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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) :


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 secured appropriately.

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 holidays.

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 their Masters?

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 the

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 prohibited.”


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.

Key Points:

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) : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4751171/

AIBA AOB Rule Book amended 19 December (44 pages) http://d152tffy3gbaeg.cloudfront.net/2015/02/AIBA_AOB_RULES_2016-12-28_0.pdf

As always we invite YOUR views via our social media pages, our website or by emailing: wban100@aol.com

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