Los Angeles - The International Boxing Federation (IBF) will punish pro boxers who compete in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics by removing them from the sanctioning body's rankings or vacating their titles.
The IBF announced its decision on Monday, joining the World Boxing Council (WBC) in an aggressive campaign by sanctioning bodies to keep prominent pros out of the Olympics.
Citing safety concerns that amount to violations of its principles of sportsmanlike competition, the IBF said it will remove any professional Olympic fighters from its rankings for a year. The IBF would also take its title belt away from a champion fighting in the Olympics.
"Making this decision was not difficult for us," IBF President Daryl Peoples said. "We felt it was important for the IBF to get involved and take a stance against professional boxers competing against amateurs due to safety concerns, as part of our commitment to this sport is to promote the health and well-being of the boxers."
The International Boxing Association (AIBA) recently decided to allow professional boxers to attempt to qualify for Rio, but the organisation's hopes for a tournament featuring big names have been unreleased to date. No prominent boxers have accepted the invitation, with just one Olympic qualifying event remaining in Venezuela next month.
The IBF's champions include heavyweight Anthony Joshua, light heavyweight Sergey Kovalev, middleweight Gennady Golovkin and welterweight Kell Brook. None of the fighters is considering an Olympic run, and Joshua has called the plan "dangerous."
While some fighters from both the pro and amateur ranks have spoken up in favor of the change, many more boxers and trainers have strongly condemned the plan, seeing danger in pitting seasoned pros against amateurs.
The WBC already announced its intention to impose a two-year ban on Olympic fighters within its upper rankings.
Although Olympic qualifying continues next month, the likelihood of any prominent pros fighting in Rio appears to be slim. Most major boxers have already decided not to attempt it, including Manny Pacquiao, Wladimir Klitschko, Kovalev, Golovkin, Andre Ward, Amir Khan and two-time gold medalists Vasyl Lomachenko and Zou Shiming.
Lomachenko believes the field will look much different at the Tokyo Games in 2020 when professionals have more time to adapt to the short rounds, frequent fights and daily weigh-ins of the Olympic-style sport.