American Olympians: Life after London
Twitter: @boxingroundup – Historically the U.S has always featured heavily on the medal podium in men’s Olympic boxing. The American athletes have provided some of the most memorable performances in Olympic rings down through the years.
The United States enjoyed immense success between the ropes from as far back as Helsinki 1952 until as recently as Seoul 1988. However there has been a noticeable decrease in number of times The Star-Spangled Banner has echoed across boxing medal podiums since the Korean Games.
Many of the American Olympic medal heroes went on to have illustrious professional careers. Take Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman for example, each man captured gold in the 1960’s and went on to become a household name in professional boxing.
However history also illustrates that the door to success for a fighter’s professional career does not hinge solely on Olympic success.
Take for example the 1996 USA Olympic team which featured names like Eric Morel, David Diaz and Fernando Vargas, all of whom enjoyed successful professional careers despite returning empty handed from the Games. Vanes Martirosyan represented the USA in Athens 2004 and although he missed out on the medal stages of the competition he too is now also enjoying a successful career in the paid ranks.
The 2008 squad, despite its renowned underachievement, has released Gary Russell Jr. and Demetrius Andrade into the pro ranks. Russell Jr. is considered a top prospect while the unbeaten Andrade will contest a world title next month with the former Olympian Vanes Martirosyan.
After the disappointment of London 2012 all nine male boxers are now plying their trade in the professional game.
History would show that despite not achieving Olympic glory these boxers may well become the next stars of professional boxing. They have all made highly successful starts to their fledgling careers. In just over a year they now have a combined record of 42-0. Not bad for a team that failed to win Olympic honours.
One year on from London 2012 we caught up with U.S Olympians Jamel Herring, Michael Hunter and Joseph Diaz Jr. to ask them how their Olympic experience is helping them in their professional careers.
Q. You have made a successful start to your professional career. How did you find the transition from the amateur to the professional code?
JH. Well there have been people who always said I’ve already had sort of a pro style to begin so it wasn’t much hard of a transition unlike boxers like Zou Shiming who’ve been around the amateur game a lot longer, and you can still see that they’re taking maybe a bit longer too adjust to the pro style. I will say though that my trainer Mike Stafford started making me sit on my punches more and be a little more patient and look for my shots instead of throwing a lot of punches looking to score like we did as amateurs.
MH. In the amateurs you have to be a lot more disciplined so the transition to the pros makes me feel more comfortable and allows me to express myself fully.
JD. I always felt my style was made for the pros but there is a little change. I feel like I’m more relaxed and can pick my shots and land effective shots instead of throwing a lot of combinations to rack up points.
Q. Do you feel the Olympic experience and your amateur success will be a big benefit to you as you progress through the pro ranks?
JH. Of course! Without that experience I wouldn’t be where I’m at today and that’s why I still strongly support the amateur program. We all know that having the title as an Olympian carries you a long way in this game as well. Yes it would have been great to win a gold medal let alone any medal during these Olympics games but most people who know boxing know that being an Olympian these days isn’t an easy task which proves that you must have some real talent behind you. And also it makes you marketable at the pro level, so for that I’m glad I stuck around the amateur level, plus I’ve gotten to meet a lot if great people from boxers to other trainers who taught me a lot of things which helped develop my skills.
MH. I really do, in and outside of the ring to compete at that level and just being around those top echelon athletes gave me a better outlook on who I am, what I have accomplished and where I want to be.
JD. Yes I do, I feel like I’ve learned a lot as an amateur fighting internationally and also fighting the best in the nation and I’m only improving.
It’s clear that Jamel, Michael and Joseph feel that their Olympic experience is a major benefit to take into professional boxing. History shows that American fighters are the dominant force in the paid ranks and those with Olympic experience often reach the highest pinnacle in the sport regardless of whether they won Olympic honours or not.
The team of 2012 may yet graduate with the highest accolades of all.