What does it mean to win?
My fighter Alexis Morant fought and won the finals of the New York Golden Gloves tournament last night. Someone asked me what does it mean to win. This was asked shortly after the fight, so I have to admit that I did give a very simplified answer, to which I’ll apologize to the person I gave it to, who will read this at some point, if I don’t see him first. And, while I thought it to be a very weird and random question to ask me at the time, I thought about it this morning, so I guess that means it’s worth voicing an opinion on.
When asked, I replied: “It means that tonight she was better than last years champion” the short answer might be that she was better than someone else, that night, in a boxing ring. But, as all of you who have ever fought know: There is always a very interesting back-story surrounding any fight. Winning means many things to all of us.
Winning can mean that you conquered your fears. It can mean that you learned and kept the lessons learned from being knocked down in a sparring session. It could mean that the hours that you spent day after day working on a particular punch or combination really paid off. For some it means that they have finally become a fighter. For many it validates their reasoning for missing all of the parties, events, and hanging out with friends when they had to get up at 5am to run 5 or 6 miles in the park the next day. For many it’s the reward of being able to eat whatever you want, after shredding many pounds and watching the lever on the scale slide to the left for many weeks. Winning could mean to some that they made their family and friends proud. It could mean that they have permission to be proud of themselves even if they secretly wondered from time to time, AM I GOOD ENOUGH? CAN I WIN? IS HE OR SHE BETTER THAN ME?
A fight is fought long before a fighter steps into a ring. Yes, it starts with a commitment to run many miles almost every day. It may include physical conditioning most days. It will include going into a musky gym most days and pouring your heart out while getting into a fight with a bag that knows you intimately. But… no one sees the morning runs rain or shine, the many times that a fighter has to push away from the table during a meal, with his plate only half full, because he had to make weight. This alone was so disappointing to me personally growing up, that when I stopped fighting, I didn’t eat a salad for two years after I quit. It was the result of many nights sitting at a table, wanting and sometimes watching my family, friends, or teammates eat a fat juicy steak, and all I could eat was a salad because I had to face a weigh-in the next morning. How about pain? Nobody sees the fighter in the ring going home many nights to a very hot, or icy bath to get rid of the soreness that they feel, because they have torn muscle fibers all day. Bumps, bruises, and minor injuries are the hallmark of any athlete’s career that may have to be addressed nightly. Some fighters even have a bump or two on their face or head, when they get home. Headgears don’t protect everything. And, this is just the physical…
Many would agree that boxing, or even fighting, are a 75% mental and about 25% physical endeavor. It is often true, that the toughest fight you’ll have, is with YOURSELF. As the trainer, it’s my job, to teach technique, but also to nurture abilities, manage expectations, and inspire mental fortitude. Any sport, and especially boxing will challenge every part of a boxers mind regardless of his or her belief in themselves. Conditioning the mind as well as the body is always necessary. Its much the same way as your strength trainer won’t let you bench press 300lbs, if you can’t press 250lbs But, if you trust his judgment, you’ll be pressing 350lbs before you know it. Boxing, like any other sport, requires a cohesive mind-body, and often spiritual, connection.
So………… back to the original question: What does it mean to win? Again, it’s the realization of a dream after many mistakes, some bigger than others, that turn into lessons learned, and finally put to use and activated in actions that cause three people to instruct a referee to raise your hand, resulting in a feeling, often euphoric, that drives some athletes mad with arrogance, some still with shock, but inspires others to believe in themselves and think as lofty as The US Olympic Boxing Team!
I’ll wish for the latter, over the former, any day!