Sugar Ray Leonard and Sylvester Stallone have recently hosted a fascinating reality show called "Contenders" in which 16 top middleweight boxers gradually eliminate each other from contention until the final two get a great opportunity to show their skills in Las Vegas and the winner gets 1 million dollars.
Every week two boxers fight it out. The loser goes home. The boxers learn and teach great lessons which apply not only to boxing but to life in general.
The fourth week which this article is about is no exception and Sugar Ray, himself, teaches one of the greatest life skills of all.
In the third week, Ishe Smith had defeated his hated enemy Ahmed Khadour. He was delighted to send Ahmed home because they had grown to hate each other during their three weeks in the Contender Academy. Ishe did not forget to thank God for his victory. An attitude of gratitude is said by many gurus to bring even more blessings into the grateful person's life.
In this case the reward was immediate. Sylvester Stallone congratulated Ishe on doing a good job by defeating Ahmed: "You delivered the mail." He gave Ishe a golden glove to hang round his neck and a large poster of Ishe was hung up in the gallery of heroes. Ishe, himself, regained his confidence and self-esteem which had been shaken by a period of insecurity when he had delayed facing up to Ahmed.
Ishe's team were taken by Sugar Ray to an exclusive restaurant in LA which gave them a taste of the life they would lead if they became champions. A taste of life at the top can be a great motivator; so can a taste of life at the bottom. Fear of loss is said to be a greater motivator than the desire for gain. Each week the contenders had to face the possibility of losing and being sent home to obscurity.
Alfonso, one of the boxers who had already won a bout, commented: "Every reward we get is a glimpse of what we will get if we become super champions."
Last week the team from the West of the USA had been taken to a top shop where they could choose whatever clothes they wanted. Some of them bought the first suit they had ever had. They were now starting to visualize the success that could be theirs. This kind of forward looking visualization is a key element in any success.
At the meal in the exclusive restaurant in the fourth week, Sugar Ray served up a dish of pure wisdom which was far superior to any food on the table. He told the young boxers:
"All you guys can fight. The problem is that sometimes you guys question your own ability and when you question that you've already lost; you've already lost."
We have to have confidence in our own ability or we will never try to achieve anything. Without it, we have already failed. Most of us tend to underestimate the ability we have.
During the fourth week Jeff Fraza, the smallest boxer in the group, fell ill with a fever and spots on his legs. Jackie Kallen, the Contender den mother, was worried. She commented that Jeff already had one strike against him by being small: "The last thing he wants is to be perceived as ill, sick and weak. He already knows that everybody is gunning for him. If they know he's sick, he's gone."
Successful people want to be seen as healthy and strong. Bill Clinton was often seen out jogging when he was President. This is not just a matter of image. Healthy people have more energy and drive than someone who is sick.
Health should be a priority for any one who wants to be successful. If you want to reach the top take plenty of vitamin C daily!
In the end, Jeff had to go because he had chicken pox which was contagious. His dreams had ended in disappointment because of ill health. But his disappointment meant that Peter Manfredo who had already been eliminated was given a second chance.
Najai Turpin from Philadelphia had worked at three jobs when his mother died and had still found time to train. He had had to become a man very quickly. His main source of motivation as with most of the boxers was his desire to provide really well for his family especially his little daughter. "She is my reason for everything I do." He also had a lot of pain in him which he wanted to pass on to his opponent!
Sergio Mora from East LA felt he would be stereotyped as an ignorant kid. In fact he loved reading Sun Tzu, Oscar Wilde, Emerson and Nietzche. He was also a good boxer. He too fought for love of his family, especially his mum. He also feared failure: "I am definitely scared to go home; I am definitely scared of failure."
In the fourth week Najai and Sergio fought each other. Sergio won the first round. Najai won the second easily. Sergio's cornerman urged him: "Get your ass back to work, baby." The third round was Najai's but Sergio probably stole it with a late flurry. Round four was Sergio's. "Your kid is out there looking at ya" said Najai's cornerman. Round five was Sergio's. Sergio won by unanimous decision.
The fight was very even and the fifth round was decisive. By round five it looked as if Najai had lost faith in his own ability to win and Sergio had gained faith. Sergio won. Sugar Ray was right. Many fights come down to who believes in themselves most. However, Najai won every one's respect and affection. He was devastated: "I left everything in the ring. I came up short. I came up short."
It almost goes with out saying, but I'll say it anyway, that those who believe in their own ability, or their own capacity to learn what they need to know, win in ordinary life as well as in boxing.