Ex-Olympian Battles UFC for Hearts and Minds of Youth

andrew maynard“I didn’t even like losing a conversation.”
- Andrew Maynard

22.10.07 - By Ron DiMichele: Andrew Maynard has climbed the big mountains before. At 20 years old, without a lick of boxing experience, Maynard promised Sugar Ray Leonard that if given the chance to train, he would bring home Olympic boxing gold. Four years later, at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, Maynard made good on that promise, capturing gold in the Light Heavyweight division.

“I couldn’t handle it at first,” says Maynard of his early boxing days. “I didn’t know how to box, so I couldn’t run. So I figured, you might as well just go take the punch and get it over with. Bang! There was no more afraid to get hit.”

As a professional, Andrew Maynard fought for the WBC World Cruiserweight title in October, 1992 in Paris, France losing a unanimous decision to long-time champion, Anaclet Wamba. In addition to Wamba, Maynard battled the likes of Bobby Czyz, Matthew Saad Muhammad, Frank Tate, and Tommy Hearns in his pro career and in 1990 won the NABF Light Heavyweight title. Maynard compiled a 26-13-1 (21) record before retiring from the professional boxing ranks in 2000.

These days, Andrew Maynard toils to pass on the skills and determination that led him to Olympic glory. He runs the amateur boxing program at the Foundation for Valley Sports in Harlingen, Texas. As part of the Community Olympic Development Program (CODP) in Harlingen, Maynard’s classes have a distinctive Olympic flavor.

“I figure that each one that comes in here is inspired to something of that magnitude,” says Maynard. “They’ve got the Olympic dreams in their own head.”

Maynard though, is encountering some serious roadblocks to sharing his Olympic inspiration: TV, video games, and the UFC. According to Maynard, youth enter the gym with far-fetched notions, expecting others to fly across the room when they’re hit, just like they see on TV.

“They throw punches the same way they see on TV and wonder why they are missing,” he says.

The UFC and Mixed Martial Arts competition have captured the imagination of youth, and Maynard helps explain why:

“In the UFC anything goes,” he says. “They can kick. They can do whatever. That’s what intrigues people.”

Alex Vidal, the Executive Director of Harlingen’s Foundation for Valley Sports echoes the sentiments of the former Olympian.

“The UFC is taking the kids by storm,” says Vidal. “Kids come in the first day looking to knock each other out.”

Both Vidal and Andrew Maynard emphasize Olympic boxing training as an alternative to video games and TV viewing for youth. They aspire to pass on an appreciation of clean boxing technique and the beauty of boxing.

“We want to give kids in the community the opportunity to see the difference between the entertainment aspects they see on TV in the UFC and the beautiful art of boxing,” says Vidal.

Andrew Maynard acknowledges that the battle for youth’s attention is going to be tough.

“Boxing has taken a downfall,” he says. “When you’re getting somebody that’s grabbing, holding, and then throwing maybe one or two punches and then grabbing and holding. That’s BS. When people get non-stop action, that’s excitement.”

Andrew Maynard also cites bad decisions as having hurt boxing. “The guy that created the action ends up losing. People are just turned off.”

The question stands, how does boxing regain the ground it has lost to the UFC and MMA?

“Let me get back into the fight game!” Maynard quips.

Seriously, Andrew Maynard cites better punching technique (“Throw it straight!”), more pressing styles, and a return of big personalities as essential to boxing popularity.

“I must give Mike Tyson credit. When he came along, that’s the type of stuff that people wanted to see. They wanted to see power or somebody like a Larry Holmes that could beat you with one hand or Muhammad Ali that could fight you AND talk [crap] to you while in the ring.”

Andrew Maynard has a quick response when asked if he has any youth with Olympic potential in the program.

“Yeah, everybody that walks through that door.”

The Foundation for Valley Sports will feature a reunion of Andrew Maynard and former Olympic teammate Riddick Bowe on Saturday, Oct. 27th at their center in Harlingen, TX. The benefit will include a boxing exhibition and a meet and greet with the two fighters. It will be the first meeting of Maynard and Bowe in twenty years.

Andrew Maynard intends to continue onward with the tenacity that gained him Olympic glory back in 1988.

“I’m a man of my word,” says Maynard. “I gave everybody my word I would win the Olympics if they would give me an opportunity to fight. This is my opportunity again. It’s a big dream. I want to be the first Olympic gold medalist in the history of this sport to train other gold medalists.”

I wouldn’t recommend betting against him.

Ron DiMichele’s email address is

Article posted on 23.10.2007

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