In 2011, Waltham boxing champ Tommy Duquette found himself within a hair’s breadth of the US Olympic team when he lost a series of qualifying round tiebreakers.
Duquette, who started training when he was 14, made the USA Boxing national team in 2008, and was nationally ranked No. 2 in his weight class, was devastated.
“This was my life’s ambition,” he said.
Duquette’s opponent went on to compete in London, while the pragmatic 25-year-old returned to Babson College to finish a degree in business administration and watched the Games on television. But the almost-win played in a loop in his mind.
“Getting so close, it made me think, ‘what could I have done differently? Could I have done an extra training session, could I have rested, done an extra push-up?’ It’s really difficult to quantify that stuff,” Duquette said.
Those were hard questions to answer.
Four years after hanging up his gloves, Duquette is helping other boxers get the sort of data he never had. He’s the head of business development at wearable tech company Hykso, which is building a device to help boxers track their performance.
“Punches, striking, hitting the mitts, sparring — anything that has to do with punching, we can quantify that,” said Duquette.
Hykso is currently based in San Francisco, but the first samplers of this technology were the gyms that Duquette got to know while training: Boston Boxing and Fitness, Peter Welch’s Gym in South Boston, and FitBox in Dedham. Each has a few devices that they loan out to club members.
The founders, a team of recent engineering grads from the University of Toronto, say they hope that it will bring metrics and data to a sport that is comparatively short on statistics, particularly during training.
In Duquette’s experience, a trainer goes into a session with a number in mind.
“He knows that if his athlete is throwing 80 to 90 punches, he’s working hard enough to win rounds,” Duquette said. “If the person is hitting that number but not throwing an adequate number of jabs, that’s a problem.”
Hykso’s product is already on sale on its website; the charger and device cost $220. The company has raised just over $200,000 to conduct beta tests, including $120,000 from the Y Combinator
, the San Francisco boot camp for startups.
The company’s plan is to sell to both the pro and amateur training markets, Duquette said. Though interest in boxing as a sport has been waning, it is becoming popular at gyms: The Adidas Group estimates that 35 million people are looking to combat sports for fitness.
That presents an opportunity: With Hykso’s device, amateur boxing enthusiasts who train with punching bags will be able to compare scores for the first time, bringing a competitive edge to what’s otherwise a solo endeavor.
At Boston Boxing, owner and trainer Ed LaVache uses the device to motivate fighters. LaVache hosts a weekly amateur contest and early in February the gym used the devices for the first time, with four fighters testing it out.
“They loved it,” LaVache said, adding that he hopes to have everyone in the gym do a test run by spring.
It can also act as a public scoreboard. In February, New England Fights, a boxing and martial arts event, used the devices during a match. Hykso operated like a scorekeeper, and between rounds organizers displayed fighters’ statistics such as total punches thrown and average punch speed on two big screens.
“Hykso enhanced the fan experience for people attending our show. It probably also enhanced the competitiveness of the fighters,” said Peter Czymbor, director of boxing operations and matchmaker for New England Fights.
Big matches that are televised already make use of software called CompuBox. Two people seated ringside, one for each fighter, manually keep track of punches, which are fed into the CompuBox system to display the punch count.
Compared to that, the Hykso “has a lot more to it,” according to LaVache. “You can measure the velocity of a fighter through a fight. This is completely different.’’