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Professional boxing is one of the two types of modern competitive boxing, along with amateur boxing. Although the fighting is generally identical (there are some differences, but they are not vital), the concept of amateur and professional boxing is very different. One notable difference is that professionals generally cannot compete in the Olympic Games, so once you go pro, you cannot come back to the Olympics. Since the concepts are different, we’ve decided to tell you what you need to start a career in amateur boxing, in hope that it might help you and answer some dilemmas you might have.
What Is Professional Boxing?
Professional boxing, or prize-fighting, is strictly regulated, sanctioned boxing. Professional boxing bouts are fought for a purse that is divided between the boxers as determined by the contract.
Most professional bouts are supervised by a regulatory authority to guarantee the fighters’ safety. Most high-profile bouts obtain the endorsement of a sanctioning body, which awards championship belts, establishes rules, and assigns its own judges and referee.
In contrast with amateur boxing, professional bouts are typically much longer and can last up to twelve rounds, though less significant fights can be as short as four rounds. Protective headgear is not permitted, and boxers are generally allowed to take substantial punishment before a fight is halted. Professional boxing has enjoyed a much higher profile than amateur boxing throughout the 20th century and beyond.
Steps to Become a Professional Boxer
Now that we’ve told you what professional boxing is, let us see the general steps you need to take before becoming a professional boxer. Before becoming a professional boxer, you’ll need to become an amateur boxer so we’ll see the steps necessary to become an amateur before we deal with the steps needed for the pro level. We’ll walk you through the process step by step so you can see what and when you need to do.
Becoming an Amateur Boxer
1. Find a gym
Finding a gym is the necessary prerequisite since all boxing careers start in the gym. When choosing a gym, you have to be very careful to pick the right one, because not all gyms will offer you what you need to start a boxing career. Sure, if you want to be a recreational boxer, any gym that has a boxing programme will do, but if you really want to devote yourself to the sport, you’ll have to find a good gym.
The first step you have to take is to find an actual boxing gym. Generalised and multi-sports gyms are fine for recreationalists, but you’ll want to find a boxing-centred gym if you want to be a boxer.
The reasons are obvious – a specialised boxing gym will provide you the best possible preparation for a boxing career as it should contain experienced experts and instructors, but also fellow trainees who can provide a good sparring partner for you.
This means no martial arts gym that “also” teaches boxing should be your choice. If you are interested in becoming a well-rounded martial artist there are gyms for that, but MMA gyms do not usually have the necessary quality of instruction, or the quantity of sparring partners necessary to mould a successful amateur boxer
You’ll also end up sharing the mat with ground fighters such as BJJ or wrestling trainees, which is not beneficial for your boxing evolution.
There are also some things you’ll have avoid, the first of them being structured boxing classes. Such classes are great for fitness crowds and hobbyists, but they will not benefit your boxing evolution in any way.
Structured boxing classes aren’t bad, there’s really nothing wrong with them, but they are not made for a competitive fighter and you will have a lot of trouble if you want to become one by using them. Still, if you have good instructors, you can learn from such classes too, but mostly in addition to individual sessions; so, don’t necessarily rule out all gyms that offer such classes, but rather check the programmes they offer before enrolling.
The second thing you have to avoid is a gym where the only experienced boxers are the coaches and the instructors. Why? Simply because you will not get a quality sparring partner. Boxing is perfected through sparring, through simulating a real fight and you will need to have a good and experienced sparring partner to do that, so by picking a gym where there’s no potential sparring partners, you will not do yourself any good.
2. Find a coach
After you pick your gym, you’ll need to find a coach. Taking into account what we’ve said about picking your gym, you’ll want to find one that “offers” private coaches and instructors. Most gyms do, actually, they have private instructors under contract, so we suggest you talk to the manager or someone in the gym about your goals and wishes. After evaluating what you want, they will probably offer you the best thing they have so you’ll have some help in that aspect.
What you should watch out when picking a coach is three things – does he have experience in training amateur boxers, is he a diligent worker and is he focused?
The first question relates to his personal experience and whether he is training (or has trained) an amateur boxer (before). If he has, the success and achievements of that boxer can be a good reference point for you and your decision; you’ll certainly want someone who’s experience, but also someone who’s achieved something in his career.
The second question pertains to his diligence and work ethics, meaning that you’ll want someone who works hard and will motivate you to work hard as well. Just imagine working with someone who’s lazy and doesn’t invest himself in his job!
The final question concerns your coaches focus. You’ll have to find someone who’s constantly in there, who knows what he’s doing and who knows how to get you “into the zone”.
These are the necessary prerequisites a coach needs to have to be a good leader for your amateur career.
Now that you’ve solved all the prerequisites, you can commence your training. Boxing training is very specific so we are not going to teach you how you should train – we’ll leave something for your coach – but we can state here that you’ll have to work a lot and on a lot of elements to become great. Amateur boxing is not as demanding as professional boxing, but you’ll still need to give it everything you got to achieve something.
