Comparative analysis of amateur and professional boxing systems: procedural and legal aspects



(WBC), Dr.h.c. V.V. Mikaelyan
PhD S.I. Mikaelyan
Dr.Hab., Professor S.S.Filippov
President of Professional Boxing Federation of St. Petersburg, the first Soviet international referee
Lesgaft National State University of Physical Education, Sport and Health, Saint Petersburg

Keywords: amateur boxing, professional boxing, procedural specifications, legal specifications, comparative analysis.


As things now stand in the national sport sector development policies, one of the top priorities is being given to clear understanding of the role and positioning of professional sports in the sector. Importance of this issue was once more confirmed at the session of the Physical Culture and Sports Development Council in discussion of the elite sports development policies and the associating problems including a few legal regulatory issues of importance for the professional sport regulation process [5]. The session clearly stated that a highest priority will be given to the initiatives to put in place facilitating conditions to secure good progress of the professional sport organizations.

In terms of research aspects, importance of these issues is also beyond doubt, albeit focused studies of the relevant matters have been obviously insufficient in terms of both professional sports on the whole [11, 10] and specific professional sport disciplines in particular [4-6]. Therefore, active studies of the relevant problems are much needed today to expand the scientific database of professional sports and give the better knowledge and more adequate insight into their mission and nature.

Objective of the study was to analyze the procedural and legal aspects of the amateur and professional boxing sport systems.

Study results and discussion. The professional boxing sport system (that made its first steps in the late 1980ies) establishment period in our country may, in our opinion, be considered completed as verified by the following facts. First, the relevant federal and regional professional boxing management bodies have been established, including the Professional Boxing Federation of Russia founded back in 1990 [5] and, for example, the Professional Boxing Federation of Saint Petersburg city [16]. Second, a network of active professional boxing clubs has been developed in the country. Third, professional boxing championships of Russia have become regular; and professional boxers of every weight category are represented and compete in them; and a national rating list of professional boxers is kept in the system. Fourth, a professional licensing system has been developed and put in place to license professional boxers, coaches, managers and promoters. Fifth, Russian professional boxers increasingly enter and are rated high by the international boxing organizations, and quite a few outstanding national boxing professionals have won titles of professional world boxing champions of different versions, namely Y. Arbachakov, K. Tziu, N. Valuyev, A. Povetkin and many others. It should be noted in this context that the national professional boxing system progress is secured by devoted labour of highly skilled coaches that train top-class professional boxers and by successful managers and promoters. With the professional boxing system establishment period naturally coming to an end, the sport decision-makers need to find the most promising ways to secure further progress of the system in many aspects, including the legal, management and economic ones.

Since the sport of boxing is an integral part of the global sport movement, it would be methodologically beneficial to make a comparative analysis of the professional and amateur boxing sport systems based on the relevant research reports that explore their differences and specifics within the sport on the whole. Some studies [10, 11, 8, 9] provide basic overviews and analysis of the professional and amateur boxing sport system specifics.

For the purposes of out comparative analysis, we took the relevant regulatory documents that regulate multisided relationship in the professional and amateur boxing systems, such as different statutes, regulations, competition management rules and other key documents of international and national boxing organizations as a documentary background for the study. We used these materials to form a basis for the comparative analysis and to classify the key specifications of both of the systems.

Let us consider some of the proposed specifications. Mentioned first and foremost should be those that specify objectives of the competitions. As far as the amateur boxing system is concerned, the objective of the competitive process is to determine and honour winners of different-level tournaments. In professional boxing, however, the situation is very different as there are a few closely interrelated objectives geared to: determine winners of the fights; make the fights a spectacular and popular entertainment; and make profit on the events. Modern professional boxing managers driven by these objectives make resort to a wide variety of sophisticated tools and process management methods to lure spectators and make a quality pay-per-view show out of every boxing event.

Analysis of the existing structure of competitions in both of the systems shows that there are many principal differences regardless of the viewpoints. The amateur boxing system has formed a stable competition system that includes the boxing tournaments under Olympic Games, World Championships and World Cups, plus intercontinental and national championships, with their stable calendars, rules of competitions, qualification rules for the participants etc. Schedules of the competitions are normally approved and fixed for the period of one to four years to come. This system is so well planned, organized and managed that procedural problems that may come in the process are normally easily and timely solved by the boxing tournament organizers.

