NEW DELHI: The Boxing Federation of India (BFI) is planning to conduct the men's national championships from September 15 to 22 at the Inspire Institute of Sports in Karnataka's Bellary and is considering the possibility of allowing pugilists to compete with head guards at the event.
The national championships could not be held last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The upcoming event will also be based on the new weight categories introduced by the International Boxing Association last month. The revised weight divisions for men, after being increased from 10 to 13, are 48kg, 51kg, 54kg, 57kg, 60kg, 63.5kg, 67kg, 71kg, 75kg, 80kg, 86kg, 92kg, and +92kg.
Men's amateur boxing did away with head guards in 2013 after the AIBA medical commission, after a research study, concluded that removing the gear "may reduce the already small risk of acute brain injury in amateur boxing."
The AIBA events and Olympic competitions do not feature head guards but national associations are free to conduct their tournaments with or without the protective gear.
"There is an executive committee meeting on September 3 where this will be discussed and if there is consensus, we will allow boxers to wear head guards during the championships," BFI Secretary General Hemanta Kalita told PTI.
"The AIBA gives national federations the choice to conduct their domestic events with or without head guards," he added.
The AIBA research had concluded that head guards can increase the risk of blows to the head because the padding around the eyes limits the boxer's vision.
On the flip-side, the absence of head guards has contributed to an increased rate of cuts.
To this, the AIBA study had stated that "as boxers become more experienced and acclimated" to boxing without head guards and coaches change their style in view of the new rule, the rate of cuts will be reduced to previous historic levels.
The head guards were made mandatory in 1984 by AIBA before being dumped in 2013.
"It is a great idea because fighting without head guards in one off bouts in the professional circuit is fine but in a tournament that involves competing continuously for four-five days, it is better to have head guards," said former Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Akhil Kumar.
"I used to get irritated with head guards during my playing days but it is better to have them for competitions like these," he added.
The tournament in Bellary will require boxers, participating officials and support staff to present a negative RT-PCR test report obtained 72 hours before landing at the competition.
The boxers' temperatures will also be checked on arrival.
Head guards, if allowed, will be provided by the organisers.
"It is mandatory for everyone to use mask appropriately at all places, except in boxing ring," read the competition brochure. The 2019 men's national championship was held in Himachal Pradesh with Services Sports Control Board claiming the overall honours with six gold, two silver and one bronze medal.
Another traditional powerhouse Railways had finished second with one gold, four silver and two bronze medals. The Indian men's boxing team endured an underwhelming Olympic campaign with only one of the five qualified boxers managing to go past the first round.
The next big assignment lined up for them is the world championship in Belgrade, Serbia come November.