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Why American Boxing Is Struggling

What’s the problem with the state of American boxing? Is it that the best athletes are in the NFL? A shortage of top quality boxing coaches as astute as Eddie Futch, Emanuel Steward and Cus D’Amato? A decline of mental toughness and/or sense of discipline in the youth of America? The lack of interest and media exposure on the nearly irrelevant USA amateur program and system?

Evander Holyfield oil painting
 by John Murawski

The answer is difficult to figure. It may be a little of all.

Media exposure:
 Evander Holyfield said not long ago that America’s amateur boxers do not get enough media attention or exposure which has an effect on their ambition and dedication. That very wise comment called to mind this: I remember interviewing the great hockey player Gordie Howe and he told me how a simple little newspaper write up that called him a “future NHLer” after a teenage tournament in Canada, totally inspired and motivated him to believe he could make the NHL.  Howe said he worked all summer and winter on improving his skills and puck shooting – because of that brief newspaper mention about him. Today’s amateur boxers in America just don’t get that kind of opportunity and recognition because amateur boxing is not shown on TV and most, if not all, print and online media outlets, basically ignore amateur boxing.

NFL factor:  I don’t buy this excuse – that the best American athletes are in the NBA and NFL. It’s always been this way. Lawrence Taylor, Earll Campbell, Pete Rose, Julius Erving, Magic Johnson, Bo Jackson, Bruce Smith, Tiger Woods, Andy Roddick, Dennis Rodman, Ray Lewis, Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter all were exceptional athletes but it’s doubtful they could have excelled in boxing. It takes a unique athlete with a special courage to lace the gloves up and fight. Boxing has, for the most part, always got the leftover athletes whose abilities just did not transfer to baseball, football or basketball. Muhammad Ali had no athletic skills but for boxing, and could not even dance on the dance floor. Mike Tyson’s basketball skills were called “horrible” by one witness (Kenneth Thomas Sr.) and Monte Barrett told me his shooting abilities resulted in “dents in the backboard.”  Rocky Marciano was supposedly a pretty good baseball player. But Larry Holmes, Evander Holyfield, Joe Frazier, Sonny Liston, Floyd Patterson, Joe Louis, Riddick Bowe, they all excelled in no other sports but boxing.

Decline in mental toughness and discipline: Drugs and partying and the lure of “get rich or die trying” has ruined many a good young boxing prospect.
As have other poor lifestyle choices, lack of perseverance, and taking the easy way out. Another problem is managers and promoters give too much money too soon to young fighters and they fall by the wayside (Ricardo Williams, Francisco Bojado). And then there’s the problem of managers and advisors manufacturing and protecting overrated (in some cases fraud) fighters with safe, easy, handpicked opposition. Then when it’s time for these fighters to face the best, they either get destroyed or go into fake retirements to duck the certain defeat. American boxing is missing the warrior spirit of gladiators like Marvin Hagler, Evander Holyfield, Larry Holmes, prime Mike Tyson, Thomas Hearns – who would all fight any body at any time. Now, for many American boxers, it’s all about being a businessman, about how much reward for the least amount of risk. Protected and coddled fighters do not improve by ducking danger and only testing their skills against opponents they know they can beat.

Lack of top quality coaching:  Aside from Emanuel Steward, Naziim Richardson, Roger Bloodworth, Freddie Roach, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, and a few others, there really aren’t that many boxing coaching wizards. There aren’t enough Eddie Futches, Cus D’Amatos, Angelo Dundees,  Bouie Fishers, Jack Blackburns, Ray Arcels, in America today. Talking with them or reading or listening to their insights and stories was nothing short of awe-inspiring. It was mesmerizing to listen to what these people, what I call, Ben Kenobis, would say and discuss about boxing. I just don’t get that sense with many of the trainers of today, aside from the aforementioned few.

Source: Boxing Insider

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