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Analyzing the changes in the scoring system and rules of Olympic Boxing

Will Shiva Thapa be affected by the changes in format?

Olympic boxing, or amateur boxing as it used to be called, has undergone major changes of late, leading to it assume an almost unrecognizable hue as compared to the 2012 version in London.

And much of these changes – and there are a raft of them – are centered around the rules and scoring system.

In a sport that was characterized as much by the controversies that punctuated it as it was for it’s enduring appeal over centuries, changes were certainly necessary. However, the question if the alterations are indeed what the sport requires to readdress its tainted image will only be answered in time.

But the outlook looks rather bleak.

For the longest time, the Olympics presented a platform upon which amateur boxers could display their dexterity against one another. Now, they have been forced to fight against professional fighters that have been trained much more adeptly and rigorously.

From all corners, this looks like a development bereft of logic; after all, how is it advantageous for 19-year-old budding talents to pit their skills against grizzled veterans that have had their physical and mental limits regularly tested over a greater number of rounds?

Naturally then, when the AIBA announced that pro-boxers would be allowed to participate in the Rio games, many governing bodies and regulatory commissions were vehemently opposed to the notion.

Perhaps the increase of the entry age from 17 to 19 would have served to soften the blow – by sparing the young talents from being handled damagingly at an easily impressionable age – but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that a considerable gulf in class has to be bridged when an amateur talent comes up against a canny veteran.

And if giving a backdoor entry to professional boxers wasn’t enough, changes were implemented into the scoring system which rendered amateur fighters at a further disadvantage.

The previous editions of Olympic boxing were scored using a point-by-point approach, where judges would score a point for a boxer if they believe him or her to have landed a clean punch to the torso of the opponent.

But as prescribed by the AIBA, Rio 2016 marks the advent of the 10-point-must scoring system to evaluate fights; a system that has virtually groomed the modus operandi of professional boxing for the last century or so.

While, on paper, this seems like a beneficial move for the fighters as they don’t have to worry about the judges missing out on accounting for any individual strikes that may have landed, the system is inherently geared towards professional fighters that have spent their entire careers fighting within the rules prescribed by it.

And like Floyd Mayweather and Sugar Ray Leonard before him, professional fighters cultivate a sense of how to convince judges that they have edged out rounds, without actually engaging in a full-blooded fight that many people associate with a combat discipline.

To compound matters, the relevant facets of performance that aggregate towards scoring include ‘ring generalship’ and ‘defence’; components of a boxer’s game that were taken into consideration before, but only as broad guidelines and not concrete yardsticks.

To sum it up in a nutshell, if the scoring system employed earlier on in Olympic boxing focussed purely on the end result, now, even the ‘process’ reserves equal importance.

So not only are amateur boxers required to fight against professionals, they are also placed in a position where they have to unpick the fabric of their training and patch it up with an entirely different approach and mentality.

While this could potentially lead to a greater follow through rate from amateur boxing onto the professional scene sometime in the future, it is almost written in stone that the amateur fighters participating in the Games this year would be adversely affected by the changes.

From preventing the use of headgear under the inconclusive directive of studies to adding professional boxers into the mix, a plethora of reforms have been employed with a view of morphing Olympic boxing – a stand-alone, quadrennial and nationalistic event – into what NXT is to WWE; a breeding ground for future professional boxers.

The ripples of these changes may only truly reveal themselves in time to come, but it is almost certain that the splash would be felt at Rio 2016. Let’s just hope that Shiva Thapa isn’t at the bottom end of it.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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