LONDON (Reuters) - Former American footballer Dominic Breazeale, who nearly made it to the NFL in 2009, believes the pressure of throwing a touchdown pass is nothing compared to the grit needed to be an Olympic boxer.
At 201 centimeters (6-feet-7, he cut a commanding figure as a quarterback with the University of Northern Colorado and after graduating and failing to get drafted, he had brief trials with the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers.
An NFL career was not to be and Breazeale was headhunted by U.S. boxing’s governing body and taught to fight from scratch, a steep learning curve that continued on Wednesday when he lost in the first round of the super heavyweight class to Russia’s Magomed Omarov.
“It’s like night and day man,” the Californian told reporters after his comprehensive 19-8 defeat.
”With football you get an off season, in boxing you don‘t. In football you can play it, in boxing you’ve got to live it.
“When you’re in the ring there’s no blaming anyone else ... for bigger athletes playing football it’s a lot easier for them to do it. In the boxing ring it’s hard for a big guy to move around.”
Breazeale said he found it hard to turn his dreams of throwing a winning Superbowl pass into ones of chasing Olympic gold.
“I’d been playing it since I was six and to give it up one day and close the door, it definitely took some time to dwell on that. I had some crying nights but I definitely miss it,” he added.
“That door just closed. NFL came knocking and when I got my opportunity it just didn’t pan out for me. Boxing was the next best thing and I‘m looking forward to the next couple of years.”
The immediate future is likely to involve Breazeale trying to earn a professional contract, a goal shared by team mates Joseph Diaz Jr and Michael Hunter who also lost on a bad day for the large U.S. contingent.
The International Boxing Association (AIBA) issued a statement earlier on Wednesday confirming that U.S. boxers participating in the Games had not broken rules by entering into contracts with professional promoters.
The statement was referring to two events being held later this year by Golden Boy promotions, the company set up by 1992 Olympic gold medallist and former world professional champion Oscar de la Hoya.
Asked by a reporter whether he was “too much of a pretty boy” for the professional game, Breazeale said one handsome champion in particular proved you could have the looks and still dominate the sport.
“You can always be pretty. Look at Muhammad Ali, I‘m not trying to say I have any crushes on him or anything like that but Ali was a good-looking man and he was a great in the heavyweight game,” he said.
Editing by Tony Jimenez