Boxing is one of the oldest and most popular combat sports that offers many opportunities. With becoming a professional boxer and succeeding comes a lot of money, global fame, and many other benefits. But what steps do you need to take to reach this level? How do you become a pro boxer?
First, you need to find a reputable boxing gym with a quality coaching staff. Next, you have to train hard and spar for at least a year before you can get a license and start competing as an amateur. Then, once you gain enough experience, you might start considering becoming a pro boxer.
This is just a brief journey of how you become a professional boxer. Following is a detailed, step-by-step guide you certainly don’t want to miss.
What is Professional Boxing?
Boxing is an individual combat sport where two boxers fight each other inside the square ring under a standardized set of rules. According to these rules, each boxing match is split into rounds, between 4 and 12, depending on the importance of the match, and fighters are split into different weight categories.
Contestants can use only their fists to punch each other in the upper area above the waist, including the head. They must obey all the rules, follow the referee’s instructions and wear protective gear such as:
- Full-padded gloves
- Boxing shoes
Boxing events are organized in arenas and even stadiums if it is a high-profile show. Each event is regulated by the head boxing governing body of the country where the event takes place. As a result, all fighters must go through pre and post-fight medical checks and undergo anti-doping tests.
In modern times, boxing is a mainstream sport, and boxers are considered “prizefighters”. The dream of every boxer is to win a world title, money, fame, and build a legacy. Each boxer has a manager and must sign a contract with one of many promotions responsible for organizing boxing events and matches.
How to Become a Professional Boxer: Step-by-Step Guide
As a beginner dreaming about reaching the pinnacle of boxing, the first thing you need to do is to accept that this is going to be a long journey full of ups and downs. Apart from hard work, you need to stay motivated, persistent, and above all else, believe in yourself and your potential.
Before you can get a license to compete as a pro, you must first gain some experience on the amateur level. Thus, your initial goal will be to develop the required level of skill and fitness to compete in the amateur competition.
Find a boxing club
The first step on your journey of becoming a professional boxer is quite obvious- you need to find a proper boxing school. Though this may seem like an easy task since every town in the world has at least one, finding the right school in which you can grow your career is not that easy.
If your goal is to train as an amateur, learn how to fight, and get in shape, then just about every school will work. But if you want to become a pro fighter, you have to put in some effort to find the right one.
You don’t want to start your journey in a bad school or toxic environment because this will have a negative impact on your development. It will teach you bad skills, force you to develop bad habits, and overall, destroy your will to pursue your dreams.
This is the most important step, the one you don’t want to get wrong. Do detailed research on all the schools in your area, see if some of your friends have trained there, and ask them to share their experience with you. Next, be sure to attend the trial class in at least two gyms (if you have an option) and check the following things:
- Quality of the coaching staff
- Does the gym produce professional fighters
- Gym hygiene and culture
- Equipment like a boxing ring, enough space for people to work, etc.
Next, find a school that has separate amateur and professional groups. A standardized learning syllabus is not bad. But gyms that focus on producing pro-fighters always have a specialized program in which you can maximize your potential and talent as an athlete.
In the best-case scenario, you will attend trial classes in multiple schools and determine which one suits you the best.
Build a relationship with your coach and teammates
The most important aspect of every good boxing gym is an experienced and qualified coaching staff. All the latest gear and spacious facility mean nothing without top coaches that can get the most out of your potential, keep you on the right track, and help fulfill your dreams.
As a person who wants to become a pro boxer, make sure to find a gym where you can also get “private” coaching lessons. A 1 on 1 training session where a coach can fully focus on yourself, and give their best to improve your game. And of course, that person has to be experienced.
In an ideal scenario, your coach will have solid experience working with amateur and professional fighters. They will probably be former pro boxers themselves, which is always a huge plus. The success of their students should be a good indicator of their coaching abilities.
The coach also needs to have a strong work ethic, and be an energetic and motivating person. And above all, they must be focused on your progress, and always remember the details about your journey, areas you need to work on, and all other things that make your relationship strong.
Focus on developing a strong base
As a beginner, your mind might already start dreaming about performing in the packed MSG arena in New York. In reality, however, you must focus on mastering all the fundamentals and develop a strong base on top of which you can later add advanced skills. This is crucial because the last thing you need is to develop bad habits at the start that will have a negative impact later on your journey.
