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Inside Events: USA Boxing

8 Feb, 2017

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Mike McAtee, Interim Executive Director

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USA Boxing is the national governing body for the sport of boxing in this country. Its mission is to enable United States' athletes and coaches to achieve sustained competitive excellence, develop character, support the sport of boxing, and promote and grow Olympic style boxing in the United States. The responsibility of USA Boxing is not only to produce Olympic gold, but also oversee and govern every aspect of amateur boxing in the United States.

Sports Destination Management: The sport of boxing is doing well in the U.S. What is participation like?

Mike McAtee: Actually, participation is going well. Last year, it was up between six and eight percent. Part of that could be because 2016 was an Olympic year.

SDM: Boxing is also a big part of our pop culture, including in movies and on television, and it’s great fitness. Do you think that has played into the growth?

McAtee: I think it’s really all of the above. Plus, if you look at the Olympics, we had a very good team. Claressa Shields won her second gold medal, Shakur Stevenson won silver and Nico Hernandez took bronze – plus there were a number of other close decisions in Rio. There’s also a lot of good professional boxing out there, and all that generates knowledge of the sport.

SDM: Has the rise of MMA hurt boxing?

McAtee: People ask about that a lot but what we’re finding is that people who want to get into MMA are finding that boxing is very useful. Many of them, who took it up so they could get better at their stand-up game, are staying with it. The sport is in a very good place right now.

SDM: Is USA Boxing affiliated with the boxing gyms that seem to be very popular?

McAtee: Last year, we ended up with over 2,000 registered boxing gyms, meaning those registered with USA Boxing. There is a lot of fitness boxing programs out there, many of which are franchises. They are a little bit different, but they all teach boxing and that helps the sport. Sometimes, people take up boxing as a fitness program and after a while, they want to compete.

SDM: What is the boxing demographic? Is there a particular age at which it’s most popular?

McAtee: We’re pretty steady. Our biggest concentration of boxers is between the ages of 14 and 16. At 17, we start seeing them drop off a little bit. About 10 percent of our boxers are female, and we believe that’s a good target area for us – we want to grow it.

SDM: Do you see a lot of concerns about concussions among parents of boxers?

McAtee: That’s interesting. We have had concussion protocols since the 1980s so we’ve actually been ahead of the curve for a long time. People are surprised to find out how low the injury rate actually is.

Boxing is a very honest sport. You shake hands with your opponent before and after a match. We’ll often see people hugging. Something else to remember is that from amateur boxing to Olympic-style boxing – those are actually sports. They focus on technique and on scoring points, not on striking as hard as you can.

Professional boxing is very different. That is actually a business. The focus in professional boxing is going to be knocking someone out. That isn’t what we teach. At the end of the day, less than one percent of our boxers will ever turn pro or be an Olympic type of athlete, so our goal is to teach life skills, including delayed gratification, and to help them focus on staying out of trouble.

SDM: USA Boxing sanctions a number of events.

McAtee: We do. Last year, we sanctioned 1,049 local events; many of these were just small one-day shows put on by a boxing club in a city. Nationally, we do four large events; a schedule can be found here.

SDM: What is USA Boxing looking for when it seeks out homes for these events?

McAtee: A lot of people come to these events – not just the athletes but their coaches, family members and friends. We need at least 40,000 square feet for venue space. We’re looking to make it easy for our membership to attend. We like it if a venue is connected to the host hotel, and if that venue is convenient to an airport.

SDM: Does it help if the city has a local boxing club?

McAtee: It sure makes our life a lot easier! There are 56 Local Boxing Committees (LBCs) across the country who help coordinate numerous boxing clubs/gyms in their cities and states. Clubs are listed on our website by state.

SDM: If a city is interested in hosting an event, should they speak to you?

McAtee: I am the best contact for that, so they can get in touch with me.

SDM: When USA Boxing’s events come to town, what generally surprises people?

McAtee: I think people might have the wrong idea about who these kids are, but the one thing we hear over and over is the fact that from the littlest boxer to the oldest official, they were the nicest group a city had ever hosted, and that they’re really good visitors. I think the only complaint we might have had was the fact that some kids dropped their gum on the floor. Really, that was it. Our athletes are very respectful and nice. They understand when they come to another city, they are guests in other people’s houses. We always say that we’re teaching life skills on top of being competitors.

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