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The Mental Aspect of Boxing

By Ross Enamait - Published in 2003



Boxing is perhaps the most challenging sport of all. A boxer requires a unique blend of speed, strength, and endurance. In addition to these qualities, he must stand up to the punishment inflicted by an equally matched opponent. To withstand the inevitable pain and fatigue, the boxer must possess a mind that is as tough as his body.

Boxing is not just about getting into shape and mastering the tools of the sweet science. An equally important aspect of the fight game is having the mental fortitude to succeed. Boxing is unique from other sports, as a fighter must stand alone inside the ring. Even legendary trainers such as Eddie Futch and Angelo Dundee would exit the ring during rounds.

Regardless of your abilities, the time will come when you must battle fatigue. You may be hurt or injured, yet forced to continue. 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. Real boxers fight regardless of the adversity faced inside the ring.

A strong mind can help during these difficult times. The mind is a powerful tool that some never learn to control. For example, 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 to these questions lie within the mental discipline of the fighter. It is easy to cheat on your diet and easy to skip your roadwork. Unfortunately for many, 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. Many fighters are up by 5:30 and running by 6 AM. While most people sleep soundly, boxers are out running the streets. Roadwork often consists of hills, sprints, and torturous intervals. The morning session is far from enjoyable, yet because of its importance, a fighter commits himself to it. 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, as 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.

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 to victory. 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 fighters who sleep, and others who wake. There will always be those who mess around at the gym, and those who train until the lights go out. You will have days when you’d rather not train. On your way to the gym, you consider driving past, yet you stop and turn towards the gym parking lot. Mentally, you must be strong to succeed in this sport. No one can make the decision for you 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, that you want to succeed, 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 that 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 that 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.

Consider the wait in the locker room before the bout. You are often left by yourself, while your trainer works with other fighters. 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 th