Drilling the same moves all over again on the heavy bag or while hitting the bag can quickly become monotone. But remember, all the boxers have started the same way, and there are no shortcuts or easy ways out.
Stamping all the techniques into your muscle memory, coordinating the movements, and getting the motion right is done through endless repetition of each move. You must do this until you get stances, punches and combos, footwork, and head movement to a required level.
Then, you can start doing live drills with your partner, which is the introduction exercise to sparring. Live drills include one student performing an attack while the other is defending, and then they switch sides. This enables you to condition your body and get used to receiving punches, and your mind not to enter panic mode each time you get blasted.
Bear in mind that you won’t spend much time doing live drills before moving to sparring. Depending on the school, students are ready to spar after a couple of weeks of doing live drills.
Train hard and regularly spar
The next stage is all about hard work. You should hit the gym at least five times a week and regularly spar against your teammates. Sparring is, in fact, a crucial part of the learning process, the one that will make you a real fighter. It is a section where students do a simulation of a boxing match.
However, sparring is not a fight. It is an exercise where the main goal is to apply all of the techniques against a moving target who is putting on resistance. The focus is on performing with proper technique and learning, not to “win” a sparring session.
This approach is crucial as you can’t develop automatic reactions, timing, feeling for distance, or fighting instincts without sparring. You can’t also learn how to stay calm in the heat of the moment and control your breathing. And all the skills and talent mean nothing if your mind is blurred with emotions and adrenalin.
After sparring for around 5–6 months and training for a year in total, you can slowly start considering getting a license and competing as an amateur. But before you make any decisions, be sure to let the coach know your intentions.
Get an amateur license
In order to compete in sanctioned boxing events, you must register yourself as a boxer and get a license. Each country in which boxing is legal includes a governing body responsible for licensing athletes and overseeing events.
The process is not too complex and it may vary between countries. But it usually involves you undergoing a physical exam to prove that you are healthy. This involves various tests such as blood pressure, neurological tests (reflexes), history of previous injuries or diseases, blood and urine tests, etc.
Next, you need to provide all the required documents, submit the application and pay a sign-up fee that is around $50 in the US.
The process of getting a license is mandatory and you can’t, nor should you compete without it.
Have your first amateur Fight
Signing up to take part in an amateur boxing competition is where your journey as a fighter truly begins. In most cases, the coaches or gym managers are responsible for securing you a spot in the tournament or an event between local boxing clubs.
As the tournament or match approaches, the intensity of training will increase. The main goal of your team is to plan and time your training regime in a way that you will be at the peak of your fitness and performance on the day of the match.
A tournament form lasts a couple of days and you might have multiple matches in a single day. It is an elimination format where the winner moves on while the loser gets eliminated. Although harder to win, scoring a couple of solid wins in a row will quickly increase your reputation in the local boxing world.
The second option is single events also known as “club fights”. In these events, different clubs from your area will bring their fighters to compete against each other in single matches.
Some countries have boxing leagues where boxing clubs compete in a seasonal format. Each club receives points based on how many of their fighters have won matches. At the end of the season, the points would get summed up and the winners would be declared.
Build experience in amateur competition
The amateur boxing community is very strong mainly because amateur boxing has been a part of the Olympic Games since 1896. Unlike in other sports, young boxers spend years crafting their skills and working their way up on the amateur scene before they turn pro. In fact, some of them can have over 100 amateur matches before going pro.
As a result, do not expect to get a pro license after just a couple of wins on the amateur level. In MMA, for example, you can have 1 amateur match and turn pro, but boxing is different. You have to regularly compete in tournaments, leagues, and single events, build reputation, and above all, experience and improve the overall game.
Professional boxing is a tough and unforgiving world that will instantly destroy your career if you step into it prematurely.
Stepping into professional boxing is where everything becomes more serious. First, the intensity of training increases and you will spend more time in the gym. Next, you must take more rest outside of the gym and adopt healthy eating habits.
Overall, every aspect of your life becomes more serious and oriented towards you beating the odds and succeeding in this tough world.
Continue training hard to improve your game
The training process remains the same as when you were an amateur. However, the workouts get more intense and you will no longer spend much time working on the fundamentals. Instead, you will start developing your unique style along with your coaches, and work on the more advanced aspects of boxing. Apart from skills, this includes tactics and strategies, maximizing your strengths, and minimizing your weaknesses.
