Because competing isn’t a lucrative endeavor for the vast majority of athletes, Clay was always thinking about finances. It was an ever-present stress, knowing that a small injury or one bad season had a direct impact on paying bills.
“And I knew that the longer that I did this, that was the longer I had to wait before I could start putting money toward retiring,” he said. “It might mean I couldn’t retire until I was 70 or 80.”
Clay and his agency, The Factory, have worked on building him into a brand, one that extends beyond his athletic career. Even after his 12th-place finish at the trials, his sponsors said they wanted to stick with him. They still wanted him in London, representing their business, telling his story and shaking hands.
“Yeah, I won a gold medal. Big deal,” Clay said. “I still have to pay rent, still have to change diapers, still have to mow the lawn. In the grand scheme of things, the gold medal is awesome, but to live a full life, you need a lot more.”
Boxing serves a purpose
For Douglas, waiting around for 2016 wasn’t an option. She couldn’t fathom four more years of training, of sweating bills, of having so few assurances. Plus, she felt the judges’ decision at the trials wasn’t fair, and she no longer trusted the governing body charged with selecting the Olympic team.
She returned from Spokane, numbed by anger and shame. Her amateur career was over, and turning professional was a strong option. In the meantime, she worked a security job back in Washington, commuting to and from Baltimore.
“There’s nothing for me in D.C.,” she said.
Washington was home to nightmares. Douglas says she was molested when she was younger. Her parents were on and off drugs and in and out of jail. Douglas entered foster care at the age of 8 and was raised by a rotating cast of family friends, cousins and strangers.
It wasn’t until she put on a pair of gloves, though, that she felt at ease. When a street fight put 16-year-old Douglas in juvenile court, a judge told her to find a better outlet for her anger.
“Since then,” she said, “boxing’s been my life.”
A few weeks after returning from Spokane, Douglas finally poked her head in the old YMCA building. Inside is Ford’s Upton Boxing Center. Douglas refers to boxing as her “first love,” “my mother and my father,” and “my way out.” So no one was surprised when she showed up that day with a gym bag in her hands.