Oleksandr Usyk is the co-founder of Ready to Fight, a digital platform revolutionizing the boxing industry.
There’s a reason why boxing is often referred to as “the sweet science.” The ancient art of pugilism has been relatively untouched by time, retaining its raw appeal and primal energy. However, the world around boxing has evolved dramatically. I believe the boxing industry is overdue for a makeover to make it much more accessible and open to talented young athletes who have all the gifts but none of the means.
As the co-founder of a platform for the boxing community and a world boxing champion who started his journey from humble beginnings, I am intimately familiar with the challenges that await young athletes along the way—challenges that can more often break than make a future champion.
A few of these challenges can include:
1. Finding a competent coach: This is only the first step in a long journey, and this step is fraught with obstacles. For aspiring boxers, it can be challenging to find a coach who is qualified, especially if you live in an area far from traditional boxing centers. A coach is not just someone who teaches boxing; they need to be a mentor, a strategist and a confidant.
I was fortunate to find such a mentor early in my boxing journey. I remember one practice when my first coach gave me and his son a task that we thought was difficult to accomplish. We told him we couldn’t do it, to which he replied that there were no impossible tasks, and for thinking that way, we had to box together without a break until the end of the training. We worked until our coach said we could stop. I don’t know how many rounds we boxed in total, but I can say for sure that it was the longest sparring session of my life.
What’s notable is not how long we sparred but the fact that we saw the task through to the end and fulfilled our coach’s instructions. This situation taught me, once and for all, that many barriers are only in our heads and can be overcome. To me, it’s absolutely vital for any athlete in any sport to find a wise coach who will teach them this life lesson.
2. Vetting managers and agents: Then come the managers and agents. These roles are also integral to a boxer’s career, but it’s often difficult to vet potential managers and agents for authenticity and competence. Sadly, I’ve seen many promising careers have been ruined by poor management. Others, however, have been propelled to stardom by a fortuitous encounter with world-class managers.
3. Connecting with sparring partners: Sparring partners, another crucial aspect, can be hard for some to find and match in terms of skill level, weight category and style. Without the right partners to spar with, a boxer’s skill development can hit a plateau.
4. Accessing sports medicine: Next is the realm of sports medicine. In a sport that is inherently damaging to the body, the absence of medical guidance can lead to long-term health consequences. Something small can make or break an important boxing match or lead to lasting health consequences. Ensuring athletes receive quality care from medical professionals is paramount to guaranteeing their continued success and growth. For some people, services might be very expensive. However, I believe the digital revolution could help athletes connect with sports healthcare providers remotely, which could help with costs and availability.
5. Securing promoters and sponsorships: Additionally, I’ve seen many boxers struggle with securing the right promoters, who can make or break careers by deciding who gets to fight, when and where. Sponsorships, too, are a maze, especially for those not in the limelight.
How Leaders Can Help
Addressing these obstacles remains challenging due to outdated approaches many in our timeless sport still use today. So, can the boxing industry solve these issues?
Leaders in the boxing world can take a number of steps to assist boxers. Managers and agents, for example, can research tools that would help them vet potential partners to improve credibility and transparency. They can also help boxers build professional networks online and connect them with sparring partners, trainers and sponsors. Digital marketing can be employed to promote boxers to potential sponsors and highlight their marketability. Data analytics can help guide decisions and identify partners aligned with a boxer’s goals. Even experienced boxers can introduce newcomers to reputable coaches and mentors, digitally or in person. This can help foster invaluable mentorship relationships.
From my perspective, the boxing community can and should explore means that could help facilitate connections, enhance transparency, expand networks, promote sponsorships and make informed choices. This will ultimately contribute to boxers’ success.
While the essence of boxing should remain unchanged, leaders can adapt and modernize the structures that surround it. As someone who has navigated this labyrinth and broken through many walls along the way, I see immense potential in the boxing ecosystem. We can no longer afford to have talent squandered because of barriers we can help eliminate. The ring might be timeless, but that doesn’t mean it has to be stuck in time. Let’s bring boxing into the 21st century, not just for the sport but for the fighters who give it life.
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