Inside Lines: Headguard ban for amateur boxers is 'crazy', says George Groves


Alan Hubbard
Saturday 05 April 2014 23:41
Boxing clever: George Groves says amateurs must wear headguards
Boxing clever: George Groves says amateurs must wear headguards

Young boxers in this year's ABA Championships must fight without headguards, a highly controversial move imposed by the sport's international governing body which has been described by one of Britain's top professionals as "crazy".

George Groves, the 26-year-old world title contender, tells us: "I get paid to get hit in the head. These kids don't. They need the protection headguards give at this stage of their careers, just as I did when I boxed as an amateur. I never had a cut or serious head injury. Removing them is highly dangerous. Especially at a time when several sports, not only boxing, are increasingly concerned about brain damage. It is too great a risk."

Though they will still be worn by women, the International Amateur Boxing Association have decreed that the use of headguards – first introduced into competition for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics for safety reasons – must be banned. They claim the decision, which applies to all major domestic and international tournaments, including the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the next Olympics in Rio, is based on medical evidence that the removal will actually decrease concussions. But a more widely held theory is that the sport has succumbed to pressure from TV, as combatants will now be more identifiable.

The ABA Championships, whose divisional finals have been taking place this weekend, culminate in the national finals in Liverpool from 25-27 April and will be televised by Sky.

There was little evidence that any head punches the impressively articulate Groves may have absorbed since abandoning headguards in his 19-fight pro career have affected him when he entertainingly addressed a Sports Journalists' Association lunch in London last week, revealing that he has acquired a manager's licence before his multi-million pound rematch with super-middleweight champion Carl Froch at Wembley Stadium on 31 May.

But the only fighter he plans to manage is himself. "I'm taking charge of my own business because I don't trust anyone else to do it," he said. "I may not be the smartest kid but I do know how to read a spreadsheet and that an 80,000 crowd – which it's going to be – brings in £5 million. Then there's television and so on. So I'm not going to accept £100 grand or even a million. I know what I'm worth, and I know boxing."

He knows how to manage the media, too.

Miller's sorry tale

Few tears would have been shed in sport had its governmental overlady Maria Miller jumped or been pushed over the expenses aberration for which she has been forced to grudgingly apologise to Parliament. "A total waste of space," was one of the milder views expressed by several senior sports administrators to The Independent on Sunday on her hapless tenure as Culture Secretary, in which the only notable contribution to the sports aspect of her role was her involvement in blocking the appointment of Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson as chair of Sport England following a petty political disagreement over disability rights.

With Sports Minister Helen Grant keeping a low profile after her series of gaffes, and her immediate boss's apparent disaffection for the brief, it appears that sport has sunk alarmingly low on the list of Government priorities now that the 2012 bandwagon has stopped rolling.

Come on Dave, up the game.

Vlad all over

Ukip leader Nigel Farage is not alone in being a western admirer of Vladimir Putin. Thomas Bach, German president of the International Olympic Committee, has personally invited the Russian leader to the IOC's lakeside emporium in Lausanne as a thank-you for his safe delivery of the Sochi Winter Olympics.

"It is purely protocol," insist the IOC, who were so impressed with Sochi that subsequently they have appointed Putin's great pal, the Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov, as chair of the their Evaluation Commission to oversee bids for the 2022 Winter Games.

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