When you think of boxing training, you typically think of jumping rope, running laps, sparring, performing rounds of training, and more. However, most people, especially non-boxers, do not consider the mental aspect of the sport. And more specifically, the importance of mental toughness and how to improve this.
So, with this in mind, this blog post will discuss the importance of psychology in the sport of boxing. I’ll address aspects including motivation, self-doubt, discipline, tactics, and a whole lot more so you can master your mind.
The importance of mental toughness in boxing
As previously mentioned, mental toughness in boxing is often a topic that goes discarded. Far too often, many fighters and trainers neglect this concept, only focusing on physical training attributes and instead of paying little, or no attention to the psychological aspect of the sport.
At the top level of boxing, in particular, mental toughness is a huge aspect. More and more sports teams (not only in the sport of boxing) are beginning to realise this, hiring at least one, but in some cases, a team of sports psychologists.
This is so they can assist their athletes during training and in the build-up to a fight or sporting competition.
Now, even if you are not a high-level boxer fighting against the likes of Anthony Joshua or Tyson Fury, you will still benefit greatly if you pay greater attention to the mental aspect of the sport.
For example, if two fighters enter the ring with the exact same ability, the fighter who prepared the best mentally will come out on top. Winning the fight thanks to mental strategy has a greater chance of increased confidence.
Or as we see in other combat sports such as MMA with the likes of Conor McGregor. Using mental tactics to get inside the head of their opponents, rocking their confidence in an attempt to become victorious.
Here is a great clip from Joe Rogan’s podcast with Olympic gold medallist and former 2 weight world champion Andre Ward. Here he discusses how important mental toughness is for a sport like boxing from his own experiences.
What are the mental aspects of boxing?
Okay, now that we’ve discussed the importance of mental toughness within boxing. It’s time to highlight the individual aspects which make up the concept. These include:
- Psychological tactics
- A positive attitude
- And more!
Each of these mental aspects will now be explained in more detail below, illustrating the importance of mental toughness within the aggressive sport.
Motivation is one of the most crucial aspects of sports and boxing psychology. Without adequate motivation, a fighter will struggle to train and more importantly, struggle to train appropriately. A great way to describe this is with the phrase, “going through the motions.”
If an athlete or fighter is not correctly motivated, they will train but not train to their full potential or as effective as they perhaps could, therefore, described as going through the motions,
There are numerous ways to increase motivation as a boxer, including regular goal setting, training with a coach, setting yourself deadlines, and keeping your training varied.
Make sure to check out some of my motivation-related articles here.
Next up, we have concentration. Concentration is your ability to focus on one task at a given time. However, it’s also about being in the moment.
For example, being fully immersed and concentrated during a fight: predicting their next move, analyzing your opponent, and responding in the most appropriate manner.
Motivation and concentration are only two ingredients of the psychological cocktail that is boxing. Without self-belief, however, the other two components go down the drain. Self-belief is believing in yourself and your abilities, knowing you have what it takes to win, even when the cards are down, and the odds are stacked against you.
Self-belief is generally built over time, much like confidence, e.g. the more fights you have and the better your training, the greater self-belief you will have. Before a fight, you may choose to spar a less gifted opponent to build up your confidence and belief. However, it’s important that you win this fight; otherwise, it may be detrimental to your mental performance and strategy.
Showing up day after day, morning after morning, to training is difficult. No matter what sport you participate in, including boxing, your training plays the most important role in your success.
Not training effectively or enough will no doubt affect your performance, also impacting other mental aspects including your self-belief and confidence.
During a fight, you can use various psychological tactics to get into the mind of your opponent. This may be dropping your guard briefly, using a move they may not be too familiar with or getting in their mind before the fight.
At any moment, you can use any of these tactics you gain a psychological advantage over your opponent, causing them to perhaps slip up briefly drop their guard. It is definitely well worth watching this clip by HBO on the art of psychological warfare.
