Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the head – Mike Tyson
The quote from Mike Tyson above is well known. Reciting the phrase and experiencing the feeling is, however, quite different. You can do all the training in the world on bags, but this does not translate to being able to throw a punch when you need to, nor, more importantly, keep your cool when being rained down on with punches.
My first introduction to boxing was back at University when my friends and I thought it was time to learn the Sweet Science. I remember the first time I learnt how to bob, weave, and come back with a punch, and the look of surprise on my coach, Richard Rust, that I managed to do it, unexpectantly. However, one good crack to my jaw and I figured that there might be easier ways to get fit!
I sporadically trained when I lived in Auckland under Boa Athu. Indeed, some of my happiest memories while in Auckland were the one to one sessions that Boa and I had, as he taught me the art of combinations and harnessed what was to be my go-to right hook.
However, it was when I was in Singapore that I became more involved in boxing. Spartan’s boxing club was a haven for me during COVID and before. Everything about that place I love. We even formed an older man’s sparring group, ‘Uncle’s Fight Club,’ where I got to try my skills. While the doctor has suggested that getting hit in the head at 48 is perhaps not the best for my health, boxing training, without the sparring, will be a constant now in my fitness routine.
Lesson 1: Skill is being able to pull off moves under pressure
Boxing, on paper, should be relatively straightforward. Broadly speaking, there are a small set of punches and footwork. However, how those punches combine with footwork produces an art form that is poetry in motion. The best things in life are the complex made to look simple.
Lesson 2: Humility is taught well at the end of a punch
Boxing with truly talented boxers is an experience I will not forget. Nothing humbles one more than being in a ring with another man who for love or money you can’t hit and who can land punches on you at will. Any ego is lost when you soon understand where you sit in the pecking order of life. I think the world would be a better place if many pseudo-strong men, politicians, business people, and aggressors had an authentic fighting experience.
Lesson 3: Respect
In my experience, boxers have a level of respect for anyone that gets into the ring. Everyone knows it will be tough, and everyone knows that we need each other to learn. I was shown respect and gave respect every time I sparred, without fail.
Lesson 4: You know people when they have power over you
In business, some of the best lessons I have learnt are when people have power over you. People can be nice as punch (no pun intended) when they want something from you, or the relationship is on an even keel. However, when there is a power imbalance, you see the real character of a person.
The same is true in boxing. There are times, in training, where one has you on the ropes. How they treat you at that time is key to them as a training partner and as a person. In boxing, I only came across people who use power wisely. I wish I could say the same for business.
Lesson 5: Know when to walk away
Ironically, the worst knock to the head that I experienced didn’t come from boxing but other sports. Boxing, if done well, and admittedly I never trained for a fight, is relatively safe. Nevertheless, like all things in life, there is a time to walk away and knowing that time is essential. Everyone is different, has different goals, and different tolerances to what life will throw at them. Boxing teaches a person to understand themselves well, at least well enough to make the right decisions for the various Futureselves they hold essential.
Boxing is art and science. I get that people struggle to understand such a statement. I also get that people will never appreciate fine dining until they taste the food. Life is experiences, and the experience of boxing, I for one, owe an outstanding debt.