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Mar 01st
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henry-tillman-kelcie-banks-michael-bennettThere are many reasons a successful amateur is not a successful professional.  The opposite is true just as often.  Johnny Nelson went 3-7 as an amatuer, and lost his first 3 pro bouts.  He ended his career with over 20 straight victories and a world title.  Sometimes they leave it all in the amateurs: Ramon Garbey of Cuba, John Bray of the USA, both examples of fighters whose desire was gone after such a long amateur career.  Other times it is simply the rounds.  Audley Harrison was one of the most brilliant 3 round fighters ever, yet could not sustain his skills for much longer than that.  The one that seems the saddest, or at least most unfortunate, is when that headgear was really necessary all along.  The chin is just not there.  Here are 3 modern examples of fighters who just could not take the punch to make it.

Michael Bennett
The 2000 Olympic team captain did not medal in Sydney, but most USA fighters did not in the 21st century.  The decision to turn him professional at heavyweight was influenced by his punching ability, and the fact that cruiserweight means less money; and back then, only was 190lbs.  It looked like a good decision at first, with Bennett wiping out clubfighter after clubfighter in one round.  However, he soon fell victim to one of these early KOs himself, at the hands of 3-4 Wes Taylor.  It was thought to be an abberation, as he avenged the loss via 1rd KO, and went right back to pummelling fighters in less than 3 minutes.  However, Bennett soon was the victim of another 1st round KO loss at the journeyman level, and all of this in his first calendar year as a pro.  Bennett finally did drop down to cruiser, but in a management error was matched with punchers Richie La Montagne and Hearn Marler.  Bennett had far more skill than either man, and was improving, but his chin could take him to the final bell.  He also suffered scary looking KOs, where he never really had his legs under him.  He saw the writing on the wall, and made the intelligent decision to stop.

Kelcie Banks
Chicagoan Banks came along at a time where USA boxers were allowed to win international decisions in amateur boxing.  This veteran of over 500 fights made the beat of it, winning World, Regional, and multiple National titles, and entering the Seoul 88 Olympics as a gold medal favorite.  However, in the first roiund of his first round match, his achilles heel was revealed.  Banks was KOd by then unheralded (but future world champion) Regilio Tuur.  He still turned pro with high expectations, but was KOd in only his second fight, and eventually 3 more times... having risen to the status of contender only briefly.  He attempted a comeback in 2002, but Nevada did not grant him a license.

Henry Tillman
Tillman was a fighter who likely would not have won gold if he had been forced to compete with the Soviets and Cubans in 1984, yet who knows?  Tillman was motivated by the home country, and even hometown, aspect of the Los Angeles games, and surprised everyone in beating young terror Mike Tyson twice to get to the Olympics.  As a pro, it semed the cruiserweight division would be his oyster, but he was stunned and wobbled in his early fights, leading to whispers about his whiskers.  Eventually Smokin Bert Cooper put him on the deck twice and won a 12 round decision, and all expectations went away.  Tillman would rebound to have some good wins, but was later dropped 5 times in 7 rounds by friend and Olympic teammate Evander Holyfield.  A commentator for that fight said it best: "Tillman has the heart of a warrior, but he doesn't have the chin of one."

Chris Strait

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