By Avery Carmine
The list of boxers with Olympic experience includes a who’s who of boxing’ best, from retired luminaries like Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali, Roy Jones Jr., and Floyd Mayweather (retired for now, at least) to today’s finest fighters such as heavyweights Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder. Middleweights James DeGale and Gennady Golovkin, welterweight Amir Khan and lightweight Vasyl Lomachenko round out the list.
Lomachenko, in particular, parlayed his Olympic success in 2008 and 2012 into near-instant success in the pro ranks, getting title shots in his second and third professional fights. He lost the first one, against bruiser Orlando Salido, but won the next, this time against Gary Russell Jr., who was himself a former Olympian. With that masterful victory, The Matrix tied the record for fewest fights to win a world title and has since won a belt in two more divisions.
Now, other Olympians are seemingly following the Lomachenko blueprint and the two most notable in this regard happen to be women: Claressa Shields of the U.S. and Nicola Adams of England. In 2012, the charismatic Shields won gold at the London Olympics, where women’s boxing made its debut in the quadrennial showcase. Four years later in Rio, she struck gold again, in the process becoming the first American to win two gold medals in boxing in nearly a century. Shields turned pro in November of that same year, topping amateur rival Franchon Crews via unanimous decision in her maiden bout. Now 6–0, T-Rex is the current WBA and IBF middleweight champion, just months after she won the WBC and IBF female super middleweight titles.
Like Shields, Adams won gold in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and with her triumphant run in London, she became the first female boxer ever to win Olympic gold. Dubbed by Coral as the golden girl of British boxing, Adams retained her title in 2016 and became the first British boxer to defend an Olympic gold in 92 years. The Smiling Assassin turned pro in April 2017, besting Virginia Carcamo in her debut. Come October 6 at the Morningside Leicester Arena, Boxing Scene reports that Adams will vie for her first professional title. Babyface is set to face Mexican Isabel Millan for the WBO interim super-flyweight belt and a chance to challenge German Raja Amasheh for the WBO super-flyweight title.
Another Olympian who has shown much promise as a pro is Shakur Stevenson, who was once dubbed “the next Floyd Mayweather” by Floyd Mayweather himself. Stevenson has so far justified the hype, showing an impressive combination of speed, savvy, quickness and power, in racing to an 8–0 record since turning pro in April 2017.
British heavyweight Joe Joyce is also making some noise in the pro ranks. Aptly nicknamed “Juggernaut,” the native Londoner turned professional in October 2017 and has stopped each of his first five opponents. The built-like-a-tank 32-year-old recently signed with powerful promoter Al Haymon and that may just be the break Joyce needs to raise his profile in the sport.
It is still early days for Shields, Adams, Stevenson, and Joyce but each of them have so much potential. Shields, in particular, is fast emerging as the face of women’s boxing, with Adams a close second. Stevenson, on the other hand, looks ready for the big time, while Joyce may very well break the Joshua-Wilder duopoly in the heavyweight division. The future seems bright for these four Olympians and that is certainly good news for a sport in need of transcendent stars.
Avery Carmine is a boxing and MMA enthusiast who has traveled the world to watch some of the most famous fights of all time. In her free time she enjoys writing and is currently working on an MMA startup.