Boxing, the premiere combat sport and martial art in Western culture, is contested between two participants where only forward-facing punching with the fists is allowed.
There are many ways to become a boxer. Some people begin training in boxing as a hobby or means of self-defense. Others may find it an enjoyable way to stay in shape. The boldest amongst us endeavor to compete in an actual boxing ring, whether professionally or in an amateur circuit.
Whatever your goals are, becoming a boxer is no easy task. The training is intense and actual combat can be nerve-wracking for the uninitiated. That being said, becoming a boxer is one of the most rewarding things a person can accomplish.
In this article, we’ll explain all the steps necessary to become a boxer, whether you’re just a hobbyist or interested in becoming a professional.
What is Professional Boxing?
Professional boxing involves sanctioned boxing bouts with heavy regulations and fight purses. Also known as prizefighting, professional boxing bouts are governed by Athletic Commissions (or other State-governed bodies) with money stakes for the participants. Normally, fighters are guaranteed a certain amount (known as “show money”) when making weight and gain a bonus for being victorious.
Unlike in local boxing gyms or underground bouts, professional boxing does everything it can to protect the fighters from injury. Every professional boxing bout is arbitrated by a referee and scored by a team of judges (normally three). There are also ringside physicians in the event of a medical emergency, or to examine boxers to make sure they’re healthy enough to fight.
Professional boxing bouts can conclude in a few ways: knockout, technical knockout, judge’s scorecards, or disqualification. The judging criteria for boxing have changed many times over the years, but most boxing promotions adhere to the Unified Boxing Rules.
The current major sanctioning bodies of professional boxing are:
- International Boxing Federation (IBF)
- World Boxing Association (WBA)
- World Boxing Council (WBC)
- World Boxing Organization (WBO)
Each of these governing bodies issue championship belts for the champions in each weight class. Although there are other boxing governing bodies that sanction professional boxing fights, these four are considered the major players of Sweet Science.
What is the Difference Between Amateur and Professional Boxing?
The main difference between amateur and professional boxing is the money stakes. Boxers in the amateur levels are not offered fight purses or cash prizes. In fact, it is against the Unified Boxing Rules for an amateur boxer to receive payment.
Another key difference between amateur and professional boxing is the length of the fights. Normally, amateur bouts are much shorter than professional ones. There are also differences in the equipment allowed, as amateur boxing sometimes allows headgear and larger gloves.
There are many outlets for boxers looking to participate in the amateur circuit. It can be done at the collegiate level (meaning the boxers are college students), in the Olympics, the Pan American Games as well as the Commonwealth games.
Amateur boxing and professional boxing are similar in the sense that they are both highly regulated to protect the safety of the athletes. Every bout is controlled by a referee and scored by a team of judges.
Like professional boxing, amateur boxing has several governing bodies that regulate the fights. One difference is that these three governing bodies are essentially the only ones for the amateur circuit and control the industry internationally.
The 3 sanctioning bodies for amateur boxing are:
- International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA)
- International Olympic Committee (IOC)
- Internation Military Sports Council (CISM)
Like professional boxers, amateur boxers sometimes win belts as a prize for winning their fight. However, unlike professional boxing, the prize can also be a medal, cup, or miniature figure (such as boxing gloves).
How to Become An Amateur Boxer
There are four main steps to becoming an amateur boxer. They are 1. Find a gym, 2. Find a coach, 3. Train, and 4. Get a license. Becoming an amateur boxer isn’t something that should be considered lightly, as it is an intense sport that can be grueling on the body. However, becoming an amateur boxer separates you from the hobbyists and can put you on a path toward becoming a professional boxer.
Step 1: Find a gym
The first order of business is to find a boxing gym and train frequently.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking any normal gym with punching bags will suffice; it has to be a boxing gym with other people interested in becoming or training amateur boxers. If you are dedicated to the craft and are determined to perform well in the amateur circuit, seek out a gym with a proven track record of helping amateur boxers achieve success.
Step 2: Find a coach
Finding the right boxing coach for you is the next step on your way to becoming an amateur boxer. You can always find boxing coaches within a boxing gym, so finding the perfect gym in step one gets you one step closer to completing step two.
