JOE WARD and David Oliver Joyce could book their places at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games by the new year after formally signing up to a new professional boxing tournament run by the previously-amateur international governing body, AIBA.
The reigning Irish Elite champions have vacated their national titles and will not compete in next year’s domestic competition after opting to join the new international APB (AIBA Pro Boxing) tournament, which will pit the top eight ex-amateur boxers in each weight division against each other.
Not only will they retain their Olympic eligibility, but APB fighters will also earn a purse for each fight which the Irish Daily Mail understands may be up to €5,000-10,000 per bout depending on their progress.
Ward and Joyce will also eligible to receive Irish Sports Council grants due to the fact that APB retains access to the Olympics. Ward currently receives a grant of €40,000 per year, while Joyce’s most recent funding was to the tune of €12,000 a year.
Both Irish boxers compete in their first bouts on Friday, the first of four fight dates in the inaugural APB season which culminates on January 23 when world champions will be crowned at 10 weights.
Finalists will claim an Olympic place, while fighters will also have a shot at qualification for Rio in next season’s APB.
Light-heavyweight Ward, a former European champion and World Championship medallist, meets Russia’s Nikita Ivanov in Sofia, Bulgaria on Friday. Joyce, a former European medallist, travels to the backyard of Kazakhstan’s Berik Abdrakhmanov (whom the Irish lightweight champ defeated this past summer) in Astana.
The tournament has been launched by the old amateur governing body AIBA, who are attempting to take control of world boxing by blurring the lines between the existing amateur and professional scenes.
Negotiations between the Irish governing body (IABA) and APB led to an agreement which will see Ward and Joyce enter the traditional amateur Majors (including the World and European Championships), which also offer routes to Rio.
*This article first appeared in the Irish Daily Mail (Saturday, Oct 18th); follow Ciarán Gallagher on Twitter: @Ciaran_Gally