Why amateur success is not always replicated as a professional

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Watching the ABA finals in the mid 80’s, I used to marvel at the different style’s on view. Pure boxers, counterpunchers, aggressive boxers, all unique and all varied in their approach. Then, in 1988 at the Seoul Olympics, the beginning of the end started. Several “home” decision’s had occurred but when Roy Jones jr. lost an incredible 3-2 decision to Korean Park Si Hun, in a match he dominated every moment of, the biggest change of all was about to occur. Headguards were used in the Olympics for the first time in 1984 but now, to avoid hometown decisions, the computer scoring would be unveiled, five judges ringside with a red and a blue button.

When the boxer wearing that colour landed a scoring blow, the judge pressed that button. When three of the judges pressed the same button within a second of each other it registered as a scoring blow.

 

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But problem’s with the scoring persisted. Boxers throwing three or four punch combination’s were not being awarded points because the system could not react fast enough to register the punches. Also, body punches were inexplicably not being scored. So boxers altered their style to suit the system. Upright style’s, single scoring shots and more emphasis on footwork became the norm. This, for me, took the individual flair out of the sport and, if I’m honest, up until the 2011 world championship ahead of the 2012 Olympics, it felt like amateur boxing had lost its appeal. It had become a fencing contest. But for those who had adapted to this style, turning professional would present a bigger challenge.

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Hall of fame trainer Freddie Roach has said that, at times, it has been difficult for his boxer Zou Shiming, a multi amateur champion at all levels, to adapt to the professional style. One of the biggest issues being, that because of the points system style, top amateurs are not used sitting down on their punches and punching through the target and not just at it. Looking through the records of new prospects, particularly European’s, it has become common to see more points wins as opposed to stoppages. Many have tried to use their existing style thinking “if I was successful using this before I can be successful again”. But the computer scoring changed what should have been a natural progression in to two different sports. For many pro trainers it has become a start from scratch affair. Settling down, picking punches, head and upper body movement, inside work, all being taught where once it was a natural progression because it was a case of utilising the fighters strengths that they didn’t have to alter for a system.

This is why, I feel, some top amateurs have struggled to adapt to the pro game. Yes, they have boxed some of the best amateurs in the world, yes, they have been in some huge tournaments and complete respect to them for that. But the pro game is the hurt game. Four, six, eight, ten and twelve rounds of fighters who can pressure, hit hard and know all the tricks to take a young fighter in to deep waters.

But I will give kudos to the AIBA. With the computers gone and the ten point system in place, plus the removal of headguards, the gap between amateurs and professionals will be like it used to be. That should be the natural progression.

Much was made over headguards not being used in the Commenwealth games, with a few head clashes resulting in cut eyes. I believe this was a product of over relying on the headguard. Wearing one presents a false sense of security. I disliked wearing one as I felt it obscured my vision and many others have felt the same. Under the new/old rules means coaches and boxers will have to work on defence and positioning more, making them more well rounded and, when ready, more adaptable to the professional sport.

This is just an observation as to why some boxers just can’t make the adaption. Under the old way Sugar Ray Leonard, Michael and Leon Spinks, and many other’s from top USA teams, who were top amateurs, made the transition smoothly. At present for the UK, Anthony Joshua, who had limited experience despite his achievements, is progressing very nicely.

The changes in amateur boxing will be professional boxings gain. If our country is achieving what it is right now, imagine the next generation and what they will go on to achieve.

Article By Dean Berks      Twitter:  @berks_d

TheFightGuru.Com    Twitter: @TheFightGuru