Imagine the biggest, scariest, fastest, most ripped, super aggressive fighter you can think of, multiply him by a thousand and then put him in the opposite corner from you. Picture him sitting on that stool coldly staring at you, penetrating your very soul.
Imagine him standing just waiting for the bell to ring so he can run over and pummel you with everything he's got. Every breath he takes causes every muscle to bulge and twitch with eager anticipation of what he is about to do to you.
Raise your level of anxiety just a little bit?
Well, here's a secret - no matter who you fight, the worst opponent will never be the one sitting across the ring from you.
The worst is inside of you - by a long shot. If you don't win the fight going on in your head before you step in the ring - you'll lose long before the bell actually rings.
You can literally psych yourself out of a victory and by letting on to how tired or scared you are - you will strengthen your opponent.
Posturing is part of fighting - on the psychological plane of warfare. It starts long before the fight and if you want to win - you'll continue it throughout the fight.
It's the smack talk at the weigh-in. It's the looks and glares of confidence - the "I'm going to kill you" looks. It's the pre-fight warmup where your opponent will try to intimidate you with his power and speed. All of it is done to make you doubt yourself and weaken you before you step into the ring.
What you think will affect the outcome of the fight. So if you doubt your ability to win - you stand a great chance of losing.
Not only do you hamper your own ability to perform - but more importantly - you give power and strength to your opponent if you let on how nervous, fearful or doubtful you are.
Most normal people will carry some amount of fear, apprehension, or nervousness into a boxing match. You're not going to eliminate it completely and you don't want to. Those sensations - if controlled - make you faster, stronger and sharpen your reflexes - so embrace the sensations of combat.
The key is control and you develop that control with practice and experience - by spending time in those uncomfortable situations and reframing how you perceive what is going on. The next time you feel some fear or nervousness - try this:
- Get out of your own head. Catch a thought, picture it sitting on the table in front of you and picture yourself examining it and feeling the sensations that thought causes like a scientist examining something through a microscope. Just observe what the thought is doing to you.
- Break it down. Now dissect that thought. Ask yourself if it is really rational and probable. Keep any emotion out of it - be objective.
- Dismiss it. Downplay its importance - present all the reasons that the thought couldn't possibly be true and then dismiss it - throw it in the garbage.
Most of our fears and apprehensions are caused by the unknown and worrying about the unknown isn't helpful. Deal with what is in front of you - keep yourself present before a fight and focus on the next second, not the next round.
Here's another secret - no matter how bad off you think you are, if your opponent is tired - you can feed on that.
Some of you will understand this feeling. You notice the hesitation in your opponent or see them getting tired and you suddenly feel stronger and more confident. You smell the blood and can taste the victory. It may seem primitive but we do find strength and solace in the discomfort of our opponents.
Ross Enamait wrote an article over at rossboxing.com about Boxing with a Poker Face:
First - keep yourself from getting fatigued in the first place - condition and train so you can outlast and outbox anyone who gets in the ring with you. Do the work before the fight and you won't have to work so hard to maintain focus through fatigue in the fight.
Now - when you meet someone who also prepared for the fight and you're both in peak physical form - you have to hide how tired you might be. You might be so completely wiped out and dreading the sound of the next bell, but if you let on that you are tired, you are only going to fuel your opponent.
Look at your opponent and watch for his level of energy and carefully monitor the signals you are sending out. In order to do this, you have to be aware of your image at all times in the fight, and that happens by being aware of yourself during training so you condition your mind to keep your body in check.
So right now, when you are in the gym, stop huffing and puffing and complaining. Stop sitting down, taking breaks, whimpering, and grunting. Stop throwing pathetic, weak little punches and letting your guard down. Give your trainer 100%. Now is the time to get it right, so when you are in the ring your opponent will be staring at you and coming to the realization that he is up against an invincible force who showed up to kick his ass. You show weakness and it will be exploited. You portray invincibility and you will weaken your opponent without even hitting him.
You will never find anyone who can outbox you more than yourself. Even when you know everything, are conditioned up the wahoo and are literally in your prime, if your head isn't on straight you will lose before stepping into the ring. So, train how you will fight. And that means not showing weakness in the gym or even when you are by yourself. You will respond in a fight the way you have drilled your body and mind. So make sure you drill it right.