How to Become an Olympic Boxer

International Qualifying Required for Olympic Boxing

Boxers fighting in a ring with referee
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Winning a Gold Medal at the Olympics is the greatest achievement possible in amateur boxing. A successful showing in the Olympics has also proven to be the best possible way to launch a professional boxing career (much better than 'paying your dues' on the pro circuit). So how does an amateur fighter go about qualifying for the Olympics?

Governing Bodies for Boxing

The International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) is the international governing body for boxing.

USA Boxing is the national governing body for boxing in the USA.

How Boxers Qualify for the Olympics or Olympic Team

Unlike most other Olympic sports, nations cannot simply field their top competitors in boxing. The slots are limited to 250 male in 10 weight classes and 36 female in three weight classes. Because of this limitation, it is not enough to qualify in a national tournament. Boxers must also qualify at worldwide or international regional tournaments to earn a slot.

The reason for the limitation is that there would be too many boxing matches at the Olympic Games per athlete. Headgear has been eliminated, and the athletes might sustain too many blows to head in too short of a period with multiple matches. Professional boxers are also able to regain eligibility, increasing the competition for slots.

For the 2016 Olympic Games, these were the qualifying tournaments:

  • World Series of Boxing (WSB) rankings: The top two boxers at the end of the season in most of the weight categories, and the top ranked boxer in the lowest and highest weight categories qualified.
  • AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) World Ranking: Boxers qualified if they were the champion and top challenger in each weight category as of September 2015.
  • AIBA World Boxing Championships: Qualifying slots are earned by the top boxers in each weight category.
  • Regional Olympic Qualifying Events: These are held in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania, and Europe. The number of boxers accepted from any region depends on the strength of boxing in the region.
  • AIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament: One to five qualifying slots are awarded per weight class.
  • APB and WSB Olympic Qualifier: Three qualifying slots are awarded for most weight classes, and one slot for the two heaviest classes.

Boxers who won the US Olympic Trials but did not place high enough at the AIBA World Boxing Championships had to requalify at the USA Boxing National Championships open reload tournament before advancing to a final Olympic qualifying event.

Olympic Boxing

There are ten men's and three women's boxing events, one for each weight category. A country can enter a maximum of one athlete per weight category. The host nation is allocated a maximum of six places (if not otherwise qualified).

At the Olympics, boxers are paired off at random (without regard to ranking) and fight in a single-elimination tournament. However, unlike most Olympic events, the loser in each semi-final bout receives a bronze medal.