Boxing isn’t an easy sport to get into and before you can ever dream of becoming a professional in the squared circle, you have got to cut your teeth in the amateur ranks. It is at the amateur level that some managers and trainers will begin scouting fighters. By identifying a good up and coming amateur boxer, a skilled trainer can turn them into a promising fighter.
To become a good amateur boxer, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. If you want to progress into the world of professional fighting, then you must multiply that hard work and dedication by 100 (possibly more). Even then, you may never become an elite fighter.
Amateur boxers have certain attributes that make them stand out to managers and trainers. These attributes not only make a fighter unstoppable in the gym and ring, but help them get up every time they are knocked to the mat. So, what do managers and trainers look for in aspiring amateur boxers? Here is a look at some of the characteristics young boxers should possess.
Endurance and Fitness
Boxing is a sport that challenges a fighter’s mental and physical levels. If you want to fight in the amateur ranks, then you must be able to go the distance (three rounds of three minutes) against an opponent. Boxing is exhausting both mentally and physically. You have got to think and focus during each round. Meanwhile, your body must duck, dodge, and punch at the opponent. You may not think three minutes is a long time, but in a boxing match three minutes feels like an eternity.
Fighters must have good conditioning to get into the ring at an amateur level. It is recommended that amateur boxers run between three and five miles, jump rope for 30 minutes, and be able to spar for six rounds of three minutes each. If you can prove your endurance and fitness in these activities, then perhaps you are ready for an amateur boxing match.
Technique and punching power can enable you to win fights. However, if you do not have the conditioning that goes along with the technique, then you will be unable to hang with opponents in far better condition. Mike Tyson was an endurance and fitness phenom. Yes, “Iron” Mike had the power to knockout opponents, but his high level of fitness put him in position to win fights.
Endurance allows you to continually throw punches in a match or to defend. A fighter that is gassed and unable to throw a punch cannot keep an opponent off of them. Top managers and trainers can identify a boxer with good physical endurance and fitness in just a few short minutes. Without these building blocks, technique and power can only take you so far.
Boxing is like basketball, football, or soccer in that there is a time to attack and a time to defend. Some fighters are taught an attacking/offensive style of fighting. Others use a defensive mindset that lures opponents into attack. Through defensive boxing techniques, you can launch a counter-attack to knockout an opponent.
Once again, fitness plays a part in defensive boxing. By keeping your feet moving, you can avoid strikes from an opponent. Footwork allows you to move away from the opponent by backing up or moving to the side. If an opponent cannot get close enough punch you, then he/she cannot knock you out. Pivots, side-steps, and lateral movements are all part of being defensive. A good trainer and/or manager can teach an amateur boxer the finer points of defensive footwork. If their fighter keeps getting knocked out, then it won’t look good to other potential prospects.
Footwork is just one way to defend yourself. Blocking punches or covering up allows you to defend your face, head, and body. Although you can still take some punches while blocking, your arms and gloves will absorb most of the impact. You must have excellent shoulder strength to block and defend yourself during a bout. Unfortunately, blocking does limit your ability to quickly mount a counter-attack. However, a good coach can identify ways to maximize a counter-attack and go from defense to offense.
The speed in which you move inside the ring can be the difference between winning and losing. You may have great technique and punching power, but it is your speed that enables the power to knockout opponents.
The velocity of a boxer’s punches has a direct effect on accuracy. Good punch speed allows you the opportunity to land pre-emptive strikes that an opponent cannot anticipate. Some of the most famous boxers in the sport such as Manny Pacquiao, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Mike Tyson exhibited great speed when punching. They could throw a jab or a flurry of punches before their opponent could react with a defensive move.
Amateur boxers should work on their speed to maximize the effect their punches have on opponents. Speed gives an amateur the chance to land strikes before the defensive guard closes. Fast punches can catch another fighter off guard and be the catalyst to a knockout.
Speed also prevents an opponent from predicting your next move in the ring. Many amateurs will compete in competitions and/or tournaments allowing potential opponents to scout them. Being unpredictable (in a good way) prevents an opponent from fully preparing for you. If your hands are too fast for them to defend against, then you should be able to win the bout.
Endurance and fitness, defense, and speed are all important, but without punching power, an amateur boxer is like a dog without a bark. Imagine Muhammad Ali floating like a butterfly but unable to sting like a bee. Sure, he would have been able to tire opponents in the ring, but none of his punches would have worn out those opponents. Knockouts wins would have gone the distance.
A powerful boxer, like Ali or Tyson, put their entire body into the punch they are giving. Fighters must learn to transfer the power from their legs up to their torsos to the shoulders into the arms and to the hands. The body works as one to develop power much like a basketball player uses his/her entire body to make a jump shot or a baseball player uses their lower and upper body to hit a baseball. For example, Tyson’s most powerful punches always began from his legs in a semi-squat stance with the momentum transferring through his rotating trunk and into a full-body extension. It was a beautiful sight for everyone except those fighters on the other end of Tyson’s fist.
While Tyson exhibited great punching power, the likes of Conor McGregor did not. The mixed martial arts star has made a career of being a verbose and flamboyant fighter. Yet, in his crossover fight of the century versus Floyd Mayweather Jr, it was obvious to see just how outclassed he was as a boxer. Although McGregor put in some decent shots here and there, he lacked the power that Mayweather showcased. Being an MMA fighter, McGregor had multiple ways to defeat opponents (choke, submission, knockout) while Mayweather has just one in boxing. McGregor’s lack of punching power is also one reason he never made it further in boxing as a youth.
You can have the physical attributes to make it into the world of amateur boxing but without the mental toughness to keep going when the going gets rough, then you will never make it as an elite amateur and pro. Coaches, managers, and trainers can offer you all of the advice in the world, but it is down to the boxer to take it in. Managers and trainers can identify fighters with high levels of mental strength rather quickly. These are the boxers who work hard in the gym, take on the advice of their team, and get up when knocked down (both literally and figuratively).
Many of the top boxers today (Mayweather, Pacquaio) come from broken homes or dodgy environments. It is up to a coach and manager to help a boxer build mental toughness, forget about the past, and strive for a better future in the sport.
It is important for a young boxer to respect themselves and building a positive mental attitude can bring out the best in you as a fighter. While you may have been put down outside of the gym or the boxing ring, it is your time to shine inside of it. To be a winner, an amateur boxer has to think like a winner. You are going to take some punches, but you are going to give some out as well.
Becoming an amateur boxer isn’t easy. There are plenty of challenges along the road and it takes time to hone the craft. A manager and trainer can help you improve all of these attributes, but you must work on them individually to become the best you can be.