Explained: Two bronze medals are awarded in the Olympics boxing competition 

Indian boxing legends Mary Kom and Vijender Singh have benefitted from the rule of awarding two bronze medals in the Olympics.

By Aarish Ansari
Picture by 2012 Getty Images

Boxing is one of the fiercest combat sports in the Olympic program, packed with thrill, drama and high-intensity action. Competitors exchange punches for three rounds of three minutes each to progress and eventually find a place on the podium.

However, unlike most Olympic sports, the podium is slightly bigger for boxing.

Not in the literal sense, but there are two bronze medallists that take the podium in boxing instead of just one.

This is how Indian welterweight Lovlina Borgohain secured a medal after winning her quarter-final fight at the Tokyo Olympics.

And this is how MC Mary Kom and Vijender Singh also won bronze despite losing their respective semi-finals at London 2012 and Beijing 2008, respectively.

However, there weren’t always two bronze medal winners in boxing.

No bronze medal for five Olympic Games

Since making its Olympic debut in 1904, boxing featured a bronze medal playoff between the losing semi-finalists whereas the top two boxers received the gold and silver medal – a standard rule in most sports.

The International Boxing Association (AIBA), however, changed the rule at the second AIBA Congress in 1950, deciding to do away with the bronze medal match. Both losers of the semi-finals were to be placed third with neither awarded a medal.

The rule was introduced due to the short interval between the semi-final and the third-place match. The boxers did not get adequate time to recover, which risked their health.

On AIBA’s recommendation, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) did not hold the bronze medal match at the 1952 Helsinki Games and the beaten semi-finalists were given an Olympic diploma instead of a medal.

This practice continued for five editions till the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

Two bronze medals in boxing

In 1970, AIBA, on the Finland Boxing Association’s recommendation, proposed the IOC to award two bronze medals to both the losing semi-finalists instead of an Olympic diploma.

The IOC accepted the proposal and all 10 semi-finalists from 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964 and 1968 were eventually awarded a bronze medal at a ceremony in 1970.

That is how the practice of awarding two bronze medals in boxing originated.

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