Last year saw the biggest boxing fight post-war when Carl Froch and George Groves had their rematch infront of 80,000 at Wembley stadium. Amongst the war of words and pre-fight analysis, it was well documented that Froch hired a sport psychologist. His calm and focused approach resulted in an eighth round stoppage win, so does this highlight the importance of sport psychology in boxing?

Mental strength is important for Boxing, but how many train it? There are many ways to train your brain to get the edge over your opponents.

Building The Foundations Of Success

Let’s say you’re building a house. Would you want to make sure all four corners of the foundations were as strong as possible, or would you just take care of three, and hope that was enough to keep the house from falling down?

I’m pretty sure most people would put in the time and the effort to build a house with the strongest foundations possible. Four strong, solid corners.

Ask Yourself, What Does It Take?

When I sit down with an athlete for the first time, I like start by getting them to think about what goes into becoming an elite performer in their particular sport.

What does it take to be the best?

If it’s your goal to be a solid amateur boxer, what’s that actually going to take?

If it’s your goal to be a world champ, what’s that going to take?

Whatever level you’re boxing at, or wherever you’re aiming to get to, we can usually break down “what it takes” into four major areas: tactical awareness, technical ability, physical strengths, and mental strengths.

Four Corners for boxing performance:

Technical Ability (like hand speed, footwork, head movement)

Tactical Awareness (like reading your opponent, gameplan, countering)

Physical Strengths (like speed, stamina, strength, movement capacity)

Mental Strengths (like confidence, self-belief, motivation, discipline, staying calm)

How Strong Are Your Corners?

In my experience, these are the four cornerstones that every athlete needs in order to build towards success. But if I asked you how much time you dedicated to working on each of them what would you say?

I’d guess that you spend a lot of time and effort in the gym or out running, working on developing strength and stamina. You probably spend a fair amount of time in the ring, developing your technique.

And I’d guess that maybe you study your opponents, or at least that you have some sort of tactical plan before you enter the ring to fight?

So you probably have three very strong corners on which to build success. But what about that fourth corner? What about the mental aspects of boxing? How much effort do you put into developing your mental strengths?

The Fighter’s Mind

Depending on who you ask, you might hear that boxing is 80% mental… or maybe 90% mental… I’ve even heard 95% mental, although that might be pushing it a bit!

The fact is, nobody can deny that boxers have to be mentally tough, but a lot of athletes (and their trainers and coaches) spend the majority of their time and efforts on the tactical, technical, and physical aspects of the sport, and just hope that they will somehow develop mental toughness.

They think their houses will stay up with only three strong corners. In fact, something I often hear from athletes and trainers when we talk about the mental side of boxing is that “you’ve either got it or you ain’t!” Many athletes will agree that mental toughness is vital, but think that when it comes down to it, it’s just something that you either have or don’t have.

Train Your Brain

But here’s the thing. We know from experience of working with boxers at all levels, and from years of research with athletes from all types of sports, that training the mind as well as the body can make an all important difference to an athlete’s performance.

Boxers can develop and build their mental toughness through various mental training techniques.

You can improve your ability to stay relaxed and loose when the adrenalin is pumping. You can learn how to make sure your confidence stays with you when need it most.

You can train your brain to stay focused in the face of distractions. And just like you can get stronger and faster with physical conditioning, you can get better and better at all of these things (and more) with mental conditioning.

Practice Makes Perfect

Are you willing to put in the time and effort to develop these skills? If you don’t train for strength or speed, it’s likely that you won’t get faster and stronger.

The same goes with training your brain. If you don’t practice and develop the skills, like relaxation, visualisation, or focus, you won’t get better at it. If you want to be the best you can be, you’re going need to take care of all four corners if you want your house to stay standing.

Dr. Pete Olusoga is a sports psychology lecturer at Sheffield Hallam university and a author

*For training information and workouts from some of the biggest names in combat sport don’t miss the Fighting Fit: Train like the Stars special*