Rocky Balboa changed my life. Really.
30 years ago, almost to the day, I sat down with my family and watched Rocky 2. I had previously tried to watch the original Rocky but gave up when I couldn’t understand a word he said, misinterpreting strongarming threats to break someone’s thumb as “I’ll break your tongue.” The Italian Stallion and I just didn’t click. Until Rocky 2. And a lifelong obsession with Rocky and all-things boxing was born.
Now, at this point you may be wondering where all this is going, and indeed where, and who, it is coming from. You thought you were reading another post by that sadsack whose women have done left him, again, didn’t you? Well, don’t worry, you’re in the right place. And I will attempt to skilfully draw the threads together so that this all makes some sort of sense by the end.
You see the thing about boxing is it gets in your blood, and once it has you it doesn’t let you go. Because boxing is life.
It is no coincidence that more films have been made about boxing than any other sport. Boxing is a metaphor for the struggles that everyone faces in their lives, so much so that a number of terms we use to describe the shots that life takes at us come directly from boxing – hit below the belt, knockout punch, on the ropes, feeling like you’ve gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson (or, as one wag once said, “I woke up feeling like I’d gone 12 rounds with Audley Harrison. Absolutely fine.” But I digress….).
How did Rocky change my life? Since my obsession started boxing has been an ever-present in my life and for the last 8 years I have been fortunate enough to have a career in the sport.
WAIT!!! Come again???
To those that don’t know me yes, you read that right. This emotionally open, vulnerable sadsack makes a living in the most macho of sports. Go figure…
You all know the score here by now, I’m trying to come to terms with the failure of my marriage, the break-up of a subsequent relationship and adapting to life on my own and as a single parent. So, please forgive me and allow me this conceit as I explore the idea of boxing as a metaphor for life in relation to my present circumstances.
Seconds out. Ding ding.
Writing this blog has left me pretty exposed. There’s no hiding place in a boxing ring and there is no hiding place once you put your innermost thoughts and feelings onto the internet. Boxing has the potential to expose a person like no other sport, with the very real risk of being rendered debilitated and unconscious in front of potentially millions of people. Ok, I’ve a way to go before I need to be concerning myself with what millions of people think of me but hopefully you get the point. Having your weaknesses exposed can be a scary thing.
And that leads to something that every boxer has in spades. Courage. Facing the risk of standing hurt and exposed before friends, family and strangers alike is scary. All fighters have to face and overcome this fear every time that they step into the ring. And they must control this fear. In doing so fighters use their fear, of loss, of failure, to drive them to heights that even they may have considered impossible. By confronting our fears, by shining a light on our weaknesses and vulnerabilities so that we can better understand them and not be defeated because of them, we can find inner strength and resources that we didn’t know we had.
Boxing is built on respect between competitors. In promoting the sport this is something that I advocate constantly. When competing against a fellow boxer there is a shared respect based on an understanding of just what it takes to step into the squared circle and compete using nothing but the strength of your physicality and mentality.
Despite the adversarial nature of the contest, or to be more accurate because of it, at the end of a contest there is a shared bond between fighters based on respect and the understanding that without the opponent, without the punches that were thrown, we would not be able learn the depths of our ability to endure, nor subsequently rise to be the best that we can be.
And so it is with life, where the opponent could be an illness, a career setback, a broken marriage. In facing these challenges we can respect them for the opportunities that they present for us to find our best selves, to learn, to improve and to ensure that we are better prepared to face the next opponent that life will inevitably place before us.
In boxing as in life we will get knocked down. And we must get up. Always, we must get up.
And to quote Rocky’s grizzled old trainer Mickey Goldmill, when you feel like staying down and giving up, remember, “I didn’t hear no bell!” One more round. There is always another round.
Soundtrack: Rocky 2 Training Theme