The boxers are paired off at random for the Olympic Games, without regard to ranking. They fight in a single-elimination tournament, with the winner advancing to the next round and the loser dropping out of the competition. Winning boxers progress through the preliminary rounds to the quarterfinals and semifinals. The two semifinals winners fight for the gold and silver medals, while both losing semifinalists receive bronze medals.
Men's bouts consist of a total of three rounds of three minutes each. Women's bouts consist of a total of four rounds of two minutes each. There is a one-minute rest interval between each round.
Contests are won by knockout or on points.
A point is awarded for a scoring hit with marked part of the glove on the opponent's head (side or front) or body (above the belt).
A panel of five judges decides which hits are scoring hits.
Judges each have two buttons before them, one for each boxer, and they press the appropriate button when they believe a boxer delivers a scoring hit.
An electronic scoring system registers a point whenever three or more judges press the button for one boxer within a second of each other. No point is awarded for a hit unless three of the five judges agree.
When two boxers trade blows in a flurry of infighting, where no full-force punches can land, the judges wait until the end of the exchange and award a point to the boxer who got the better of it.
At the end of the bout, when each judge's points have been totaled, the boxer awarded the most points by a majority of the judges is declared the winner.
If two boxers end up with the same number of points, the judges decide a winner by assessing such factors as which of the two took the lead and showed better style.
If the judges determine those factors to be even, they turn to which competitor showed better defense.
Punches to an opponent's arms do not score points.
Punches that are judged to have no force behind them do not score points.
When a boxer commits a foul, he faces a caution, a warning or, in extreme cases, disqualification. Two cautions for a particular offence mean an automatic warning, and three warnings of any kind mean disqualification.
Some of the more common fouls include hitting below the belt, holding, pressing an arm or elbow into the opponent's face, forcing the opponent's head over the ropes, hitting with an open glove, hitting with the inside of the glove and hitting the opponent on the back of the head, neck or body. Others include passive defense, not stepping back when ordered to break, speaking offensively to the referee and trying to hit the opponent immediately after the order to break.
During a bout, a boxer is considered down if, as a result of being hit, he touches the floor with any part of his body besides his feet. He also is down if he is even partly outside the ropes or hanging on them helplessly from being hit, or if he still is standing but is judged to be unable to continue.
When a boxer is down, the referee starts counting from one to 10 seconds. The count now is timed electronically, with a beep sounding for each number, but referees often still choose to call them out. The referee also is required to signal the count to the downed boxer by holding a hand in front of him and counting with his fingers. If the boxer is still down after the 10 seconds, the opponent wins on a knockout.
Even if a boxer gets back on his feet immediately, he is obliged to take a mandatory eight-count. After the eight seconds, the referee will give the command "Box" if he feels the match should continue. If the boxer gets to his feet but falls again without receiving another blow, the referee starts counting at eight.
A boxer who is down and being counted can be saved by the bell only in the final round of the final. In all other rounds and bouts, the count continues after the bell sounds.
If any boxer takes three counts in one round or four counts in the bout, the referee will stop the fight and declare the opposing boxer the winner.
Read more at Olympic Boxing main page