Boxing raises the gloves
A former talented boxer, Laurent Puons has long turned his back on his youthful passion. But the love of noble art caught up with him at the turn. In 2014, this high-level athlete became the President of the Monegasque Boxing Federation and surrounded himself with a team capable of revitalizing a diving activity, then, in a slack period. Three years later, the results are radiant, as evidenced by the vitality of the boxing galas organized by the federation, the last of which has just taken place. Laurent Puons tells us a little more about this renaissance, but also about the importance that boxing can have on the construction of an individual and frankly evokes the problems of doping.
The Monegasque Anti-Doping Committee: For those who do not know you, can you tell us about your journey and the path that led you to the presidency of the Monegasque Boxing Federation?
Laurent Puons : I have always been immersed in the world of boxing. I started boxing at the age of 17, as an amateur, and after six months of practice, I was a finalist in the French Junior Championships. I won my first four fights and I lost in the final, I will always remember it, on a nudge from my opponent that the referee did not see. My opponent should have been disqualified, but it is so. A rather memorable introduction! I became an amateur the following season and I did three years of amateur boxing where I did forty fights. I was fighting for Beausoleil.
Adriani Vastine licensed boxer at FMB alongside Laurent Puons
Out of the forty fights, I must have recorded five or six losses. I was considered a good hope. I turned pro and had two seasons with twelve fights and four losses. I stopped on the last loss. I made a final of the French pro tournament in two years. But I was very young, I was 21 and in front of me there were people who were more seasoned with more experience. And in super-welterweights, experience counts a lot ...
Especially since the age of maturity is a little more advanced for these categories ...
Yes quite. I was still too immature. And since I was a real competitor, I didn't have the patience to wait. My trainer thought I was going to have a good career. At that time, I was working in the Government and, there, it was starting to be difficult to reconcile everything. Especially since I got married and wanted to have a child.
It is a very demanding sport.
Yes very. Sport itself, out of competition, is a very good sport. It's the school of life and I keep repeating it to the young amateur boxers of the club. It is really the school of life because it forms you a certain temperament: to make you give up something you will have to be really strong. This is what this sport has given me above all and this is what will remain most important to me. Even today it is still useful to me in my business: when some give up, say "we give up", I say "no, we don't give up, we go to the end and we will fight until the last moment. ". This is undoubtedly true for all individual high level sports. But boxing is still special. Afterwards, I think that not everyone is made for this sport. You have to have a certain character, especially for competition where you are conditioned to fight. Training, on the other hand, is a wonderful thing and you see more and more people coming to the gym, especially women.
You quit after five, six years, and then?
I have completely drawn the line on boxing! Almost overnight, I didn't watch a fight anymore. The break with my coach was very difficult because he is someone I loved very much, but I moved on. So I totally cut until three years ago. It was Andrei Micallef, the President of ASM Boxe, who called me and asked me to return to ASM as Vice-President to revive the club. The club is moving forward and a year later, the Monegasque Boxing Federation contacted me to become their President. I took up the challenge! When I said “yes”, I didn't think we were going to put in place everything we have done so far.
With Sacha Di Lauro, Abdelelah Karroum, John Marinkovitch, Hugo Micallef, Lorenzo Fernandez, the Monegasque Boxing Federation has a team that is as competitive as it is promising.
In this regard, what is the role of a Federation President. What is its action in concrete terms?
First of all, a President is good if he is well surrounded. I'm lucky to be able to count on my friend, Andrei Micallef. I am also lucky to be able to count on several people, mainly volunteers, who do an extraordinary job. As President, I set up regulations for amateur and professional boxing in Monaco (disciplinary, litigation, medical committees, etc.). As we started from a blank page, we had to create a website, an administrative structure, in short, lay all the foundations. And today, for about two years, we have set ourselves the challenge of organizing four boxing galas per year. The first of the year took place on January 21. In fact, my priority is to relaunch boxing in the Principality.
How is the Monegasque Boxing Federation doing?
The Federation is doing very well. Today we have about 200 licensees. On these 200 licensees, we have 5 amateur boxers who are competitors, like the little Hugo Micallef. He is of Monegasque nationality and we want to bring him to the 2020 Olympic Games. He has the potential. The team of amateur boxers is also made up of boxers of French nationality who are national level. We have a very good, respected team and very good coaches. This boxing craze can also be seen on Wednesday afternoons since the boxing school sees its number of licensees increase each year. Monday, Tuesday and Friday evening, we have recreational boxing where the licensees are also numerous. So much so that sometimes the room is almost too small!
It seems that there is a strong resurgence of attractiveness of boxing with the general public, after a vast rather gloomy period, from the 90s to 2010. Are you seeing this new craze? How do you explain it?
We see it a little more every day! In 2014, the organization of a Boxing Gala with the participation of the SBM made us want to do more for boxing in the Principality. As a result, we have continued this enthusiasm and we have continued to organize galas on a regular basis in order to permanently establish boxing in the Principality of Monaco. And it worked ! Each gala we organize attracts more and more spectators! It is encouraging and it shows that boxing has a place to take among all the sporting events organized in Monaco. The next gala will take place in April and other galas will be coming before the end of 2017. Throughout the year, we fight our amateur boxers in competitions as well as our licensed professional boxers to the Monegasque Boxing Federation and to the ASM. Today, we know that boxing exists in Monaco!