The boxing events organization and management process in the professional boxing system is totally different. Every international boxing federation keeps its own boxers’ rating lists for every weight category, and it is based on the ratings that the fights for the titles of world champions are scheduled. The same ratings are imperative for positions of contenders on the waiting lists for one or another fight. The professional boxing prospects at first will go through a chain of qualification fights to get a licence of a professional boxer; then they go through a hierarchy of rating fights; and only those who pass them successfully win the right for title fights to compete for the world champion belt. In the professional boxing event scheduling, contracting and organization process, interests of a wide variety of shareholders (including the relevant international boxing organizations, boxers, promoters, managers, mass media companies, advertisers etc.) meet and collide. Therefore, it is not unusual to see interests of the relevant international boxing organizations and boxers in the boxing match scheduling process being dominated by quite subjective considerations. It is in fact a typical situation for the professional boxing sport system.

The professional boxing sport system policies are dominated by the tough competition being maintained in every aspect of the boxers’ formal and interpersonal relations. This policy is based, first of all, on the boxers’ rating system established and maintained by a rating committee of the relevant international boxing organization.

The amateur boxing system is different in the sense that its sport career management system has been very traditional and stable for many years. The sport career management services are provided by the relevant sport organizations with the most gifted athletes being given a chance to make it through the qualification sport competitions and qualify for the national boxing teams.

As provided by the Federal Boxing Sport Training Standard [13], age limit for qualification for the primary boxing training courses is 10 years. The training process is governed by the relevant standard training programs. Sport boxing training curriculum of the Children’s and Youth Sport Schools is designed on a multilevel basis and broken up in a few stages. At every training stage the boxers will compete in different events and tournaments and acquire the basic competitive experience.

A prospect for a professional boxing career should be at least 18 years old as required by the rules. The professional boxing sport system mostly welcomes the high-ranking amateur athletes having a successful track record with great wins in their amateur boxing careers. Many Olympic boxing champions, for instance, continue their sport careers fighting on the professional ring. This means in fact that the professional boxing system just grabs the best amateur boxers taking little if any care of the young boxers’ training and career management process. Other sports having the amateur and professional dimensions are much different in this aspect. Professional football clubs, for instance, maintain special academies for young football players. In the world tennis system, much contribution is made by special training centres and private tennis academies. The same is the case in ice hockey with its academies and farm-clubs growing the young hockey players.

A boxer’s career in its advanced stage is very special in the sense that the training process is largely individualized and tailored to a concrete competitor, and such special training process may last for a few months.

One more specification of the professional boxing system is relatively new albeit increasingly recognized by the sport community. We mean the marketing aspect of the sport progress on the whole and the boxing sport in particular. It may be pertinent to note that it is due to the general objectives of the sport sector that the role of the marketing business in sport is so much on the rise today. In contrast to an amateur boxing system that is focused on the sport accomplishments, a professional boxing system is driven rather by the financial profit generation aspects than the sport accomplishments of the fights as such. This is the reason why the professional boxing managers have to factor in a wide variety of social and economic aspects of the event for success. As provided by a few study reports [4, 7, 12], there are quite many business fields and aspects the sport marketing manager needs to address to be successful, including: sponsorship and licensing rules in the sport discipline; advertising process management; fundraising mechanisms applied in professional sport; sport event contracting, organization and financing system; pricing mechanisms applied in professional sports etc. Every of these business fields and aspects is relevant in some degree to the professional boxing sport system – as opposed to the amateur boxing sport system that is virtually free of any marketing agenda.

Legal framework is always imperative for progress of any sport discipline. The amateur and professional boxing systems are no exclusion, and their legal systems are quite stable and traditional albeit still revisable when necessary. It is quite natural that any professional sport model is effective enough when based on a clear regulatory and legal framework, as was mentioned by Russian President V.V. Putin in his speech at the session of the Physical Culture and Sports Development Council [5].

Considering the sport specification relating to the boxers’ qualification standards, it should be noted that both of the boxing systems are very different in this aspect as well. Qualification for the sport titles and classes in the amateur boxing system is governed by the Universal Russian Sport Classification system that is a prime regulatory document in this sport management domain that sets forth the requirements to and conditions and procedures of the boxers’ qualification for the sport titles and classes. The professional boxing sport system is totally different in this specification as the professional boxers’ ratings and titles are qualified and awarded as provided by statutes of the relevant international professional boxing organizations.

A set of employment conditions and standards is one more important specification of a boxing system. An amateur boxer will be employed based on an employment contract that sets forth every condition as provided by the Labour Coder of the Russian Federation. A professional boxer will enter into a fight contract with the relevant promoter acting based on a contract with the relevant professional boxing organization [6].

The amateur boxing sport financing system is designed on mixed contributions from public and non-government organizations including the sport ones often supported in part by private funds; whilst professional boxing is a totally self-supporting system driven by the principles of market economy and exposed to the certain risks as such. Great international boxing events in professional sport require great efforts from the promoters and managers for the event being profitable and successful.

