By Bill Calogero
When a boxer decides to turn professional, most do it with aspirations of becoming a World Champion. Why else would they do it? All fighters want the glory and the money that comes with the title. The mis-conception is what’s seen and heard through the media, where professional boxers seem to reap rewards of million dollar purses. The truth is one in a million make it to that level, to the top. Years of hard work and 110% of dedication to the sport is a minimum requirement to getting even the smallest chance at becoming a World Champion.
First of all, if the main reason to enter the fight game was based on the almighty dollar, then the biggest mistake was already made. To make a comfortable living from boxing, you must end up with a belt around your waist. Those who get into the professional business of boxing because of the money already lost. Since the sport is so brutal, and short, what about life after boxing? What skills outside of the ring have been developed so a person in their early thirties can support a family and or have a retirement someday if the millions of dollars that were dreamed of were never made? This reality is the norm, not the exception. Most fighters that enter the world of boxing never make it. Most don’t even get ten professional fights under their belt. The price they have already paid for just ten pro fights may affect them for the rest of their lives.
There are generally two paths a professional boxer can take in his boxing career. This of course is assuming that the fighter has already decided to dedicate all of his time to training and the mental preparation required to become a World Champion caliber fighter. The next part is the business part. This is where all the years of hard work and dedication to boxing can go down in flames very quickly. This is also where the boxer himself can easily lose sight of why he got into the sport to begin with, to become a World Champion.
But unfortunately, professional boxing is a business; so basic business principals must be applied. That is, money is invested so profits can be made. Case closed. Business is business and in the business world of boxing, one needs to have the right connections. These connections reach into all areas of the fight game. Fights, shows, rankings, sanctioning bodies, commissions, etc, all are critical in getting a belt around your waist. Those who realize this are still alive in the business. Those who don’t will never make it.
In life, nothing comes easy. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boxer or a car salesman. There always seems to be two paths to choose from to obtain your goals. The seemingly easy path, the one most traveled, or the harder, less traveled. Human nature always has a tendency to push us towards the easier road, but in all cases, it usually proves the more difficult in the long run. In Boxing, all paths do not lead to the same place. Again, assuming the goal is to become a World Champion fighter, both paths can easily seem to get you to the same place, but the reality is that one may get you there, while the other will get you no where.
When a fighter makes the decision to turn professional, the first thing he needs to do is make sure he’s doing the right thing. After all, if the competition of fighting one on one and the excitement of winning the bout or being in the best physical shape possible is all he wants, then why turn pro? You can fight as an amateur well into your thirties and will be able to obtain those desires. If you want to be a World Champion, then turning pro is a required step. Once that decision is made, one has to make sure that he surrounds himself with the right people.
One of the most important decisions a boxer can make is to surround himself with people that him feel the same way he does about HIS boxing career. He has to make sure that his team will assist in obtaining HIS goals. HE should be the focal point of the team.
In boxing, there are prospects and there are opponents. What makes a prospect a prospect and an opponent an opponent should be based on skill. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In today’s world of professional boxing, what make a prospect a prospect and an opponent an opponent is based on money. The Prospect usually has money backing him. The Opponent usually does not. That is not to say that one is actually better than the other, but the Prospect will get more opportunities. It’s definitely not fair, but that’s the way it is. It goes back to the decision that is made when surrounding yourself with a team that has the same goals in mind as you do.
No one decides to become an Opponent, but if the main goal is to make money NOW, then the path you end up following is that of the Opponent. There is nothing wrong with making money from the first day you turn pro until the last fight of your career. The problem is that early on, the Prospect is the one that is being protected. Sure he may not make as much money for that four or six round fight, but unless he is knocked out, he most likely will walk away with the win. Early on in a boxing career, the win is where the value is. The more wins you have, the more valuable you are, thus putting you in the position to make more money later on.
The Opponent path takes the fighter into other people’s hometowns. It subjects them to unfair decisions. It puts them in a position that the only way they will leave the ring with a win is by a KO. The only benefit is that the opponent will make more money for the bout. The thing is, this is short lived. Opponents are supposed to lose. The Prospect makes less money, but over time, makes much more. The Opponent, tops out quickly, thus in reality, never gets the chance to make the big bucks.
In today’s world of boxing, the magic number of wins needed to get a shot at a major title is between twenty and twenty-five. That’s where the Prospect’s backers will start to make their money back and the boxer will start to make bigger purses. Once a title is won, or even a title shot is obtained, the purses rise due to the increased value of the boxer. That’s great for the Prospect, but where has the Opponent gone? Most likely, he owns a losing record or he has retired. He took the same punishment, worked just as hard but did not get the same result. Many blame boxing, but it’s the boxer’s own fault. He chose his own path. He wanted mo money, mo money, mo money!
The sad truth is that the young Prospect may not become the best or at least one of the best in his weight class. In the long run, it has ruined the sport. This is why we see one-sided fights as often as we do.
It’s easy to say that you want to choose the path of the Prospect over the Opponent. As a matter of fact, a fighter that considers himself an opponent is already a beaten fighter. It’s like buying a lotto ticket. Only a handful of boxers are in the right place at the right time to end up being protected. The other side of the coin is the con-men of boxing. The sharks that hang around gyms preying on the young kids preaching that they can help them get to where they want to be in boxing. Then they put them in fights they just can’t win. No one ever said that boxing is a nice or easy business.
What’s the solution? How can this be avoided or policed? The truth is, it can’t. I for one oppose the Federal Government or ONE commission ideas and theories that have been thrown out there. I personally feel that this could end up more corrupt then it is already, but something HAS to be done. If our goal is to put the best fighters in the top ten and the best of the best as titleholders of their divisions, then we will have to address this sooner than later.
We need to have the opportunity of seeing all the sport has to offer, not just the ones that have money invested in them. It’s no different in other sports. Take Baseball for example. When a Prospect is signed as a number one, and is given the money upfront, those organizations become financially bound to that kid. Since there is so much already invested, a potential better ball player may not get the opportunity because of the money. Boxing is no different.
There is always going to be a Prospect and an Opponent. That is a fact, but what must be considered when making the decision to become a professional boxer is how and who will assist you with making it to the top. If this is not taken seriously, one can find himself taking a path in boxing that will earn money, but never enough. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. In boxing, you MUST make sure your career is moved correctly. It takes time to make it to the top. There is no easy way. I don’t care what anyone tells you; there is simply no easy way to make it to the top. Slow and Steady wins the race.
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