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  1. #1
    Senior Member ezzthetic's Avatar
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    Default Why the Russians dominate heavyweight boxing

    The following is a reply to a private message where a member asked me about the current dominance of former-Soviet bloc heavyweights and whether I thought this to be a matter of coincidence or a product of the Soviet sports program. I was deleting some old messages and thought I'd share this with you:

    I don't think it is a matter of coincidence at all. There are several factors that contribute. The old Soviet boxing program is very much still in effect. My teammate recently competed at the European Championships in Bulgaria where the Russians dominated, having finalists in all 11 weight divisions and winning 9 gold medals. The only losses suffered were to a Bulgarian jr. welterweight who was also voted best boxer of the event and a TKO loss to a young Ukrainian at heavyweight. Of course, both Bulgaria and the Ukraine represent the former Soviet Union and the same old sports program. Only two fighters representing non-former Soviet countries reached the finals - an Italian at jr. flyweight and a Finn at super heavyweight (the two extremes of the weight spectrum)!

    In my opinion it comes down to this: the hungriest fighters in the heavyweight division are Eastern European. They come up fighting for a better life through the amateur boxing program... literally. All the top heavyweights of the future will be from those countries or from Africa (notably Nigeria, Ghana and South-Africa). There were good Irish-, Jewish- and Italian- American heavyweights at some point during the last century, but as options increased they moved on. Young African-Americans today have more options as far as sports go, and why should they choose something as corrupt and dangerous as boxing? The dominant people at professional level? Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. Unfortunately they are on average too small to create a pool of heavyweight talent. There will still be talented black boxers around the lower middle weight classes, as those are more unlikely to go into football or basketball.

    Another problem is not so much the rise of the East but the decline of the West in general. After great success at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, the US have only captured a total of 3 gold medals (De la Hoya, Reid and Ward) since that time, twice by what arguably amounted to lucky punches! The Sydney Olympics marked the first time since 1948 that a competing US team failed to win even one gold medal. There are primarily two things killing amateur boxing in America, lack of proper teachers (as opposed to mere coaches) and lack of exposure.

  2. #2
    Member Dale Lackey's Avatar
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    I imagine boxers doing roadwork saying over and over in their minds ("Cheeseburger, cheeserburger")
    Dale Lackey

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    Member DaNinjew's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dale Lackey
    I imagine boxers doing roadwork saying over and over in their minds ("Cheeseburger, cheeserburger")
    You have to be an old fart to appreciate that one. Long live the memory of John Belushi.....
    DaNinjew Delusional Liberal

    A veteran - whether active duty, retired, national guard, or reserve - is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to The 'United States of America', for an amount of 'up to and including my life.' That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.- Author Unknown

  4. #4
    Member GodofGamblers's Avatar
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    I used to have a big Russian alarm clock in the 80s but threw it into the closet because it made too much noise. I wound it up a few years later and was surprised to see it still worked. Many mock Russian technology because it is big, clunky and not aesthetically pleasing. However, the basic concept is excellent. It is this which is the comparitive advantage for Russian tech. Good basic concept.

    Their sports program is much the same. They don't go for fancy techniques or complex, arcane moves like the Chinese and Asians do. They concentrate on basics: conditioning, stamina, power, etc.

    Their technique seems to be laughable when you get in the ring with them. But after a few rounds, you are too tired to throw fancy combos. WHile you made them look bad in initially by dancing around throwing fake jabs, you are now tired... but they keep coming at you 100% with the same simple techniques. SImple, but any one of them can KO you...

    This is the Russian advantage. They know that sports are 90% conditioning. The technique comes after. Asians and also westerners, I believe, like technique and frankly are bored by conditioning. This is why the RUssians will continue to dominate.

    It doesn't have anything to do with being 'hungry' , IMO.

  5. #5
    Senior Member STORMCROW34's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GodofGamblers
    It doesn't have anything to do with being 'hungry' , IMO.
    I disagree. Dadi hit the nail right on the head. I think recent history illustrates a direct link from economically depressed cultures or regions with few options, to a prevalence in dangerous and undesirable occupations.

    "Desperate times, call for desperate measures".
    Last edited by STORMCROW34; 02-15-2007 at 09:42.
    Michael Crowell

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  6. #6
    Member GodofGamblers's Avatar
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    I agree that it's the case in some countries, esp. in the States where Blacks and Latinos dominate. But remember that Russia has had a very strong sports culture during good times and bad. During the SU there was no widespread poverty. The best athletes didn't come from underprivileged families in the SU. It was a relatively classless society.

    I think one of the strengths is that they didn't have a capitalist take on the whole thing. Admittedly, in a capitalistic society, at the upper levels you can get the best athletes because of the incredible amount of money companies like NIKE are willing to give as sponsors.

    However, there is a negative side to the capitalist system for sports.

    For example, if you're John Doe off the street and you want to learn an MA in the west, you aren't going to put up with paying your hard earned cash to do duck walks around the gym and jumping jacks: you want to learn esoteric moves of Chinese masters, dim mak strikes, Chi powers, Harry Potter like skills.

    In the old Russian sports system, they wouldn't bother with such stuff but would stick to pure physical exercise. If you don't like it because it's boring, so what! They didn't have to please any market or consumers... THis was positive... too bad the system didn't work on an economic level though!