And the last but not least sport specification is the boxers’ remuneration system. In the amateur boxing sport, boxers receive bonuses from public agencies and non-government organizations with contributions from private funds. The Olympic Game champions and prize winners of the Russian national team, for instance, are paid bonuses as mandated by the Government of the RF. In the professional boxing sport, individual remuneration conditions are provided by contracts, and the boxer pays for the services of his whole team from the contractual amounts. It should be mentioned that the contractual amounts may be quite significant, and prominent boxers normally have additional incomes from supplementary sources (like advertising services etc.).

The frame specifications of the two boxing sport systems given herein shall in no case be considered binding for further research of this subject, and we expect that the specification list will be expanded by further studies of the issue.


The comparative analysis of the amateur and professional boxing sport systems shows that they operate on a quite independent basis having virtually no influence on one another, albeit the professional boxing sport system may be viewed as a beneficiary of amateur sport as it contracts the most promising, successful and decorated amateur boxers as prospects for the professional sport career.

Table 1. Comparative analysis of the amateur and professional boxing sport systems: procedural and legal aspects


Amateur boxing system

Professional boxing system

I. Boxing event organization procedure

1. Objective of the competition

Determine the winner in every weight category and event class

1. Name the winner of the event

2. Make financial profit

3. Make a great pay-per-view show of the event

2. Event structure


Top-down ranked events:

1. Olympic Games

2. World Championships, World Cups

3. Continental championships

4. National championships

Top-down ranked boxing fights:

1. Title fights

2. Rating fights

Professional boxers may not qualify for Olympic Games

3. Boxers’ qualification for the events

Traditional qualification tournaments; licensing for participation in major international events like the Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cups and continental championships

Qualification is based on tough competition of boxers as provided by the statutes of the relevant international professional boxing organizations (WBA, IBF, WBС, WBО, WBF etc.)

4. Boxer’s training/ career management system

Age limit: 10 plus years

Training/ career management organizations:

1. Sport schools, Olympic reserve colleges;

2. Sport clubs;

3. National boxing teams

Age limit: 18-20 plus years

Individual training tailored to a concrete rival


5. Competition schedules

4-round fights in tournaments with elimination of defeated boxers;

2-minute rounds;

4- to 12-round fights

3-minute rounds

6. Rules of competitions

Rules approved by the AIBA and national Boxing Federations applicable to every boxer

Fight rules are set by the relevant international boxing organization in charge of the event

7. Weight categories



8. Boxer’s uniform

Safety helmet, vest, trunks

10 ounce gloves

Trunks only; no safety helmet nor vest

8-12 ounce gloves

II. Management system

1. Management bodies

1. Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA)

2. Amateur Boxing Federation of the RF

3. Regional Amateur Boxing Federations

4. Sport clubs

1. International professional boxing organizations: IBF; WBA; WBC; WBO; IBO; PABA.

2. Continental professional boxing federations

3. Professional Boxing Federation of the RF

4. Regional Professional Boxing Federations

5. Boxer and his team

2. Role of marketing in the boxing system

Next to no marketing business

Increased role of marketing business in the progress of professional boxing sport on the whole and specific fights in particular

3. Media coverage of boxing events

Traditional coverage by media reporting results of the boxing events

Active media coverage, support by PR-campaigns prior to boxing events; with special interest to heavyweight fights

III. Legal framework

1. Legal provisions

Legal framework includes:

1. Federal laws

2. Regional laws

3. Sector laws

4. Statutes of the international and national amateur federations and clubs

Legal framework includes:

1. International laws;

2. Federal laws;

3. Statutes of the international and national professional federations and clubs

4. Licenses, boxer’s contracts and team contracts

2. Boxer’s qualification system

Sport titles and classes as provided by the Russian Sport Classification system

Ratings and titles as per relevant statutes of international and national professional boxing federations

3. Boxer’s affiliation

Sport club, non-governmental sport organizations

Individual qualified for participation in professional boxing events and licensed by the Professional Boxing Federation of Russia

4. Labour relations

Boxer’s employment contract in compliance with the Labour Code of the RF

Relationship of boxers with the managers and promoters is regulated by the relevant contracts.

Fights are regulated by fight contracts

IV. Funding system

1. Funding system

Mixed financing from public agencies and non-governmental sport organizations with contributions from private funds

Total self-financing based on market economy principles

2. Boxer’s remuneration system

Bonuses paid by public agencies and non-governmental sport organizations with contributions from private funds

Contractual amounts



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The article considers the procedural and legal specifications of the amateur and professional boxing sport systems and makes their comparative analysis. Specific factors of the professional and amateur boxing sport systems that need to be taken into account in the system development and management process are identified and their key differences are spelled out, with the development avenues of the amateur and professional sport boxing systems being considered. The study materials may be of interest for the management of professional boxing organizations.