Anyone can turn professional – just look at Sonny Bill Williams, say Australia’s amateur boxers who head to Hobart this week on their path to the London Olympics.
Australian boxing team captain Luke Jackson says the Olympics is the pinnacle in a sport he’d rather pursue for love than money.
“Anyone can turn professional,” Jackson told AAP on Tuesday ahead of the Australian Amateur Boxing Championships beginning on Wednesday.
“A lot of the guys that turn professional wouldn’t even last in the ring with a successful amateur boxer.
“To win an Olympic gold medal is harder than any professional world title ever.”
That is evidenced by the fact an Australian boxer has never won Olympic gold; the last medallist of any description being back in 1988 when Grahame `Spike’ Cheney took out silver in the light welterweight division.
Jackson says the proof also lies in the spate of footballers of various codes, including high-profile All Blacks representative Williams, turning to pro boxing.
“Sonny Bill Williams is a joke,” Jackson said.
“He’s a good footy player.
“They’re just putting him on with guys who don’t know how to fight and try and make him look good.
“He’s a good-looking bloke and he’s a monster of a man but he’s not much of a boxer.
“He’s no Anthony Mundine, that’s for sure.”
London would be the ultimate for Jackson, 27, who won bronze at the 2006 Commonwealth Games before disappointments that included him controversially missing the Olympic team for Beijing and a stress fracture in his back that needed a year-and-a-half’s recovery.
Jackson runs an asbestos removal business in Hobart to make his living and says he’s never wanted to turn professional.
He will be the favourite to win the lightweight 56-60kg national title on Sunday and progress to the Oceania championships which will determine who goes to London.
“(I’m) very, very, very desperate,” he said.
“It’s been something that I’ve been dedicating my life to for the last six-odd years so it’s very important.
“I just want an Olympic Games. It just means I’ve achieved something that I want to achieve.”
Thirteen titles will be decided on Sunday, 10 men’s and three women’s.
With Damien Hooper already confirmed as the Oceania representative in the light heavyweight 75-81kg division for London, the other nine men’s champions will head to the final Olympic qualifying stage, the Oceania championships in Canberra in March.
Jackson said the standard in Hobart would be higher than at the Oceania champs, with the national title winner all but guaranteed the Olympic spot.
“They’re very average fighters (at the Oceania champs),” he said.
“Nothing’s ever written in gold, but if you win this you’re pretty confident.”
Women’s boxing has been included at the Olympics for the first time and the three national champions will head to the world titles in China in May for the next stage in qualification.