AIBA 'removes' Headguards for women
including youths and children from 1 January 2018
by Michael O'Neill
January 21, 2017
(JAN 21) International
Boxing Association (AIBA) Press Releases are noted more for what
they do NOT tell us than what they do but even so the fact that
there was no formal Press Release following December’s Executive
Committee meeting in Switzerland did ring ‘ alarm bells’ in
several countries. Such meetings usually agree any major changes
in the sport but nothing was heard until a New Year message to
the faithful from AIBA President Dr Ching Kuo Wu on 9th January
and even that did not mention removal of headgear.
So what were we missing? Or did the AIBA Communications team set
off for their respective countries to enjoy a peaceful ‘media
free’ Christmas and New Year or perhaps it was the AIBA Exec
that departed without telling their Comms team what had been
agreed so time to start searching elsewhere for clues. We soon
found that momentous decisions had indeed been confirmed in
Switzerland just before the AIBA’s 70th Gala Dinner evening.
Look at Page 19 of the newly revised (on 19th December) AOB
Rules (link at end of this article) :
“RULE 21. HEADGUARDS
21.1. In AOB Elite Men Competitions, headguards are not allowed
at all National, Continental and International Levels.
For all other category competitions, headguards are still
mandatory. However, AIBA reserves itself the right to conduct
some non-Elite Men Competitions without headguards for the
preparation of the definitive removal of headguards for all
categories starting from January 1, 2018.
21.1.1. For all Boxers not wearing headguards and in order to
prevent any potential cut, Coaches are permitted to apply the
cut prevention material CavilonTM on all areas of the Boxer’s
face before all competitions held without headguards.
21.1.2. For all boxers not wearing headguards with hair below
the neckline, a hair net or any other item must be worn to
control the hair. The Seconds have to ensure that the hair is
Or put another way without even highlighting the actual changes
rather than publishing the rule book in its entirety, the AIBA
has introduced these changes by ‘stealth’ hoping no doubt that
no one would pick it up before the Christmas and New Year
Indeed they were right! Mind you when we saw nothing about
headguards in President Wu’s New Year’s Greeting (on 9th
January) we ‘smelt a rat’.
We have asked AIBA for confirmation of our interpretation but as
at the time of writing no response. Perhaps the Comms team has
not yet been told and are awaiting confirmation themselves from
Now we would be happy to hear from the AIBA – hence this
invitation – as to what research was carried out and by whom and
when and include the results of their findings which we agree to
publish “as received”. We contacted a few of their National
Federations, some in Europe, some in Asia, some in the Americas
and only one (of those contacted) was even aware that the
changes had been approved by the AIBA Executive Council. Do they
not communicate changes in advance to their own Federations or
simply wait for them to read through all 44 pages?
Indeed ‘usually reliable sources’ close to the Association
expressed surprise that the changes had taken place since we
understand that none of the AIBA’s own Commissions had been in
favour of the removal in respect of categories other than for
Males. We also know from sources in North America and in Europe
that a vast number of parents would not approve IF they had been
consulted. We also believe that it is quite likely that
Exhibition bouts for women including Youth/Juniors are to take
place in 2017 at events still to be agreed, bearing in mind that
the ‘no headgear’ rule will apply for all from 1 January 2018
now little more than 11 months away. It may well be that the
Youth Olympics will be one such tournament.
True the AIBA had previously informed Commissions of their
desire to implement changes for women and children, however WBAN
understands that these Commissions which include highly
experienced officials from all continents did make it clear that
they did not approve of removal of headguards for women, youth,
or juniors (children).
It came as a major surprise therefore even within the
Commissions that the move was confirmed so quickly via the rule
book changes and not announced publicly in any Press Releases.
Could it be that since they had already promised the
International Olympic Committee (IOC) that there would be “no
headguards” they felt obliged to forge ahead come what may? This
was promised before the Rio Olympics.
The consensus of opinion among Commission members felt that it
would be damaging to the sport for people to see women and
children with serious cuts, blood and occasionally knockouts.
Bad enough for the Elite boxers but with so little information
released (not so far anyway) the feeling was that it would also
put parents of girls including young juniors (children) as well
as teenagers off the sport and lead to their children being
attracted to other sports and lost forever to boxing.
It appears that AIBA Exec has now gone forward with their
original decision to remove the headguards for Elite women, all
youths, and all juniors/children by January 2018.
If they proceed as they did with the men, we can expect in 2017
there will be “test matches” without headguards.
The AIBA did announce that ‘The year’s first Elite and Youth
Women’s international boxing competition drew to a close in the
Serbian city of Vrba on Sunday, with the tournament marking an
important change in format for the women’s sport. Following
universal approval of the rule change at last December’s
Executive Committee meeting, women’s bouts will now follow the
men’s format, comprising three rounds of three minutes, and the
boxers adapted well.”
Some countries though including Sweden have not yet implemented
new rules as these have to be approved by the country’s Sports
Ministry to comply with laws of Sweden.
In Canada a study was carried out – see link at end of this
piece – on the subject: “Prohibiting Headgear for Safety in
Amateur Boxing? Opinion of the Canadian Boxing Community. This
paper was prepared by Philip Dickinson and Philip Rempel whose
copyright we acknowledge and extracts are included here under
Among its findings were these (but do read the linking document
in full as space does not allow us to quote it all verbatim):
“A total of 71.5 % of Canadian respondents believed headgear
should be mandatory at all levels. Only 5.8 % agreed that
headgear should be prohibited, as planned for 2018. Estimating
results on a representative breakdown of boxing membership in
Canada, a similar pattern emerged, whereby 68.2 % concurred with
mandatory headgear while only 4.95 % supported its prohibition.
Parents of boxers were almost unanimously against banning
headgear, stating they would change sports as a result.
Similarly, only 1.7 % of women believed headgear should be
The consensus of the Canadian boxing community largely opposes
the rule changes that the AIBA has implemented. The results
highlight risks posed to the long-term viability of the sport,
if significant grassroots safety concerns are disregarded.
The large majority of the Canadian boxing community supports
mandatory headgear use in amateur boxing. Parents of boxers,
women, officials and ringside physicians were almost unanimously
against the banning of headgear. Active boxers were more
amenable to conditional removal of headgear than other
respondents, but strongly against its prohibition.
Link to the Canadian survey in full (all rights reserved by
authors P.Dickinson and P.Rempel) :
AIBA AOB Rule Book amended 19 December (44 pages)
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