By Tom Degun

Manny_Pacquiao_with_beltAugust 2 - Floyd Mayweather Junior, Manny Pacquiao (pictured) and Amir Khan could be eligible to compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro under radical new plans proposed by International Boxing Association (AIBA) President C K Wu, he has claimed.

Wu yesterday unveiled a new programme, entitled AIBA Professional Boxing (APB), to be launched in 2013, which will allow competitors to retain their Olympic eligibility despite boxing professionally.

A feature of the competition is that current professional boxers can have their Olympic eligibility restored if they compete in the first season of the APB and the AIBA President, who is also and International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, is confident some of the sport's biggest stars will be tempted to compete in the event because of the lure of Olympic glory.

"I hope we can attract the very best professionals out there," Wu told insidethegames.

"I don't know definitely if they will compete in AIBA Professional Boxing but I am hopeful they will because the Olympics is something very special and there is no greater prize in sport than the Olympic gold medal.

"The door is open to them.

"The chance to compete in AIBA Professional Boxing will only be open to current professional boxers for season one though with limited terms and conditions.

"After that we will have new stars in place.

"But I feel this move towards professionalism is very important for AIBA.

"Boxers have always felt that they have instantly had to turn professional after competing at the Olympics.

"We want to change that culture, show there is another way and this is now time for the sport to move forward."

Mayweather and Pacquiao, who are widely accepted as the best two pound-for-pound boxers on the planet, may well be tempted to compete for gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games for differing reasons.

Philippine Pacquiao turned professional as a very poor 16-year-old and never got a chance to compete at an Olympics while American Mayweather was left with bronze at the Atlanta 1996 Games after one of the most controversial decisions in the history of amateur boxing.

In his Olympic semi-final against Serafim Todorov of Bulgaria, Mayweather pummelled his opponent for the duration of the fight while barely being hit himself but the judges astonishingly gave the decision to the Bulgarian by a 10-9 decision.

The US team filed a protest over the Mayweather bout, claiming the judges were intimated by Bulgaria's Emil Jetchev, head of the boxing officials, into favouring Todorov.

Mayweather has gone on to become a five-division world champion and one of the greatest boxers of all-time but he has claimed the injustice at the Atlanta 1996 Games still haunts so there is a chance he will want to return to the Olympics to settle an old score and claim the one major prize in the sport that has eluded him.

Khan (pictured), meanwhile, first made his name in the 2004 Olympics in Athens when at the age of only 17 he captured the imagination of the British public by reaching the final before being beaten by Cuba's Mario Kindelan.

He turned professional shortly after Athens and is now the World Light Welterweight Champion.

Meanwhile Wu has stated that despite the move towards professionalism, there is no chance of an overturn on the controversial rule that will see professional trainers being banned from being in their fighters corners at the London 2012 Olympics.

The ruling means that Rob McCracken, the performance director for the British Amateur Boxing Association (BABA), will not be allowed in the corner of the GB boxers at the Olympics next year due to his links with WBC super-middleweight world champion Carl Froch.

"We must remember that AIBA Professional Boxing comes into place in early 2013 and not before then," said Wu.

"We will need over a year to prepare for that transition so there will be no changes to any of the ruling at the London 2012 Olympics.

"We have seen a real success with the World Series of Boxing [which was inaugurated last year and sees amateur boxers compete professionally] but we will only see the real move from AIBA towards professional boxing after London 2012."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
Augst 2011: AIBA President announces historic move into professional boxing