Complete Guide to USA Boxing's 2014 Rule Changes

On August 9th, USA Boxing President Anthony Bartkowski announced that amateur boxing in the United States would be making changes to its current competition and technical rules.  Understandably, this has left a lot of boxers wondering just how these changes will affect them.  But don’t worry, you won’t have to re-learn boxing as you know it. 

We’ve compiled a list of the most important rule changes and what they mean for the sport of amateur boxing. 

Why are the rules changing?

Following a disappointing showing for the USA Boxing team at the 2012 London Olympics it became obvious that something needed to be done to prepare our boxers for international competition. The updates to rules for USA Boxing competitions align more with the Amateur International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) rules present at international competitions.  It’s a bottom-top approach to training better, more successful boxers.

When do the new USA Boxing rules go into effect?

The rule changes will need to be adopted by all Local Boxing Commissions and boxing clubs by January 1, 2014.

What are the most important changes to the USA Boxing Rules?

1.  New 10 point must scoring system

USA Boxing has decided to do away with the much-maligned computer scoring system and will now be based on a 10 point must system. This means that one boxer must be given a score of 10, declaring him the winner. 

Rounds are judged based on:

  • Quality blows landed on the target area
  • Competitiveness
  • Technique
  • Style and form of blows
  • Tactic
  • Infringement of rules

The loser of a round is scored on a scale of 9-6, based on how competitive a round was:

Scoring What Does It Mean?
10-9 The round was very competitive, but one boxer was slightly better
10-8 One boxer was clearly dominant over the other
10-7 Total dominance by one boxer
10-6 One boxer completely overmatched by the other

2.  New Low Blow Rule

Following a low blow, if the offended boxer doesn’t complain to the referee, the fight can be continued without an interruption.

If there is a complaint made, the ref can do the following:

  • Give a standing 8 count
  • Disqualify the offending boxer immediately if they rule that the low blow was intentional

If after an 8 count, the boxer still isn’t fit to continue, the ref can pause the fight up to a minute and a half rest period to allow the boxer to recover.  After that time if the offended boxer can continue, a warning is given and the fight starts again.  If not, the opponent wins by TKO.

3.  No headgear for Elite level boxers

The most significant, and perhaps the most controversial, change now being adopted by USA Boxing is the removal of headgear for Elite level boxers.  We’ve covered the issue of head injury prevention in boxing before, and needless to say it’s a high priority concern in all sports at the moment. 

The removal of headgear from boxers is being called dangerous and reckless by numerous sources.  The first thing to point out here is that this rule applies ONLY to Elite level (19-40 years old) boxers with international aspirations. No athlete will ever box without headgear if they don’t want to.  Even boxers 19-40 years of age who don’t aspire international competition will be able to use headgear.

It’s also important to keep in mind that for boxers at the highest levels of competition, such as the Elite level, headgear can actually make it more likely to sustain a serious head injury.  Headgear can hinder peripheral vision and reaction time, and make it more difficult for a highly-skilled boxer to dodge an incoming blow.  Boxers at the youth level and lower will still wear headgear, so don’t go throwing it away just yet.

What do these changes mean for amateur boxing moving forward?

Adopting many of the rules that are already in place in other AIBA-sanctioned countries will allow boxers from the United States to compete on a level playing field with other international programs.  The hope is that better aligning USA Boxing events and clubs with the rest of the world will improve competitiveness and boost the program moving forward.  Time will tell whether adopting this system can push our young boxers onto the next level on the international stage.

Where can I view the complete technical and competition rules?

They can be downloaded in PDF format on USA Boxing’s website:
    Technical Rules
    Competition Rules

What do I do if I have questions?

Contact your Local Boxing Commission for more information on how these changes might affect you.

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