I started boxing my freshman year of college. My roommate, Jay Bowers, introduced me to the sweet science. We would do the mitts on breaks from studying while in our room. This led to a night with a few rounds of fighting between dorm mates with head gear and gloves which led to taking classes at Ramsey with Ramon Hayes.
Those early days were a good introduction but did not truly reveal how powerful boxing could be. It was a good workout, got the heart pumping, and let you release your frustration from the evils of student life. I did not truly realize the beauty of boxing until I decided to step into the ring. Not a cramped dorm study room, not behind an apartment complex, but center stage in front of my peers at the GA Theatre.
Combat sports provide the purest of competition. Once you step into the ring, there is no escape. You have to face you opponent and fight until the final bell rings. As Fezzik from The Princess Bride said “We face each other as God intended. Sportsmanlike. No tricks, no weapons, skill against skill alone.”
The training that goes into a single fight is intense. For amateurs, you have three two-minute rounds. Six minutes total of fighting. Seems easy? When you try punching a heavy bag for twenty seconds straight as hard as you can, you soon realize how insane six minutes of fighting really seems like.
For every minute in the ring, you need to spend twenty hours training outside the ring. Endurance, cardio, sparring, strength. Yet all of that training cannot prepare you for that first fight.
The emotions the day before and day of your first fight. The fear, the confidence, the anxiety, the glory. You try and tell yourself your opponent is literally worse than Hitler and Osama bin Laden’s evil child so that you won’t think twice about annihilating them in the ring. The bell rings and the fight starts.
The fight takes both an eternity to end and is over in a flash. It is the most traumatic six minutes (or less) for most people who have the privilege to step into the ring. Nothing about fighting should be enjoyable especially defeat. Yet, here I am three years after my first fight and a few more in between and all I want to do is get back into the gym and train for another fight.
One of the definitions of masochism is “the enjoyment of what appears to be painful or tiresome”.
I love to emotions. Something weird happens in that boxing ring. The person you just spent six minutes trying to decapitate is the first person you embrace and buy a beer for after you get out of the ring. You don’t hate each other, you enjoy the journey you both just took together.
You’re not upset you lost, you can’t wait to start training for your next fight. Theodore Roosevelt definitely said it the best in his “Citizen in a Republic” speech:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I was far from a good boxer. I lost more than I won. However, I still yearn for that next fight. I yearn for the pain. The lessons boxing teaches each person who steps into the ring are truly invaluable and can make you a better person. Don’t fear failure. Fear being satisfied with not trying, not attempting, not daring to do something.