Cassius Clay, 1960: he (allegedly) threw his gold medal into the river.
George Foreman, 1968: he captured the heart of a nation by waving a tiny American flag.
Sugar Ray Leonard, 1976: he taped a photo of his girlfriend to his sock.
Oscar De La Hoya, 1992: he dedicated his Olympic triumph to his late mother.
Joe Frazier, 1964: he fought with a broken thumb.
Above are just five examples of the talent that achieved greatness at Olympic level and then went on to achieve true greatness at pro level. The Rio 2016 games have now come to an end, and the sport of boxing was well represented, with the likes of Shakur Stevenson, Joe Joyce, Julio Cesar La Cruz, Joshua Buatsi and others dazzling the fans who tuned into the greatest sporting celebration in the world. Of these fine boxers, which ones will go on to become the next Ali, the next Foreman, the next Leonard or the next Evander Holyfield (bronze in 1984) or Floyd Mayweather Junior (bronze in 1996)?
Winning an Olympic medal does not guarantee a great pro career or a secure lifestyle. Some fighters seemingly make a seamless transition from amateur to pro star/success; while others are the opposite. Audley Harrison, for example, was a shining star of the 2000 Olympics yet he was a bust at pro level. Tyrell Biggs was also a seeming superstar and world champion of the future after capturing gold in ’84, yet he never came close to matching his amateur success. Some fighters, such as Riddick Bowe (silver in ’88) and Errol Spence Junior (2012), were relatively disappointing in the Olympics but went on to, or are expected to (in the case of Spence) light up the pro sport in a major way.
We will now eagerly follow the careers of the newest possible stars of the future who, fresh off their Olympics adventure get ready (some of them anyway, if not all) to invade the paid ranks. Will Stevenson (silver) really become the next Floyd Mayweather? Will Buatsi (bronze) win a world title? Will we see a new Sugar Ray, a new Big George, a new Smokin’ Joe, a new Golden Boy, a new Ali!
The pro ranks now await the stars and the near-stars of Rio 2016. Good luck to all of them!