So I finally did it. After years of dreaming, I finally had my boxing match.
When I first discovered boxing in my early 20s I was hooked. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to fight as an amateur, but I was scared.
What if I was terrible, or worse, got knocked out in my first fight? I decided not to pursue it.
I stopped training for a few years, but the idea of boxing remained, dormant in my head.
Three months ago however, I sat down to set some goals for different areas of my life. I wanted to choose goals that would challenge me.
One of the goals suggested to me by a friend was to compete in an amateur or white collar boxing match. My heart began to beat a little faster. The idea made me anxious. .. but it felt so right.
Three months later… Third round TKO (technical knockout). The feeling was indescribable.
Hearing my name being chanted when I won gave me a dopamine rush like never before. I might have to start doing cocaine to fill the void now.
Now this post is not merely an attempt to glorify myself for the internet. Rather, it’s a way for me to express the lessons I learned from training for this fight.
These lessons are not only relevant to boxing – some of them can be applied across the board, in any area of your life. Read with an open mind.
1. Consistency is the key to success
In order to get to get good at anything, you must be consistent. Rain, sleet, or snow, you must show up every day and train diligently.
Bruce Lee has a great quote about the power of practice:
I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.
My training camp was 11-12 weeks, and I trained 6 days a week, every week, sometimes twice a day.
It’s no surprise that during this time I improved measurably. I was practicing so frequently that my mind and body had no choice but to get better at boxing.
Excuses for not training consistently hold no weight. We all have plenty of legitimate reasons to avoid training – wife, girlfriend, kids, work, family etc.
Ultimately however, the only thing that matters is whether you have done the work or not. Nobody cares about excuses.
Training when you ‘have time’ or when you feel like it is not consistency.
True consistency is when you do the work in spite of thoughts, feelings, moods and emotions.
I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to skip training, especially sparring. Much of the time I was in the ring with guys faster, bigger, or more experienced than me. I left more than a few sparring sessions feeling demoralised because I could barely land a punch.
But I knew that to get better I had to suck it up, take the lessons, and come back next time. I ignored the anxiety in the pit of my stomach and showed up every time.
By the end of training camp, I was actually quite enjoying sparring. I began to see it as a challenge rather than something to be dreaded.
Acting in spite of thoughts, feelings, moods, and emotions is probably the most important lesson I’ve taken from this whole experience.
2. Become obsessed
When I first decided to fight, I felt a mixture of excitement and fear.
The excitement because I had the chance to do something I’d always wanted to.
The fear because I could potentially be humiliated in front of my friends and family.
I decided to leave nothing to chance. I went all in and became obsessed. I barely hung out with any of my friends, I cleaned up my diet, I stopped playing football.
I stopped anything that wasn’t conducive to boxing. Boxing, boxing, boxing. It consumed me.
When I wasn’t training, I was studying great fighters on Youtube (I must have watched certain Floyd Mayweather fights at least 7 or 8 times… don’t judge me).
Some people may think the above is a little extreme, but I’d rather be obsessed and victorious than laid back and a loser.
If you want to really crush something, become obsessed with it. Once you’ve achieved what you set out to do, then you can ease off.
3. Take action now
This goes out to all the procrastinators out there (talking to myself here).
Once you’ve decided to do something, formulate your plan, then go and do it!
You don’t need to wait for the economic situation to improve. You don’t need to wait for the new year to start. You don’t need to wait for the stars to align perfectly around Saturn.
Just take action. Starting is the most important step.
4. Surround yourself with positive people
I’m lucky to have good people around me who supported me throughout training.
Some helped with the training itself, while others gave me encouragement and moral support. All of them helped in some way during the lonely, arduous preparation for a fight.
I appreciate that. Those people wanted the best for me and that’s a rare thing in today’s society.
5. Boxing will quickly destroy unwanted fat
Over the three months of training, I slimmed down from 71 kg to a very ripped 68 kg. I kept my punching power as I went down in weight.
I didn’t use any fad diets or gimmicky sweat belts etc. I simply increased the amount of activity I was doing and ate sensibly. The weight melted off easily.
6. Find yourself a great coach
I found a boxing gym with a great coach (and supporting team) who really helped me throughout the training process. I was immediately made to feel welcome and knew it was the right place for me train.
The confidence I received was invaluable and the small nuggets of knowledge I picked up every session won me the fight.
The sign of a great coach is one who can work with different levels of athlete and knows when to push you further. Great coaches keep things simple, make you feel good, and build you up step by step.
It’s great to try do things on your own, but experience is the best teacher, so learn from someone who has wisdom to pass on.
7. Visualise the outcome you want
There are numerous reports of the impact mental imagery and visualisation can have on sports performance. Many world class athletes use visualisation as in important tool in their training.
Believe it or not, but imagining yourself doing something causes an almost identical physiological response to doing that thing in real life.
Almost every morning and night throughout camp, I spent 5-10 minutes visualising the fight in my mind’s eye, down to the finest detail.
I made the picture as vivid as possible. I imagined myself as a Gladiator walking into the Collosseum, ready to go to war.
I saw myself walking out to my ring music. Once the bell rang, I envisioned the first punch I’d throw. I pictured the look on his face when I hit him, and how I would react to his counter attack.
