It feels a little strange talking about my illustrious fighting career, as I’m no longer fighting. I have retired. My excuse is that I’ve turned 35, which is rather a good excuse, as you’re not legally allowed to fight in NSW once you turn 35. I could complain about the ‘ageism’ involved in this, but to tell you the truth I’m quite glad. It’s not only escaping the trial of having to get up at the crack of dawn every morning to go running.
Actually I never made it up at the crack of dawn. If I were up and running by 7am that was pretty unusual. Tyson priding himself on running at about 3am or something like that, after which he’d go back to bed. His reason: ‘While I am training, my opponent is sleeping’. This doesn’t make much sense to me, as Tyson probably slept in after that, probably right through his opponents training session!
Anyway, it’s not just the training discipline, or the constant monitoring of your diet (I put on 5 kilos in a month after I stopped training). It’s having to live with that fear that takes hold of you leading up to a fight. It’s not a fear of getting hurt, but a fear of looking like a dork. I know you can get that fear anywhere (eg. preaching), but there is something particularly humiliating about looking like a dork in the ring, having a thousand staring spectators watch you fall in a heap on the floor while your opponent dances around laughing at you.
I’m quite glad to be passed it, but I’m also very glad I did it. Fighting for me was always more than just a sport. My first fight especially was a very spiritual experience. For me, as a male, stepping into the ring for the first time, was a bizarre experience. Your brothers lead you inside the ring, the women folk are all at a distance, and it’s just you and one other man standing there in your underwear facing มวยสากล each other. Your brothers pull back and leave you there alone under the spotlight, and you’re asked to survive for three rounds, while the other guy tries to take you apart.
There is something very similar in this process to the traditional initiation ceremonies in other cultures. Some tribes of American Indians have a ritual where, when a boy comes of age, they take him out into the woods, and then they pull back and leave him there, and he has to survive by himself for a week. When he returns to the village alive he is a man.
I remember when I stepped out of the ring after my first fight, I felt more at peace with myself as a man. Indeed, I suspect that if we had some ritual like this for all our teenage boys – where at a certain age we lead them into a boxing ring and then leave them there to survive the rounds, and then go and celebrate their coming into adulthood – I suspect we would have a lot less problems with our young boys and men than we have today.
You can learn from the ring – hence the title of this talk. And without going any further down that specific path of how boxing can work for adolescent males, let me rather offer three more general truths which have been engraved into my consciousness through my brief sojourn in the ring.