There are many unseen elements in the sport of boxing. Promotional deals with fighters in regards to intricacies of contracts, payment percentages, and conditions, etc.
On another spectrum, the way a fighter trains in lead-ups to fights and their professional lives: their struggles, hardships, fears, and so on.
The lack of respect from fans has been heard and seen from all over. Time and time again, fans use a long list of slanderous, downplaying terms and labels such as bums, trash juice, and school janitors. I seek to shed light on what fighters go through and help increase our awareness and respect towards pro boxers.
To start, it is vital to try to comprehend that fighting is an extreme experience.
To those who have been in a real fight, the emotions are tested through and through. Adrenaline pumps through one’s veins as a drug and awakens our senses in a fashion perhaps never felt before.
A sense of fear is also mixed in so as to avoid getting hurt and hit in such a way that leads to defeat and getting severely injured.
All the while, immense pressure on the psyche is imposed, thoughts are racing on what to do relating to how to fight, intent on implementing the appropriate strategy is active.
The heart beats fast and causes corporal energy to drain at a quicker pace and when you're hit with a clean, hard shot to the face/head, it feels and sounds from the inside like a brick hitting you.
At times, mini spots in multi-bright neon-colored fashion are scattered around your direct and peripheral vision, seen in a clearer manner when eyes are closed.
Meanwhile, you can hear viewers screaming, some encouraging you and others insulting your performance. Others take the role of a coach, yelling what you should do at any given moment.
On the inside, you think that they have no idea what this is like. It is not nearly as easy as the spectators think. Viewing a fight and actually being in the fight are two totally different worlds.
Experienced fighters have learned to control and channel such emotions and bodily reactions via immense self-discipline and tunnel-vision focus which is a substantial challenge for anyone and quite admirable when achieved.
Fighting is not for everyone. It is for people who have a different mentality and drive.
One personality type is the risk-taker. These people face danger head-on, grab life by the horns, and ride the waves of risky activities and careers.
It is common to see these personalities as paramedics, nurses, firefighters, police officers, prison security officials, and military men and women. They are also combat sports fighters in MMA and boxing.
Others favor personality traits with much more caution toward life. They are reserved and do not take big risks.
The training lifestyle of fighters is overlooked. Waking up before dawn to do ‘road work,’ run miles and work on cardio until your body is pushed to or over the limit. To the not-so-experienced, this can cause fatigue, nausea, and physical distress.
But then it's back to the gym to train again with extreme drilling and fight techniques, several times a day.
It is a daunting task to find the words to describe the arduous training fighters must go through. It is like a crucible of fire including countless rounds of sparring involving pain, sweat, and often bloodshed.
Make no mistake, legendary hall-of-famer Floyd Mayweather’s mantra “Hard Work and Dedication” was not only screamed countless times to entertain listeners and viewers, it was undoubtedly to make a serious point. A fighter who wants to take the fight game to another level must unequivocally live the life of a fighter. It demands a superseding disciplined way of living outside the ring and in training.
Former multi-divisional, lineal champion Zab Judah, with his own impressive run in the sport of boxing, fought Mayweather and trained with him in camp for his fight against Manny Pacquiao. He said about Mayweather in an interview with MMA Fighting on SBN years ago: “Just when you think you work hard, you watch him (Mayweather) and go, woah! I gotta work harder… He trains like he’s broke.”
Mayweather is an example of countless fighters whose hard work is ignored by fans of the sport.
Granted, not all fighters in the sport of boxing or MMA have such a strenuous level of training as Mayweather had in his career. Much more respect and recognition should be given to fighters who have reached such an elite status.
Yet another reason for showing more respect towards fighters is the understanding of their tenacity, endurance, and injuries while fighting.
The Courage of Oscar Valdez and Scott Quigg
Former WBO Featherweight Champion Oscar Valdez defended his title against tough challenger Scott Quigg in March 2018, even after Quigg missed weight.
The crowd was roaring in excitement as the fight progressed thanks to both fighters’ vicious exchanges.
In the midst of the brutality of the fight, Valdez suffered a broken jaw in round five. Quigg left the fight with a broken nose.
Amazingly, they both fought to the end of 12 scheduled rounds, with Valdez winning by unanimous decision.
It is hard to fathom how a fighter like Valdez can continue fighting with a broken jaw for seven rounds.
Bombs Away: Wilder vs Arreola
Former WBC Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder defended his title against tried-and-true veteran Chris Arreola on July 16, 2016 at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama.
In round four, Wilder broke his hand, which forced him to jab Arreola for the rest of the fight. The fight was eventually stopped by Arreola’s trainer Henry Ramirez.
The pain Wilder was going through for the remainder of the fight must have been intense, yet he kept on fighting until he got the win.
These and many other examples demand respect on behalf of fans towards fighters. The current read just scratches the surface. There isn't enough time and space for all of them.
May this guide fans and readers to reflect and increase appreciation and respect towards fighters who put it all on the line. They are due credit in an era that sees putdowns and armchair critiquing the norm over professed respect.