As the rounds went on, I visualised myself raining down blow after blow on my opponents face and body until the referee had to stop the fight. I could literally feel the elation in my body as I imagined the referee raising my arms in victory.
That image of the referee raising my arms was an extremely powerful one for me. Any time I had fear or doubt throughout training, I referred back to this mental image.
The visualisation made everything feel so much more comfortable for me. I’d been mentally rehearsing the fight for weeks so when it actually happened, I felt relaxed and in control.
As it happens, much of the fight turned out how I visualised it. Not all, but much of it (I didn’t envision getting caught with overhand rights at the start of the 3rd!).
That’s actually amazing.
Imagine what else we could apply the power of visualisation to in our lives?
8. What you focus on is what you become
In the build up to the fight I noticed a lot of negative self-talk and mental pictures in my brain. Every day.
Instead of heeding this negativity, I changed focus by listening to motivational music, speeches and books everyday.
I watched great fighters fighting and talking about fighting. I surrounded myself with uplifting messages to positively brainwash me into believing I’d win the fight.
This goes along the same lines as having positive people around you – make sure everybody and everything in your life is influencing you in a good way, down to the books you read, the videos you watch, and the music you listen to.
9. Stick to the fundamentals
Shadow boxing is a fundamental part of boxing training. However, even today, shadow boxing is highly underrated. Most people simply see it as a prelude to the fun stuff, but it’s so much more than that.
Shadowboxing is an excellent way to hone and ingrain perfect technique. To ingrain it so deeply that it becomes automatic in a fight.
Unfortunately, most people want to skip the fundamentals and learn the ‘hacks’. F*ck the hacks.
The greats in every field of life learn and practice the fundamentals every single day.
Whatever it is you are trying to do, remember that simply doing the fundamentals will get you the majority of results.. not shortcuts.
For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, just do the basics. You’ll get further by simply drinking more water and eating more greens than from the ‘mindblowing’ diet some clueless celebrity gets paid to endorse.
10. Diet makes a difference.
I have a sweet tooth, I like eating pizza, burgers, and fries, and I genuinely believe that if you are sensible there’s no reason to completely cut anything out of your diet.
However, for this 12 weeks of fight training, I took my diet seriously.
I ate clean 5-6 days a week and had one or two days of (moderate) cheat meals. I definitely noticed a difference in performance when I ate clean, especially when I was sparring. The days where I’d eaten more healthily and consumed more water, I felt sharper, stronger, and had better endurance.
Fuelling my body for training became a priority.
I also was very rigorous with my supplementation throughout this period. I generally don’t recommend too many supplements, but I took Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), fish oils, and creatine every day.
I took the BCAAs to preserve muscle mass as I lost weight. I stayed very lean and maintained my punching power (from when I was 2-3 kg heavier). I took 5 g of amino acids before/during every training session, and sometimes another 5 g later.
Fish oil is another excellent supplement I used. It’s especially important for boxers or combat athletes, as it is alleged to protect brain cells from the trauma of getting hit (to some degree).
Boxing is a very physically demanding sport. I had painful wrists, elbows, sore noses, lower back problems, ‘hangover’ type symptoms after hard sparring.. you name it.
Fish oil was therefore vital in this respect as it reduces inflammation and thus improved my recovery. I took 2-4 g every day, although you should consult your doctor before taking doses higher than written on the instruction label.
The last supplement I took was creatine. It not only has very positive effects on strength and power, but like fish oil, it is reported to alleviate brain cell damage due to trauma. A lot of boxers and combat athletes overlook this issue, but looking after your brain should be a number 1 priority.
11. Everything in moderation
It might seem contradictory to point number 2 (it is), but you need different tools for different situations.
I consider myself quite disciplined in many respects, but by the end of training camp I was desperate to binge on junk food, watch movies and lie on the couch eating Doritos.. and that’s exactly what I did for 3 days after the fight.
I pretty much lived like a monk during the build up but I know for a fact I could not do it year round. We are human beings, eventually we need a release. Even professional fighters take time off in between fights to recover physically and mentally.
A classic mistake from people new to fitness is believing they can go from zero training and bad diets to eating boiled chicken and hardcore training 365 days a year. The wheels usually fall off very quickly.
12. Get yourself a proper training plan
Once I had a fight date set, I wrote out a detailed training plan and followed it as strictly as possible (injuries, recovery, and changes of circumstance permitting).
Whether your goal is building muscle, losing weight, or improving your sprint time, you need a roadmap to follow.
Without a clear structure, you will be no better off than when you started. Get help from someone who knows what they’re doing if you don’t.
(Click here to see details about coaching).
13. Go all in
Again, this is similar to number 2 and seems to contradict number 11, but the truth is, if you are absolutely desperate to achieve something, you should go all in.
Do whatever it takes to meet your objective.
I need to take this advice more in my own life because I’m a master at multitasking and getting absolutely nothing done.
The people who are obsessed with achieving something usually achieve it. This is scary to most of us because it means giving up comforts such as sleep, leisure time, &/or money.
But if you really want something, ignore everything else and go after it 100%.
I hope you got something from this article, and remember, you can apply many of these points to your own life, it’s not purely about boxing!