Boxing comment: The steady trickle of boxing Olympians towards the professional ranks continued this week when Thomas Stalker became the second Great Britain fighter from the 2012 Games to turn over.
In some respects Stalker’s decision is surprising given his relatively advanced age — 28 — a style that is clearly cut out for the vest-and-headguard branch of the sport and the lucrative options now available to stay amateur.
Or you could say that Stalker’s announcement was inevitable ever since he dropped a controversial quarter-final to Mongolia’s Munkh-Erdene Uranchimeg in London, storming out of the ring in an inconsolable rage.
Stalker has elected to join a number of his former amateur team-mates under Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom organisation and he will make his paid debut next month before a planned homecoming fight in Liverpool.
Middleweight bronze medallist Anthony Ogogo was the first London Olympian to confirm his long-term intentions when he announced he would go pro with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy organisation.
The news of Stalker and Ogogo will come as something of a blow to the British Amateur Boxing Association (BABA), though not half as big as the one that will follow when Anthony Joshua and Luke Campbell declare their intentions.
Although publicly the BABA remain hopeful of their two male gold medal winners sticking around for Rio — or at least this year’s World Championships — the smart money is on them moving on when their contracts expire in a few months’ time.
GB performance director Rob McCracken said: “It is disappointing for us that Thomas has decided his future lies away from the boxing squad, but he departs with our best regards and we wish him every success in his future career.”
The amateur code’s governing body AIBA continue to step up their bid to keep the major Olympians within their jurisdiction, with the imminent launch of the APB — so-called “Amateur Professional Boxing” — joining the World Series of Boxing franchises.
A number of Stalker and Ogogo’s former team-mates, led by Olympic silver medallist Fred Evans, compatriot Andrew Selby and Welshman Josh Taylor, have tied themselves to the WSB for the remainder of the current season.
The potentially lucrative and highly incentivised formula certainly fits the bill for the likes of Evans, who said: “It is great to fight as part of a team and it makes the decision of whether turn pro or not much more difficult.”
Evans and Selby are once again expected to be part of the GB Lionhearts line-up when they return to home action against the USA Knockouts at York Hall in Bethnal Green on January 17.
The card is set to throw up an mouth-watering rematch between old rivals Selby and Ireland’s Olympic bronze medallist Michael Conlan, who is signed up to a WSB contract with the Knockouts.
But the real test of the GB amateurs’ resolve will come at the end of the current WSB season with De La Hoya’s Golden Boy organisation flexing their muscles and eager to sign up more top British amateurs.
In spite of the increased incentives, there are bound to be more who decide to follow in Stalker’s footsteps. The good news for British boxing is that there will always be a ready supply of future Olympic heroes to take their place.
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