Long before I first put on a pair of boxing gloves, I was a boxing fan. A man called Floyd Mayweather had managed to capture my attention when I was a kid.
Like so many young boys I was drawn to a sporting figure who could draw up a big pay cheque. Why we have such a fascination with the earning potential of certain athletes is for another day but, apart from Floyd’s pay cheques, he was able to make boxing look good. Better than that, he was able to make himself look like the most comfortable and confident man you’ve ever seen. And all this while people were trying their hardest to knock him out! That would capture anyone’s attention.
Maybe because he made it look so easy, I presumed it would be so easy. I would look at him box and think I could emulate him without too much effort. I don’t know if that was arrogant, but it was certainly misplaced.
The first thing I learned about boxing was the very opposite. Like anything in life, you have to work at it. Floyd didn’t just step into the ring and look like the best boxer in the world, pound for pound, without putting in the training. At first, I didn’t appreciate this and so I got smacked around.
“Hard work. Dedication.”
A phrase uttered so often by Floyd you would wonder if he had anything else to his vocabulary. I, however, seemed to miss this point and found myself learning the hard way. And it wasn’t just in the ring that I learnt this lesson, it was on the bag and the pads. How can throwing a punch be so exhausting? How can it be so hard to coordinate my feet with my hands? Why can’t I remember to breathe anymore? Of all the things or skills you had to have, I thought I knew how to breathe.
After a serious adjustment period I noticed I was picking it up. In boxing you can progress quicker than you might think. Regardless of how much you’re training, you will see your skills improve by the session and particularly at the beginning. To see your fitness progress, you might have to train more than twice a week, but your body will condition itself to the sport and it will feel more comfortable in a short space of time.
Once your skills and fitness start to advance, you’ll develop your own style. Boxing isn’t about watching Floyd Mayweather and just replicating him.
As a sport it’s very adaptable to an individual’s style. You might be a brawler or you might be a dancer; and whichever sporting background you come from, you can carry certain skills over. Perhaps if you played football you might be quick on your feet, etc. It’s about finding your own style and not trying to be exactly like the people you’re watching.
The main lesson I learned from walking into a boxing gym was to have respect for the discipline and its participants. It’s not like the trash talking you see on TV. There are no personalities bigger than the sport and any egos that aren’t left at the door will only interfere with progression. I know through learning it for myself and seeing it as a coach that if you hold yourself too highly, you’ll miss valuable lessons.
There’s no better way to learn this lesson than getting a smack in the face. It’s embarrassing at first but once you learn that it happens and it’s a part of the sport, you can then react in a composed and collected way. Not the case if you’re concerned with your image and stature.
It’s a humbling sport and has many great lessons that you can bring into your own life. Lastly, the more you learn from boxing, the more you’ll love the sport.