Boxing
Getty Images

Professional boxers can compete at Rio Olympics

3 Comments

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Professional boxers can compete at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, if they qualify.

An overwhelming vote by the sport’s governing body, known as AIBA, on Wednesday allows any boxer to try to qualify next month and earn selection for their national team.

“At the moment it is difficult to anticipate (how many), but there will be some who want to get qualification,” AIBA President C.K. Wu said after a special meeting of member federations.

AIBA’s plan, however, has been criticized across the professional ranks as a move toward dangerous mismatches between established boxers and inexperienced amateurs.

Although Manny Pacquiao had been slated to be a superstar attraction in Rio, he decided last week to focus on his political career after being elected a senator in the Philippines.

Other big names could come from Russia. The head coach of that country’s Olympic boxing team, Alexander Lebzyak, said it was possible Russia could enter two reigning professional world champions: Sergei Kovalev and Denis Lebedev.

Of 88 federations who came to Lausanne for the single-issue meeting, 84 approved the rule change less than 10 weeks before the first bouts in Rio. The other four members abstained, AIBA said.

A total of 26 entry places can be earned at an Olympic qualifying tournament in Venezuela next month, AIBA said.

Though few pros are likely to make the Rio lineup at such short notice, the longer term aim is letting paid fighters know they should target the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

“These are milestones for Tokyo. This is what is happening now,” Netherlands federation president Boris van der Vorst said.

Wu has consistently pushed to extend AIBA’s influence over professional boxing, and already relaxed rules to allow paid fighters to compete at the Olympics.

In 2013, eligibility for Rio was given to boxers who are signed to AIBA-run professional tournaments.

AIBA spokesman Nicolas Jomard rejected the idea that pro fighters would dominate the amateurs, saying the amateurs benefit from their quickness and the three-round format, a view espoused last week by former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson.

“AIBA boxers have gone through a stringent qualification,” Jomard said. “So they’re the best around. A lot of them have already sparred with some of these professionals. So the disparity of level, the boys against men tonality, is a misjudgment. All the talk of disparity of level is just not true.”

It is unclear how many professional fighters would be attracted by an Olympic tournament — fighting up to five times over two weeks and going unpaid.

Lebzyak, the Russian coach, told the Tass news agency that a decision on its team would be taken later this month after an amateur qualifying tournament in Azerbaijan. Kovalev is the WBA, IBF and WBO champion at light heavyweight, and Lebedev is the WBA and IBF champion at cruiserweight.

Some pros would likely not meet the demands of already being in a testing regime with their national federation approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

“We know some of them have been but we can’t tell exactly how many,” said Wu, ruling out awarding wild-card entries to high-profile names.

Wu defended AIBA’s doping record, which has been criticized for little or no out-of-competition testing since the 2012 London Olympics.

“We have tremendous change, a lot of effort,” Wu said, adding that all boxers in Rio would comply with WADA testing standards ahead of the games. “These people have to be subjected to the full testing.”

Under Wu’s leadership, AIBA added women’s boxing at the 2012 London Olympics and removed protective headgear from men’s amateur fights.

“This is part of the vision,” Wu said of the latest vote. “I would say it is in my masterplan.”

MORE: Mayweather has no interest in Olympic boxing

Anna van der Breggen is first cyclist to sweep road world titles in 25 years

Anna van der Breggen
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen added the road race crown to her time trial victory at the world road cycling championships, becoming the second rider in history to win both events at the same edition.

“This is, for me, pretty good so far,” she said.

Van der Breggen, the Rio Olympic road race champion, won after a solo attack with more than 25 miles left of an 89-mile course in Imola, Italy, on Saturday.

She prevailed after more than four hours of racing by 80 seconds over countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten, the 2019 champion. Van Vleuten raced nine days after breaking her left wrist in a Giro Rosa crash.

Italian Elisa Longo Borghini took bronze in the same time as van Vleuten after losing a photo-finish sprint. Lauren Stephens was the top American in 11th.

Full results are here.

The race lacked American standout Chloé Dygert, who crashed out of the time trial while leading on Thursday and required leg surgery.

Van der Breggen joined Frenchwoman Jeannie Longo as the only male or female cyclists to sweep the time trial and road race at a single worlds. Longo did so in 1995 at age 36.

Van der Breggen, 30, said in May that she will retire after the 2021 Olympic season.

It will be the end of one of the great cycling careers. She is now a three-time world champion and nine-time world medalist to go along with her road race gold and time trial bronze in her Olympic debut in Rio.

Worlds conclude Sunday with the men’s road race. A TV and stream schedule is here.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: A more equal future for women’s cycling? Lizzie Deignan has high hopes

2020 French Open TV, live stream schedule

Leave a comment

Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams can each tie Grand Slam singles titles records at the French Open, with daily live coverage among NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel.

NBC coverage starts Sunday with first-round action at Roland Garros, its 38th straight year covering the event. Tennis Channel airs the majority of weekday coverage. Peacock, NBC Universal’s new streaming service, has middle weekend broadcasts.

All NBC TV coverage alo streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Nadal is the primary men’s storyline, favored to tie Roger Federer‘s male record of 20 major titles and extend his own record of 12 French Open crowns. Federer is absent after knee operations earlier this year.

The Spaniard’s primary competition is top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the 2016 French Open champion whose only defeat in 2020 was a U.S. Open default for hitting a ball that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Williams bids again to match the overall Grand Slam singles mark of 24 held by Australian Margaret Court. Williams, a three-time French Open champion, lost in the third and fourth round the last two years and is coming off a U.S. Open semifinal exit.

The women’s field is led by 2018 champion Simona Halep but lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: How Jay-Z, Beyonce helped Naomi Osaka come out of her shell

French Open TV Schedule

Date Time (ET) Network Round
Sunday, Sept. 27 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
12-3 p.m. NBC
Monday, Sept. 28 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Tuesday, Sept. 29 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Wednesday, Sept. 30 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Thursday, Oct. 1 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Friday, Oct. 2 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
Saturday, Oct. 3 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Sunday, Oct. 4 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Monday, Oct. 5 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Tuesday, Oct. 6 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Oct. 7 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Thursday, Oct. 8 5 a.m.-2 p.m. Tennis Channel Women’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Friday, Oct. 9 5 a.m.-4 p.m. Tennis Channel Men’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Saturday, Oct. 10 9 a.m. NBC Women’s Final
Sunday, Oct. 11 9 a.m. NBC Men’s Final