There are many boxing coaches out there, but finding the right one for you will put you on the fast track to becoming an amateur boxer. Here are some important factors to consider when looking for a new boxing coach:
- Experience. Much like finding a gym with a proven record of producing amateur boxers, you want to find a coach who has a history of helping people become boxers. If you choose a boxer with limited experience, you run the risk of being improperly prepared for a venture into amateur boxing.
- Methodology/Style. Every boxing coach has a unique system and approach. Some keep very rigid schedules while others prefer to go with the flow. Some are very harsh and critical while others are more encouraging. The important thing here is to find a boxing coach that’s compatible with you – and produces results.
- Preparation. The main goal of a boxing coach is to prepare you for amateur boxing bouts. The first thing that comes to mind is physical conditioning and training, but just as important is mental preparation. It’s important to find a boxing coach that understands the process of becoming an amateur boxer and can help you hone your mind to stay sharp inside and outside the ring.
- Practice what they preach. The best boxing coaches are usually former boxers themselves. If they preach discipline and healthy lifestyles, they should practice it themselves. Having an overweight boxing coach puts you at a disadvantage because the best coaches embody their philosophy. They also have to keep up with the rigors of training, so an out-of-shape boxing coach is a red flag.
Step 3: Train
Training to become an amateur boxer can be broken down into these aspects: Strength and conditioning, technique, sparring, and recovery.
- Strength and Conditioning for Amateur Boxing:
Cardio is the name of the game of boxing. In order to become an amateur boxer, you have to have elite levels of cardiovascular fitness. This usually involves distance running, sprints, jump rope, swimming, stationary bikes, and pliometric aerobic exercises. You will be hitting heavy bags and speed bags as part of your cardio conditioning as well.
Many people assume that boxers have to lift weights, but most conditioning for boxing involves bodyweight exercises. Carrying too much muscle decreases a boxer’s gas tank and can make them less flexible, actually diminishing their punching power.
As an amateur boxer, you can expect your strength and conditioning training to involve a lot of body weight resistance exercises like pushups, pullups, situps and crunches, medicine ball exercises, and squats.
- Technique training for Amateur Boxing:
Working on proper punching form, footwork, and headwork are essential to becoming an amateur boxer. It’s not enough to be in great shape if you don’t know how to throw a punch!
Technique training will involve hitting pads with your coaches, drilling head movement and footwork exercises, and reviewing footage of your previous bouts or training sessions.
- Sparring for Amateur boxers:
There’s no way to become an amateur boxer without getting some experience. The best way to do this is by sparring with training partners in your boxing gym.
Sparring is an essential way for amateur boxers to prepare for their bouts. It helps you get your timing down as well as condition your body for the rigors of combat. You will be better equipped to deal with punches when you learn how to defend them against someone actually trying to punch you!
- Recovery for amateur boxers:
Taking care of the body and recuperating after training is essential for the success of an amateur boxer. Recovery involves stretching to maintain flexibility and range of motion, ice baths to reduce swelling, and even massages or cupping to promote blood flow.
Step 4: Get a boxing license
In order to participate in amateur boxing bouts, you will need a boxing license. How do you get a boxing license?
If your gym is licensed by the USA Boxing Commission (or equivalent in your country), they will have applications for a boxing license that you can fill out and mail. If you’re training at an unlicensed gym, you can print and fill out an application here.
You will also have to pass a physical in order for your boxing license to be approved, so be prepared to make an appointment with your physician. No boxing license will be issued to any persons not deemed healthy enough for the rigors of combat.
If you are healthy and your coaches believe you are ready, it’s time to sign up for your first amateur boxing event. Your success as an amateur boxer will have a huge impact on how a potential professional boxing career would play out.
How to Become a Professional Boxer
The skill gap between amateur boxing and professional boxing cannot be understated. Some people who have success in amateur boxing circuits may never replicate that success on the professional level. In fact, most professional boxers average around 10 years of amateur competitions before turning pro.
