Dating Lessons from Boxing

I’m sure most women reading this believe they can’t learn a thing from the sport of boxing. That probably goes double for women in the dating crowd. Sure, married women have probably learned they hate boxing and “fight night”, when their husband and all his friends gather to drink beer, bet on the knockout round and otherwise engage in male bonding. So what does boxing have to teach a woman in the dating scene?

Actually, there are a lot of dating lessons you can learn from the sport of boxing. Boxing is a brutal sport of one-on-one confrontation, much like dating can be at times. The payoffs for success are ultimately worth it, but you have to put in a lot of hours sweating and working towards your goal. Like boxing, dating promises glory, but often just delivers a lot of pain. Even the winners take a few shots to the face. And no matter how good you are and how many skills you have, if you do it enough, you’re eventually going to be knocked down.

So while you’re sitting on the canvas trying to regain your senses, here are my “10 Surprising Dating Lessons You Can Learn From the Sport of Boxing”.

1. Train For Success

Dating Lessons From BoxingBoxers spend a whole lot more time training in gym than they ever do performing in an arena. Professional fighters do “road work”, which is what everyone else calls running. They jump rope for better footwork and stamina. They work on the heavy bag for power and the speed bag for quick hands. They might even toss around a medicine ball or lift a few weights. And to really hone their skills, they get into the ring and spar with another boxer. This simulates the boxing experience, preparing for the ultimate test in the ring. Hopefully, all this pays off and the fighter is at their peak performance when it comes time for fight night.

Those dating need to prepare for success, too, just like a boxer. Obviously, you need to keep in shape.¬†Fitness counts. You can go to the gym every once in a while. But there are other ways to prepare, too. What I’m talking about is self-improvement.

Always work on improving some aspect of yourself. Take up a new hobby. Become a better dancer. Read some book you wouldn’t otherwise read. Join a club or civic organization. Set personal goals and achieve them. This makes you a more well-rounded person, but it does something else for you. Self-improvement increases your self-esteem. You’ve accomplished something entirely on your own. Even if it’s a small accomplishment, you’ve done done to be proud of. You’ll be more confident on your date and, frankly, you’ll have something else to talk about. That confidence will shine through.

And while you’re at it, get your full presentation down: clothes, hair, nails, perfume. Just like a prize fighter, you need to be “peaking” when it’s time for the big night. Make sure everything presents you in the best way possible, and in the way you want to present yourself.

Think about it. You judge everything about a man when you go out on a first date: where you go, what he says, what he wears, how he carries himself, how he pays. You’ll be judged the same way. So make sure you present yourself exactly as you want to present yourself. If you want him to think you have your act together, then get your act together. Just like in boxing, you can improve your dating skills simply by improving yourself in a number of small little ways.

2. Practice Helps

Let’s get back to this idea of sparring. Sparring sessions help a boxer prepare for the real thing, because it forces the boxer to use every single skill he has. When a boxer spars, he trains in throwing punches in the best combination. He trains when to move in close and when to cover up for defense. He toughens himself up, so he can to a punch in the face or gut and still move forward. The boxer is practicing under fire. Daters should do the same thing.

Make sure you date often, even when you don’t think it’s going to turn into something. Go out. Enjoy dating. Practice how to interact with men in a dating situation. Most of these dates won’t work amount to much of anything, just like most sparring sessions don’t. Most might not even go past the first date. But you’ll stay in practice and maybe enjoy yourself while you’re at it.

This requires approaching your dating scene with a good attitude. Don’t look at every date as the end-all, be-all. Look at even a bad date as practice for when the real thing comes around. Look at it like it’s a sparring session.

Don’t get disappointed or cynical the next time you go out on a “bad date”. Just look at it as a learning experience and a chance to stay in practice while you wait for the real “fight”.

3. Pick Your Battles Wisely

In boxing, fighters often take bad fights when they know they shouldn’t. Fighters tend to look at themselves as invincible. This leads them into self-delusion, and deluding oneself leads to bad choices.

A professional boxer might take a fight on too short notice. This happens a lot with struggling boxers, who take a quick paycheck. The boxer doesn’t have time to train properly and ends up losing the fight. The loss hurts his career, making it likely the next paycheck will be for less.

