Boxing is not only about getting into great shape and mastering the tools of the sweet science. An equally important aspect of the fight game is having the mental fortitude to succeed inside the ring. Boxing is unique from other sports. A fighter is alone inside the ring. Even legendary trainers such as Eddie Futch and Angelo Dundee were forced to exit the ring during rounds. To be successful, you must not only be strong physically, but mentally as well.
Regardless of your skill and physical condition, the time will come when you are tired inside the ring. You will be hurt or injured, yet forced to continue fighting. Boxing is not like other sports where you can look to the referee to call timeout. Instead, you must fight until the bell rings. You have the option to quit, but real fighters never will. Rather, real fighters fight regardless of the circumstances they face inside the ring.
Mental Discipline: It Rests On Your Shoulders
The mind is a powerful tool that some never learn to control. Consider the following … all boxers understand the importance of running, watching their diet, and training hard in the gym. Why then, are some fighters in amazing shape while others only mediocre? Why do some fighters have difficulties making weight, while others weigh in perfectly every time? The answers lies within the mental discipline of the fighter. It is easy to cheat on your diet and easy to skip your run; boxing is not an easy sport.
A day in the life of a fighter consists of an early wakeup followed by a morning session of running. I typically wake up by 5:30 a.m. and start running by 6. While most people sleep soundly, we are out running the streets. Our roadwork consists of hills, sprints and torturous intervals. The morning session is far from enjoyable, yet because of its importance, we commit ourselves to it.
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There will be days when you are tired, perhaps you stayed up late, perhaps it is raining outside, or the wind is blowing feverishly in the winter. Boxing is different from other team sports; many of the decisions must be made on your own.
Your coach is not there at 5:30 in the morning, reminding you to wake up and hit the roads. It is easy to hit the snooze button on your alarm and drift back to the dream that was abruptly halted by the annoying buzz. So what makes you decide to run while others may choose to sleep? The decision often comes from deep inside. The man who wakes to run, runs not to look nice on the beach, rather he runs to inch himself closer toward victory in the ring.
He may be preparing for a regional amateur tournament, perhaps the nationals, or even a professional world title. At some point, you must decide on your own, how bad you want to win.
There will always be those who sleep and those who wake. There will always be those who hang out at the gym and those who train until the lights go out. We are all going to have those days when we'd rather not train. On our way to the gym, we consider driving past, yet we stop and turn toward the gym parking lot. Mentally, we must be strong if we are to succeed in this sport.
No one can make the decision for us to train. The decision must be made at the individual level. The best trainers in the world are only as good as the students they train. They can provide motivation and advice, but ultimately, the decision still rests in the hands of the fighter.
When you decide in your heart you want to succeed inside the ring, your mind will take over. You begin to make boxing your sole purpose in life. You have to eat, sleep and dream boxing to be the best. If you don't, rest assured someone else will. This is not a sport you play. This is a sport where you can get hurt.
Boxing is a sport for warriors, those who are strong both mentally and physically. We will all face fear and doubt, but with dedicated training and experience we learn to quell these feelings.
The Locker Room Wait
Consider the wait in the locker room before the bout. You are often left by yourself while your trainer works with other fighters from the team. You try to envision the fight in your head. There are times when you doubt yourself, even question your conditioning. Thoughts race through your head but you remain calm showing no visible expression.
You must hide your concern from the fighters around you. You shadow box to loosen the tightness fashioned from your nerves. When fight time comes, these thoughts quickly vanish. You rely on your training and fight your heart out. Through experience, you learn to overcome these nervous, anxious feelings. You realize that you are not alone, rather one of many who have faced such feelings.
The wait in the locker room is enough to break the average man. Most men have never been involved in an actual one-on-one fight. Most have never been punched in the face. For this reason, most cannot comprehend the feeling of sitting and waiting to do battle with another man, whose soul purpose is to knock you out.
He has sweat and bled in the gym for one reason, to hand you defeat. You are on your own and must face this challenge alone. Your friends and family can only watch from outside the ring.
The mind can play tricks on you. It can convince you to doubt yourself and your training. For this reason, you must train the mind to work for you, not against. You must use your mind to give you confidence. The only way to achieve this state of mind is through experience and hard work. Experience comes from actual competition. You must fight and continue to learn.
If you lose or get knocked down, you must make the decision to get back up and fight. When a boxer loses, many are quick to call them bums or over the hill. These people don't realize that boxing is just like any other sport. It takes time to learn and master the techniques. You must learn from your losses and live to fight another day. Whether or not you succeed is your decision. No one can instill the mental toughness and work ethic required to be a champion. Rather you must dig down, deep within yourself and find these qualities on your own.
Train hard and believe in yourself. Through hard work, you gain confidence in your training. Boxing is a sport that does not involve luck; rather boxing is a sport that rewards those who work hard and overcome obstacles.
Make the choice. Train like a champion and you can become a champion.