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Becoming a boxer

Most boxers start off as kids, but don't worry: You're never too old to get hit for money. Any pro will tell you that great pugilists aren't sculpted at Bally's-they're forged in old-fashioned, run-down gyms. The worse the neighborhood, the better the gym; so try not to look like such a pansy when you scamper by the sweating thugs to find the house trainer. Once you settle on a fee-they vary widely from gym to gym-your trainer will teach you fundamentals like how to wrap your hands, hit the heavy bag, sling the jump rope, and use footwork. After a few months, you'll be ready for your first pummeling.

Enjoying the concussions you get while sparring? Good. It's time for your first dance. USA Boxing (, the official sanctioning body for amateurs, has a few regional tournaments every year, along with shows at gyms like the one where you train. For the truly ambitious (or truly stupid) there are unregistered bouts at sleazy fight clubs where you scrap with whatever psycho they throw at you. Your best bet as an amateur is to win a few big tourneys-like the Golden Gloves and U.S. Championships-and gain a spot on the U.S. team. That'll give you a shot at the Olympics, where you'll catch the evil eye of high-profile managers.

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