The same happens with fighters who take fights before they are fully healed from their last fight. This can happen with older fighters, when their recovery time isn’t what it once way. These fighters tend to have an established name. They might want that one last big shot at the title, so they take a fight with the champion before they are fully recovered from their last battle. This hurts their chances at the dramatic comeback.

The classic case is the fighter moving up in weight class. A fighter who moves up a weight class or two won’t be fighting at his natural weight. For instance, a 147-pound welterweight fighter might move up to the 160-pound middleweight class, either to fight in a more prestigious weight class or to fight a bigger name fighter than he could in his own weight class. But his knockout power isn’t likely to translate to hitting bigger men, while the extra weight he carries might slow his natural reflexes down. Eventually, the boxer ends up fighting a bigger man who is used to fighting at that weight, and this increases his chances of losing.

This has happened so many times in boxing history that it’s hard to pick an example. Oscar De La Hoya did this when he moved up to fight Bernard Hopkins. Arturo Gatti did this when he moved up to fight De La Hoya (thought Gatti, an entertaining brawler, was not the skill level of other fighters I’ve mentioned). More recently, many boxing experts assumed this would happen with Manny Pacquiao when he moved up 2 weight classes to fight Oscar De La Hoya. It didn’t, but the expert’s conventional wisdom was based on decades of boxing history.

So how does this apply to dating?

Don’t just know what’s best for you; do what’s best for you. I’m not saying you should be selfish. I’m saying you should be clear-headed and smart about your dating life. Choose your dates wisely. Know what you want and date accordingly.

4. Girls Are as Tough as Guys

In this day of female boxers, women are proving that the girls are as tough as the guys. Look at someone like Laila Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali, the legendary 3-time heavyweight champion. Laila has become a champion fighter in her own right, while retaining her femininity. Though¬†MMA is a different sport altogether (and boxing doesn’t appreciate the comparison), look at Gina Carano, the mixed martial arts fighter. Gina Carano is also known as “Crush” from American Gladiators. Gina’s been called the “face of women’s MMA”. Carano’s a tough woman and she’s as attractive as she can be.

The point being, you don’t have to be docile and accommodating to be feminine. When you’re dating, stick up for yourself and speak up for yourself. Let your man know what’s on your mind. You don’t have to do speak up in a rude or obnoxious manner. The idea of good communication is clearly understood communication. Polite and direct communication is best. Get your point across, but don’t play mind games when you do it. Be straightforward. Say what’s on your mind. You gain respect that way.

You’ll find that asserting yourself is liberating, too. When you speak up, you’ll end up doing what you want to do more often. You won’t have to pout or have hidden second guessing. If he challenges you on what you want, be tough enough to calmly hold your own in the debate. And if he doesn’t want to be part of an equal partnership, find a man who will.

5. Fight Your Fight

A huge part of boxing strategy is to highlight your strengths and limit the damage your weaknesses cause. A boxer with a longer reach than his opponent stays on the outside, jabbing his opponent every time he tries to close with the fighter, moving away or clutching the opponent whenever he gets inside. If you’ve got the shorter reach, you obviously need to get close to your opponent, where his reach is more of a liability than an advantage. You have to fight your fight, whenever you’re boxing or dating.

Know your strengths and highlight them when you date. Try to avoid your weaknesses. For instance, in boxing, certain fighters want to fight along the ropes, “cutting off” their opponent so they can’t get away, then brawling with them until one of the two gives way. Other fighters prefer to stand in the middle of the ring, either trading punches or deftly boxing to avoid being boxed in on the ropes. Standing in the center of the ring doesn’t men you stand still. You have more room to maneuver, so maneuver is what you do.

The same goes for dating. Stick to your strengths and cover up your weaknesses. As they say in the sport of boxing, “fight your kind of fight”. In certain boxing championship fights, the two boxers negotiate the size of the ring. A big ring gives the boxer a lot of room to move, so it’s to his advantage. A small ring means there’s less room to move, and the brawler has the advantage. A brawler would prefer to fight in a broom closet.