Like amateur boxing, you will have to train in a boxing gym with a great group of coaches. You’ll also have to be licensed. However, to become a professional, you will need to join one of the major governing bodies (IBF, WBA, WBC, or WBO). The competition is much steeper at this level, so if you want to become a professional boxer, be prepared for long hours of grueling training.
In order to become a professional boxer, you will need a great management team. Finding the right boxing manager with connections to the right promoters can mean the difference between going pro and staying amateur. A boxing manager will also handle all of the business aspects of being a professional fighter, including organizing events, dealing with contracts, and filing paperwork.
You can learn more about the role of a boxing manager/agent here.
Once you enter a major sanctioning body, each victory will climb you up the rankings and each defeat will knock you lower. Your membership is not guaranteed and poor performance will result in you being cut from the roster of active boxers.
Before trying to become a professional boxer, it’s important to make connections with people in the industry. Pick the brains of any professional boxers at your gym to get an impression if it’s really something you’d want to pursue.
Tony Jeffries, a former professional boxer and Olympic medalist, discussed the topic of the pros and cons of becoming a professional boxer on his YouTube channel.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to become a professional boxer?
The answer to this can depend on what age you began training, but generally speaking, it takes around 6 years to progress from novice to amateur to professional. Exceptionally talented athletes can become boxers at 16, such as Roberto Duran, but usually, boxers turn pro around the age of 20.
However, there is no set age that is too old. You can become a boxer at 18 or you can become a boxer at 30; Sven Ottke didn’t make his pro boxing debut until his 30th birthday, but finished his career with a perfect 34-0 record.
If you want to become a boxer at 16, 18, or 20, it’s important to start training as early as possible. If you begin your training at 15 and are serious about becoming a pro boxer, you can expect to advance from amateur to pro around the age of 20 or 21.
Am I too young to become a boxer?
You can begin training at a very young age – Floyd Mayweather Jr. began training at age 3. Vasyl Lomachenko learned to box at the age of 4. The earlier you begin, the better, so if you’re a father reading this – get your kid a heavy bag!
In the USA, some states allow children as young as 8 to participate in amateur bouts. Others restrict the age to 18 for amateur and professional boxing. Checking the local laws regarding becoming a boxer is always a good idea. Click here for a comprehensive list of boxing commissions by country.
Is boxing dangerous?
Like any combat sport, boxing involves considerable risk. There will always be risk of injury when training and participating in boxing events, ranging from minor to life-threatening.
One of the most common concerns regarding boxing safety is chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly referred to as CTE. CTE is a chronic, progressive brain condition that affects cognitive abilities. It is caused by repeated blows to the head, something that happens frequently in boxing.
CTE isn’t the only concern, as boxing can lead to a great number of debilitating injuries. Because boxing is such a dangerous sport, it’s incredibly important to consider all of the risks before endeavoring to become an amateur or professional boxer.
Can I become a boxer at home?
Many people train boxing from the comforts of their home. There are many programs you can follow at home to hone your boxing skill. Some people even create elaborate boxing gyms in their garages or free space!
Here is another great video from Tony Jeffries that teaches the basics of boxing from home.
A home gym is a great supplementary idea for those pursuing professional boxing. Being able to hit a heavy bag or speedball at home in between sessions at the gym can help keep you sharp.
You might also be surprised at how little space is required to make an adequate at-home boxing gym. Check out this video from FightCamp about how to set up a home boxing gym with limited space.
How much money do professional boxers make?
The average salary for a boxer is around $35,000 per year. Being a professional boxer incurs many expenses you may not consider – paying your coaches, managers, traveling, hotels, and healthcare costs.
While there are boxers like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao who earn upwards of $100 million per fight, they are few and far between. Most professional boxers fall within the salary range between $22,000 and $37,000
Becoming a boxer is one of the most difficult things a person can do. However, the thrill of being victorious in a boxing ring is worth it for the people brave enough to step in there. It’s a feeling the overwhelming majority of the population will never get to experience.
If you want to become an amateur or pro boxer, be sure to follow the advice in this article while doing your due diligence about the risks involved. However, competition isn’t necessary to become a boxer! You can learn at your own pace and for whatever reason you like; it’s always a skill worth learning!