Show me a fighter without a healthy bit of fear within him, and I'll show you a fighter with an unnecessarily limited potential. They are the same man.
Show me a fighter with courage, and I'll show you a man who cares enough for truth to have concerns over all possibilities. A courageous fighter is honest with himself. He knows no man has ever been born with enough natural talent to walk through life undefeated without taking the necessary precautions to give him his best chance.
Floyd Mayweather has given many examples of courage. Before his 2010 bout against Shane Mosley, Mayweather indicated such in one of his prefight statements.
“It’s going to be whatever it’s going to be.”
Mayweather knew how dangerous a fight Mosley was at the time. Revisionist history suggests Mayweather handpicked Mosley because he knew age and time had given him all the advantages.
Yet Mosley appeared as dangerous as ever before facing Mayweather. He had gone 7-1 in his last eight fights, the lone loss a hotly disputed decision to Miguel Cotto. He looked like a renaissance man against Ricardo Mayorga and dominated Antonio Margarito like no one had ever done before.
Those two sensational knockouts set the stage for Mayweather-Mosley, and Mayweather knew going into the bout just how dangerous a fight he had before him.
Mayweather has mastered courage. No one in contemporary history has appeared to note concerns over opponents as well as he. He was keenly aware of fighting during boxing’s performance enhancing drugs era, and was careful in preparing himself both mentally and physically for bouts against the likes of Mosley, Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao.
When Mosley crushed Mayweather with a right cross in round two of their bout, Mayweather was prepared. The fear he had acknowledged during his preparations for the fight allowed him to master the dire circumstance. He adjusted his tactics for the rest of the bout, and went on to win a wide unanimous decision victory.
The difference between courage and fearlessness is subtle but of precise importance. Courage and fearlessness are similar, but the output of a man who is courageous is different than that of a man without fear.
Put simply, courage does not exist without fear. A courageous fighter is one who recognizes the risks associated with all situations and goes about making sure he does his best to minimize those risks.
Mayweather, the courageous, was a master of minimizing risks, and he retired again this month one of the few undefeated boxing legends in history.
Fear can be a fighter's greatest asset or his worst enemy. Too little fear can make one lazy, stupid and disingenuous. Too much can leave him paralyzed within the construct of worry. Mayweather was adept at the middle ground. His fear of other fighters led to a healthy amount of concern, and he parlayed those concerns into his unparalleled body of work.
But a fearless fighter is a crude animal, one who denies himself the truth about life. Life is as frail as hope but with the same potential for abundance. In boxing, any punch received can be the final blow. All fighters are made of the same thing: flesh and blood, and one of life’s deepest truths is that anything made of flesh and blood can be spoiled.
Sergey Kovalev appears to be a fearless fighter, and that’s precisely why he’s coming off of two losses to Andre Ward. Kovalev is one of the premier battlers in the sport. He’s technically superb and has vicious power in both hands.
But Kovalev is incapable of defeating a fighter like Ward because Kovalev doesn’t acknowledge defeat as a possibility even after defeat has taken place. How else could one explain his recent comments after Ward’s shocking retirement announcement?
Kovalev told TMZ he was “disappointed” in Ward’s retirement because he wouldn’t be able to “kick his ass again.” This from the man Ward handed two consecutive losses, first a close decision last year and then a convincing knockout in 2017.
It is this kind of thinking that will keep Kovalev from his true potential. Here is a man who denies himself the possibility of losing to a fighter by which he, in reality, has already twice been defeated.
Courage is testament to true virtue. Fearlessness is just stupid.
Perhaps a personal anecdote can best illustrate the point. I was brave when I sparred Jermell Charlo in 2015 for charity. I was fearless when I decided to start using drugs again two years later.
Courage helped me prepare for an impossible situation against an elite level professional fighter who could stop me whenever he wanted. A lack of fear concerning my use of cocaine and methamphetamine, especially after all the glaring evidence of destruction such would wrought in my life if I used again after 12 years of sobriety, led me to my demise.
I was a fearless man. I lost my job. I broke relationships. I almost lost my life. I was not courageous.
Courage is the benchmark for which we all should strive. Fearlessness is the paradise of fools, and whether your fight is in a boxing ring or life, the acknowledgment of this fundamental truth is paramount to your success.