FRANK WARREN’S SCRAPBOOK – 3.3.16
Take a good look at the British Lionhearts line-up when they face the USA Knockouts in their second home match in the current BoxNation-televised World Series Boxing (WSB) at London’s atmospheric York Hall tonight. They won’t be wearing headguards- nor will any boxers who get through to the Rio Olympics this summer.
The International Olympic Committee have confirmed that male boxers competing at future Games will not have head protection for for the first time in 36 years after endorsing a revolutionary proposal by the International Boxing Association (AIBA).
AIBA’s Medical Commission’s claim to have studied 11,000 bouts around the world, producing scientific evidence that it is actually safer for boxers to compete without headguards than with them.
Well, I am all for this. I have never been a fan of headguards in any form of boxing. They restrict momentum and simply offer a bigger target for head-punchers. Nor do most of them do the job for which they were brought in- to prevent eye injuries. Pros wear them in sparring but they still get cut eyes – George Foreman, David Haye and Billy Joe Saunders are famous examples of this.
While AIBA rightly claim safety will not be impaired, I suspect a prime reason for the shedding of headguards has much to do with wanting to make combatants more recognisable as personalities and the nonsensical move towards fully professionalising what used to be amateur boxing.
Significantly it coincides with the announcement fully-fledged pros could be allowed into the Olympic tournament. Not only it is unrealistic and unworkable but mad, bad and dangerous. A recipe for disaster.
I understand why AIBA’s ambitious overlord Dr C K Wu wants to give his sport wider appeal but this is going way too far, as virtually everyone in the real pro game has concurred.
There is nothing wrong with the well-tried system of allowing young boxers to fulfil their amateur potential before turning professional via the traditional route. Dr Wu wants io change this and take control of all forms of boxing but it is a ridiculous notion, a fight he cannot and will not win. .
He argues that as IOC have fully professionalised the Olympics by allowing America’s Dream Team to compete in basketball and inviting superstar tennis players like Djokovic, Federer and Murray to dominate the tennis tournament, boxing should be given similar treatment.
But LeBron James dunking a ball into a net and Andy Murray lobbing one over it are hardly equivalent to a young inexperienced Olympic qualifier getting bashed on the head by Gennady Golovkin if the world’s most fearsome fighter fancies trying to win a rare gold medal for Kazakhstan.
I doubt some of our own Olympic prospects would be too keen on the idea, either.
Some will be on show against the US tonight, including Anthony Joshua’s similarly charismatic successor at super-heavyweight, Londoner Joe Joyce, the Commonwealth Games champion who is literally an artist on canvas with his paintbrush left.
Muhammad Ali will be there, too. No, not that one (though the exhibition of The Greatest’s life and times opens at the O2 tomorrow). This is his namesake, the exciting 19-year-old flyweight from Keighley, Yorkshire , a European Championships silver medallist.
The Lionhearts will be looking to continue the outstanding form that has seen the team win all three matches so far this season, having already spanked the Yanks 3-2 in the away fixture in Miami.
No headguards tonight — nor vests, either. And judging over five rounds is on the pro-style ten points per round system.
All very professional. But please, let this be as far as it goes.
The Olympics have always been a platform for aspiring young boxers, not battle-hardened pros who could be robbing them of their places and a chance of glory. And so they must remain.
Box Nation’s exclusive coverage from York Hall starts at 8-pm.
More from Frank’s Scrapbook tomorrow