No Headgear No problem for Earl Newman Jr.
By Tom Mauriello
Brooklyn, NY (April 2, 2013)– The evolution of the sport of boxing continued yesterday as the USA National Championship tournament began at the Northern Quest Resort and Casino in Spokane, Washington. This tournament will be the first under the International Boxing Association (AIBA) to have the ELITE class of amateur boxers compete without headgear. USA Boxing has not had a tournament held without headgear since 1986.
The president of AIBA Dr Ching-Kuo Wu had petitioned to remove headgear in order to decrease concussions to current fighters. The AIBA medical commission had studied over 2,000 fights and came to the decision to remove headgear as a safety measure to reduce concussions.
The fighters in Spokane, Washington will be our first look on this new system and I am very curious to see how this works out. Many questions are brought to the table regarding fight plans, training methods and your corner game.
Now I agree, the decision of removing the head gear and changing to a 10 point must system as opposed to the point system which was in play makes the sport much more attractive, especially on the Olympic level. It will bring more viewers and ultimately lead to more knockouts considering there is less padding for the fighters. As brutal as it sounds, It is better for a fighter to be knocked unconscious then it is for he or she to receive a concussion while wearing the headgear, attempt to regain their composure while they are already concussed, and receive more blows while concussed. But, taking off the headgear adds an element that a young amateur fighter has never had to deal with, cuts.
Amateur bouts become a little more wild then pro bouts. Hopefully with the new 10 point must system that has also been implemented by AIBA, this will allow fighters not to rush their work and cause less collisions where a head butt can open a fighter wide open and ruin his or her chances at gold. There will still be hard punches landing on skin, and cuts can be brutal for fighter. This new element can cause disasters for the amateur ranks. Professional fighters are not fighting twice a week for months at a time. Professional fighters also have professional cut men in the ring with them who can stop the bleeding as much as humanly possible. But once a fighter is done with the bout, he can go get stitched up and is more then likely not going to compete for another 4-6 months. As an amateur, 4-6 months can make or break your career. With a tournament, if a fighter receives a bad cut and wins the fight, he or she will not be able to continue. As a fighter I can take a loss and walk away from it, but knowing I cannot continue due to something I was not able to control would be heartbreaking.
In my opinion, this will shorten the careers of many amateur fighters. You will no longer see fighters with 110 Amateur fights such as Amir Khan. Amateur careers will be shortened and fighters will be exposed. The skills and knowledge you receive in the amateur ranks will no longer be there, and green fighters will be thrown into the professional ranks not fully ready for top tier fighters. The gym only teaches you so much. In sparring, you truly learn your craft while trading blows when it counts. And though I agree it will lead to more exciting fights, the idea of a young man or women not being able to compete for a medal in the Olympic games due to a cut really bothers me. For this reason alone, I feel taking of the head gear is a bad decision.
As always I wish to be proven wrong, so I went to a good friend who I have been in the ring with before to ask what he feels about the current decision from the AIBA. Earl Newman JR is a Brooklyn native with a 27-5 amateur record. He is currently in the finals for the NYC Golden Gloves in the Heavyweight division and just recorded his first win at the USA National Tournament, which I spoke of earlier. I recently reached out to Earl to see what he thought about the recent decision as a person who is being affected directly by the decision.
Earl Newman Jr. Interview
Congrats on your first win, with the new 10 point must system for the nationals, did your fight plan change from the Golden Gloves to the national tournament?
Yes it did. You can’t go in there and be reckless. With the point system you cant throw the flurries of punches and win off of that. You now have to box and fight every minute of every round. It makes people actually box as opposed to running around stealing rounds.
Is the nerves or training different going into each tournament? Are you more comfortable competing in your own hometown or does it not matter either way?
At this point in time having 30 fights, I have the confidence in myself and in the ring. The good thing about the national tournament is that you’re getting the opportunity to fight fighters with different styles. New faces, new styles, but I don’t feel any extra pressure.
With the experience you have in the sport, would you say this is your most exciting year competing in the finals of the NYC Golden Gloves as well as the National tournament?
Both tournaments are equal for me. The nationals are in front of scouts and now winning national tournaments entitles you to about $50,000 a year, which is much more motivating and exciting. We also want to take home the gloves. We were there last year, now I want to take them home.
What is your overall goal, moving forward after potentially winning these tournaments? Will you continue with and amateur career and move to possibly represent your country in the Olympic games, or will you look to turn pro?
Every other country pays their fighters outside the US, and fighting without head gear needs an added incentive. I was looking to turn pro this year, but now that we are getting paid as amateurs, I may stay to get that experience on an international level. Experience is very valuable and its something I would like to have before I turn pro. For the Olympics I’m gaining points and moving higher in ranking, but I’m focused on the task at hand and my international experience.
Something new and exiting in this years nationals as headgear will not be used, were you nervous getting in the ring without headgear?
No not at all, I wasn’t thinking about the “no headgear” aspect. It was just odd to see fighters not using it. In one ring you see the gear, and in the other you don’t. I am just looking to avoid reckless fighters and head butts. In the first fight of the night, the fighter was cut and you saw that this was real. But it did not distract me.
I feel this is better for the sport of boxing, but will it hurt amateur boxing?
There is a pro and a con. It can harm an amateur fighter’s future pro career. This also helps you with defense, you must learn to fight now with the new 10 point must system and to avoid being hit. It is a much better acclimation into the pro’s. It helps amateur boxing by showing you how to fight and getting you better for the pros. But a cut can hurt you in the long run.
Will this decision from AIBA to move to no headgear push people to turn pro to early considering that you are now taking more damage in competition as an amateur?
Since we are now getting paid, and the pay is good, it is better to stick around for the international experience.
With no headgear, do you change up your style, knowing that there is less protection, so a KO is more possible?
My style has not changed since I have always had a pro style. I just need to be more mindful of the reckless fighters and head classes. I’m just trying to avoid cuts.
Does this decision change your corner game? For instance will you now have a cut man with you or will that be provided by AIBA?
We now have to bring our own cut man, but I am not paying for him out of pocket. AIBA does not provide a cut man. Not sure if you have to pay out of pocket.
How high is the level of competition there in Spokane? I’m sure the motivation being with the nation’s “ELITE” must be amazing.
There is a solid stable of fighters out here. There are a few guys out here I have my eye on, but with my confidence and what I bring to the table I feel I’m number one in the country. The competition is stiff, but I will be on my A-game and ready for them all.
After speaking with Earl I can say that my views have slightly changed. Earl has the same fear as I do about being cut. It seems as if the more disciplined fighters will prosper with these new rules. The “pity pat” as Earl mentioned is not going to work anymore in the amateur ranks. You are going to have to fight every minute of every round. This makes for more disciplined fighters as well as many fighter becoming exposed considering that the point scoring method will get you tagged and also lose rounds for you.
It is very exciting to hear that these fighters will be compensated for the risks they are taking fighting with out the head gear. It also salvages the amateur ranks seeing that you can get that amazing international fighting experience as an amateur and get paid for it. I still feel that it will shorten amateur careers in the long run, but I am happy to hear that Earl is electing to stay amateur and gain that international experience before he begins his quest for a title.
Whichever way you look at this, this decision by AIBA is great for the sport of boxing and will breed the best fighters in the world. You will no longer need those introductory pro fights to get you accustomed to not wearing headgear, or learning the scoring system since you will already have that experience in the amateur ranks. So get out there an support your hometown amateurs, they are the future of boxing, and the right people to cheer for. Come out and see Earl at the Barclays as well as he looks to put a pair of gloves around his neck in the finals of the NYC Golden Gloves April 18th and 19th.