I know I teach MMA, thai boxing, krav maga and other combat sports but my heart will always be loyal to my first love, boxing. Boxing is what really drew me to the martial arts to begin with. I was a die-hard boxing fan because of my Cuban-exile mother. If you don’t know much about Cubans, we love baseball, boxing, salsa and coffee. Cuba also happens to produce (historically speaking) phenomenal boxers, baseball players, music and coffee.
A look at Cuba and boxing. I remember being told as a kid, that 1/4 of all Cubans play sports and do it better than 50% of everyone else who plays sports. I realize as an adult that this is a subjective statement. But when you grow up as an American-Cuban (I am aware how I wrote it) through the 70’s and 80’s this is part of the mantra you hear. Truth is, that Cuba has won about 1/3 of all Olympic gold medals in boxing since I was born (remember they weren’t at the ‘84 and ’88). So, this explains a bit of my love for the sport.
Back to Olympic boxing and its greatness. Cuba is hardly the only country that has produced Olympians that have become athletic heroes adorned by their country. The United States has quite a list: Sugar Ray Leonard (if I emulated anyone and how they move and swagger while punching it is him), George Foreman, Roy Jones, Ray Mercer, Evander Holyfield, Joe Frazier and, of course Muhammad Ali.
Between the brilliant boxers that won Olympic medals for America and the amazing Cubans that contributed to building a boxing dynasty, I cannot imagine loving professional boxing more than Olympic boxing. Olympic boxing is an Olympic original. It became an organized sport between the 16th and 18th century. Jack Broughton evolved the sport from its Ancient Greek pugilistic origins (about 650BC) by writing its rules, which eventually became known in 1967 as the Marquess of Queensberry rules (these were revised from 1838 ruled called London Prize Ring rules).
Olympic boxing is a brilliant display of the deepest layers of what someone is made of. A bout reveals and exposes so much of its athletes. This is obvious because unlike team sports, there are only 2 people to capture your attention. As a lover of the sport, I see it as an athletic drama that offers no words. Watching boxing as a child was like a silent film, each fighter displays a full range of emotions; from eager and confident, to exhaustion and fatigue, to victory and loss. Olympic boxing has great context behind its players and in some ways each bout ends happy and tragic depending on whose corner owns your heart. I am not sure who said it, but boxing is like a Greek tragedy, almost ‘un-sport-like’, since its raw physical nature could be considered completely un-playful.
I understand if you roll your eyes as you read my colorful and perhaps melodramatic depiction of a simple sport. My father does, and he was a Golden Gloves and CYO champion (several times). He sees it much more simple. You box to protect yourself when you are a kid that gets picked on and you compete to test your skills and build our confidences so the creeps (as he would say, he means bullies) around you know you will fight back. As I write this, it seems fairly accurate as well. And in essence, his view is another fundamental layer of where my deep love for Olympic boxing originates, and certainly lead to why I did martial arts as a child(girls didn’t box in the 70’s). I think like a child watching a TV actor or Superhero, I watched in envy. I wanted to be them and went to the closest thing available at the time, karate. My favorite summer Olympic memories are watching Olympic boxing with my parents and dodging my head back and forth as if I was in the ring along side, Sugar Ray Leonard, Felix Savon, Roy Jones Jr and Teofilo Stevenson.
The 2012 United States Olympic Boxing Team
Marlen Esparza 112lbs/51kg Flyweight
Rau’Shee Warren 114lbs/52kg Flyweight
Joseph Diaz Jr. 123lbs/56kg Bantamweight
Queen Underwood 132lbs/60kg Lightweight
Jose Ramirez 132lbs/60kg Lightweight
Jamel Herring 141lbs/64kg Light Welterweight
Errol Spence Jr.152lbs/69kg Welterweight
Claressa Shields 165lbs/75kg Middleweight
Terrell Gausha 165lbs/75kg Middleweight
Marcus Browne 178lbs/81kg Light Heavyweight
Michael Hunter 201lbs/91kg Heavyweight
Dominic Breazeale 201lbs/91kg Super Heavyweight