You Know Their Names. But, Do You Know Their History? Part 1

Like most things in our current age, things move extremely quickly. In Sport, it feels like a world champion is lost and born every minute. Multiply that by the number of titles available, and it's challenging to keep track of who is the best in the world at any given moment. Overlay that with public opinion, marketing power, and social media presence, and it's arguable who is and what's makes a legitimate Champion.

In this three-part article series, I will be re-introducing seven of the recent and current World Champions: Andy Ruiz Jr, Deontay Wilder, Terence Crawford, Gervonta Davis, Anthony Joshua, Oleksandr Usyk and Vasiliy Lomachenko. The blend of fighters brings a mix of speed, power, athleticism, and controversy to their claim for a top position. So, I would start by peeling back the layers of hype and promotion. In this first instance look at the background and pathway each fighter has taken to the top starting with the black and white numbers of their respective Amateur boxing careers, transition from amateur to professional boxing - leading into the first 5-10 fights,  and finally considering how they navigated the ever so slim bottleneck of opportunity to become a world champion. There is no consistent path in the making of a World Champion Boxer. Let me be clear, and upfront, I don't claim to be an expert analyst by any means. However, I love these potentially controversial discussion items, as everyone has an opinion and a perspective. So, jump into the comments section at the end ⬇️ and share your thoughts on who, how, and why some are able to reach this level of success in some cases much sooner than others.

Andy Ruiz Jr

Amateur Record of 105-5, Current WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO World Heavyweight Champion

During his amateur career, Ruiz boxed to a 105–5 record under Cuban trainer Fernando Ferrer. His 105 wins include two Mexican National Junior Olympics gold medals and a title at the Ringside World Championships.  

Ruiz also represented Mexico in two 2008 Beijing Olympic Games qualification tournaments, losing to eventual Olympians Robert Alfonso of Cuba and Oscar Rivas of Colombia in the first and second qualifiers. Ruiz's parents were born in Mexico, making Ruiz eligible to represent Mexico.  

Given the depth of Ruiz Jr's Amateur background, do you feel this will have an impact and play as an advantage in the Ruiz vs. Joshua 2?

Deontay Wilder

Amateur Record of 30-5, Current WBC World heavyweight Champion

Wilder started boxing in October 2005 when he entered the Skyy Boxing Gym in Northport, Alabama and began training under Jay Deas. Wilder was 20 at that time. By 2007 he upset the favorites to win both the National Golden Gloves and the U.S. championships at 201 lb (91 kg). At the Golden Gloves, Wilder defeated highly proclaimed cadet world champion Isiah Thomas, a southpaw from Detroit and David Thompson, of Brooklyn, NY in the finals. At the U.S. championship, he defeated Quantis Graves and won the final 31–15 over southpaw James Zimmerman of San Jose, Calif.

At the Olympic trials, he beat Graves twice more and won the Olympic trials with only 21 bouts. Early in 2008, he scored a career-best win by edging out World championships silver medallist and future Olympic champion Rakhim Chakhiyev in Russia. He qualified for the Olympics by beating Deivis Julio 6:5 Jorge Quinones from Ecuador on double countback and Brazilian Rafael Lima 6:5 at the qualifier. Wilder then competed at heavyweight in the 2008 Olympics, defeating Abdelaziz Touilbini of Algeria and Mohamed Arjaoui of Morocco before losing to Clemente Russo of Italy in the semifinal to earn a bronze medal.

I wonder how many boxing medallists have done so with so few bouts?

Terence Crawford 

Amateur Record of 58-12, held multiple world championships in three weight classes, including the WBO welterweight title since 2018.

Crawford took up boxing at the age of seven. He fought 70 official amateur bouts, losing only 12 times. As an amateur, Crawford defeated future world champions Mikey Garcia and Danny García. After winning three amateur tournaments shortly before the 2008 Olympics, he became the highest-ranked lightweight in the U.S. However, his loss to leading contender Sadam Ali thwarted his Olympic ambitions.

