Talking Boxing

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Fizzling out?

Anthony Ogogo (left) and Frankie Gavin (right) both had successful amateur careers but have had a mixed bag as pros


This past weekend in Birmingham, Anthony Ogogo (11-1, 7 KOs) and Frankie Gavin (23-3, 14 KOs) both suffered losses on the Sky Sports-televised card promoted by Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Sport. Though the two have both taken different paths in the professional game, they share one thing in common - they were top amateurs, and their forays into the pro game have fizzled out.
Gavin throughout his career has been criticized for his discipline, always looking a tad fleshier than he should be and not to mention fighting at welterweight, where he should’ve never been. The writing was on the wall when he missed weight at the 2008 Olympics, thus eliminating any chance he had at a medal despite being one of the favourites, having won gold at the World Championships in 2007.

Ogogo has been plagued by injuries since turning over after winning a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics. That has meant that the standard of opposition he’s faced has been poor, as there has always been an injury lay-off to come back from where momentum once again needs to be established and the rust needs to be shaken off.

Nevertheless, they’ve both been disappointing as pros after amateur careers that left them highly touted and sought after. If there’s one thing that can be taken from their careers to date, and from numerous other examples throughout boxing history, it’s that success as an amateur never guarantees success as a professional.

There are numerous variables in a fighter entering the pros after a successful stint as an amateur. Especially for fighters like Ogogo and Gavin who fought in the amateurs before AIBA shook up the sport in 2013 with rule changes across the board taking away headgear and introducing pro-style scoring, there were many more adjustments to make when crossing over.

Then there are the aspects outside the ring, like training, politics and so forth. Especially currently where signing bonuses are thrown at highly touted prospects. It’s easy for one to get hung up on their laurels after receiving a boatload of cash before they’ve even put any work in. Before Floyd Mayweather was known as “Money,” he worked his way up the ladder.

In the case of Gavin, despite how his career has failed to live up to expectations, he’s still been a British and Commonwealth champion. He’s fought and mixed it at a good level with the likes of Kell Brook and Leonard Bundu. He’s always lacked the power at a higher level to make up for his conditioning and discipline. Perhaps if he would have campaigned at light welterweight (Editor's note: Frankie took to social media today Oct 26 to say "got to make 140 now") or even lightweight, things would’ve panned out in a different manner. His stoppages decreased as he stepped up his competition, and also his weight. Gavin started out his pro career weighing in around the low 140s range and even came in under 140lbs for his Irish title clash with Michael Kelly in 2010.

Coming off a stoppage loss against Sam Eggington, failing to make the required weight for the check weigh-ins and thus having to weigh in over the welterweight limit, Gavin’s career prospects aren’t looking too bright right now. The talk of finally moving down in weight have resurfaced, but it appears the damage has already been done and gone on for far too long.

In the case of Ogogo, who suffered a shock defeat to Craig Cunningham with the WBC International middleweight title on the line, there may still be time to come back and rebuild. However, the mountain to climb will be incredibly difficult to overcome.

He somewhat lucked his way into a medal at the 2012 Olympics in London. Most people think Ievgen Khytrov beat him in the last 16 of the competition. Ogogo was hurt on more than one occasion in the fight. Then there is the history of the rest of his career in the amateurs, including stoppage losses that had many predicting his chin would be an issue in the pro ranks.

Ogogo for his part is a good looking, charismatic individual and parlayed that into a deal with Golden Boy Promotions as well as numerous television appearances, including Subway commercials, Splash! and Strictly Come Dancing among others. Over the course of his pro career many have said that Ogogo is more interested in being a celebrity than a fighter, but a look at his track record would say otherwise.

The extent of the injuries overcome by him in this writer’s opinion demonstrate that the desire and heart are there. He could’ve easily packed it in and embarked on a full-time career in TV and entertainment. Reports have come out indicating that a fractured eye socket was sustained either during or prior to the Cunningham fight. Either way, the impact of the injury was too much to overcome from early in the fight, and once again Ogogo faces another lengthy layoff. His talks of bigger fights and ambitions are now on the backburner for the time being.

A bronze at the Olympics may have overblown expectations for his pro career. His best result other than that was a silver at the Commonwealth games in 2012. It also should be asked how much the injury affected the fight and at what capacity Ogogo was fighting at. But all things considered, whether the fractured eye socket was somehow sustained before the fight or not, Craig Cunningham at the very least caused it to worsen and deserves all the credit in the world for pulling off a huge upset.

Considering the low level of opposition Ogogo had fought prior to last Saturday in Birmingham, and considering that he’s just about 28-years-old, there remains time for him to come back. But at what level? Major questions will remain about how far Ogogo can go due to the nature of this loss. The desire and heart aren’t the problem, but it’s his overall ability has been put into question now.

Ogogo, as has been said, was a good amateur and has some wins over good names but he seemingly has lacked the necessary adjustments to the pro game since he turned over. Even with the opposition he’s faced, there are some notable amateur characteristics that still stand out. He rushes his work and thus his technique has not tightened up, whether it be in his punching or in his footwork. The rhythm he fights at is more of an amateur pace, non-stop and suited for the shorter fights. As was apparent in last Saturday’s fight, his mouth was wide open for most of the duration. Fighting at a pace and in a manner, more suited to an amateur fight compromises technical efficiency.

Ogogo and Gavin turned pro four years and an Olympic cycle apart, but they are both examples of how success as an amateur doesn’t automatically transfer over as a pro. Whichever variable may be responsible for that lack of equivalent success as pros, both haven’t lived up to expectations one way or another.
Ogogo and Gavin possess traits that suited them well in the amateurs’ way back when, but haven't adapted and improved upon them to the necessary extent to live up to the expectations bestowed upon them when turning pro.