Olympic (or Amateur) boxing is found at the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games. Olympic boxing prizes point scoring rather than physical damage or knockouts. Bouts comprise four rounds of two minutes in Olympic and Commonwealth and three rounds of two minutes in a national ABA (Amateur Boxing association) bout each with a one minute interval between rounds.
Competitors wear protective headgear and gloves with a white strip across the knuckle. A punch is considered a scoring punch only when the boxers connect with the white portion of the gloves. Each punch that lands on the head or torso is awarded a point. A referee monitors the fight to ensure that competitors use only legal blows (a belt worn over the torso represents the lower limit of punches – any boxer repeatedly landing “low blows” is disqualified). Referees also ensure that the boxers don’t use holding tactics to prevent the opponent from swinging (if this occurs, the referee separates the opponents and orders them to continue boxing. Repeated holding can result in a boxer being penalized, or ultimately, disqualified).
Referees will stop the bout if a boxer is seriously injured, if one boxer is significantly dominating the other or if the score is severely imbalanced.
Olympic (amateur) boxing history
The Queensberry Amateur Championships continued from 1867 to 1885, and so, unlike their professional counterparts, Olympic boxers did not deviate from using gloves once the Queensberry Rules had been published. In the United Kingdom, the Amateur Boxing Association (A.B.A.) was formed in 1880 when twelve clubs affiliated. It held its first championships the following year. Four weight classes were contested, Featherweight (9 stone), Lightweight (10 stone), Middleweight (11 stone, 4 pounds) and Heavyweight (no limit). (A stone is equal to 14 pounds). By 1902, American boxers were contesting the titles in the A.B.A. Championships, which, therefore, took on an international complexion. By 1924, the A.B.A. had 105 clubs in affiliation.
Boxing first appeared at the Olympic Games in 1904 and, apart from the Games of 1912, has always been part of them. From 1972 through 2004, Cuba and the United States have won the most Gold Medals, 29 for Cuba and 21 for the U.S. Internationally, Olympic boxing spread steadily throughout the first half of the 20th century, but when the first international body, the Federation Internationale de Boxe Olympic (International Olympic Boxing Federation) was formed in Paris in 1920, there were only five member nations. In 1946, however, when the International Amateur Boxing Association (A.I.B.A.) was formed in London, twenty-four nations from five continents were represented, and the A.I.B.A. has continued to be the official world federation of Olympic boxing ever since. The first World Amateur Boxing Championships were staged in 1974.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, Olympic boxing was encouraged in schools, universities and in the armed forces, but the champions usually came from among the urban poor.
Women’s boxing first appeared in the Olympic Games at a demonstration bout in 1904. For most of the 20th century, however, it was banned in most nations. Its revival was pioneered by the Swedish Amateur Boxing Association, which sanctioned events for women in 1988. The British Amateur Boxing Association sanctioned its first boxing competition for women in 1997. The first event was to be between two thirteen-year-olds, but one of the boxers withdrew because of hostile media attention. Four weeks later, an event was held between two sixteen-year-olds.
The A.I.B.A. accepted new rules for Women’s Boxing at the end of the 20th century and approved the first European Cup for Women in 1999 and the first World Championship for women in 2001. Women’s boxing will be an exhibition sport at the 2008 Olympics, but it won’t become an official Olympic sport until the 2012 Olympics.
A new scoring system was invented for Olympic boxing: using a computer, judges must press a button every time they think a boxer landed a punch. When three or more of the five judges press the button within a second of each other, the punch counts as a “point” for the fighter that landed it. Punches to the head or face of an opponent usually score the most points for a competitor. At any point of the fight in which a fighter is leading by twenty points (or sometimes more), the referee is indicated and the fight is stopped, the leading fighter winning by “mercy”, and credited with a knockout.