No more head guards in Olympic boxing

26 March 2013

BOXING: Olympic boxers will fight without head guards in a pro-style scoring system starting this year after several significant rule changes by the sport's international governing body.

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) unveiled several rule amendments this week, but the two biggest changes will move the amateur sport much closer to the professional version.

The rejection of headgear and the introduction of 10-point scoring could make the sport - once known as amateur boxing - more appealing to young boxers seeking professional careers.

Male boxers at the world championships in October and the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 won't wear the protective head guards, adopted before the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Although the move might seem counter-intuitive in preventing brain injuries, the chairman of AIBA's medical commission, Charles Butler, cites numerous medical studies that suggest fighting without head guards will decrease concussions.

"There's no evidence protective gear shows a reduction in incidence of concussion," Butler said.

"In 1982, when the American Medical Association moved to ban boxing, everybody panicked and put headgear on the boxers, but nobody ever looked to see what the headgear did."

AIBA's executive committee unanimously voted to add head guards to amateur competition in April 1984, and they stayed in place through eight straight Olympics.

But the headgear has long been criticised for diffusing the impact of a blow and allowing fighters to continue sustaining more head shots for a longer stretch of time.

The gear also offers no protection to the chin, where many knockout blows land in boxing, while the bulky sides of the device impede fighters' peripheral vision, preventing them seeing every head blow.

The head guard ban will only affect male boxers at the top levels of AIBA competition, meaning women's boxers and younger fighters will still wear the gear.

The amateur sport is also moving to a pro-style, 10-point scoring system, discarding the latest version of the much-criticised computer punch-count systems, implemented after the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

Each fight will be scored by five ringside judges with the traditional 10-9 or 10-8 rounds familiar to fans of professional boxing.

The sport moved to a punch-counting system after the infamously bizarre results in Seoul, including Roy Jones Jr's inexplicable loss.

But the computer system has been highly subjective and arcane, often turning the sport into a sparring session that emphasises punch volume over technique and ring generalship.

North American boxers have been particularly critical of the computerised scoring, with many top US and Mexican prospects declining even to participate in amateur boxing.

AP

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