For boxing, the Olympics are a major showcase event, and countless professional stars have used the Games to launch Hall-of-Fame careers. Names like Patterson, Ali (formerly Clay), Leonard and De La Hoya echo in the hallowed halls of Olympic fame, and that’s only the smallest cross section of Americans.
While the U.S. sends nearly all of its Olympic hopefuls to the professional ranks, nations like Cuba retain their amateur fighters (for better or worse) and have built dynasties that have thwarted American dominance over the past two decades.
Names like Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon of Cuba, or Laszlo Papp of Hungary, might not be familiar to casual boxing fans, but it just so happens that the above-mentioned fighters are the only three-time Olympic boxing gold medalists, and their legacy as amateurs (though Papp did turn pro and is in the Hall of Fame) is just as much a part of Olympic lore as the “one and done” superstars.
Such is the beauty of the Games. The Olympics can transform a boxer into a sensation, and the luster of Olympic gold opens up professional avenues and attracts top promoters.
Of course, winning the Olympics does not guarantee professional success. I recently wrote an article about the biggest boxing busts of all-time, and there is a peculiar trend, in several high-profile cases, of elite amateur champions flopping as professionals.
Much of this has to do with the disconnect between amateur and professional boxing, and this will unfortunately be no better in London. The Olympic preview issue of The Ring cites London as a transitional Olympiad, and it is somewhat reassuring to know that London will be the last Olympics where computerized scoring is used.
As the Olympics get set to revert to pro-style scoring in 2016, London 2012 still offers the chance for several marquee fighters to establish themselves as superstars and professional prospects to watch. With that, let’s look at five fighters to keep an eye on in London.