LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – For the first time in more than 30 years, male boxers won’t be wearing protective headgear at the Olympics.
The International Boxing Association, known as AIBA, adopted the change for amateur fighters three years ago, and the decision was widely considered a formality for this year’s games in Rio de Janeiro.
The move received official clearance Tuesday when the International Olympic Committee executive board said it was up to AIBA to apply its own rules and the IOC would not interfere.
AIBA president Ching-Kuo Wu said, although fighters are more prone to cuts without the head guards, the change will result in a decrease in concussions.
“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.”
Female boxers, meanwhile, will continue to wear headgear.
Boxers have worn head guards in every Olympics since the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
They were scrapped for male fighters at the 2013 world championships and 2014 Commonwealth Games.
The IOC said there was no discussion of Wu’s separate proposal to allow professional fighters to compete at the games in Rio.
Wu announced last week that he intends to change AIBA’s qualifying structure to allow pro boxers to compete for gold medals in the multiday Olympic tournament in August. He has called a special AIBA meeting in May to vote on his proposal, which has received mixed reactions in boxing circles.
World Boxing Council president Mauricio Sulaiman has sharply criticized the idea, saying AIBA “does not have a clue of what boxing means and represents.”
Sulaiman, the head of pro boxing’s most prominent governing body, also predicted “dangerous mismatches between experienced professional fighters and amateur boxers” if the pros take AIBA’s invitation.
Wu said it is up to each national boxing federation to determine whether it wants to enter pro fighters. If so, he said, the fighters must go through a qualifying process to earn their spot in the games.