When it comes to assessing the need for headgear in the world of Canadian boxing, regulations have been inconsistent, and spectators have been left confused. So what is the rule? After spending years defending the idea that male fighters were safer boxing without headgear, it seems that Boxing Canada has changed the rules of the game.
As of February 2017, Boxing Canada has decided that headgear will be mandatory for all male fighters below the Canadian championships or a provincial final. About the change, the national body has stated that the new rule allows boxers to be protected from cuts before reaching the Canadian championship level. At the national and international levels, however, fighters will be able to box without headgear.
Initially, in 2013, headgear was banned for male soldiers by the world body on the premise that removing the helmet would reduce the risk of concussion. They planned to institute the same regulation for youth and female boxers in 2018. Canada embraced this rule in 2013, meaning that virtually all male boxers from age 19 to 40, regardless of skill level, must fight without headgear. The worldwide boxing community believed that this was a safer alternative. Because of this, Boxing Canada subscribed to this reasoning.
During the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, male boxers fought without headgear for the first time since 1984. While many believed that the world body had placed the safety of the fighters at risk merely for ratings and financial gain, international authorities argued that concussions had been reduced by more than 40% with the banning of headgear. This claim, however, was based on video footage of world championship bouts, which is not an accurate or objective way to analyze the presence of a brain injury, especially as concussion symptoms may take a while to set in. A fighter could experience the onset of symptoms hours after leaving the ring.
Now, the new rule states that headgear will be mandatory for all sanctioned competitions in Canada for elite male open boxers, except the National Championships. Boxers will have the option to decide whether to use headgear during the provincial finals, however, if the boxers cannot agree, headgear will prevail. Headgear will now be the rule in Canada, rather than the exception. Boxing Canada believes this decision will help ‘ease’ its elite national boxers into competitions that will not include headgear, rather than opening them up to the risk of serious injury during lower level bouts.