Sports

New era for Olympic boxers

New rules 
for 2016 
Rio Games throw up many uncertainties for sport

Boxing in Rio will be very different from all the Olympics that have gone before.

Most controversially, it will be the first time professional boxers are allowed to take part.

But don't expect to see the big names in boxing. In fact, there will likely be only a handful of professionals competing and few will be names most fans have heard of.

Critics say that pitting professional pugilists against amateurs could result in serious injury, as many will not be used to the shorter bouts fought at a much faster pace.

International Boxing Association (Aiba) president Wu Ching-kuo - who pushed for their inclusion - says that allowing the pros only means boxing is finally doing what almost all other Olympic sports did years ago.

That is not the only major change to Olympic boxing.

Another big difference is that male fighters will no longer wear headguards (they have done so at the Olympics since the 1980s). Women fighters will still wear them.

Most in the fight game support the ditching of headwear, after the Aiba said extensive studies found that there were actually fewer concussions without headguards.

Critics say there are likely to be more cuts as a result and, with so many fights packed into a fortnight, competitors will have little time for those wounds to heal between bouts.

That means there could be plenty of blood. And that is not all.

The deeply unpopular punch-counting system of scoring - which has thrown up numerous controversies over the years - has also been ditched to again bring Olympic boxing closer in line with professional bouts.

10-POINT MUST SYSTEM

Now ringside judges will use the "10-point must system", with the fighter that wins the round getting 10 points and the other between six and nine. For example, a 10-9 round means that it was close.

The United States, Cuba and Britain are the most successful countries and some of the world's finest boxers launched their careers at the Olympics.

A certain Cassius Clay - later to call himself Muhammad Ali - won gold at the Rome Olympics in 1960.

Other notable Olympic boxers who went on to stardom include Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Evander Holyfield, Oscar de la Hoya, Lennox Lewis and Floyd Mayweather.

The latest is Anthony Joshua, Britain's heavyweight champion from 2012, who is unbeaten as a pro and ploughing his way through the division.

That said, there are plenty of fighters who were brilliant Olympians but flopped as pros - think the widely ridiculed Audley "A-Force" Harrison, Britain's 2000 gold medallist.

Olympic boxing will span almost the entire two weeks in Rio and 13 categories, with three weight classes for women and 10 for men.

It is just the second time in Olympic history that women will take part.

Since its inclusion in the Olympic programme in 1904, boxing has been staged at every edition of the Games, except in 1912 in Stockholm because Swedish law did not allow the sport. - AFP.

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