The 'sweet science ' is joining forces with sports science.
For the first time, USA Boxing is using technology to evaluate and monitor boxers' progress as they train for international competitions. The technology - which consists of small, lightweight and wireless motion sensors - was unveiled to media in Gym 5 at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center Wednesday afternoon as more than 40 boxers in the junior and elite divisions prepared for a training session.
The implementation of the sensors and computer analysis - which has been used by the U.S. Olympic Committee's Sport Performance department in other sports - will give USA Boxing International Teaching Coach Pedro Rogue and his staff detailed, objective and scientific data about each fighter's quickness, reflexes and overall fitness levels. The data will be fed through computer software programs and algorithms to provide a boxer profile that will help the athlete and coach optimize their training regimen.
'It's a combined effort between the Olympic effort and USA Boxing, ' said Mounir Zok, Ph.D., senior Sport Performance sports technologist. 'We want to provide coaches with scientifically valid instruments and technology they can use to obtain objective data. It will help them understand how to optimize the training they do with their athletes. '
Claressa Shields, who won a gold medal in the women's middleweight division at the London Games as a 17-year-old last summer, is participating in the training camp and is interested in the technology.
'I think it's going to help the team statistically, ' said Shields, who will train in Colorado Springs full time after completing her senior year of high school in Flint, Mich. 'I don't know how many punches I throw a round, how hard I hit or which punches make me fatigued, so I think it's going to be pretty exciting. When you know info, you can try to fix whatever the problem is. '
Marlen Esparza, a bronze medalist in London, believes the technology will help her improve as a fighter.
'It's good for everybody to know where they are individually, because we fight and perform individually and it's an individual competition, ' said the Houston native Esparza, who recently won her seventh consecutive national title. 'We train as a team, so it's kind of hard for (coaches) to know where we are and how our body's reacting, because we're all doing the same thing but everybody's different. I think it's going to give them a greater view of everything. '
The full impact of the implementation remains to be seen, but the USOC is optimistic about the contributions technology will make to USA Boxing.
'In boxing, we're still in the first steps, ' Zok said. 'We can get to a certain point with the naked eye, but after that, we need some hard-based evidence to provide us with information we can't obtain with the naked eye. We want to start to be able to construct a scientific image of the athletes to see how they're progressing. '