I want to talk about amateur boxers no longer wearing headguards and what my thoughts are on this for boxing.

The first high profile tournament in which head guards weren’t used since I took up the sport was the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow back in 2014, followed by the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

I remember when I first heard about the rule change I was upset and it made me a bit angry. I thought it was going to be very bad and may even kill boxing!

I’ll tell you why:

The main reason parents don’t let their kids take up the sport is because they don’t want them to get hurt, right?

The only time parents see amateur boxing is in the Olympics or Commonwealth Games, they see the headgear worn and still many don’t really want them to box, but hey, “It’s an Olympic sport with head protection, maybe it’s not that bad.” Rarely did you see a swollen eye a bruise or even a cut.

Now they’ve taken the headguard protections away (for all senior male boxers, including novices), will parents be comfortable letting their kids fight right now?

With head guards, it was very rare you would see a cut in amateur boxing. Now, I see more cuts in one tournament than I did from all my years fighting as an amateur combined.

Don’t get me wrong, you can still get hurt and knocked out badly while wearing a headguard, but the thing that bothers me most is these cuts.

As an amateur boxer, I had 96 fights and over 60 were for England/GB fighting against champions of different countries, yet I only ever received one cut.

When I turned pro, I had 10 fights without headgear, received six cuts and had over 75 stitches on my face. I never fought anyone close to champion as a pro!

The slightest touch of heads in the pros and I would have blood running down my face. Now, I am left with scars on my face that will be there for the rest of my life (honestly, I love these scars).

Now if you’re a parent and you see this in a tournament like the Olympics, are you going to put the love of your life into this sport where you see faces full of blood? Hell no! Find me a football school any day.

Head guards don’t only protect your head, they protect your hands too.

When you are punching a rock hard skull rather than an inch of padding on a head guard, your hands take twice as much punishment.

Had I fought without headguards in the amateurs I would never have made the Olympics because of hand injuries; I know this for a fact.


I believe this whole thing is a money-making scheme for the guys at the top of the world’s governing body, AIBA. They seem to want to go into professional boxing. They are even trying to drop the word amateur from their title.

I remember when I was in London for the 2012 Olympics doing some work for the BBC,  I had a meeting with a guy who was high up in the AIBA and he told me they would let pros fight in the Olympics. (They did for Rio 2016, Hassan N’dam N’jikam for example qualified.)

The idea then would be to form a boxing league with the professionals – who must be top level – and the fighter that wins the tournament at each weight will win a space in the 2016 Olympics.

When I asked him about the payments for a fight, it was something like $3,000 each fight which is terrible for a world-class amateur turning professional, especially at that level fighting other world class champions, but the boys from poor countries will do it.

If this happened 15 years ago, you would have had the likes of Lomachenko fighting Rigondeaux and being paid $3k.

The plan was for the AIBA to televise these fights which would be great and make lots of money, while the fighters would make the bare minimum.

They also changed the rules with the computer scoring, now it’s more like professional fighting scoring – this is so the fighters get used to using the pro-style – and I’m not a fan of it at all. Why would they not just keep it as it is – you hit him, you get a point, he hits you he gets a point? Simple, right?

Now the aggressive fighter wins the round and it is at the judges’ discretion.

I worry that, if it’s easier to manipulate, it could be that the judge whose palm has been greased the most will decide which boxer will win the Olympics.

I personally think this is slowly hurting the sport and making it more dangerous just so the people at the top can make extra cash. I’ve been tweeting my thoughts on this and most people have agreed with me. A few seem to think it will bring better fights and I guess if you like seeing kids get their faces cut up and bruised up when they not getting paid, yeah, it makes great fights.

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