Terrence Crawford having his first professional fight in 2008 as a 20-year-old, through taking up boxing at the age of 7, should Crawford have had more Amateur Bouts w this time?

Gervonta Davis

Amateur Record of 206-15, two-time super featherweight world champion, having held the WBA title since 2018, and previously the IBF title in 2017.

Davis has been training at Upton Boxing Centre since he was five years old. Davis is trained by Calvin Ford who was the inspiration for the character Dennis "Cutty" Wise on the hit HBO television series, The Wire. Davis had a very successful amateur career, winning many national championships. He won the 2012 National Golden Gloves Championship, three straight National Silver Gloves Championships from 2006–2008, two National Junior Olympics gold medals, two National Police Athletic League Championships, and two Ringside World Championships, among others.

220 amateur bouts are the number that we see from eastern block fighters. It's normal to see fight counts up in the 300. Do you feel that it is critical in keeping a promising athlete fresh for when they start their pro career or is there more value to having vast experience entering the professional ranks, so the athlete has seen every style?

Anthony Joshua 

Amateur Record of 48-3, Previous WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO World Heavyweight Champion

A late starter in the Sport, Joshua only began boxing in 2007, aged 18. His club, Finchley ABC in Barnet, North London, is also home to professional heavyweight Dereck Chisora. Joshua won the 2009 and 2010 Haringey Box Cup. Joshua won the senior ABA Championships in 2010, in only his 18th bout, and later turned down £50,000 to turn professional. "Turning down that £50,000 was easy. I didn't take up the Sport for money; I want to win medals." He also went on to win the same tournament the following year. In 2010 his domestic success earned him a place on the G.B. Boxing team, and later the same year he became British amateur champion at the G.B. Amateur Boxing Championships after defeating Amin Isa. In June 2011 at the 2011 European Amateur Boxing Championships, he beat Eric Berechlin and Cathal McMonagle but was stopped by aggressive Romanian southpaw Mihai Nistor after receiving several standing counts. In October 2011 he was named Amateur Boxer of the Year by the Boxing Writers Club of Great Britain. Joshua had an amateur record of 40-3.

During the 2011 World Amateur Boxing Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, Joshua marked his sudden arrival on the world scene when he beat Italian reigning World & Olympic champion Roberto Cammarelle, and went on to stop Erik Pfeifer of Germany in the semis before losing by a single point to local boxer, Magomedrasul Majidov winning a silver medal. En route to the final, Joshua secured his place at the 2012 Olympic Games in the 91 kg+ division as a relative newcomer to the elite level of the Sport.

Joshua went into the 2012 London Olympics as a novice on the international scene, despite being a world silver medallist. He received a tough draw in the last 16 of the super heavyweight event in Cuban Erislandy Savón, ranked No. 4 in the world by AIBA and nephew of the three-time Olympic champion Félix Savón. The home boxer battled through three tough rounds in his opening contest before being given the result 17:16. This decision caused some controversy with most observers believing Savon had clearly won the bout while a few others were taking the view that he had won on merit. In his next bout, he fought 2008 Beijing Olympics silver medallist Zhang Zhilei, dropping his taller opponent in the middle round; Joshua won by 15:11 guaranteeing at least a bronze medal. In the semifinal, Joshua met Kazakh boxer Ivan Dychko, and despite Joshua's height disadvantage, he won by 13:11 victory gaining a place in the Olympic final. Joshua met a 32-year-old reigning Olympic Champion and former twice World Champion, Roberto Cammarelle of Italy in the closing bout. After conceding the first two rounds (6:5 and 13:10) to Cammarelle, an adversary he had already beaten the previous year, Joshua grew into the fight and fought back to level the scores after the third round (18:18). Joshua was announced the winner via countback and the new Olympic champion. The final decision was criticized by some boxing experts, being defined as a "home decision."  

