TORONTO – When boxing gets underway Saturday at the Pan Am Games, one key piece of equipment will be missing.
For the first time since the 1980s, athletes will not be wearing headgear in men’s boxing at the Pan Am Games.
The move stems from a 2013 decision by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) to ban padded headgear in order to reduce the number of concussions in the sport. Those on side of the AIBA’s decision said protective equipment can create a false sense of security and safety.
Charles Butler, chairman of the AIBA’s medical commission, conducted research using a sample of 15,000 boxers. Half wore headgear, the other half didn’t. He found that over 7,545 rounds, the rate of concussions for those wearing headgear was 0.38 per cent, compared to 0.17 per cent for those who didn’t wear it (although Butler admitted improved glove technology may have also contributed to the results).
Another concern was that headgear was limiting the peripheral vision of the boxers.
Not everyone is happy with the AIBA decision, however. Five-time Canadian heavyweight champion Mark Simmons called the decision “crazy,” arguing that one reason for the change was to make the sport more marketable — allow people to see the athletes’ faces.
Without headgear, boxers are also more likely to sustain cuts during bouts.
Last year, Canadian boxer Brody Blair was pulled from his quarter-final fight at the Commonwealth Games because of a bleeding cut above his eye.
At the same Games, a cut above the eye caused blood to stream down Canadian Samir El-Mais’ face. It was during the quarter-finals. At the time he said it was his first cut in boxing.
After getting his eye checked, El-Mais was allowed to continue and went on to win gold in the men’s heavy (91 kg) class. El-Mais will compete for Team Canada at the 2015 Toronto Games.
Currently, headgear is still required in women’s competitions.
Men’s preliminary events start Saturday with events in men’s and women’s boxing throughout the week. Final events for the men and women wrap up on July 25.
Boxing events will be held at the Oshawa Sports Centre (OBX).