Gamechanger: Old scoring, new headgear could help boxing punch above its weight

India's Vikas Krishan (L) in action against Turkey's Onur Sipal during the Men's (75kg) match at the 2016 Rio Olympics YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images

With competitive sport in limbo, it's an opportunity for those in charge to rethink how their sports could change. This series looks at some of the most popular sports in India and speaks to stakeholders - players, administrators, former players, fans - on what change they wish to see in their sport (and also what they would not change). We started with Abhinav Bindra, India's only solo gold medallist at the Olympics, for an overview of why sport in general needs to change, before moving on to hockey. We then looked at the way forward for shooting. Today, we look at boxing.

Vikas Krishan (Current boxer)

From a health perspective, I think there should be a test for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases during the medical tests that are carried out before a competition. Additionally the old scoring when three judges used to press the button when they saw a punch was better than the current system (where bouts are scored in the ten-point scale). Boxing was a lot more entertaining back then. There were some disadvantages in that boxers would become more passive when they realised they were ahead.

How to go about it

Even in the current 10-9 system, we saw a change at the Olympic qualifiers where the scores were declared at the end of each round instead of at the end of the bout as it used to be. This too had the chance of encouraging passive boxing but that didn't happen. If we could get the old form of scoring back but with some way to ensure boxers didn't become too passive that would make things a lot better.

What would you not change?

AIBA is thinking about getting the headguard back in amateur boxing, but that's something I wouldn't change. As a boxer the headguard obstructs my vision in the ring. When you get hit, the audience doesn't really know because it's difficult to make out. I also support the increasing number of professional boxers being allowed to take part in amateur events. That improves the quality of the amateur boxers and also improves the quality of the competition.

Akhil Kumar (Former boxer and coach)

The most important thing is that we need to make the sport more commercially viable. All the remaining issues in boxing will fall in place after that. Right now, the problem is when we are thinking of solving issues in boxing, we are thinking from the perspective of the federation or players. But we need to be thinking as a spectator. I'm not a fan of the 10-9 scoring system. It's as if you have a football match and only tell the score once the match ends. It makes no sense. Ideally, I'd go back to the point scoring system because it was a lot easier to understand. I also think perhaps instead of three rounds of three minutes each, we could have four rounds of two minutes each. That way perhaps you would have more time for advertisements between rounds.

How to go about it

The priority would be to make boxing rules simpler to understand. Right now boxing discourages casual viewers. You have to be an expert to know what's happening. The average viewer doesn't understand what's going on in the ring. If you start watching from the middle of the bout, you don't know what's going on. We have had the point scoring format before and it worked for the most part. It's easy to understand getting a point for a punch. I'd also have the federations sit with corporates and ask them what they needed in order to get involved in promoting boxing.

What would you not change?

I'd keep headguards out of amateur boxing. It's gives the impression that the bout is less exciting than the professional system.

Mohd Ali Qamar (Current women's national coach)

For me the priority would be to have more boxing competitions at the national level. Right now, we just have the national championships for senior boxers while in the past we had the AK Mishra tournament in Chandigarh. If you are boxing from the Services, Haryana or Railways, you aren't always guaranteed a chance even to represent your team at this tournament. And if you don't take part in this competition, there isn't any other chance for you to make yourself known for the rest of the year.

How to go about it

I think there's no other way than to hold more tournaments. They could be invitational tournaments so the big teams could send their second or third best boxers. Some of these boxers don't do well in their inter-services or inter-railways meets but would get more competition experience if they participate in these tournaments. It's great for the national coaches too because we would be able to pick more boxers to serve as sparring partners in the national camps.

What would you not change?

I'm particularly satisfied with the direction women's boxing is going in. It's not just Mary Kom who you are depending on. There's a lot more motivation in the other weight divisions too. Before the last Olympic qualifiers, there a few girls who dropped a weight division despite having won world level medals in their old categories in order to get a chance to compete. That was something I was proud of.

B Sacheti, (Secretary, Boxing Federation of India)

I'd like to see us hosting more international competitions and camps. When we send Indians for competitions abroad, we have to spend a lot of money and only one team can participate. On the other hand, if we host competitions in India, we can have as many as three Indian teams take the advantage of competing with players from across the world. That's why we are looking to host more teams even just for training camps. We have already hosted one invitational competition in the India Open but we are hoping to do more of that from next year.

How to go about it

Hosting camps for international boxers and even invitational competitions is easier than conducting a championships because you are not going through AIBA. It's simply a bilateral arrangement between two national federations. It even works out cheaper than sending a squad for international exposure.

What would you not change?

There's no limit to what we can change. There's things that have to change even domestically. We need to expand the number of states that are producing boxers. It wouldn't be right to say that we don't want to change things.

Santiago Nieva (Technical Director, Indian boxing team)

I'd immediately bring back the headgear for the senior men's boxers. I don't agree with the argument that it makes boxers look professional. I've seen too many dangerous head clashes and hits to the back of the head that no one is talking about. There was a boxer at the Worlds who clashed heads and boxed the rest of the tournament with a huge swelling. That's just dangerous. There's a lot of long-term damage with cuts that isn't being studied properly. I'd also change the current rule (instituted in 2013) that says youth boxers can't take part in senior competition. (Two-time Olympic champion) Claressa Shields won her first Olympic gold when she was 17. Amir Khan won Olympic silver at 17 too. That wouldn't be allowed anymore. It also makes things a lot harder for countries that don't have a big talent pool because that way you are forcibly taking away competition from talented youngsters.

How to go about it

I don't think it's very difficult to change these rules, it's just whether the international federations have the willpower to make these decisions. It won't cost money or anything. It's crazy that you would have mandatory headguards for women's competitions but not for men. It's not like men's heads are less prone to injury.

What would you not change?

It's not a popular opinion but I wouldn't change the 10 point must scoring system. It's changed boxing for the better. Out of context it seems logical to have a point scored for a punch like it used to be but it was just not possible to defend it any more. Over the years it ensured that boxing had become a tactical, boring contest. Taking the overall picture in mind, the current scoring system is better.