On Fertile Ground...Ammys vs. Pros
In most sports, the long road to glory into the Pros usually begins within the Amateur ranks.
An Amateur is generally considered to be an athlete who is not yet able to command financial compensation to compete in his sport of choice, someone often competing out of a serious passion; or a devoted individual simply paying his dues trying to move further up the ladder of success.
Although, professional boxing will always far overshadow it, amateur boxing allows novice fighters to better develop their growing skills and gain vital experience inside the ring.
Sanctioned by various state athletic commissions, Amateur boxing has been around for well over a century. It has been a fertile place for many blossoming combatants to be fully nurtured, developing the neccessary skills for growth. The greatest boxers of all time have been developed there.
Amateur boxing was introduced as a modern Olympic sport for the first time in 1904.
An Olympic Gold medal is the ultimate prize in amateur boxing and has often been the springboard to a career in professional boxing.
Many successful Olympians have went on to become internationally recognized professional champions and superstars of the sport.
"Muhammed Ali is the greatest example," says Jimmy Jackson (Former Pro Boxer / Trainer)
Although certain rules may differ between different regions, an Amateur may face very similar conditions as a professional boxer.
However, an Amateur is generally required to wear more protection, so highly regulated head gear and slightly more padded gloves are generally used to prevent serious brain trama.
"Amateurs are sometimes asked to wear a T-shirt to clearly distinguish where the waist-line begins and ends to better avoid low blows," says Alan Kemp (Boxing Coach)
Also, more frequent "Standing 8 (seconds) Counts" are incorporated in the ring as precautions by the referee and doctors to further ensure the safety of the fighters. This may clearly allow the officials to decide whether a fighter has been seriously hurt, if it's safe to allow the bout to continue.
"It's a good precaution to take for the safety of the fighters," Cecil Peoples (Professional Referee)
Critics currently disagree as to whether the sport of boxing is currently at an all-time historical low point. Diehard fans, however, still seem to enjoy watching the elite fighters battling inside of the ring.
Perhaps, they're waiting for boxing's next transcendent superstar to arrive on the scene.
Until recent years, things were different in mixed-martial arts, especially in the USA.
Originally, there was no widespread officially sanctioned Amateur divisions in most states for young MMA fighters to develop through. They were resigned to competing in non-sanctioned events, sometimes referred to as "Smoker" events.
These unofficial matchups were not recognized by any state athletic commission and were often shut down by the authorities, whenever possible.
It seems, for a time, certain politics were preventing the formal regulation of Amateur MMA.
Perhaps due to the public's high demand throughout America and many other countries, coupled with ongoing complaints from the athletes themselves, revisions were sorely needed and things finally had to be changed.
A major governing party official and admitted opponent of Mixed Martial Arts finally resigned and was soon replaced, making for great progress within the sport at last.
"The landscape had to be changed," says Juanito Ibarra (Hall of Fame Trainer / Coach)
As a result, promoters from more U.S. states were now allowed to organize local and regional Amateur MMA events with their athletic commmission's blessings. Almost overnight, dozens of newly formed organizations took a much stronger foothold on the sport.
The general rules and requirements of most non-pro MMA competitions tend to differ quite noticeably from those seen in the average Amateur boxing match.
First off, is the lack of protective head gear, which allows someone to more easily apply a neck choke. To prevent interference when grappling, smaller open-palmed gloves were also incorporated to make a more complete grip. In addition MMA fighters are not asked to wear T-shirts, which can also hinder ground-fighting. Athletic shoes and a Gi (Traditional uniform) are not a requirement.
Amateur and professional boxing commonly uses anywhere from 8-15 (3 minutes) Rounds, while MMA is often only 3-5 Rounds, each lasting 3 to 5 minutes.
While boxing is strictly a striking sport, MMA is a multi-dimensional art form that combines both striking (Punching and Kicking) and submission grappling, arguably considered more exciting to watch by the average spectator.
"There's more going on in MMA than in boxing nowadays," says Gene LeBell (Martial Arts Icon)
Because of the obvious rise in demand for the sport, box office receipts for the now mainstream accepted professional MMA organizations (UFC, etc.) tend to be far more lucrative than those of the formerly more popular boxing.
Similar to professional boxers, mixed-martial arts fighters can now demand higher dollar amounts to compete in an ever widening marketplace.
Just like many noteworthy professional athletes, they may also be approached by bigger companies, offering up abundant sponsorship contracts to greatly pad up their paydays.
MMA has produced its first millionaire household names within the past ten years.
However, to reach the upper echelon of professional success, each individual athlete must start somewhere...usually it's in the Ammys.