Like all Olympic boxing events, the competition was a straight single-elimination tournament. The event consisted of 28 boxers of different nationalities, who had qualified for the competition through various qualifying tournaments held in 1999 and 2000. The competition began with a preliminary round on 17 September, where the number of competitors was reduced to 16, and concluded with the final on 30 September. As there were fewer than 32 boxers in the competition, a number of boxers received a bye through the preliminary round. Both semi-final losers were awarded bronze medals.
All bouts consisted of four rounds of two minutes each, with one minute breaks between rounds. Punches scored only if the white area on the front of the glove made full contact with the front of the head or torso of the opponent. Five judges scored each bout; three of the judges had to signal a scoring punch within one second for the punch to score. The winner of the bout was the boxer who scored the most valid punches by the end of the bout.