Creating a Championship Boxer

All it takes is 10 years and 10000 hours of training and a focus on long term athlete development.

Scientific research has shown that this is the minimum amount of time it takes for someone who is relatively talented to achieve elite status in their chosen sport or activity. For those of you who coach or train boxers - that translates into about 3 hours of boxing training daily for 10 years.

This poses a significant challenge for anyone wanting to either be a championship boxer or train one. While age is not a good indicator of peak athletic development, in broad terms, humans will peak somewhere between 25-35. Before you get discouraged, though, that guideline is rough and there are certainly older athletes who are still at the top of their game.

A study called The Path of Excellence took a look at U.S. Olympians between 1984 and 1998. Key findings that support the 10 year/10000 hour rule include:

  • U.S. Olympians began their sport at age of 12 (male) and 11.5 (female)
  • It took them 12-13 years of skill development from the time they were introduced to their sport until they made the Olympic team

How Does This Translate Into Boxing Speak

Training Champion Boxers
Photo by familymwr

If all of this is true and there is little reason to question it, then it establishes some firm constraints for coaches, trainers, and athletes hoping to reach the pinnacle of boxing:

  1. Early Start - The sheer volume of training required means getting kids interested in boxing at a young age so there is simply enough time to meet the 10000 hour training requirement. Starting them out with fundamental movement skills as early as eight or nine would not be a bad idea.
  2. Ability vs Age - Coaches and trainers should be developing long term programs based on developmental stages and skills and not categorizing kids in age groups. Kids develop at different rates. One thirteen year old may show the maturity of an eight year old while another one could pass for 16. I've seen many clubs offering classes to age groups - 12-15 for instance. I don't think we can create champions grouping kids like that - they all need to be assessed and developed on an individual basis. That, of course, causes extra work to develop personalized training plans and introduces logistical problems with training multiple kids at different levels at the same time.
  3. Maintaining Motivation - I've got two kids and keeping them focused on one thing for any length of time is nearly impossible, so how do we keep kids motivated and wanting to continually develop their skills over a period of 10 years? Especially when their interests change as their level of maturity, both physically and mentally, increases. The training we provide has to be challenging and stimulating. It has to provide clear objectives and then acknowledge when they achieve them - publicly or privately - but in a manner that means something to the boxer.

What's This Mean for You?

Some of you are already way past the age that you're going to end up in the Olympics or compete for a championship title. I know I am. But, does it mean that you should stop boxing? Not at all.

We can all improve our skills in this sport and aim to achieve that elusive 10000 hours of training that will turn us into elite boxers. But, we need to be realistic about our goals for doing so. At some point, competing at an elite level is going to come second to wanting to become good at boxing, simply to be good at boxing. Some will be able to push the envelope a little further than others - look at George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, or Bernard Hopkins. In each of those cases, they achieved the ranks of the elite long ago and then tried or are still trying to hold onto that status for as long as possible. They will always be exceptional boxers, but they will not always be competitive boxers.

The good news here is that 10000 hours and 10 years is a superb goal for all of us to aim for. If we truly devote ourselves to that much training over that much time and actually follow a progressive, well laid out training plan that builds skill and keeps us injury free - we may not end up as world champions - but we'll be some fine boxing specimens. Boxon.


What's a good route to becoming a pro boxer?
By the way, how would you find a boxing manager?

Depending on where you are from, to become a pro boxer, you need a trainer, promoter and manager. Sometimes those three can all be one person, but more than likely your manager will work with various promoters to arrange fights while your trainer gets you ready for those fights. You will have to be licensed by whatever boxing association you are going to fight in. Pretty much anyone can be your manager - they just need to be able to sell you to promoters and get you on fight cards. That said, it's going to be very difficult for them to do that if you are an unknown boxer. So, if you haven't already built up a good amateur record, that is the place to start. Go find a club, train hard, and win some amateur matches. That experience and the contacts you will make in the club will get you closer to a professional career than if you try and do it alone. Once you've built up a solid record and name for yourself in the amateurs, it will be much easier to turn pro and have a shot at getting into the stables of the well known promoters/managers (Bob Arum, Golden Boy, etc...)