How do you see the doping problem, the topicality of which has never been so hot?
Above all, we must be against doping. It is unhealthy and it goes against the health of athletes. Unfortunately, the athlete is caught in a very difficult cycle. I repeat, I am against doping. But tomorrow, if we could get rid of it, would the public be satisfied with the show? Would we be satisfied with sprinters who do the 100 meters in 11 seconds or Tour de France riders who drag themselves? There is also the problem of the list of doping products, which sometimes seems arbitrary. But you have to comply and a high level athlete knows it. Today we are at the point where you cannot take certain drops for the common cold! Yet I beg you to believe that these are not the drops for the nose which will make me win a fight or lose it. In saying this, I do not especially want to defend the athlete who dope. It is important not to dope, it is a serious mistake and there are always consequences. Today, the athlete is in the middle of a system which exceeds him and which pushes him to dope. And it is he who is singled out. The true athlete always seeks to exceed his limits to be the best. It is a very complex problem.
We know that boxing has an immense structuring power with young people. In a world of sport where there is more and more pressure, both media and financial, even political, what message is likely to be sent to young people to keep them from the path of cheating and doping?
It's a bit like tobacco. You should not take the first cigarette, to avoid becoming a smoker. I'm going to tell you a secret, I once took creatine, an over-the-counter dietary supplement in pharmacies that is not considered doping. I was told "try this, you'll see, it's great". A bit like offering a first cigarette. I tried, I felt like another man in the training room, even though the effects of creatine were not even proven! All this to say that the slope is quickly slippery and that it is important not to start. You have to train and have a solid mind. After that, what must happen… It is difficult, then to explain to the young people that it is not necessary to dope whereas they can have in front of them people who are obviously "in charge" . Doping is a taboo subject.
There are still serious health problems ...
This is where I wanted to come from. What concerns me above all is the health of athletes. We have seen great athletes, especially in cycling, die of cancer or fall into drug addiction. Some say that today there are products that are not harmful to health at all. I do not believe it. When your body, after two hours, has to stop running and you run it for another half hour, that's not good. High-level training in itself is bad for the body. It puts the body to the test. So if you add products to that that push you to your limits, it's suicidal.
It would seem that by the values it carries, boxing, the famous “noble art”, is a little more protected, by nature, than other sports? Is this an a priori justified? In other words, to what extent do you think boxing is affected by this scourge?
I do not believe that it is the values that boxing carries that would protect it, more than other sports, from doping. Most sports carry great values. On the other hand, there is a specificity of combat sports. In boxing, it is very dangerous to take drugs before entering the ring. I remember when I was boxing, there were doping products that could make you more aggressive. The problem with being aggressive is that you don't have the feeling of protection anymore, you take more hits. Even if you take the blows well, and this is not a quality, after a while you say to yourself "well, he hits, I put my hands up and I stop going to putty". Except if you have taken these products, you do not raise your hands, or you are anesthetized. The accident is near, and if you don't feel the blows, your brain is taking it. For combat, the doping product is very dangerous. You have to keep your lucidity and win with your head. There are still boxers today who die from beatings. Afterwards, it is certain that in preparation, there must be boxers who take charge, as in all sports.
If a 13 or 14 year old came to see you today saying they are interested in practicing boxing. What would you say to him?
You know, there are several profiles. When I take the case of little Hugo Micallef, he's the top of the class. He's the little kid who wears glasses who isn't a brawler for two cents, who is handsome, who is intelligent and who succeeds brilliantly in his studies. He does boxing and he is a very good boxer. When I was a kid, I used to go to boxing because my father used to send me there saying "now, if you want to fight, you get into a ring". I was a brawler. I needed to channel all this energy. And then I liked it, I liked to fight. We can therefore conclude that there is no real profile to be a boxer, you just have to have courage. Whatever temperament you have, you have to have a little something extra, that's what makes the difference. You take hits, the guy opposite is there to knock you out. It is therefore a sport apart that you should never do against your own nature. When you no longer feel, you have to stop. Often in the ring, boxers ask themselves "what am I doing here?". My trainer told me: "if you ask yourself the question, you stop". There, I see that all our kids love it. For them, it's a game. I've never played in a ring, I've always had terrible pressure. This is probably why I stopped early. So it takes courage, determination and finding pleasure in it.
What about parents?
When I see how difficult it is for me to watch my little boxers in the ring, I imagine how difficult it must be for their loved ones. I do not recommend, especially for a mother or a partner, to attend a boxing meeting. It is very violent. Afterwards, it forges the temperament so much!
Note from the Monegasque Anti-Doping Committee: The comments made on this site by the people interviewed represent only and solely the opinion of their authors and do not commit the Monegasque Anti-Doping Committee.