Oly boxers to fight sans head guards

AIBA introduces slew of changes

Olympic boxers will fight without head guards in a pro-style scoring system 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 counterintuitive 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. 

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 from 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 also is 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.

Since body shots and combinations notoriously scored few points in the computerised punch-count system, fighters have long placed a premium on a high volume of head shots, since an opponent’s neck snapping back is the surest way to make sure a punch is seen and counted. 

“Boxing isn’t bean-counting,” Butler said. “The thing that makes (the computer system) dangerous is if you’re a boxer, you know you’re not going to get a point for a body shot, so what are you going to do except punch the head? There were no points given for combinations. You might get one point. If a kid was a counterpuncher, you’d lose,’’ he added.

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