Through Joshua and Wilder having half the experience as amateur boxers in comparison to Ruiz, do you feel the amateur experience has started to Shine in Ruiz Jnr's favor? Or are particular fighters’ styles more appropriately suited & matched against others?

Oleksandr Usyk 

Amateur Record of 335-15, reigned as the undisputed cruiserweight champion from 2018 to March 2019, being the first boxer in history to hold all four major world championships—the WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO titles—at cruiserweight.

At the 2006 European Championships, he won his first three matches against little-known opponents, in the semifinal he lost to Russian Matvey Korobov. He then moved up to light-heavyweight later and won the Strandja Cup in 2008. In February 2008, he moved up another weight class and was sent to the Olympic qualifier in Roseto Degli Abruzzi replacing European Champion Denys Poyatsyka. There he defeated world-class Azeri Elchin Alizade and Daniel Price.

At the 2008 Olympic Games, Usyk outpointed Yushan Nijiati by 23–4 but lost to Clemente Russo by 4–7 in the quarter-final. He dropped down to light-heavyweight and won gold at the 2008 European Championships, but later moved back up to heavyweight. At the 2011 World Amateur Boxing Championships, he beat Artur Beterbiev and Teymur Mammadov to win the heavyweight title and qualify for the 2012 Summer Olympics. At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Usyk won the gold medal, beating Artur Beterbiev, Tervel Pulev, and Italy's Clemente Russo, outscoring him by 6–3 in the final.

Vasiliy Lomachenko 

Amateur Record of 396-1, currently a unified lightweight world champion, having held the WBA, WBO, and Ring magazine titles since 2018, and previously the WBO featherweight and junior lightweight titles between 2014 and 2018.

At the 2007 World Championships in Chicago, he won silver by beating Abner Cotto in the first round, Theodoros Papazov, Mikhail Bernadski, Arturo Santos Reyes, and Li Yang in the semifinal to reach fellow southpaw and Russian favorite Albert Selimov, to whom he lost 11–16.

Lomachenko won gold at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and avenged his 2007 World Championship defeat to rival and reigning world champion, Selimov, in the first round. He beat his five opponents by an astonishing 45-point margin, outscoring them 58–13, en route to his first gold medal at the senior level. He was subsequently named the outstanding boxer of the tournament and awarded the Val Barker Trophy. His dominant run was described by one historian as "probably the most impressive streak in Olympic boxing ever." Additionally, he won gold again that year to also become the continental champion at the European Championships in Liverpool, conceding just 4 points against his four opponents.

He won gold at the 2009 World Championships in Milan. Despite breaking his hand in the tournament, he beat his five opponents by a remarkable 56-point margin, outscoring them 63–7. He then competed as a lightweight at the 2011 World Championships in Bakuafter AIBA removed the featherweight division. There, he won his second consecutive gold medal to become a two-weight world champion.

Following a forced move up to lightweight, he won his second consecutive Olympic gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London to become a rare two-weight Olympic champion. He defeated Han Soon-Chul of South Korea in the final, 19–9, and was a strong candidate to win the Val Barker Trophy for the second time in what would have historically been an unprecedented feat. Ultimately, he was edged by welterweight gold medal winner, Serik Sapiyev, of Kazakhstan.

He finished his extensive amateur career with an impressive record of 396 wins and only one loss, to Albert Selimov, which was avenged twice. In November 2017, boxing website The Sweet Science conducted a readers' poll, which ran for several weeks, to determine the amateur boxer regarded by the public majority as the all-time best. Alongside Lomachenko, the five other standout finalists selected were: Laszlo Papp, Teofilo Stevenson, Felix Savon, Mark Breland, and Guillermo Rigondeaux. While none were able to claim the majority vote, Lomachenko won a plurality, having led the poll with nearly one-third of the total votes cast.

With Usyk and Lomachenko having extensive amateur boxing careers, do you feel this has led them in and set up the opportunity to become professional boxing world champions much sooner than others?

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