The ability to focus is not only crucial during a fight, but also during training. Focus is an attribute many fighters struggle with, not only struggling to focus on one individual task but focusing on the end goal and training as a whole.
It takes a skilled fighter to remain patient, on task, and to remain focused, commonly seen amongst some of the greats. You can improve focus by practicing to be present at the moment, using practices such as meditation; which will be discussed in more detail shortly.
A positive attitude
No matter how skillful a boxer or athlete you are, a negative attitude will hinder your performance. Therefore, it’s crucial to maintain a positive attitude, both in training and in competition.
Your outlook alone on a fight or your training split is enough to make a win or loss decision, always keep your head up and know that the fight is not over until it’s over. After all, there have been some pretty crazy comebacks in recent years.
Finally, we have resilience. Resilience refers to your ability to come back after a loss or a bad training session. This is a psychological skill few fighters have and is why those with little resilience struggle to make a comeback or make the big stage at all.
Resilience is built naturally; however, maintaining a positive attitude is a great place to start, not allowing any defeat to ruin your motivation and always b
How to improve mental toughness
Alongside physical training, as a boxer, you should also engage in psychological training. There are numerous methods of mental training, including meditation, goal setting, and developing an effective strategy, to name a few.
Building mental toughness and developing a psychological training regime as a boxer will allow you to take your ability to the next level, winning fights against more skilled opponents and allowing you to master your mind, making training more enjoyable and rewardable, and enabling you to reach your full fighting potential.
The next few paragraphs will explain several ways to build mental toughness, beginning with meditation.
Meditating is a useful method of reducing stress in training or coming up to a competition, but more impressively, is a great tool for practicing focus. This is because meditation requires you to be in the moment, blocking out external forces and focusing on one thing and one thing only.
You can use apps such as calm to get started, or alternatively, follow a guided session on YouTube. I have a whole article on boxing mediation here if you want to find out more.
Goal setting is one of the most widely used psychological tactics for building mental toughness and confidence. However, when people think of goal setting, they typically think of setting regular goals. But there is a better way to approach this: setting both short and long-term goals.
Your short-term goals should build up to your long-term goals, for example, your long-term goal would be to fight in ten weeks, while your short term goals could be to lose a set amount of weight each week, to run a set number of laps, or to perform all sparring sessions with minimal rest.
Your goals should be tailored to you and you alone to increase confidence and mental toughness, so take the time to really think about these before diving into any old goal you discover from a quick google search.
Routines & dealing with nerves
To further improve your mental toughness, especially before a fight, you should develop a routine to help you deal with nerves. For example, many fighters and athletes choose to listen to music, to be alone in the changing room, or to watch videos of past performances.
There are various routines you can adopt, however, it’s all about choosing the best routine for you. With this being said, regardless of which routine you choose, it’s about remaining consistent to drill home the familiarity and confidence, so don’t mix up your routine every fight – keep it consistent for consistent results.
Learning from others
There is so much great content on YouTube, books and podcasts for you to really learn from some of the best. By watching, listening, or reading from those who have gone through the hardships of boxing. It can really help you grasp a better understanding of boxing psychology from some of the biggest names in the sport.
I recommend you check out my article list on some great audiobooks here that dive deeper into fighters’ psychological mindsets. This is really worthwhile if you are currently training, competing, or coaching in boxing / MMA.
The bottom line
The psychology of boxing and mental toughness, in general, are often swept under the radar. Few boxers and athletes utilize sports psychology to its full potential.
However, if you tap into these training methods such as meditation, goal setting, and building healthy routines, you will begin to see increases in performance, both in training and in competition.
Hope you enjoyed reading this blog and thanks for reading. If you are looking for ways to improve your focus and motivation. Check out my reviews on Alpha Brain and Brainzyme which have created brilliant ‘brain food’ supplements to help you in this area.
Or you can check out other similar articles or motivation blogs here.
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