Professionals truly compete

A sporting tale but a lesson for all who compete.

We know that all professional sportsmen and women demonstrate an incredible commitment to their sport.

Long hours of practice and training, trials, selections, early starts, juggling social and professional commitments. Abstinence and dietary restrictions, injuries and the ever present pressure to win. The road to sporting success is a long and hard one.

We have all pretty much played some sport, some to a reasonable standard but those who display the most talent go on to the toughest and most emotionally demanding of civilian workplaces.

They compete in the arena, the stadium, those sporting venues where the winners are cheered on to greater glories to the exclusion of those who don’t make the grade.

Professionals truly compete when the rest of us play.

Very recently, I went with some friends to watch another friend of mine, a professional boxer, compete for a title belt at the historic York Hall in Hackney in London.

He is a great fighter, strong, quick and tactically very agile. He had trained hard and worked out a sensible fight strategy.

Having fought his way up the division he deserved his shot at the area title and if he had been successful would have been just one fight away from a national title.

From the start the plan he and his team had worked out just didn’t work. His opponent, rangy and a really skilled counterpuncher just got the better of him. In round three he was knocked down and had a standing count which led even the most optimistic and supportive of us to conclude his time in the fight was going to be severely limited.

Somehow he made the end of the round despite looking in terrible shape. The next round he somehow held on again and found a bit more rhythm.

His corner had also worked out that his opponent was less comfortable fighting against a fighter working forwards and forcing him back.

So against all expectations the fight went the full distance. Both boxers displaying the typical pugilistic bravery seen in professional boxers. Somewhat more evenly matched than the early rounds but still my friend’s opponent kept a very tight grip on the bout.

My friend fought his way back into the match by forcing his opponent on to the back foot but still couldn’t overcome the lightning quick sting of a superior counter-puncher who was just too quick and too strong for him.

I am an ex-serviceman and have been privileged to have been in the company of some very brave men. I know what bravery looks like.

I tecognised it at York Hall the other night and it was humbling. My friend must have known early in the fight that he was outclassed. Never once did he shirk from the fight, not even when knocked down.

He fought forward time after time and took a terrible beating and by the end of the match he really showed it too. But he stayed the course and showed incredible pride, grit and personal determination to give a good account of himself whatever the outcome.

A demonstration of pure personal bravery.

The will to win in the professional, even if ultimately unsuccessful, is awe-inspiring to behold and is why the rest we mere mortals admire sporting winners so much.

Professionals truly do compete.


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