopez and gold medalist Robson Conceicao already have their debuts scheduled on the Jessie Vargas-Manny Pacquiao undercard in Las Vegas on Nov. 5. Top Rank Promotions signed them and Michael Conlan but Conlan won’t debut until March 17 of next year, taking time to develop and adapt his style under trainer Manny Robles. Lopez is trained by his father and Conceicao is staying at home in Brazil to train under Luiz Dorea, probably best known for training fighters in the UFC, like former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos, despite being a boxing trainer first and foremost.
Also making a quick jump to the pros is three-time Olympian Paddy Barnes from Ireland, who debuts on Nov. 5 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He is being managed by Matthew Macklin and, like his teammate Conlan, will start out at flyweight.
Espinoza Boxing signed Mexico’s light flyweight Olympian Joselito Velazquez to a managerial deal and Japan’s Teiken Promotions will be his promoter. It sounds like his debut could be on Dec. 17 at The Forum in Inglewood, California, where Bernard Hopkins will fight for the final time against Joe Smith Jr. Like Conlan, Velazquez will be trained by Manny Robles.
In Argentina, Alberto Palmetta was the latest Olympian to turn pro, signing promotional terms with Sergio Martinez’s Maravilla Box. His debut is expected to be in November in Buenos Aires.
Last weekend, Turkey’s Ali Demirezen debuted at heavyweight under the EC Boxing banner with Erol Ceylan in Germany.
Venturing further off the radar, Armenia’s Narek Abgaryan made his pro debut earlier this month in Moscow, winning a fourth round TKO in a six-rounder on Oct. 8 on a Punch Boxing Promotions card. Promoter Aram Davtyan specializes in promoting Armenian fighters in Russia. Abgaryan fought at super bantamweight, despite fighting at flyweight (114.6 pounds /52 kilograms) as an amateur.
Elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, Kazakh Olympian middleweight and former World Championships gold medalist Zhanibek Alimkhanuly will make his pro debut on Oct. 29 in the Kazakh capital of Almaty on the undercard of Kanat Islam’s homecoming fight against Patrick Allotey. The catch here is Alimkhanuly will also fight in the Kazakh National Championships next month. Such is boxing under the direction that AIBA is headed, as fighters now can basically switch back and forth between pro and amateur, even in fights outside of the AIBA realm. It’s essentially up to the discretion of the country’s national AIBA-recognized governing body and those who play ball with AIBA are going along with it.
It’s still quite early but as the months pass by, more and more announcements will surely be made of Olympians turning professional. In recent years, especially with the Americans, it seems like they’ve all gone pro quite quickly. In 2012, five American Olympians all made their debuts on the same card in November, about two-and-a-half months after the Olympics had concluded. You can thank Al Haymon for that. Jamel Herring debuted in December of that year, as did Jose Ramirez for Top Rank Promotions and Joseph Diaz Jr. for Golden Boy Promotions.
The list of Olympians who debuted as pros in 2012 is pretty extensive and it’s certainly possible that, within the next two-and-a-half months of 2016, the same can happen. However, things are a bit different now. Premier Boxing Champions inflating everyone’s dollar demands hasn’t helped, so fighters may not get the huge offers they were expect. UCNLive.com’s own Steve Kim has talked about the demands some Olympians are making and that they don’t match up with the reality of the business right now. The quick signings and debuts of four years ago happened when there surely was a lot more money to go around on the Haymon side of the street, which further grew and influenced the marketplace up until the present day.
A lot of Olympians will opt to take time off, go on vacation, gather their thoughts and then get down to business. Current IBF heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua made his pro debut 14 months after winning gold in London. Most of the British team has now gone back to train with their squad to get back in shape and work toward the future – wherever that may be. Boxers from other countries may not have that same luxury.
Many fighters will just elect to not go pro as they’re comfortable where they are in the amateurs and are well taken care of in their respective countries. Those who do take the plunge should be heard from over the next year, especially within the next few months and the start of 2017. Things are about to heat up.
You can follow Rian Scalia on Twitter @rian5ca.