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Added August 29th, 2016 by Ian

WBC says Olympic boxing needs to reinstate headgear

Mauricio Sulaiman, the president of the professional World Boxing Council, is pushing for headgear to be reinstated in amateur Olympic bouts. This comes after the AIBA (International Boxing Association) allowed male boxers to compete in the recent 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil without the traditional headgear. However, female boxers still fought with it on. Sulaiman said too many boxers received facial and head cuts during their bouts and this was because their heads were unprotected.

Sulaiman told the Los Angeles Times newspaper that he believed before the Olympics that the AIBA should think twice about their decision since it could be a dangerous one. He said the number of cuts suffered by boxers down in Brazil proved that he was right. Bantamweight Vladimir Nikitin of Russia was cut in his quarterfinal bout against Michael Conlan of Ireland and couldn’t continue in the competition. He had to pull out of his semifinal match against American Shakur Stevenson. Ironically, there was an uproar after Nikitin was handed the decision against Conlan as most observers felt the Irish boxer had clearly won.

The decision for Nikitin led to half a dozen referees and judges being relieved of their duties. This meant Stevenson received a bye against Nikitin since he couldn’t continue and Conlan, who deserved to win, wasn’t able to fill in for the injured Russian. Before the Olympics, the AIBA said the removal of headgear would actually be safer for boxers, but Sulaiman said the number of cuts at the tournament, most of them caused by head butts, contradicts that statement. The AIBA said the headgear creates a false sense of security for boxers and they create a punching target. The organization also claimed that the number of acute brain injures decreased when boxers fought without the headgear.

Sulaiman argued that while brain injuries may go down, the number of cuts go up significantly without the use of headgear. The Mexican said headgear has been an effective way of protecting boxers since 1984 and it should still be used. Sulaiman added that the AIBA should have done more research before making the decision to do away with head protection. He remarked, “With multiple fights in a short period of time during the Olympics, cuts can cause the fighters to be out of the competition.”

Sulaiman is in an odd position though since his organization the WBC, said it will ban professional boxers from their rankings for two years if they participate in the Olympics. Critics say that since he doesn’t want pro boxers competing in the Games and because he runs a professional boxing organization, then it’s really none of his business what the AIBA decides to do. In fact, the amateur boxing organization may even decide to do away with headgear for female boxers at the next Olympics in Tokyo, Japan in 2020.

 
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