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Boxers have to make up mind on headgear issue

Sun., April 7, 2013

Soldier Reyes Marquez is hoping the Army will allow him to shed headgear in future bouts. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Soldier Reyes Marquez is hoping the Army will allow him to shed headgear in future bouts. (Tyler Tjomsland)

When the International Boxing Association voted last year to eliminate headgear for elite amateur boxers, it also forced a split decision on young fighters everywhere.

Only by shedding the headgear could up-and-comers continue to compete in international events, but at the cost of wear and tear on their bodies in a busy amateur schedule.

Those who decided to stay in headgear now compete in the Senior Division of the USA Boxing National Championships, where the athletes are every bit as skilled – and still looking to make the most of their future.

“If I want a good future as a pro, I don’t think it’s a good idea to fight without headgear,” 123-pound Senior champion Gary Russell said Saturday afternoon on the final day of the tournament.

Russell acknowledged that he’s handicapped by a lack of international experience. “But the plusses are that I still get to fight, and I’m getting time to perfect my craft,” said Russell, whose older brother, Gary Russell, Jr., is 22-0 as a professional at featherweight.

The question was posed to Russell last year by his father, former amateur Gary Russell, Sr. “He wanted to pick my brain,” recalled Russell. “I told him I didn’t think it was a good idea. That’a lot of wear and tear injuries, cuts, head butts.”

Not everyone has a choice. Soldier Reyes Marquez, the 152-pound champion, said he prefers to box without headgear, but the Army still requires it.

“I don’t think it affects me, but hopefully in a couple of months we’ll be able to fight without headgear,” said Marquez, who said the issue is under review by military sports authorities.

Regardless, Marquez, a native of Mexico, said he’s very grateful to the Army for it suport en route to his first national title.

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