July 17, 2015 11:16 am
Updated: July 17, 2015 11:40 am

Pan Am Games: Men’s boxing starts Saturday, for the 1st time without headgear

Canada's Brody Blair (red) defeated Jose Bernal of El Salvador in men's 75 kg. boxing action action at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011.


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.

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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.

Canada’s Brody Blair looks down after his fight against Zambia’s Benny Muziyo was stopped due to injury following their men’s boxing welterweight preliminaries round bout at the Commonwealth Games Glasgow 2014, Glasgow, Scotland, Monday, July 28, 2014.

AP Photo/Peter Morrison

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.

Samir El-Mais of Canada is seen with a bloodied eye during his bout againsts Warren Baister of England during the Men’s Heavy 91kg quarterfinal at Scottish Exhibition And Conference Centre during day seven of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games on July 30, 2014 in Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

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).

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