Think it is easy to become a professional boxer? Well, it is more than simply throwing a few jabs and knocking out some tomato cans. Boxing is a difficult sport to break into and rise up the ranks. There are around 20,000 professional boxers in the world today. That is a huge number and all of them are seeking the same thing: to be the best in the sport of kings. If you want to be a professional boxer, then you have to be good at what you do. You also need to dedicate yourself to the craft with training, dieting, and align with a manager that has your best interests in mind.
If you still think you have got what it takes to become a professional boxer, then let us look at how to turn pro. The path can be long and winding, but you can turn professional by putting in the time.
Dispel the Myths
The first thing that should be made clear to any prospective boxer that wants to be the next big thing in the sport, is fighters like Floyd Mayweather, Canelo Alvarez, and Mike Tyson are the exception and not the rule. A lot of professional boxers actually have day jobs and fit training in around their regular nine to five. For some boxer, this may mean working in construction, a gym, or owning their own business. They are then afforded the chance to train and reach for their boxing dreams outside of regular employment.
Why do a significant number of boxers have day jobs? There simply isn’t enough money to sustain their families or themselves otherwise. In 2016, only three boxers made the Forbes Highest Earning Athletes list. Alvarez, Mayweather, and Manny Pacquiao were those fighters. The economics of boxing are a tight rope in which a large number of boxers are fighting for big paydays on massive shows. If you want to be a pro boxer and understand that making millions of dollars is unlikely to happen, then you may have what have it takes to become a professional.
Boxing is not a sport in which you rock up to a gym and step right into the ring. To become a professional boxer, you will need years of training inside and outside of the squared circle. Sure, some boxers including Eric “Butterbean” Esch took a different route into professional boxing by competing in Toughman Contests. However, Esch still had the boxing basics and learned more over the years to become a well-paid prize fighter.
Boxers must begin at the amateur level. This often occurs at an early age with kids working on punching bags in a local boxing gym. Tournaments for young boxers begin around the age of eight-years-old and kids who participate in competitions at this age sow the seeds for turning pro later on.
Kids who compete in local and national tournaments at a young age can be spotted by managers or fight promoters. Although too young to be professionals, a good impression goes a long way. These managers or promoters could keep an eye on a fighter as they grow older. Tournaments like the Golden Gloves competition in the United States give amateur boxers the chance to shine. Success in Golden Gloves tournaments can lead to a fighter getting selected to represent their country or to signing their first pro fight contract.
Many of boxing’s greats fought in Golden Gloves competitions before turning pro. Mike Tyson and Muhammed Ali are just two of the top boxers to compete as amateurs in Golden Gloves tournaments. Golden Gloves have been called the “first round” of a boxer’s career.
Are You Ready to Be Professional?
One of the biggest questions you will have to answer as an amateur fighter is, are you ready to be a professional? It can be a difficult question to answer. The lure of making some money and potentially fighting on some very exciting cards will be there, but just because you did well at amateur doesn’t mean you will succeed in the pro ranks. Go pro too early and you could end your career before it even begins.
Your record as an amateur will have a significant impact on whether or not you are ready to turn professional. If you went 20-0 as an amateur, then you could turn into a very good professional boxer. However, if the competition wasn’t very good or you won fights due to shear power rather than skill, then you may not be prepared to go pro.
Some amateur boxers may only fight a few bouts before turning pro with the hope of getting paid well. Fighters wanting to qualify for the Olympics or win the Golden Gloves tournament will often take on more bouts. In the end, the skill level of the tournaments and opposing fighters will have a big impact on your readiness to turn professional.
According to pro boxer Niko Valdes, “until you get adjusted to that pressure you feel in fights don’t go pro stay amateur even if it takes 50 fights”. You should be a timeline or hard figure on the number of amateur fights you compete in.
Preparing For Your First Pro Fight
In preparation for turning professional as a boxer, you may have the opportunity to work out with already established boxers. This will give you the chance to see first-hand what a professional fighter is like in the ring. It may also allow you to network with the fighter’s management and trainers.
You will most likely have worked with a boxing coach who can put you in contact with established boxers. If you can hold your own in the ring, then becoming a professional is possible.
Once deciding on turning professional you will need to apply for a professional boxer’s license. A boxing license can be acquired from a local or regional athletic commission. Gaining a boxing licenses can differ for aspiring professionals depending on the country, state, county, and city that they live in. After gaining your boxing licenses and stepping in the ring as a professional in a sanctioned bout, your amateur status is officially over.
A successful amateur career could influence a manager and/or promoter to push you as a top prospect in the fight game. This could be your chance to rise up the ranks of boxing quickly. Regardless of a manager’s and/or promoter’s expectations, you must still deliver in the ring. A number of top prospects are paired with journeymen fighters that they are expected to defeat.
Top prospects rising up the ranks can get a nice payday at the end of a fight. A journeymen boxer isn’t quite as lucky. Their job is to have a competitive bout, but if the prospect is as good as advertised, ultimately lose. Boxers who have hit their ceiling as a professional become journeymen fighters and life can be difficult financially.
As previously stated, most boxers are not making millions of dollars and live from fight to fight. Journeymen fighters certainly live from one fight to the next to earn a living and that is why having another career outside of the ring is important.
A good prospect is likely to have around six fights per year. Depending on the management team you sign with, money can be limited, especially considering that you must pay a trainer and other individuals. There are exceptions to the rule. Daniel Dubois, a British heavyweight boxer, got his start as a teenager and was paid a monthly salary by his manager Frank Warren. Dubois obviously showed signs of being a top professional at an early age and was treated like the next being thing in boxing.
A Lifestyle Sport
Boxing has been labelled as a lifestyle sport. Fighting is in a boxer’s nature and being a professional allows them to be in the gym living the life of a fighter. Young boxers seeking to become professional have to look at the sport as a job from an early age. Like any sport, any competitor that wants to be a professional must treat training and bouts as seriously as possible.
The ideal path to being a professional for any prospective boxer should look like this:
- Train and compete as an amateur
- Learn from coaches and treat boxing as a job
- Compete in amateur fights
- Apply for a professional license
- Seek a good promoter to book your first fight
- Compete in bouts to build up your record
- Learn from every fight and battle a better boxer each time
- After a number of fights, hopefully, a bigger promoter will book you for an event
Of course, that is a simplified way to look at it and an ideal progression. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of boxers, this isn’t how it turns out. You will need a little bit of luck along the way. However, the old adage goes, “you make your own luck”. The harder you work and smarter you are about the industry, the more chances you will have to become a Professional Boxer.