Don’t get complacent and lose your edge. Respect your opponent no matter how good you are. It will keep you sharp and focused.
You can be better than your opponent, have more skill, speed, ability, strength and talent. But if you don’t have the heart, confidence, and fortitude to execute, you allow a man with heart and less skill to be just as good or better than you.
Looking through some old photos a while back, I came across one of Rocky Marciano when he fought Ezzard Charles the second time around, in 1954. In the sixth round, Marciano’s left nostril was cut clean through. He ultimately went on to stop Charles in the eighth round and retained his title, but not without moments of uncertainty when his corner was unable to do much to fix the injury and couldn’t seem to do anything to stop the bleeding. It’s difficult to imagine the pain he endured for those two rounds.
Coaches, boxing experts, writers and everyone involved in the sport can dissect fighters and fight outcomes endlessly. Some match-ups are obvious, but those that aren’t, carry an element of surprise that can be attributed to a few overriding characteristics. These traits are not an accurate jab, a powerful hook or even an earth-shattering right cross. They’re not even always noticeable, until you see them in action. When a fighter is hurt, when he’s behind on the scorecards or is suddenly faced with something no one could have seen coming…that’s when the “magic” happens. That’s when everything else, fundamentals, technique and “the odds” no longer matter because they’ve all dramatically become overshadowed by the intangibles.
Most logical people wouldn’t consider walking into a fitness gym for the very first time and lifting every weight in the joint or grabbing a surf board and finding the biggest wave to conquer off the beaches of Waikiki. These types of activities achieve the best, most long-lasting results when you build up to them, gaining physical ability, building confidence and expertise gradually along the way. First you learn how to feel the ocean, then you study the techniques involved in mounting your board and then you tackle your first small wave before heading on to the next challenge. There are countless hours and practice that go into catching that monster wave. Jumping right in can be disastrous, even deadly.
Just like the art of “hanging ten”, boxing should be approached with patience and a series of methodical steps that best prepare a fighter for what he or she will face in the ring. It’s not only about building skill. It’s also about building “heart”…a word that has come to mean determination, will or “stones.” It’s worth considering that the human heart isn’t just an intangible chamber for emotional fortitude, but it is formed of tissue and muscle so it can be built just like a bicep or abdominal muscles. It can be strengthened, toughened and developed. Heart is not just an adjective to describe the Arturo Gattis of the world, but it can be created.