good article but as you said to one of the members it all depends on each individual and their background, this includes their genetics, strength and athleticism, what they have been through in life, confidence and overall hunger! for instance, i know a guy by the name of denton daley(look him up) started boxing at the age of 25 he is now 30 years old and is a 6-0 professional and only did about a year of amateur fights. He obviously started late and that didnt deter him. i think maybe one of the reasons he was successful was that he had played the guard position playing basketball which involves a lot of agility and foot work he was naturally athletic and strong, he wasn't really a bad kid but grew up in the ghetto which i feel gave him the right mindset for boxing. I mean from my experience playing basketball and being athletic myself, boxing footwork was second nature to me boxing trainers have told me i have the exact genetics for boxing and i don't mean that in a arrogant way and i also grew up in the ghetto although i know its not really where your from but more about preparation! Im 27 and started boxing at the age of 25 and am getting ready for the amateurs and hope to have the same success as Denton Daley!

i want to be a boxer and i always do many excersises,but i don't know where can i start boxing and where can i found someone who will coach and train me well.

rocky marciano started boxing at 25.. im 29 and ive just gotten started into boxing..ive done gym for 5-6 years before.. but i think as older, its easier to get good faster then a kid,.
coz adults have more mental intelligence, and understand what is important to practise, and being able to analyze your own progress better..

jeff feneach went pro after only 3 years of boxing.

Agreed Joakim, there is always potential for certain people to make a career out of boxing, even starting at a later age. I have always been a big proponent of not worrying about how old you are and just do what you want to do. That said, in terms of taking a proactive approach to developing pro boxers and Olympic athletes, there are definite advantages to getting kids young and instilling certain movement skills and training that will benefit specialized skill development later on. I suspect that if you look at the lives/childhoods of Marciano and Feneach, they were probably involved in physical activities that indirectly caused training adaptations that became beneficial as they specialized in boxing later in life.

Boxing is a late specialization sport as opposed to other sports like gymnastics where sport specific skills must be taught at an early age. (there are no old gymnasts). In boxing though, regardless of what kind of training was given at an early age, sport specialization can still be trained at any age. However, put a kid that grew up developing movement skills who benefitted from two key times in their growth to make significant physical adaptations against a kid who missed all that and went straight into boxing later on and the first kid has definite advantages.

As you've mentioned, mental aspects of the game often have more bearing on outcome. I'd take an older boxer with heart and determination over someone with no confidence but plenty of potential. Those that want to succeed, regardless of age, have a much better chance. That's also why the LTAD model incorporates psychological training alongside physical training.

Thanks for the comment.

I've read about 10 years and 10000 hours
Admin I just wanted know is it possible to be able to learn and develop skills in boxing in just 2-3 years and then be able to perform in the Olympics or even turn professional especially if your in mid teens such as 15-17, or is that just not possible and too short amount of time?

The 10 years, 10000 hours is what you could call the standard. It's what one could normally expect to have to go through to reach that level. There are always people above and below the standard, so is it possible to develop Olympic level skills in 2-3 years? I'm not going to say it isn't, but it would mean you learn extremely quick and everything falls right into place for you. Depending on your background and previous sports involvement, maybe you've already built up a good foundation in the skills that will help you learn boxing and now you just need the specialization part. I don't know. My advice is to just go out and box, learn as much as you can as fast as you can. Progress according to your level and see where you end up. You're only going to get as far as you push yourself to go and to be honest - it's going to take as long as it takes.

Let's not forget that Ron Lyle faced Ali in a HW title fight along with Tony Thompson who face Wlad Klitschko in a HW title fight as well. Both men took both champs well into the later rounds (Thompson in the 1st klitschko fight) . Also both men didn't turn pro until age 29 so anything is possible.

Hi i have red most of the comments and I must admit it is a long way to become a professional fighter however it does not have to be 10 years! I am from Poland and we have got many good boxers and many of them started the career at very old age between 26-30. It is entirely up to you if you want to be a professional boxer you can do it! Do not put yourself down by any guidance of other people just do it and train hard and you will get there sooner than you think:) By the way tonight is the big fight: Wach vs Klitchko.

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