Dr Julian Bailes was officially appointed as a special advisor to AIBA President Ching-Kuo Wu in November 2015. Dr Bailes is a neurosurgeon and has worked in the sports related neurological trauma field for over thirty years at both professional level as well as youth sports. A founding member of the Brain Injury Research Institute in Pennsylvania, USA, Dr Bailes will advise AIBA on all aspects concerning the health of boxers during competitions.
As a leader in the field of neurosurgery, what expert input will you bring to AIBA in its efforts to prevent concussions?
I advise on the issues that arise in neurological sports medicine, and more specifically ways in which we can continue to make boxing a safe and exciting sport for people around the world to participate in and enjoy. There are emerging principles in neurological sports medicine that relate to boxing and can help further prevent the occurrence of concussion.
As special Advisor to AIBA, what has been your first point of business?
I have been working with AIBA since 2015 consulting on one issue in particular – the removal of headgear in boxing. We think that this is a very positive step for boxing worldwide and that the removal of headgear leads directly to the increased safety of the boxers. A result of headguards has been that boxers want to attack their opponent’s head more often and have a bigger surface area to target. AIBA research and data shows that it is safer to box without headguards.
Do you think the removal of headguards makes boxing a safer sport?
In our analysis of over 28,000 rounds of boxing, we have found that with the removal of headgear there was close to a 50% reduction in concussion incidents. The removal of headgear makes it safer for the boxer to compete. Instead of being targeted in the head, instead of being emboldened and taking risks, the boxer is now safer. During the AIBA World Boxing Championships in Doha, for example, there were zero concussions. So this is a transition that we are making, and we hope to continue it at this summer’s Olympic Games.
What is AIBA’s priority in the removal of headguards?
At AIBA we think that concussion is the biggest issue. We want to be able to enjoy the sport and for our athletes to participate without the risk of acute or even later-life brain injury, so brain safety is the number one priority for AIBA Boxing. Therefore the launch of the HeadsUp programme, and its educational component, is a very positive initiative to train coaches, athletes, referees and judges in order to prevent head contact during the competitions and showcase boxing as one of the most appealing sports in the world.
On a personal note, which boxing legend do you admire the most?
“Smoking” Joe Frazier, a heavyweight with 32 wins, was always my favorite boxer. He had some classic encounters with Mohammed Ali and I admired his style.