  7. #7
    Senior Member Luebbers's Avatar
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    I'd also like to point out that arguably the best MMA fighter on the planet right now is Russian. He is quoted as saying that in his early days, he fought for the money to put food on his family's plate and that he views his opponent in the ring as trying to put him back in that station.

    "I cannot allow that to happen," - Fedor Emelianenko.
    -Michael Luebbers

    "The end of man is knowledge, but there is one thing he can't know. He can't know whether knowledge will save him or kill him. He will be killed, all right, but he can't know whether he is killed because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he hasn't got and which if he had it, would save him."

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  8. #8
    Member GodofGamblers's Avatar
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    It's true that Russia is in dire straits right now. They are experiencing their own Great Depression , though they are starting to recover.

  9. #9
    Senior Member STORMCROW34's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GodofGamblers
    It's true that Russia is in dire straits right now. They are experiencing their own Great Depression , though they are starting to recover.
    EXACTLY my friend! And that's why we now see an emergence of Russian and ex-Soviet Bloc athletes doing very well in professional boxing. Particularly in the Heavy Weight division that once upon a time was dominated by African Americans who now have more options on the table. And during this same era while the SU was economically stable, it's hard to ignore the relatively lack of elite Soviet boxers.

    As Dadi pointed out, we could go back a bit further and see the same pattern among Italian, Irish and Jewish immigrants in the U.S.

    I believe I read a Rocky Marciano interview where he basically said that if he didn't win, he didn't eat. And I can't count the number of times I've heard in pre-fight interviews that the reason those boxers are there, is to provide a better life for their families.

    Are the Russian sports programs solid? Most definitely. But in my humble opinion, I think the reason they are dominating heavyweight boxing is hunger.
    Last edited by STORMCROW34; 02-16-2007 at 08:17.
    Michael Crowell

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  10. #10
    Member GodofGamblers's Avatar
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    Well, Michael, you may be completely right and I notice Dadi hasn't chimed in yet with a definitive answer, but let's keep the ball rolling here... You are quite right that during the SU there were no Soviet heavyweight boxers in the US when times were stable and (relatively) good.

    However, I don't think that is proof because I don't think Soviet athletes would be allowed to jet over the States to pick up a few titles/prize purses and then go Back to the USSR. Indeed, you must admit that the old USSR wouldn't have been such a bad thing if Soviet citizens had freedom of movement to go to the US to become rap stars, athletes, etc.

    So my position still stnads that the current wave of Russian star athletes (in tennis too, notably) is a result of the old Soviet sports culture and not hard times.

    However, I may be willing to compromise with you that perhaps BOTh are equally important factors.

    Cheers

    K

  11. #11
    Senior Member Brian R. VanCise's Avatar
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    Default

    Economics and environment certainly have alot to do
    with shapping a fighter.

  12. #12
    Senior Member STORMCROW34's Avatar
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    I'm not sure how well Dadi can type with his hand injury...or more probable is that he's too busy....

    Anyway Kerisna, you bring up a good point about the U.S./U.S.S.R. diplomatic relations during the cold war. My guess is that you are correct. It is probably a variety of reasons mentioned, and unmentioned here, that are contributing the success of these athletes. But necessity is a very powerful motivator in all endeavors.

    I wonder how the U.S. and U.S.S.R. teams compared in the Olympics during the cold war?
    Last edited by STORMCROW34; 02-19-2007 at 10:22.
    Michael Crowell

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  13. #13
    Senior Member STORMCROW34's Avatar
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    Here's a link showing Olympic boxing results. Although I believe we were talking about professional boxing, there is a connection because we often see top Olympic boxers excel in the professional ring.

    http://hubcit.sasktelwebsite.net/oly...ngresults.html
    Michael Crowell

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  14. #14
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    Putin is 1st Dan in Judo and very savy in what he's doing geopolitically...

    Quote Originally Posted by GodofGamblers
    I agree that it's the case in some countries, esp. in the States where Blacks and Latinos dominate. But remember that Russia has had a very strong sports culture during good times and bad. During the SU there was no widespread poverty. The best athletes didn't come from underprivileged families in the SU. It was a relatively classless society.

    I think one of the strengths is that they didn't have a capitalist take on the whole thing. Admittedly, in a capitalistic society, at the upper levels you can get the best athletes because of the incredible amount of money companies like NIKE are willing to give as sponsors.

    However, there is a negative side to the capitalist system for sports.

    For example, if you're John Doe off the street and you want to learn an MA in the west, you aren't going to put up with paying your hard earned cash to do duck walks around the gym and jumping jacks: you want to learn esoteric moves of Chinese masters, dim mak strikes, Chi powers, Harry Potter like skills.

    In the old Russian sports system, they wouldn't bother with such stuff but would stick to pure physical exercise. If you don't like it because it's boring, so what! They didn't have to please any market or consumers... THis was positive... too bad the system didn't work on an economic level though!

  15. #15
    Member TIRAGION's Avatar
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    A small correction:

    From Wikipedia:

    "Though he is not the first world leader to practice judo, Putin is the first leader to move forward in the advanced levels. Currently, Putin is a black belt (6th dan) and is best known for his Harai Goshi, a sweeping hip throw.[46]

    After a state visit to Japan, Putin was invited to the Kodokan Institute and showed the students and Japanese officials different judo techniques.[46]

    Vladimir Putin is Master of Sports (Soviet and Russian sport title) in Judo and Sambo"
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