In his Letter from America, Tony Jeffries provides a fascinating insight into the mind of a fighter
HAVE you ever thought of what a fighter thinks before a fight? I thought it would be good to give you a little glimpse into a fighter’s mindset.
I had 106 fights – 96 of which were at amateur level. I represented England or Great Britain in 57 of those bouts, and fought champions from other nations. I then went on to have 10 professional fights which were broadcast live to millions of viewers on Sky Sports.
I know every fighter is different, but this is how my brain ticked when I was involved in the professional fight game.
I’d have eight grueling weeks of training. I’d have to be away from friends and family, and I’d be both loving and hating life. It was eight full weeks of following a strict diet, thinking about how every little thing I ate or drank was going to benefit or affect my body. I was thinking about the fight from the second I woke up until the second I fell asleep throughout every camp.
The night before a fight was always tough for me but, at the same time, very important. I used to lie on my bed for a visualization session – I’ll do a future blog on this – which used to make my heart race and palms sweat. Then came fight night. I’d be excited, nervous, confident, and ready in the changing rooms
The hardest part for me was getting my hands wrapped. Sitting still meant I couldn’t walk around to distract myself. I had to sit and listen to my music while also trying to take in what my coach was telling me. He was also a little nervous, but tried to show he wasn’t; trying to say the right things you need to hear before you enter the ring. It was around this time I would think, ‘Why am I doing this? This is the last time,’ but that thought would leave straight away.
The guy from Sky Sports would keep popping his head in the door and shout out how long was left before I went in. By the time it was two minutes before the ring-walk, the music was turned off and it was time to go. You can feel the tension and concern of the whole team, but this is why it’s so important to have a positive and happy team around you. Those two minutes often felt like 10! By this point all I’m thinking is I want to get in there, as I’m sick of waiting.
‘Alright Tony, you’re up. Let’s go,’ I’d hear. It’s at this time I’d feel confident, but with a little bit of anger thinking about how I wanted to hurt my opponent and do whatever it took to win the fight.
The nerves are gone, but the heart is beating fast. The TV camera is in my face so I’d have to have my game face on to show my confidence. My ring music would come on and the crowd would be loud, but I wouldn’t really hear what they were saying. I’d smile as I was walking to the ring for psychological reasons. Really, behind the smile, I would be pulling a face like the one you pull before the massive drop on a roller-coaster. As I saw my opponent standing in the ring, I’d have my head held up high and smile at him to show him he didn’t worry me one bit.
I would get in the ring, look at the crowd, keep smiling, then go to my corner. I’d take in a few deep breaths to get my heart rate down. When the first bell went I’d think to myself, ‘Don’t get hit, don’t get hit.’ This really helped me read my opponent’s punches, and after around 30 seconds of the first round, I would know if it was going to be an easy night’s work or not. If I had found my range with the job straight away, then it was game over for them.
The minute in between rounds was the fastest in history. It seemed like when you sat down and got a quick sip it was time to stand back up. Then, after that final bell, when you get your arm raised, there’s no better feeling! The eight weeks of early nights, early mornings, all of that worry, and all of the chicken and broccoli I ate were totally worth it.
The feeling is amazing and I guess it’s as addictive as a drug.
When I retired this was the hardest thing to get over; realizing that I’m never going to have that feeling ever again.