Convicted Artist Magazine

Apr 25th
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boxing_images-2021This is my first blog in a series where I give some rememberance to the former Olympic Gold medalists whose pro careers did not match their amateur achievements.  To me, a “Bust” is someone who tried and failed.  I define failure as not winning any world titles, and/or losing to sub-par competition.  Therefore, one who did not turn pro doesn’t count, nor does one who turned pro briefly and decided to leave (Wille de Wit, Leo Randolph).  It also does not take into account those for whom expectations were too lofty, and they still succeeded well beyond most (Mark Breland).  This topic will make you think of others, and please suggest them.  But these are the first two that came to my mind.
Henry Tillman – He beat Mike Tyson on two close decisions to earn his way on to the 1984 Olympic team.  Then managed to win the gold medal in front of his hometown fans in Los Angeles .  Sounds like a great story, but in hindsight, I’m sure Tillman wishes it ended there.  Had there been a 205lb division, maybe Tillman would have done very well, however, his amateur style hid something that was quickly revealed as he was moved up the cruiserweight ladder very fast.  He had a weak chin.  He also had a style too sloppy for the pros, and never switched trainers from the man who guided him to amateur glory.  Worse yet, he had tremendous heart, which meant he would go many rounds taking punishment.  Perhaps had he been moved slowly, and matched with a shop-worn Carlos deLeon, we could have at least called him a former world champion.  However, he had the bad luck to run into Bert Cooper and Evander Holyfield, who both beat him soundly.  Even one of his early victims, Uriah Grant, would go on to win a world title, while Tillman never did.  He even lost rematches to men he beat in the amateurs: Tyson, and Willie de Wit.  He then had legal troubles following his exit from boxing.  From what I’ve read, he is now helping out the youth in the neighborhood where he grew up, which is great to hear. 
Paul Gonzales – The beginning of this story is the same as Tillman’s.  A gold medalist from Los Angeles , in the 1984 Olympics.  Unfortunately for Gonzales, that is not where the comparisons end.  Unlike Tillman, Gonzales did not find the sport in his 20’s.  He was a more natural fighter.  That nature, however, was suited to the amateurs.  He won the NABF Flyweight title in only his 3rd pro bout, but as he cruised to impressive victories over tough competition, he was scoring no knockouts.  Having trouble shedding his amateur style, he did show impressive stamina and heart.  His chin wasn’t all that bad, either.  He suffered a couple of knockdowns early, but so did Whittaker and de la Hoya.  Unlike those two, however, he had no power or amazing boxing ability to keep hard-charging opponents off of him.  Like Tillman, there was not a ton of competition in his division, at least in the U.S. so he was moved very quickly.  Eventually the more solid pros were outworking him.  Time was also passing, as he was not super active.  He lost his only title shot on cuts, to a man he had previously beaten, Orlando Canizales.  Another bad comparison to Tillman… unfortunate luck in meeting a future hall-of-famer early.  Gonzales lost two out of his next four, and walked away at the young age of 27… with much unfulfilled promise in boxing, but it was an intelligent decision.
Andrew Maynard – Maybe the other fighters on this list got the point early on, but this 1988 Olympic Gold Medalist kept trying.  Why wouldn’t he?  He didn’t just win the Gold... he dominated.  Two stoppage wins and two 5-0 shutouts on his way to victory in Seoul .  His big punch looked to be the ticket in the pros, as well, as he racked up early victories, usually by knockout.  When he ran into two-time world champion Bobby Czyz, his weak chin was revealed.  Poor matchmaking was not the culprit here, as Maynard tallied many victories over lesser fighters, but eventually one has to step up.  When Maynard did, he lost, usually by knockout.  In his only title shot, he made it the distance against light-hitting Anaclet Wamba, but did not come close to winning.   If he was being KO’d at 175lbs, one would guess correctly that he did not fare much better at the higher weight classes, moving straight to opponents-ville after the Wamba loss.  Maynard even made the very unintelligent foray into the heavyweights, with losses to Justin Fortune and Brian Nielsen.  After six years of mostly losses to prospects, and even some who weren’t, Maynard finally got the hint in 2000 and retired.

Chris Strait


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