LAUSANNE. — For the first time in 32 years, male boxers will be able to trade punches without any headgear at this year’s Rio Games after the International Olympic Committee sanctioned a change introduced by world boxing federation AIBA. AIBA adopted the change for amateur fighters some three years ago, but needed to bring it to the IOC Executive Board, which noted it without objection on Tuesday, essentially rubber-stamping the decision and clearing the way for Rio.
The IOC said AIBA had presented medical research that showed concussions were less likely to occur without headgear than with.
“AIBA provided medical and technical data that showed the number of concussions is lower without headgear,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “They have done a lot of research in the last three years. The rule will go ahead for Rio.”
The rule change does not apply to female fighters, who will continue to use head protection. The AIBA changed the rules for the 2013 world championships in Almaty, and extensive research has shown a drop of 43 percent in the amount of concussions suffered in major bouts since.
“We are profoundly pleased that there will be no headguard for male boxers in Rio. It is something that has been expected by our boxers and by the boxing fans the world over,” said AIBA president Ching-Kuo Wu.
“Since our very first conversations with athletes and medical staff on the issue, we have been investigating the possibility of removing headguards.
“Both our statistical research, and the feedback from boxers and coaches, shows us that this is the best outcome for our sport.”
This may not be the only significant change for Olympic boxing this year, with the possibility that professional fighters will be allowed to compete for the first time. Earlier on yesterday Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao said that Wu had “personally invited” him to compete in Rio.
Boxers have been wearing headguards since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The last Games without them were in Moscow 1980. Women boxers, who first competed at the 2012 Olympics, will continue wearing their protective gear.
Meanwhile, Pacquiao said yesterday it would be an honour to fight for the Philippines at this year’s Rio Olympics, where professional fighters could be allowed to compete for the first time.
The eight-time world champion said he had been “personally invited” to the Rio de Janeiro Games by Wu Ching-Kuo, president of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) — the governing body for amateur boxing.
“It would be my honour to represent the country in the Olympics,” Pacquiao said in a statement.
The 37-year-old, one of the world’s wealthiest boxers, made the comments while training for what he said would be his last professional fight, an April 9 Las Vegas rematch with American Timothy Bradley. Spokesmen for the Philippine Olympic Committee had no comment on Pacquiao’s statement.
Pacquiao has posted a 57-6-2 win-loss-draw record in a glittering 21-year pro career that began in January 1995.
He never competed in the Olympics, although he did act as the country’s flag-bearer in the 2008 games. Already an elected member of the House of Representatives, he is running for a Senate seat in May elections — with an eye on an eventual presidential bid.
His Olympic comments came after he touched off a global fire-storm with controversial comments describing homosexual couples as “worse than animals”.
The comments, for which he has made a qualified apology, cost him his long-term association with major global sponsor Nike. — Reuters.