Boxing is historically one of the United States’ earliest sports along with horse racing. The U.S. has produced many top fighters, with boxing providing great opportunities and a great many life lessons.
As a kid growing up in South St. Louis County, Mo., I had the opportunity to watch many boxing greats with my father, Al, on local TV. We watched many great fighters, such as Muhammad Ali, George Frazier, Ken Norton and George Foreman. I always was interested in boxing as a young boy, both as a fan and participant.
My early interest in boxing, heightened by studying Ali’s and Bruce Lee’s fighting styles, inspired me to become involved in martial arts/karate the week I was graduating from high school in 1981. One year later as a purple belt in Kenpo, I was fighting in my first sport karate tournament in St. Louis.
Eventually, I competed in more than 100 tournaments in 10 years at the local, regional, and national levels, which helped me excel in college while earning five degrees, including a Ph.D. in sport psychology from the University of Utah. I believe that my athletic success as a sport karate fighter led to later academic success in finishing my dissertation titled, “Peak Moments in sport karate tournament competition: Black belt fighters in the zone.”
St. Louis has two great heritages – blues music and boxing. The boxing includes such greats as Archie (Old Mongoose) Moore, Virgil (Honey Bear) Adkins, Devon Alexander, Henry (Hurricane Hank) Armstrong, Carl (The Squirrel) Daniels, Arthur (Flash) Johnson, Sonny Liston, Terron (The Tramp) Millett, Harold Petty, Cory Spinks, Leon (Neon Leon) Spinks, Michael Spinks, Lemuel Steeples and Joshua Temple, currently the Team USA champion who has his sights on the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The aura which characteristically has surrounded the title of “heavyweight champion of the world” has changed much in recent years. The heavyweight champion of the world used to make more money than anybody else in sport, but now athletes can make more money in others sports such as the NFL, NBA or MLB.
“Temple is the No. 1-ranked amateur in the country. He is a two-time Elite national champion as a heavyweight and a member of the USA Knockouts team competing in the World Series of Boxing. Temple could earn a spot for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro through the WSB playoffs in April. Otherwise, he can punch a ticket to Rio at the World Amateur Championships in October at Doha, Qatar. Either way, he is closing in on a dream while keeping his feet on the ground … “I plan on making my money from boxing and being successful,” he said. “Then, after that, I want to finish college and find something to do where I can give back, work with kids.” (O’Neill, 2015)
While Temple is a promising boxer from St. Louis, other fighters have benefited in many ways from the discipline, respect and training involved in the sweet science of boxing. Boxing has a positive impact on people every day and helps improve the quality of their lives in a real way, and boxers from St. Louis, like Temple, are outstanding examples of what life lessons boxing can teach.
- Dr. Michael Frederick is the Chair of Sports Studies at the United States Sports Academy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.