Insights
Entrepreneurial Lessons from the Boxing Ring
November 26, 2015

I’m all for sports analogies in business but there is probably none more synonymous than boxing and entrepreneurship.

Boxing is solely measured by one’s ability give and receive punches repeatedly. It’s about blood, sweat and tears for endless hours before even getting into the ring. The rise to the top is not over night but instead obtained over time after tremendous amounts of sacrifice and dedication. The most successful champions were made over time and not born with it all handed to them.

Sound familiar?

Below are a few points on lessons learned from the boxing world!

You have to put in the hours

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“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses — behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” — Muhammad Ali

The greatest boxers of our time have shown up day after day specifically to be trained and to work towards the goal of greatness. They made a decision to be champions and the allocated the necessary resources, time and energy that would required to do so.

To achieve mastery one has to put in the basic hours to have a firm hold on the basics and fundamentals. Only then with focus and true grit can one set out on the path of greatness. Explicit training with a specific regime that can be measured and monitored.

Business is no different. One has to have the intentionality, commitment drive and focus in order to potentially reach success. As an entrepreneur, the onus and responsibility is on you to succeed. There are no handouts or fairys ready to make you a champ overnight. You’ve signed up for the long haul and have to serve the time.

Your Corner

While boxing happens in the ring one on one with another fighter the fight is typically decided outside of the ring based on the success and skills of your corner team. Every great fighter has depended on an equally great corner to support them.

Floyd Mayweather Jr., right, sits in his corner with his father, head trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr., left, during his welterweight title fight against Manny Pacquiao on Saturday, May 2, 2015 in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Trainer

Your trainer has to be able to push you to unlock the talent and raw skill deep inside you. Who is pushing you to reach your potential daily? This person is typically a mentor or teacher. Someone who can no holds barred call you on your BS and make you work. This person has to help you strategize and achieve your game plan. Your trainer can take a high level approach and see your gaps along the way.

You training also drives your conditioning. They get up early with you and make sure you complete that 10 mile run. While they might be in the car next to you, it’s important to have some invested in your development and success. Whether that translates into a weekly call, lunch or meeting having the right trainer and mentor is priceless on this journey.

Cut man

Your cut man is one of the most important parts of your corner. Boxing is a violent sport! You need an expert at covering wounds during the fight. Broken nose, swelled up eye, cut brow. Vaseline, ice, clamps! And quickly! Before your injury is further exposed to your enemy.

It’s important to have this person in your corner in business as well. How always has your back? Who is there to go to once you’ve been beaten badly from the last failure? For me this is my spouse. I know no matter how bad I lose or how bad I look after a difficult period she is always there to put me back together. To wipe the blood away, lift my spirits, to mend my ego and self-esteem and most importantly, to send me back into the ring.

The hype man

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see.”

Many people believe that Muhammed Ali was a wordsmith all on his own. But much of that poetry can be attributed to Drew ‘Bundini’ Brown!

“If you even dream of beating me you’d better wake up and apologize.”

According to Ali’s longtime trainer, Angelo Dundee, ‘’Drew charged Muhammad’s battery!’’ Who is charging your battery? Who believes the funk you are selling? Who keeps you motivated, high on life and pushing!

“I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick; I’m so mean I make medicine sick.”

Find a motivator!

“Everybody has a plan… until they get punched in the mouth” — Mike Tyson

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Its great to strategize and plan. We’re good at that. We’re going to launch seamlessly, have 100 clients in a month, 10,000 in 6 months and it’s all green fields from there!

It’s another thing to get the wind knocked out of you as soon as you step in the ring and forget everything!

Boxers and entrepreneurs have to rebound and get up quickly! Once you get punch, you have to get right up. In boxing after a knock down a fighter has 10 seconds to recover. One has to get up, shake off the knock down and prove to the ref they are able and ready to continue. All within 10 seconds. So do entrepreneurs.

There’s no time to lie on the ground in pain. There’s no time to find your corner and stop your nose bleeding. You have to get up and get right back to face whatever knocked you down! To survive this field you have to learn quickly, adjust and handle self doubt immediately.

A common catchphrase in boxing says “protect yourself at all times!” Make a plan to cover your vulnerabilities and learn from them. Keep your hands up at all times. No matter how hard you just got hit or how crippling the last project failure ways. Protect yourself, suck it up and keep going with no limitations.

It’s 12 Rounds!

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I remember starting my boxing training a few years ago. After learning the ropes and basics we started practicing punching the heavy bag for 3 minutes. It got easy. Then we learned how to move around the ring punching and moving for 3 minutes. A bit more challenging! Then we got hit for 3 minutes trying to move around the ring! Whew! And as soon as your felt comfortable, my trainer shouted now let’s do 12 rounds of that!

Entrepreneurship is a similar marathon! It’s not just about making it through 3 minutes, it’s about the long hall. And lasting longer than everyone else. Boxing is about never quitting and leaving it all in the ring!

“The nature of boxing, the nature of the sport, is never to quit. A man’s fight to the death, short of the death preferrably. But sometimes to the death. On the other side, it’s about you continuing on no matter how bad it looks. That’s what the whole thing is about.” – Ferdie Pacheco, Ali’s ringside guy

Your Opponent

During this entire article we’ve been fighting an enemy, this unknown “opponent.” However, this person really doesn’t matter. Both in entrepreneurship and boxing the biggest opponent you will ever face is the person in the mirror as you shadow box. Yourself!

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“To see a man beaten not by a better opponent but by himself is a tragedy.” — Mike Tyson trainer, Cus D’Amato

Once you step in the ring your success depends solely on you. Taking everything you prepare, everything you’ve learned, every insight picked up along the way, all the training and sleepless nights, and putting it all in practice.

This is a mental game. It’s on you to rise above the past version of you to new heights of success. We get so caught up in trying to be better than our competition and those around us. But we need to be better than who we were yesterday, last month and last year. Striving for a great version of you will always be more valuable than beating anyone else.

Success in boxing is about the willingness and commitment to work heard. Its never easy, it will always be taxing and strenuous. And it pays off just for the few that last and push themselves.

Do you have what it takes to get into that ring called “entrepreneurship” and fight for your business and future?


 If you enjoyed the post, please let me know!

Be sure to check out some other recent posts I have written:

A Tribute to a Great Entrepreneur and Mentor

A Guide To Purpose Driven Entrepreneurship

What Art School in Italy Taught Me About Business

Entrepreneurial Lessons from a New Father

Feel free to also follow me on Twitter and Instagram or email me on mushambi@opportunetime.co

For more insights, rants and motivation tune into our weekly radio show,The Opportune Time, telling the stories of Joburg’s entrepreneurs, Wednesday 4–6pm CAT on jozimabonengradio.co.za.

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