4. Get a license
Before you start with actual bouts, you’ll have to get an amateur licence. The rules depend on the jurisdiction – a lot of organisations have their own rules and although they are probably not that different, they may have some specific requirements you’ll have to fulfil, so be sure to inform yourselves about everything.
Amateur boxing organisations usually require a brief and basic physical exam, whose point is to determine whether you’re of sound mind and body to participate in competitions. It is truly very basic procedure (blood pressure, reflexes, heart rate, any past concussions or hand injuries, but no X-rays, brain scans, or other advanced screening types of procedures) so you needn’t worry yourselves.
If you are cleared to go, you will need to fill out an application, provide the necessary documents and pay a sign-up fee (usually around $50) and within a certain period (usually a week) you will receive your licence. Be careful not to lose or forget it, as you will need it for every competition or event you plan on taking part in.
5. Have your first fight
This part is generally easy. Namely, the amateur boxing society is a small world, so once your coach decides that you are ready, he will very quickly get you on the list for a about, meaning that he is going to be your best resource when it comes to bouts.
There are two types of events you can get into – a tournament or a local club fight. Tournaments are, of course, more well-known, as just about everyone has heard of the Golden Gloves, Ringside’s National Championships, so they will probably increase your reputation more than anything else. The second option is when a local club, business, or charity event sponsors a fight card, but that is usually less renowned than tournaments.
Tournaments, as one might expect, span several days, with the winner moving on in the bracket, while the loser gets to watch the rest of the event from the side-lines, i.e., they’re organised on an elimination system.
Depending on the event and your weight class, you may need to win several fights to get to the championship, or one, or none – there really is no way to tell how many people are going to apply for your weight division.
For smaller tournaments, and if you are in a very light or very heavy weight class, you may get moved straight into the finals to face the one other fighter in your division.
Depending on your preferences, you might feel lucky to avoid many fights, or you might think it unfair, but you cannot really do much about it despite your personal preferences.
Club fights are all over the board in terms of the size of an audience, venue, and location. One notable difference on club fights is that you don’t have to fall within a specific weight class.
Matches are typically made between the two fighters who are closest in weight and experience. Therefore, while a novice fighter (10 or less fights) has to make his weight class for a tournament at, say the 152 pound division or be forced to move up to 165, a club fight will allow a 154 pound fighter to match up against someone at 150, or 158 in the other direction.
These are just ballpark figures, but the point is that a tournament is a bit more rigid in terms of match-making.
This covers the profess of becoming an amateur boxer. When you’ve achieved all of this, you can start thinking about a professional career.
How to Become a Professional Boxer?
Seeing how the process of becoming a professional depends on becoming an amateur, we’ve analysed that part in the section above. Now let us see the steps necessary to become a professional.
1. Train hard to improve yourself
This process is very similar to the above-mentioned one. You have to work hard as an amateur to improve your skills – your defence, offence, speed and power. You’ll have to train even more, fight even more and get some results and become famous. A good way – if not the best – to do so are the Olympic Games, which can skyrocket your reputation and make you a very eligible candidate for a professional career; just remember that a lot of professionals started off as Olympic champions, like Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin and Anthony Joshua.
2. Find a manager
A manager is the most important person for launching your professional career. They are licenced experts who organise and lead your career, arranging your matches and managing your contracts. They have good connections and are usually experienced. They also have a reputation in the boxing community and are well-know among fighters, other managers and promotors. (Just remember that Don King is more famous than most boxers!)
If you manage to find a good manager, be prepared to give him a percentage of your income (usually at least 20%, but it can go even higher), because their service costs, but do know what you will have a lot of benefits from having a good manager, so don’t feel sorry for the money.
3. Get a licence
This is the same as getting an amateur boxing licence, only – you’ll have to register with one of the four major professional organisations (WBA, WBC, WBO, and IBF). The process is generally similar, so we don’t need to explain it in detail. A professional licence is the basic prerequisite for a professional career, but once you’re done with it, you can easily continue and start climbing up the ranks.
4. Climb up the ranks
In order to evolve, you’ll have to climb up the ranks and in order to climb up the ranks, you’ll need to fight a lot. So, find a competent manager who can evaluate your skill and find good opponents for you to fight in the initial stages, as you climb up and reach the top levels. Once you do that, you will be a contender and not an anonymous challenger, so other fighters will want to fight you and not just have to fight you. And that’s it! Sounds simple? It is… if you fully dedicate yourself to that goal.
This concludes our story on how to become a professional boxer. We’ve managed to dig out all the information you might need – from the start (choosing a gym) to the finish (getting into a tournament) – so we hope that we’ve answered all your questions and solved your eventual dilemmas, meaning that you’ll know what to do if and when the time to do it comes around.
That’s all for today. We hope you found our article informative and interesting, and that you will keep following us for more of the same. Until next time!