As you move into pro boxing, the competition gets much tougher so you need to make significant improvements to stay on top. And to achieve this, you must work with the right coaches and have skilled training partners to spar with and maintain a strong work ethic.
Work on bringing your fitness to a high level
Size, strength, and endurance do matter in combat sports and are often decisive factors between winning and losing. Thus, you constantly need to work on improving your upper and lower body fitness.
At least once a week, you will dedicate one session to strength and conditioning. These sessions consist of various aerobic and anaerobic workouts that will improve the strength of every muscle group in your body. You will also enhance balance, flexibility, and other aspects such as reflexes and coordination.
Regularly working on improving these areas will boost your progress and enable you to perform with better technique, more power, and even confidence. And in the end, this increases your chances of winning and succeeding as a pro boxer.
For example, all the skills mean nothing if you don’t have the cardio to perform at a high pace over the full length of a boxing match. You will get overwhelmed with pressure, outpaced, and in the end, lose a fight “only” because you weren’t prepared enough. You can’t allow yourself these things at the professional level.
Adopt a healthy diet
As a professional, you must always be in good shape and maintain a healthy weight. With the intensity of the physical workout and mental stress increasing, your body needs healthy nutrients to be able to sustain the punishment and repair itself.
Adopting healthy eating habits and planning your meals will give you enough energy to go through a workout, help the body repair itself, and stay at optimal weight.
Eating junk food all the time will have a negative impact on your training and overall performance and progress. You will constantly feel fatigued in training, and not be able to recover enough until the next session which often results in an injury. Instead, focus on:
- Eating healthy snacks such as nuts instead of potato chips or crackers
- Eating food rich in proteins such as chicken, turkey, beef, oily fish, eggs
- Every meal should include vegetables for fiber and fruit
- Eat balanced meals with protein, healthy fats, and slow-release carbs
- Avoid alcohol and juices high in sugar. Instead, make your own fruit juices a couple of times a day
Get a professional boxing license
The process of getting a professional license is very much the same as the one for the amateur. The only major difference is that this time, you have to register in one of four major boxing organizations. The thing is, boxing has hundreds of organizations. But the following are the four major ones and you have to register with one of them:
Congratulations, you have officially become a professional boxer.
Get a manager
Having a good manager is one of the most important things in professional boxing. Boxing managers are licensed professionals who have all the connections within the industry and are responsible for running your pro career. They will manage your contracts, look for the best opportunities, box out the best possible deals, and do many other things.
As a pro athlete focused on improving skills and preparing for matches, you don’t have time to run this aspect of your career alone. You just can’t answer the phone all the time, go through the intense negotiation process, search for opportunities on the market, etc. And this is where the role of a manager comes into play.
Of course, managers usually take around 20% of your fight purse for their services, but this is not a big deal if the contract includes good terms. To begin with, you will get a manager recommendation from the coach, gym owner, or a training partner, and later on, you can find the one by yourself.
Work your way up
This is, by far, the hardest part of the journey as the professional boxing world is cruel and unforgiving. Before you can perform in the biggest arenas and earn seven or eight-figure paychecks, you must first work your way up on the regional scene.
Most professional boxers start by taking part in local boxing shows. But with the combination of a good manager, a couple of dominant performances, and talent, you may expect to break through the regional scene in a very short time span. If you have what it takes to succeed, a good manager will find you good and credible opponents so that you can build a strong reputation quickly.
Remember, boxing is a sport where a single loss on the pro scene can instantly stop your progress and force you three steps back. Thus, be sure to always talk with your managers and coaches, have a methodical approach to your career, and do things the right way. You don’t want to constantly jump on the short-notice fights, compete while having an injury, or go into a match unprepared.
The way you become a professional boxer is relatively the same for anyone. It is a road full of ups and downs, pain, injuries, blood, sweat, and even tears. Apart from being talented, it is dedication, persistence, sacrifice, and self-belief that will push you through all the struggles and increase your chances of succeeding.
From the initial step of finding a proper boxing school to the way you train, get a license to fight and become a professional, this article provided you with a detailed step-by-step guide on how you become a professional boxer, and hopefully, inspired you to pursue a career. Good luck!