Katie Taylor and team-mates will wear head guards in South Korea
Debate over use of safety gear for women continues as AIBA hold meeting
Pete Taylor: “If the lads are trying to fight without head gear and the girls are fighting with head gear, it’s not the same sport.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Katie Taylor and her three Irish teammates, Michaela Walsh, Clare Grace and Joanna Lambe, will be wearing protective head guards when the World Championships begin on the South Korean island of Jeju on Sunday.
But the contentious debate over head gear for women continues as the world governing body, AIBA, hold a week-long congress meeting. There is a push for women to follow the men and remove the head guards, which are believed to add to the chances of boxers suffering concussions.
The question being asked is why women are not protected to the same level as men, with many pushing for head guards to be removed, although it would probably result in women suffering more facial cuts during bouts.
The discussion has also been taking place to the backdrop of a cream called Cavilon coming into the sport. Originally developed to protect bed-ridden people from bed sores, Cavilon, according to Charles Butler, chairman of the AIBA Medical Commission, “significantly reduced the amount of cuts at the Asian Games.”
Several layers are applied to a boxer’s face – AIBA recommended a minumum of three – before each bout. The cream forms a thin transparent film and provides a long lasting, durable barrier.
‘Shave it off’
“But I wouldn’t really worry about it when I’m in the ring. It would be quite different. Professional boxing is different to amateur boxing in that you have four or five fights within a week.
“Everyone is a high-tempo fight. It’s all go for three or four rounds whereas in a professional fight they are pacing themselves and they are not going in as heavy. I do clash heads quite a bit but you just don’t notice it with the head guards on.
“I don’t really think of stuff like that to be honest. Whatever the rules are I’ll go in and to be honest I don’t mind a new challenge. If it does end up going the three times three-minute rounds and the head guards off I’d welcome that.”
When the draw takes place on Sunday the defending champion will be targeting a fifth successive lightweight title in her sixth World Championships since 2005.
Taylor first competed at World Championship level as a teenager. She has now won 20 of her 21 fights at this level over the last nine years.
But her father and coach, Pete, with her every step of the way, takes a stronger view on the issue of head protection.
“If the lads are trying to fight without head gear and the girls are fighting with head gear, it’s not the same sport,” he says.
“If they think, for medical reasons, they take the head gear off for the boys then you have to take the head gear off for the girls because the girls are sometimes punching as hard as the boys. The lads would say that after sparring with Katie.”
The Irish squad have been in Jeju for almost two weeks ahead of the opening bell. The tournament takes place at the 6,000-capacity Halla Gym, where over 70 nations will compete. Boxing begins at 11am on Sunday after the general weigh-in and draw.
Irish team: 54kg Michaela Walsh (Holy Family); 57kg Joanna Lambe (Carrickmacross); 60kg Katie Taylor (Bray); 69kg Claire Grace (Callan). Team manager: Anna Moore. Coaches: Pete Taylor, Zuare Antia, Gerry Storey.