Often, after several rounds of fighting his fight, a boxer has more options than he did at the start of the fight. For instance, if your opponent is quicker than you, you’re going to try to hit him to the body and “take his legs away”. This slows down your opponent, so that several rounds into the fight, you might be just as quick or quicker than him. So once you’re into the fight, your weaknesses might not look so weak anymore. If everything goes well up to that point, that’s when you might not be as concerned about your relative weaknesses. That’s when you can “open up”.

So figure out what you strength is and play to that strength. Don’t be shy about letting your date partner know what you want to do on the date. If you like to talk, suggest a long dinner setting. If you prefer to dance, suggest dancing. If you want to relax and be entertained, then suggest a concert or a movie. Pick your best setting and make certain that’s where the date takes place. Once your kind of dating presents you in a positive light, you can move on to parts of the sport of dating that you aren’t quite so skilled at.

Note: I’m not suggesting you learn your date’s weaknesses and exploit them, by the way. That’s what a boxer would do, but this article is “white hat” advice. Dating is supposed to be a win-win proposition, not the win-lose game that boxing is.

6. Be Prepared to Adapt Your Fight Plan

If your dating strategy doesn’t work out just right, don’t let that discourage you. Move on to Plan B.

It’s been said that “no battle plan survives contact with the enemy”. The same goes for the boxing ring. Every boxer has a strategy, but that strategy might change once the fight starts. Mike Tyson used to say that his opponents’ strategy went out the window the first time he punched them in the face.

For instance, a boxer might start to brawl once he takes a good shot. A brawler might start to box. Some fighters will just go down for the count. (Note: “Boxing” is moving about the ring, putting your enemy in an imaginary “box”, dancing a little when they try to hit you, then coming at your opponent from an unseen angle and hitting him where he’s undefended or where he doesn’t expect it. “Brawling” is simply moving straight ahead and trying to knock your opponent’s head off.)

A date is like a boxing match. You’ll have it planned out to perfection, then something unexpected happens that throws all your plans out of whack. He might not want to do what you had planned, or maybe he’s just not the guy you assumed he would be (for better or worse). Don’t let this throw you off your game.

As they say in boxing, roll with the punches. Don’t let a change in plans or assumptions get you down. Sometimes, things don’t go as planned. Keep a good attitude and try to make the best of the situation presented to you. In the end, the date might not go the way you had hoped, but you might still get something out of it. If the date’s too much of a beating, you don’t have to sign on for the rematch.

7. Listen To Your Corner

In a boxing match, both fighters have what they call “cornermen”. A corner man is a person (usually too old to box anymore) of experience who gives advice to the fighter. The cornerman has seen it all. While the boxer fights, the cornerman watches from a distance and takes in the fight. Between rounds, the fighter goes to the corner, and his cornerman (usually his trainer) gives him advice for the next round.

Sometimes, the cornerman encourages the fighter. Sometimes, a boxer’s corner scolds and yells at the boxer, telling him he’s not doing what he’s told. Occasionally, the cornerman yells at the ref or the other fighter, sticking up for his fighter. Ultimately, a fighter’s trainer is the one guy the fighter knows “is on his side”.

Most people have the dating equivalent of a cornerman. This is a friend or family member who has your best interests in mind. They want you to win in life, just like a cornerman wants you to win a boxing match. This person will give you advice, scold you when you don’t do right and even stick up for you (sometimes when you would just as soon they didn’t).

Still, a dating woman needs to listen to her friends. As long as you trust implicitly that they have experience and know-how, they have perspective and (most importantly) they have your best interests in mind, your corner is likely to see things you aren’t seeing. You may be too close to the action to analyze the relationship yourself.

Too many times, I’ve seen boxers ignore their corner. Maybe they don’t want to listen to some guy screaming at them while they’re getting a fist in the ribs. I mean, it’s hard to see the wisdom of advice when you have blood in your eyes. For the very same reasons, though, your corner is often seeing the game better than you are. So listen to your friends and family about who you’re dating. They may not tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to hear.

8. Watch Out For the Entourage

Boxers tend to start their careers poor, unknown and “hungry”. That hunger feeds a fighter’s ambition, driving him to make the sacrifices needed to become a better fighter. A boxer’s inner drive — his will to fight through pain and keep struggling — is what makes champions. But as they say, staying on the top is harder than getting to the top.

