Physical endurance, depth of desire and courage, the history of boxing abounds with all three on an epic scale. Punch after punch, block after block, feint, slip, roll, pivot, round after round boxers confront the pain barriers of physical and mental exhaustion and beyond. A different breed, these noble competitors redefine sporting heroism. The suffering is gratuitous, the physical expenditure is Herculean. Together these forge unique characters - a seemingly gleeful indifference to intensity and pain, coupled with the transcendent desire to conquer fear and opponent, to an elevated status of self-respect.
Faced with a challenge to their own life and safety, pro-boxers choose not to yield round after round, bout after bout. Not surprising then that an inner strength and quiet dignity shows on the faces of great champions; Johnson, Ali, Lewis, Tyson, Holyfield, Golovkin.
The ring is the most extreme test, the ultimate proving ground where boxers find out about themselves in new ways, pushed by physical and mental exertion to the limit. Reputation will not protect you through 12-rounds. Complacency is a threat to your very existence and to be treated like any other opponent. And through every conquest, mental strength accumulates.
Suffering is one thing; knowing how to suffer is quite another. Knowing how to survive the lion’s den with your fists and your wits, the triumph of inner resolve over disbelief. And through this bleak period the boxer’s mind fixates on how much more they have to give - oh, it happens - but they persist still. Every competitor learns the core lesson of winning: in the ring, in this duress, you live in the moment with all your force, in the intensity, the fullness of the moment. There is nothing more exhilarating.
When physical and mental stress takes you beyond what you imagine to be endurable you enter new territory of understanding, an expanded psychological landscape. The camaraderie among fighters is as much in sharing that insight as in the laughs you have while training in the good company of others who make the sacrifice. The fear, pressure and adrenaline of the fight are the perfect conduit to illuminate those secret corridors in the depth of self.
The pleasure comes when you grasp what has happened inside your head and spirit. It doesn’t stop when the bell goes, so tired you can hardly stand or keep your hands up. That’s when the pleasure begins. The self-knowledge.
Herein lies the heroism of this noble sport - the inner revelation that makes every boxer impervious to ordinary weakness because every competitive scenario he’s ever faced exposes him to that defeatist voice; he has known it, faced it and conquered the fear of it, again and again.