Argentina’s Alberto Palmetta is a man with his feet firmly on the ground. Talking about boxing and being a professional athlete with him means learning from the experiences of a boxer who has lived all in a ring, from his first four defeats in his very first four bouts to being at the forefront of one of the most remarkable welterweights boxing rivalries of the latest years (Palmetta (ARG) vs Iglesias (CUB) vs Maestre (VEN)).
At 28, with a Pan American Games bronze medal and the experience of being Olympian at Rio 2016 in the bag pack, “Beto” comes back home as Buenos Aires 2018 Athlete Role Model to guide the new generation of boxing champions on their difficult transition between the grassroots and the Elite Level.
What is your role as ARM in Buenos Aires?
First of all, it was really special for me to be named Role Model for the Youth Olympic Games. When I became Olympian in Rio 2016, it wasn’t only a reward to all my efforts on the sport field, I had also acquired a lifelong commitment with the sport and the Olympic values. And now, as an established boxer, is time for me to give back and leave a footprint for the future generations. And this is exactly my mission here, the transmission of the Olympic and AIBA values.
Which are the key challenges to face for a youth boxer?
The youth boxers are basically experiencing a huge transition between practicing the sport they love and becoming a professional athlete. This transition brings lot of new scenarios for them such as the media exposure, the social media channels, the fans recognizing them in the street, the pressure to get good results, etc.
This situation can produce an internal turmoil in the kids that, at this young age, are not ready to handle it properly. I have seen lot of good youth boxers eaten by this process and, unfortunately, some of them may finish hating their own sport. We need to always remember that they are teenagers, not adults.
How can the International Sports Organizations help the youth athletes during this transition period?
Education, education and education. This is the only way for the youth athletes to better understand the process they are living. I know AIBA and the IOC have developed lot of programs to accompany the next generations during the transition to the Elite level, and it is great. But I think the efforts made in education are never enough.
Boxing is a sport where a big number of young athletes leave the school too soon. And this is a big problem that gets transferred to their future professional careers because this kids will not be able to face an agreement, a discussion with a journalist, a relation with a promoter, etc.
If there is something I am proud of it is to have finished my bachelor in Physical Education while being a professional athlete. We need to keep working to offer better educational opportunities to our athletes.
What advice would you give to a youth boxer?
My advice for them is that they should never lost the reason of why they have started boxing. When a kid firstly selects an sport, the only reason behind is just the fun, the pleasure of doing this sport, not the money or the fame. And this is exactly what they have to remember, that they are boxers because they love boxing.