THE amateur international boxing association (AIBA) have made the shock announcement that professional boxers will be allowed to compete in the Olympic Games for the first time.
This has had a lot of mixed opinions, with many in the boxing community being against the decision as it may have negative affects on the amateur game.
The Olympics have traditionally unearthed future stars of the pro game, such as Floyd Mayweather, Lennox Lewis, Amir Khan and most recently Anthony Joshua. Would the professionals make this something of the past?
However, It may not be that straight forward for the pro’s, with a totally different competition format, different fight strategies and a random/short-term goal with different motivations.
In this three-part article, we delve into the different ways a professional boxer would have to adapt if entering the Olympics.
1. Shorter, Faster and More Intense Competition
Although professionals are allowed to compete at the Olympics, the competition remains an amateur format, meaning contests will be 3 x 3 minute rounds.
Most National/International level pro boxers will compete for 10-12 rounds, making three rounds sound like a walk in the park. Well, it may not be that easy.
Due to the bouts being judged in such a short time, amateur boxers will look to land more punches to get the win. When comparing winning amateurs (16 bouts) and world level professionals (5 bouts), amateur boxers landed more punches than professionals (46.1 vs 41.9 punches per round).
However, there were only small differences between shots thrown. This resulted in amateur boxers having a much higher percentage of punches landed. This would mean that a professional would either have to land a greater percentage of punches or increase the amount of punches thrown. Either way, this could become fatiguing for professional boxers.
But what about the punching force of a professional boxer?
This could be the better tactic to adopt for professional boxers as it will be difficult to change physiological profiles and pacing strategies for a single competition. However, the glove size will be 10 oz for < 64 kg and 12 oz for the heavier weights, much bigger than the pros gloves of 8 oz and 10 oz.
Furthermore, KO’s and TKO’s are more likely to happen in the second half of the fight due to the fatigue of an opponent, this is much harder to do in just three rounds.
So although stopping their opponents could be the best tactic for professional boxers, a combination of shorter bouts and bigger gloves could make knockouts and hurtful shots less likely in the amateur format.
2. Professional Boxers In The Olympics: Making Weight
Amateur or professional, making weight is always a tough task for boxers.
However, there are different approaches for each discipline when making weight and refuelling for competition.
Many national / international boxers will weigh-in on the day before, and will only need to make weight once (or check weigh-in next day). Whereas amateur boxers will have to weigh-in on the morning of each bout during international tournaments.
This can really work against boxers in numerous situations.
Due to single competition and longer refuelling periods, professional boxers often walk round much heavier than amateur boxers that compete at the same weight.
Take these elements away, professional boxers may find it difficult to compete at their preferred weight category effectively as they can end up feeling drained and fatigued due to losing too much weight acutely and unable to refuel sufficiently.
This could leave professional boxers to compete at heavier weight categories, facing bigger and stronger opposition.
Without the correct physical preparation, pro’s may struggle to perform at a heavier body mass as this can affect energy demands (fitness), tolerance to punches and speed.
Bit like Canelo vs Khan….
When refuelling between the scales and the ring, professional boxers can increase their body mass 8-15 lbs. This is the boxer replenishing water and glycogen stores following depletion in order to make weight.
This could be difficult for professional boxers to do during the Olympics, as they may need to compete in the next 1-2 days. This means that professional boxers may need to control the increase in body mass as acute weight fluctuation can cause fatigue and illness.
The duration between competitive bouts are much shorter in the Olympics than a professional. A high-level professional has 2-4 fights per year, therefore could find the 1-2 days recovery between Olympic tournament bouts quite difficult.
This could mean that professionals would need to adopt new nutritional methods to stay fresh for each competition. This may involve a professional consuming more food / water than an amateur boxer, which could leave making weight a much harder task.
This is starting to look very different for the pro’s….
There are a lot of different ways a professional boxer would need to adapt if they chose to compete in the Olympics…
… How would this affect their mindset?
3. Professional Boxers In The Olympics: Changed Mindset
As mentioned in the previous two sections, professional boxers have to adapt their training, fighting style and nutritional methods in order to optimally perform in an Olympic boxing format.
If not prepared and adapted appropriately, these factors can affect the mindset of a professional boxer by pushing themselves out of their comfort zone.
In this article, we will look at how the different formats in competition can affect confidence, motivation and anxiety control.
Superstitious or not, most boxers will have their individual pre-fight routines to make sure they are relaxed, reduce tension and are focused for the competition ahead.
Professional boxers entering the Olympics will have to cope with a lot of differences in the amateur ranks. On the day weigh-ins, vest tops, standardised ring walk, bigger gloves, shorter bouts and competing numerous times in a short period of time.
All the home comforts of a professional boxer is thrown out of the window. This can make an athlete nervous, anxious and tense.
The rule to allow professional boxers has been announced less than 100 days before the opening ceremony for the Olympics.
This means that professional boxers will not have been working towards winning an Olympic Gold, their current goals will be to win titles and make money.
Amateur boxers could have been working towards the Olympics for the past 4-8 years, showing a burning desire to achieve their goals. Professionals may not experience this same desire to win the gold, so when the going gets tough the amateur boxer may shine through.
How could the Olympics motivate a professional boxer?
So we have outlined this may not be a long-term ambition for professional boxers, but what are the motivations for the pros to enter.
Olympic athletes often get paid by governing bodies or sponsorships. This is considerably less than a top-level professional boxer.
Would a professional boxer be motivated to box in the Olympics with no or limited financial benefit?
Maybe it is good self-promotion, with the likes of Anthony Joshua, Amir Khan and James Degale having fantastic profiles before joining the professional ranks. However, this has helped the early days of fighters, would a professional see the same raise in profile after winning the Olympics?
A professional boxer would have to be intrinsically motivated to win the gold medal, completing an achievement/ambition to win the gold medal.
What professional should enter the Olympics?
- Just turned professional and boxing 4-6 rounds.
- Had a good amateur background – national/international experience.
- Walks around just 1-3 kg above their competitive weight.
- Regularly spars and competes at high intensities – ‘come forward style’.
- Intrinsically motivated to win a gold medal.
- Has a sport science team to help adapt physically and technically, as well as applying effective nutrition and sport psychology methods.
- Has a marketing strategy to promote their Olympic conquest.
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