I grew up watching a lot of boxing. As a kid, I remember going to my Tio Alvaro’s house with my parents on weekends to watch big fights. The adults would adult, eat, drink, party while we kids would play around the house or play baseball or football in an open field across the street; of course, all of this happened during the undercard fights nobody cared about. But once the main event started, everybody gathered in the small living room, around the television tuned to HBO or Showtime. Like I said, we did this all the time. It was a tradition and one I’m happy for. I remember watching big fights like Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Marvin Hagler, Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Pernell Whitaker and countless Mike Tyson fights. I don’t remember much about these fights now other than who won; however, with YouTube, I can go back and watch almost any of these fights and revel in the nostalgia. YouTube is also valuable to relive some of boxing’s most brutal and violent knockouts.
When I think of brutal knockouts, I think of Buster Douglas shocking the world and putting Mike Tyson to sleep; I think of Manny Pacquiao stretching out Ricky Hatton, Ray Mercer pummeling Tommy Morrison against the ropes, Lennox Lewis avenging his loss to Hasim Rahman by sending him nightnight and, in my opinion, the most brutal knockout is Sergio Martinez’s knockout of Paul Williams. What makes this and any other knockout punch so powerful is that the one getting hit, never sees it coming.
As hard as these and countless unnamed boxers can throw a punch, they will never throw a punch as hard or as devastating as Life. Never. Ever. This life punch can come in various ways, from various angles and we never see it coming. The punch can be an unexpected medical diagnosis, the death of a child, betrayal, financial ruin or a tragic accident.
I am a writer. I tell my creative writing students that the importance of journaling and continual writing is that it helps us process life and catalog our emotions. Writing helps us find tentative answers to difficult situations; it helps us get through the fog. It may not create a perfectly paved path to walk, but rather, a series of wobbly steps good enough to get us through. Writing helps us figure ourselves out as much as we are trying to figure out what to do in difficult circumstances.
There’s no easy or universal way to manage pain and disappointment. Everybody processes these emotions differently. And it is difficult. If you were told to comfortably hold a burning rock in your hand, you probably could not. You would probably toss it back and forth between your hands and fumble it because each hand could only endure so much pain. There is a great poem by Jack Gilbert titled “Michiko Dead” where he communicates the idea that carrying grief throughout life is similar to the various ways we may use our arms, hands and shoulders to carry a heavy box throughout life. We can never put down the box of grief, we can only learn to manage it.
I recently watched a Joe Rogan podcast with super athlete David Goggins where he talked about being inspired by the movie Rocky, specifically, round fourteen. In this round, Rocky Balboa was getting pummeled by the champion, Apollo Creed. At one point, Creed drops Balboa. Creed goes to his corner while everybody, including Balboa’s corner, urges him to stay down, to take the ten count because he’s endured so much punishment. So what does Balboa do? He gets up and motions Creed to bring it on, at which point, and this is what inspired Goggins, Creed has a face of utter disbelief and frustration. Why? Creed hit Balboa with everything he had and Balboa kept coming.
Goggins said that he wanted to be the kind of person that would inspire such a reaction from others; the kind of person who would keep living forward regardless of how hard he was hit, leaving Life with a face like Creed’s, a face of disbelief and frustration. This is a mindset we should strive for, showing Life no quarter to get the best of us. Ever.