Lennox Lewis: Pro boxers at Olympics 'preposterous'

Lennox Lewis: "If Anthony Joshua had boxed Wladimir Klitschko at the Olympics, it wouldn't have been fair for him." Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Former World and Olympic champion Lennox Lewis has branded a proposal to allow professional boxers to compete at the Olympics "preposterous".

The British fighter won super-heavyweight gold for Canada at the 1988 games in Seoul before turning professional, and fears the potential safety consequences of the plan.

Lewis told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme: "I kind of think it is preposterous, to a certain degree. The amateur system is based for amateurs -- this is why we put in the headgear to protect them because they have a lack of experience and they are not that primed as a professional yet.

"Now all of a sudden, you get a world champion or somebody in the top 10 as a professional now going against basically an amateur, somebody with a lack of experience -- I don't look at that as being fair."

That disparity in experience is a major concern for Lewis, who used current British world champion Anthony Joshua, who won the gold medal in the same super-heavyweight division at the 2012 Olympics in London to illustrate his concerns.

He said: "Anthony Joshua went to the Olympics -- all of a sudden, if he had boxed Wladimir Klitschko at the Olympics, it wouldn't have been fair for him because Vladimir had his time at the Olympics and was able to go through that learning and then all of a sudden now, has 70 fights as a professional .

"Now it's going to be a situation where he is going to be boxing for a gold medal as a professional boxer with that type of experience going against a kid that's 18 with, let's say, 10 international fights.

"It's just such a broad line there that I don't really understand it."

Had the system, which has been proposed by the International Boxing Association AIBA, been in place in Lewis' day, he could have found himself in direct competition in South Korea with then world champion Mike Tyson, a challenge for which he freely admits he would not have been ready at that point in his career.

He said: "For me, the Olympics was my goal that I wanted definitely to complete in my lifetime and to me, the Olympics showed me that that was really my gold ticket into the professional ranks.

"I may be the best amateur in the world by winning the Olympics -- now I really have to empty my cup, just like all Olympians do when they decide to turn pro, they empty their amateur cup and now they start learning as a professional, different scoring, a different type of boxing, longer rounds.

"It's just a different type of boxing all together, so for them to marry the two, I don't think they marry well.

"When I saw Mike Tyson winning the heavyweight championship of the world, all I thought to myself was, 'Me and this guy used to spar at one time, I know everything about him and he's a professional now'.

"I was actually glad that didn't happen at that point because I was able top learn my professional boxing with some great trainers and was able to come back and beat Mike Tyson as a professional."