K-1's Golden Boy Badr Hari is apparently considering an interesting move. Sources indicate that Hari has been approached to represent Morocco as a boxer in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. According to Simon Rutz, Hari's manager and the head of It's Showtime, Badr is considering accepting the offer and views it as a great honor.
Hari himself alluded to this idea a few months ago in an interview before his fight with Mourad Bouzidi: Is boxing your cup of tea? Because it was said that you have plans to represent Morocco at the Olympic Summer Games in London (2012) in amateur boxing. Is that true? Yes, we're working on it but it's not easy to realize this dream of mine. Negotiations are still going on. But the qualifications for the Olympics already start at the beginning of next year. Yes, but that's no problem. First of all, the Commission has to agree with me being an amateur boxer. We already had several conversations with the Olympic Committee and they will decide if I will be in consideration for it.
At this point, it looks like the door is open for Hari and it's his choice - if he wants the spot, it seems to be his. This brings up two obvious questions: How would he do? And is this a good choice?
To be honest, I am not sure about that first one. Hari is a good puncher, and clearly one of the best kickboxers in the world, but boxing and kickboxing are two different beasts. Some kickboxers almost solely rely on their hands, but Hari is not one of those - he uses kicks in his arsenal and he uses them well. Take those away, and it's a different sport, one that Hari has virtually no experience in. Is two years enough time to focus his boxing to get to an Olympic level?
Which bring up the second question: Even if he can try to compete, should he? Should he take the time to train in boxing instead of kickboxing and focus all his energies on this Olympic opportunity? When considering this, the name that I keep hearing in my head is Kid Yamamoto, a cautionary tale against pursuing your Olympic dreams if ever there was one. At the end of 2006, Kid was considered one of the top P4P MMA fighters in the world. Then he stepped away to try and gain an Olympic bid. He didn't make it, and upon his return, the "old" Kid was gone. In his stead was a less dynamic fighter, who has lost his last 3 pro fights. Kid took a break from top level MMA at the height of his skills, only to see nothing come of it except the permanent loss of his P4P status. That's not to say this is exactly what will happen to Hari, but you have to recognize that it's a possibility.
From a business standpoint, Hari would be taking a calculated risk if he accepts. If he does well, his stock will go through the roof. But if he fails, and fails spectacularly, he will loss precious time at the peak of his career, and potentially permanently tarnish his reputation as a top-level fighter. It's undoubtedly a very hard decision to make, no doubt made tougher by personal feelings of patriotism and pride in your heritage. Also potentially making the decision difficult - any influence by K-1, as whatever financial risk Hari takes here, K-1 also takes. You have to think they will have some thoughts about how one of their most popular stars handles such a major decision.
Thinking about it myself, perhaps it's selfish, but as a Hari fan, I want to see him competing in the sport he excels at, against the best in the world. Not putting those Grand Prix chances on pause in order to fight as an amateur boxer. If it truly is his dream, I would certainly not begrudge him pursuing it, and would root for him to take home the gold. But I would also be nervous about the possible long-term impact on the legacy of the definitive K-1 fighter of this era.