How Long Does it Take to Become a Pro Boxer?

It’s easy to think of pro boxing and imagine Mike Tyson kicking his opponent to the curb as you watch the glamour and glory of the sport. Be careful about getting too ahead of yourself. You’ll have to work on getting good at boxing before daydreaming about honor and glory.

We’ll look at several pro boxer examples: How they got started, what steps they took to become pros, and what practices helped them sustain their place in the sweet science. Strap in, everyone. You’re in for a fun ride through history and a whole lot of boxing glory.

Muhammad Ali

It might be the most obvious place to begin, but still an excellent example.

How Long Did it Take Muhammad Ali to Become a Pro Boxer?

Ali began training at age 12, and, at age 18, had won a gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics’ light heavyweight division. He trained for 6 years, from age 12 to 18, to become a professional. It took roughly 7 years to reach the peak of his career in 1967 when he fought Ernie Terrell.

Exercise

Ali ran at least 6 miles per day 6 days a week. Running built up his endurance so that he could stay in the ring for as many rounds as possible. He used a combination of shadow boxing rounds and heavy bag boxing to build endurance as well.

Ali factored in floor exercises, such as sit-ups, leg raises, and bicycle crunches. He even skipped rope for 20 minutes to finish out each session.

In terms of diet, Ali kept his meals wholesome, eating eggs, fruits, veggies, chicken, steak, green beans, and potatoes. 

Rocky Marciano

Indeed, Muhammad Ali was a great one, but he did not finish his career undefeated like Rocky Marciano (no, not the Sylvester Stallone Rocky).

How Long Did it Take Rocky Marciano to Become a Pro Boxer?

Marciano worked out in his youth using heavyweights and even used a stuffed mailbag for a heavy bag. He was drafted into the Army in 1943 when he was 20 years old and took up boxing to avoid less desirable activities, such as assisting the cooks. He went professional in 1947 when he was 23 years old when he found he could not play baseball for the Chicago Cubs like he originally wanted.

Rocky Marciano reached the height of his career between 5 to 8 years after going professional. He faced several World Heavyweight Champion fighters, including Jersey Joe Walcott and Ezzard Charles, during that time.

Exercise

Marciano’s main goal with exercise was to build his endurance. He didn’t want to get tired during a fight since he was a smaller fighter and needed to compensate. He liked to run 5 miles every day and would run 15 miles uphill before a fight.

He also had a unique heavy bag made that weighed 300 pounds instead of the usual 60-100 of the standard heavy bag. Sometimes, he would stand in a pool at shoulder-length and throw punches through the water.

Rocky Marciano supposedly loved his vegetables. For the most part, he focused on his exercise regime instead of sticking to strict diets.

Joe Louis

Another heavyweight champion, Joe Louis has a few useful pointers about pro boxing life.

How Long Did it Take Joe Louis to Become a Pro Boxer?

Joe Louis made his amateur debut at 17 years old in 1932, spending time at a local youth center to avoid gang activity. He made his professional debut 2 years later. His 6’2 height and powerful punches earned him a reputation in the ring, even though he had a slow start in his amateur career.

In 1938, at the height of his career, Joe Louis had his most famous match against the Aryan supremacist Max Schmeling II. It took place 6 years after he went professional.

Exercise

Joe Louis had a relatively gentle exercise regime. That is, he paced himself and didn’t try to get strong too early. He got up early and went 6 miles every day, alternating between running and walking. When he finished, he went back to sleep until 10 a.m. When he got up, he ate a breakfast of eggs, ham, and dry toast.

Joe prioritized sleep, taking an hour-long nap from 1 p.m. until 2 p.m. before he started training. He also spent 4 days of the week sparring, while on other days, he did calisthenics and bag punching.

Like most pro boxers, Joe Louis thrived on eggs and meat. He also enjoyed beef, chicken, and spinach for his post-workout meal.

“Sugar” Ray Leonard

We have a more contemporary fighting figure in “Sugar” Ray Leonard, but he is an excellent example of the pro fighting dream come true.

How Long Did it Take “Sugar” Ray Leonard to Become a Pro Boxer?

“Sugar” Ray Leonard’s amateur career began when he was 13 in 1969. His older brother Roger helped start a boxing team at the local rec center. When Ray saw how good his brother was on the team, he decided to try the sport himself.

He didn’t start his professional career until 8 years later, in 1977, when he was 20 years old. He had boxed in several lightweight and light welterweight competitions before eventually making it to the Olympics in 1976. His old coach, Janks Morton, introduced him to a group of attorneys who invested money in Leonard’s professional career. Leonard was paid over $40,000 for his first professional fight and paid the attorneys back that night.

The height of “Sugar” Ray Leonard’s career came with the fight against Thomas Hearns in 1981, just 4 years after he started professional boxing.

Exercise

Sugar Ray Leonard’s exercise regime started with a 5 a.m. run of 3 to 4 miles before having breakfast and relaxing with music. From roughly noon to 1:30 p.m., he would do various exercises, such as sparring for 5 to 10 rounds, skipping rope for 5-minute intervals, 3 rounds of speed bag workouts, followed by 100 to 200 sit-ups. 

The Differences Between Pro Boxers and UFC Fighters

While boxing is a part of MMA fighting, there are a few differences between the two. With boxing, for example, you can only throw punches and hit above your opponent’s belt. Since MMA encompasses several more moves, you can hit any part of the body.

How the competitors’ fight changes between the two sports as well. Boxers fight with their hands near their head, while UFC fighters keep their hands close to their legs to stop their opponent from grabbing them. 

The differences in the techniques could call for different work-out routines than those of Pro Boxers. Due to the intensity and tactics of both of these sports, either one you choose will take years of practice, skill, and experience before you are able to master the sport. 

How Long Does it Take to Become a Pro Boxer? 

As you can see, the time it takes to go pro can vary. Most fighters all have one thing in common, though. They train extensively, whether through a rec center or by working out in their own home.

Training yourself for peak physical condition can take several years, but it is the top priority of a decent pro boxer. You need to have a consistent routine and stick to a diet full of protein and vegetables.

You can also choose to build a team to back you up, including a manager, a promoter, or even investors. Some fighters don’t need whole teams to reach their full potential, but having at least one manager or investor in your corner can help immensely.

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