By John Scully
LOSING a fight, either as a four-round preliminary kid or a world champion, and everything else in between, evokes a feeling that can be compared to depression. It’s low, horribly so, and personal too.
You feel like less of a human being, somehow inferior to the opponent who defeated you in the ring. It can be a sickening sensation, one that you feel deep down in your stomach. For me, it felt deeply personal to the point where all my free time would be spent thinking about that opponent and a nagging desire to get them back in the ring and win a return match.
Should you lose that feeling of grave disappointment after a defeat, then it’s probably time to get out of the game. The desire to right the wrong is a huge part of what motivates most fighters to fight, to even the score and, also, to never allow it to happen again.
It’s feeling that haunts you, it doesn’t go away. You even feel it in the dressing room before your next fight. Because you walk into that room as a loser, as opposed to that feeling you get when you win. When you win, you feel invincible. A loss, however, triggers vulnerability that only the boxer themselves can conquer.
Every boxer copes with things differently but, in general terms, I’d say that having positive and upbeat people around you as your prepare to go into the next battle is very important. You need people around you who know what to say, to encourage positivity, and, of course, you need people who know what not to say. Putting a loss behind you and continuing to move onward and upward is the mark of, and a requirement of, a true professional fighter.
Above all else, the training team cannot discuss the past in that dressing room. You must treat the loss as an aberration that should not – and will not – interfere with your boxer reaching the goals you have set for them. In short, it was a bump in the road that needs to be left behind.
A huge part of a trainer’s job is to be a psychiatrist for the boxer because the mentality of a fighter is so very important. You have to encourage them, you have to keep them upbeat and positive, while at the same time letting them understand that it’s very important to rebound after a loss. It’s a difficult balancing act. You have to know your fighter and the things to say that will motivate them, while keeping the reality of the situation in perspective. These are those unseen moments where trainers must do their jobs and earn their money. Which is why, perhaps, so many fighters change trainers after a loss. They don’t want any reminders, they can’t allow themselves to associate with anyone or anything that might put that loss in their minds.
Rebounding from a loss can be an incredibly difficult process. Winning a fight can have such positive impact on a boxer; they walk around for weeks afterward feeling like a million dollars, like they’re on top of the world.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, though, a single loss can result in a boxer having deep and often unfounded doubts about themselves. It’s very important to put the loss in perspective and understand that it is all part of the game. You can chalk it up to a bad night or you can justify it by the high level of the opponent, but no matter what, you must convince yourself that you have a lot more to give than what you previously showed.
A loss is only the end of the world if a boxer allows it to be.