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17 NOVEMBER 2018


How to Motivate a Fighter

By Teddy Atlas

In many ways boxing can be a metaphor for life. You will be hit in both. If you are not careful you’ll forget there are many rounds to endure; some winning and some losing.

Motivation is easy during comfortable moments. As the time comes closer for a boxer to act on their thoughts and dreams, you must remind them of the things they aspire to attain.

In the real world, people envision beautiful things, but have difficulty collecting them when the pressure of accountability and responsibility comes knocking at the door. They forget they wanted to be a lawyer when the payment is studying all night instead of partying with their friends. Even if you tell them the discipline is just required for a short period compared to the eternity of other less appealing and less prosperous options, they still drift.

It is no different in the world of boxing. A potential champ pictures a beautiful house, car, and fame. He downs his gloves and goes out to reach his goal. However, the first road block he runs into, like a left hook or a rainy morning when road work is scheduled, he starts to see an apartment and the subway as more viable options.

That is when I believe you must remind him of what he wanted when his goals were a bit more clear. You must tell him the real life truth that other lines of work will also entail difficulties. The difference is he will be dealing with them beyond age fifty instead of just twenty-nine.

In these moments we can distort time. We begin to think that what we are facing in the ring will last forever. We also conveniently forget that what we accomplish in the ring for those few minutes will remain with us for years.

When under pressure we have a tendency to neglect the importance of what we are doing because it is easier to avoid having to do it at all. That is how we survive as a race; it is a built-in escape clause that nature provides.

However, if a “quiet,” or in my case, a “loud” reminder is delivered to a fighter at the proper time, he may be able to pull himself through the tough period and ultimately arrive at the place he originally dreamt about.


Teddy Atlas is currently the “Color” Commentator for ESPN2 Friday Night Fights. He has been training fighters since 1976. Champions with whom he has worked include: Michael Moorer, Michael Grant, Tracy Patterson, Joey Gamache, Simon Brown, and Barry McGuigan. He recently recieved the Boxing Writers’ Association Award for Best Television Commentator.

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