By Karolos Grohmann
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - Professional fighters will feature at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics as long as a constitutional change goes through in June, the president of the international boxing federation AIBA said on Tuesday.
Last month's decision by AIBA to begin procedures to open the door for pro boxers to compete alongside amateurs at the Games means the sport could get increased exposure with potentially big-name fighters taking part.
The move, though, has also earned a lot of criticism as many argue it would be unfair to the thousands of amateurs who have trained for the Games for years and now have to possibly make way for the pros.
"Professional boxers will be at Rio. I don't know how many but they will be," AIBA boss Ching-Kuo Wu told Reuters. "But they will have to go through the same procedures as everyone else.
"What we have to do is just amend the constitution of AIBA and we will do that at an extraordinary congress in June. The constitution is the only thing blocking this at the moment."
Boxers qualify for the Games in a series of regional events, many starting later this month.
Wu said after the constitutional amendment goes through, professionals could book their tickets for Rio at the final world Olympic qualifying tournament in Azerbaijan in mid-June.
There are doubts, however, over whether professional world champions would want to jeopardize their careers by taking part in three-round contests that bear little resemblance to paid bouts.
"Everyone will need to qualify, they will need to be picked by their own federations so there are things that need to happen first. They don't get in just like that," Wu said.
"What AIBA wants to do is open the door for professionals. Boxing is probably the only sport in the Olympics not represented by pros."
Under Wu's leadership, AIBA set up the semi-professional World Series Boxing in 2011 in which fighters earned money competing for city-based teams.
He also helped introduce women's boxing to the Olympics in London four years ago.
Amateur boxing has had its share of Olympic champions who have gone on to become top professionals, among them Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Vladimir Klitschko.
The Rio Games will be held in August.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)