Most boxing champions get an entourage. These people are hangers-on who live vicariously through the champion boxer. They get their money from him and generally tell him what he wants to hear, so that money keeps coming. The entourage tends to reinforce whatever bad habits or paranoid thoughts the fighter has. In the end, the entourage is a drain on his resources and an obstancle to any “reality check” the fighter might get elsewhere. The fighter loses his edge and, with it, his career.

Make sure to avoid having your own entourage. Consider the people around you. Do they have your best interests in mind, or do they have their best interests in mind? Do they have a reason for breaking you and your date apart, or do they have a ulterior motive for bringing the two of you together?

The entourage is the opposite of the cornerman, and it’s no coincidence that many boxing camps have tensions between the fighter’s professional “fight people” and his entourage. A good trainer is likely to give the boxer good, experienced advice. A member of the entourage is just as likely to reinforce whatever destructive tendencies the fighter has, usually to the detriment of his career. So make sure you listen to your trainers and avoid getting an entourage.

Possibly even worse, your dating partner might have his own entourage. If you believe he does and you believe these people are trying to poison him against you, you need to make sure he either ditches his entourage or you ditch him.

9. Don’t Leave It To the Judges

One famous Oscar De La Hoya fight was his battle with Felix Trinidad. Both fighters came into the battle unbeaten, and Oscar De La Hoya used superior boxing skills to outpoint Trinidad through the first 8 rounds of the fight. Inexplicably, in rounds 9 through 12, without taking any major damage, Dela Hoya suddenly became more passive. He seemed to think he had the fight won and stopped taking chances of any sort, probably believing that a flash knockout was the only way he could lose. Trinidad won the last four rounds, simply by being the more aggressive fighter.

Sure enough, when it came to the 12-round decision, two of the three judges gave Felix Trinidad the win. These judges believed Trinidad stole two or three of the earlier 8 rounds which Oscar De La Hoya thought he won, and it was just enough to tip the fight in Trinidad’s favor. Many boxing fans thought De La Hoya won the fight anyway, but in either case, Oscar De La Hoya’s perfect record was lost. If only he’d taken matters into his own hands, he in all likelihood would have won the fight.

The lesson here is, be proactive. Don’t assume everything is going to work out in the end. Take matters into your own hands. Don’t get content and just assume that everything is alright. Don’t passive in a relationship. In the early stages, if you want another date, make it happen. If you prefer a particular activity on a date, suggest it.

In the advanced stages of dating, you need to remain proactive. Don’t get so settled into the routine that you neglect your partner or your relationship. Take charge and make sure your dating relationship has the results you want.

10. Know When to Say When

One of the great tragedies in boxing is when a fighter doesn’t know when to get out of the game. In boxing, skills erode. Boxers’ reflexes slow. They get weaker or have less stamina. Maybe the “burn out” and can’t train as hard as they once did. Maybe they change and simply enjoy partying too much to be a serious boxer. Or maybe they get a family and start thinking about a life after boxing.

Look at your dating relationship like it’s a boxing career. Know when to get out. If the relationship isn’t working for you, don’t hesitate to retire from the relationship and move on to something else. Like a failing boxing career, a failing relationship is tragic for the people involved. The last thing you want is to stay in too long.

For example, let’s look again at the recent Oscar De La Hoya & Manny Pacquiao fight. Pacquiao was the younger fighter, but he was also the smaller fighter. Manny Pacquiao was a great champion at 135 lbs., but he was moving up two weight classes to take the fight with Oscar de La Hoya. Everyone thought the Golden Boy would crush Pacquiao.

Instead, De La Hoya could not answer the bell for the 9th round. After fighting the best fighters for over 10 years, it looks like Oscar De La Hoya’s fight career might be over. It would be tragic to see Oscar, who has all the money a fighter could want, hang on in the boxing game for another five years. He’ll take a lot of unnecessary punishment in that time, hurting his chances for a health and happy life after boxing. Certainly, he’ll damage his legacy as a great fighter if the losses mount. So he should retire.

The same goes for a relationship. If you hang on longer than you know you should, it’s not going to help anybody. You or your partner or both of you might take lingering psychological damage from a protracted, bitter breakup. At the very least, you’re going to overshadow all the good memories of the early times with all the negativity of the end.

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