20 Life Lessons from Boxing
On the Monday after one of the most publicized fights of all time, I want to share my very personal love for the glove. Mind you, I’m 5′ tall and weigh less than 100 lbs., so I may not look like the type, but I have a passion for boxing that runs deep. It started from childhood, watching The Greatest, Ali boast about being The Greatest and proving it. My family and all our friends would gather around the small color tv in our tiny apartment in Brooklyn, cheering him on and exploding at every connected jab, upper cut, cross and body blow. It was an epic event. Watching him float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, moving around the ring with a grace and strength that would challenge a prima ballerina. I was in awe at how physical the whole act was, as brutal as some may think, because I discovered at an early age that it is a thinking person’s game.
It goes so much further than the physical display. It is a calculated, strategic exercise in mental acuity, anticipating what is coming towards you and reacting quickly, swiftly, so you don’t get knocked out. It’s moving your opponent into a position that allows you control, using the ropes as your stronghold. It requires confidence, dedication, single focus and knowing that you have the ability to control the situation, no matter how heated it might get, and how much you might be jeered or revered. It’s mano a mano, hand to hand, head to head.
I have been boxing for almost 6 years at a local gym with my boxing coach, Frank Rivera. I adore Frank for so many reasons – he’s raw, he’s real and he’s a storyteller. He always starts the first 10 minutes of our session with an analogy, a tale about one of his pro fighters, or a strategy we should pay attention to when watching a ‘real’ fight. He trains us like we’re pros. You don’t ever want to be late walking in. When you enter the boxing room, sweaty and steamy, filled with 13 bags of different shapes and sizes, a mirror and a padded floor, it’s Frank’s rules. Talk back and he’ll lay you out verbally. Do sloppy pushups and he’ll tell you to lay off the cerveza. Don’t stop moving when he tells you to work…’Pop pop pop, make those bags talk’…or else he’ll tell you the girls will kick your butt. My nickname is ‘Mini’. When I land a good punch, he calls me Mighty Mini. For the first year, he used to wrap my wrists until one day, he said, you’ve gotta’ learn how to wrap your own. That was his little push of the baby bird out of the nest. Now, I wrap my own wrists and hands and I feel like a bad ass. I like doing that for myself.
Now….I can’t tell you how I felt when I found out Mayweather would be fighting Pacquiao. The excitement literally felt like my heart would pop out of my chest. I worked harder than ever that day, with the fight poster in front of me taped to the mirror, bobbing and weaving, popping that bag like bubble gum. I bought tickets to watch the fight and posted about how I couldn’t sleep in anticipation of the big day. Then it came and went. Mayweather v. Pacquiao. Mano a mano. Lots of celebrities, gawkers, and money. But I watched for the heart. The heart that Frank tells you money can’t buy. The heart to go the distance, to sweat because it doesn’t hurt as bad as bleeding, the dedication to the craft. I saw it to a certain extent this past Fight Night, deemed The Fight of the Century, but not sure they left everything they had on the mat. Money Mayweather is a business man. He uses his punches sparingly, defensively, protecting his interest(s). Pacquiao wanted more, but couldn’t quite get his barrage of hits in that he’s famed for. It left me a little deflated, but they went the 12 rounds and hugged at the end. Even in the face of adversity, they had enough respect for each other to take each other’s punches and then put the gloves down.
No matter if you’re a professional making bazillions or a kid in East LA dreaming of making it big or a girl like me who feels powerful and strong when she puts her gloves on, I think we can all take some life lessons from the ring.
Top 20 Life Lessons from Boxing
1. Sweat is the makeup of a fighter
2. Be agile and light on your feet like a ballerina so you can move out of the way
3. Study your opponent and anticipate what’s coming at you so you can be first to react
4. Get up quickly after you get knocked down. Or you might get knocked out.
5. Hold your form, no matter how tired you are
6. Keep your eyes up so you can alway see what’s happening, even when you have your chin tucked
7. Put in the work and be in the right condition for the fight
8. Make sure your core is strong; it’s where you’re the most vulnerable
9. Respect your opponent before, during and after the fight is over. They have just made you better.
10. Fight clean because someone is watching and deducting points
11. Size up your opponent and situation before you go into the ring so you know what to expect
12. It might go 12 rounds, or it might be over in 1; it’s not always in your hands
13. People will revere you or jeer you, no matter how successful or unseasoned you are
14. Know who’s standing in your corner when you’re hurting
15. When you’re in the ring, you can’t hide. Just keep dancing with your head high like you own the place. Your opponent will smell fear.
16. You don’t need to have money to have heart. Make your decisions for the right reasons.
17. Let your coach guide you, they’ve been around the block and seen a lot more than you
18. If you don’t weigh in, you don’t get a chance to fight
19. Have the confidence to know that it’s you who holds the gloves to take on your biggest challenger
20. When you’re up against the ropes, and there doesn’t seem a way out, slip to the side (well, at least that’s my strategy)
Side note: I truly hope Mayweather and Pacquiao will use some of their extraordinary winnings to help give a child a chance to better themselves, or maybe even set up a boxing gym like the George Foreman family has done with their Youth Center. These life lessons could prove pretty valuable down the road. Listen to Episode 1 of my podcast, The Real Dish, to learn more about what the Foreman family is doing to make a difference, where I interviewed George Foreman IV.