I must have been asked a thousand questions already about Andrew Flintoff turning professional at boxing. Is it a publicity stunt? Will he win? Will I fight him? Can he do it? Why are 2 cricketers turning pro at boxing? Did he copy you? I have barely answered one question and the next is fired at me….So I thought the best thing to do was write a blog that might help people understand the inner thoughts of athletes and what makes us do such crazy things…..
I think the first thing to realize is that in my opinion most athletes have a mental disorder. The only reason it isn’t called a mental disorder is because the public chooses the mental disorders it feels are desirable. For some reason the professional athletes mental disorders are reverred…This mental disorder is a mix between stubbornness and the desire to prove people wrong…If you want to motivate most athletes try telling them they cant do something…they will inevitably try their hardest to prove you wrong…..
Other mental disorders are not particularly deemed as desirable , but society reveres the athlete who never gives up and continues to pursue his dreams despite everyone and everything pointing to it not being a good idea….If you don't think this is a mental downfall look at the poor people who don't make it, they are looked at with sympathy by society. The person who cant let go of the dream to be a Hollywood actor, a county cricketer, a professional footballer…we all know one of them…The only difference between this person and someone who ends up becoming a national hero is that one of them makes it….
I for one have always been someone who has laughed off suggestions that I will not be successful at whatever I pursue. Throughout my childhood I was implored to quite wasting my time on sport and to focus on my academics “You cant play sport all your life” was a common theme. I was often looked at as a loose cannon in my very academic school and almost made to feel like a freak….In my mind there was not even the slightest doubt I would play professional sport. Why couldn't anyone see what I could see? Or is it that people don't want to see you fail so they don't like the idea of you trying something that they aren’t comfortable with? I believe it is the latter. When I told friends that I was turning professional at fighting I was met with anything but support. I was told I was to old, didn't have enough experience and would ultimately get hurt. Well here I am 5 fights in and I am still the same Adam, people are now used to it and ultimately more comfortable with the idea...I think Freddy will experience the same once he gets this first fight out the way
When people see Freddy walking out into the ring in boxing shorts and a pair of gloves on it will be a new sight for them…..I for one think he will do well, he has the physical assets to be successful, he has always been a big strong man that moves with the agility of a much smaller man. He is mentally tough and a very confident guy….He will be used to the big occasion which I think is a massive plus and will cope with the pressure of the big occasion better than his opponent will….Where he will need to be conscious is in his mental preparation…I was fortunate in that I had already had several fights before I made my professional debut…Nothing prepares you for the adrenaline rush of stepping into a ring/cage with another man…It is a totally different mental skill to be trying to calm yourself down as compared to in International cricket having to reinforce that every ball is important and to attempt to psyche yourself up. When I think back to my first fight it all seems a blur and it goes past so quickly…It is important that Freddy has prepared mentally for this as I think it is the sole biggest difference mentally of the 2 sports. If I could stress anything it would be this….
Freddy will in no way be scared physically I can promise you that….but fear is a funny thing and manifests itself in many ways, the fear of facing a fast bowler often isn’t a fear for your physical well being, more the fear of being made to look foolish in front of everyone, often your own team mates more than anyone.
In fighting I can honestly say I have never been physically scared… not even slightly…but by the same token can say that I have spent many quiet moments leading up to my fights trying to erase the fear of looking foolish in front of friends and family…One of the biggest inhibitors of my performance would have to be the fear of performing badly in front of my wife…I am after all her protector, the first and last line of defence for our household in the event of a break in etc When you lose a fight you feel emasculated and this is a fear more than anything that can be inflicted physically
I sincerely think Freddy will do well, without having seen him but just by looking at his appearance you can see he has put the work in physically…he just needs to remain calm and stick to his plan…
I’m in a fortunate position as I don't just know Freddy well, but know Barry McGuigan fairly well as well. He is a guy whom I have a massive respect for…I know him well enough to know that there is no way he would let Fred climb between those ropes if he wasn't ready….. Barry McGuigan is a gentleman and a very sensible man and I was a lot happier knowing that Freddy was being looked after by Barry….there is no one better in the fight game and there are 100’s whom I would have been concerned about if Freddy was being looked after by them…
All being said Freddys biggest battle will come in the last couple of days and hours before the fight…all the doubts sneak in and I have often found this period worse than the actual fight itself….I think it is a mixture of being in an unprovoked and unstimulated state but knowing you are going into a ring/cage to do battle…The idea of fighting is much easier to deal with when you are fired up or provoked….I often find myself asking myself the question why am I doing this just days out…Once I get to the arena then it all seems worthwhile and you are in a heightened state there is nothing but excitement and the fight cant come around quickly enough…..
One of the main questions I have been asked is would I fight Freddy…well that is a very tough question….he is a very close friend of mine and grew up with my brother…The thought of an altercation with him isn’t appealing but I don't look at fighting in a malicious way and in fact I have become good friends with a couple of my previous opponents….
Am I likely to be barging into any press conference and calling him out? Well firstly there is no acting skills between me and Fred and I think we would both piss ourselves laughing.. I’m not sure that would help ticket sales…
When I made my debut earlier this year I became the first international cricketer to fight professionally and the fact there has been 135years of Test Cricket and no pro fighters thought that it may remain that way for a while….Well here we are 8 months later and my old team mate is joining me….
I think he is secretly trying to ruin my life…he comes in and takes my place as the England all rounder then completely over shadows my fighting feats within 6 months…In all seriousness he is such a great guy I just want the best for him and if he gets half the enjoyment I have got out of fighting professionally I will be happy for him.
It is easy to forget that most people have a substantial amateur career before turning professional and if you look at people like Amir Khan, Audley Harrison and even Frank Bruno or Lennox Lewis they didn't fight anybody really dangerous til they had 10 fights under their belt….So hopefully people will allow Fred some leeway. That said there is no such thing as an easy fight…anytime you are in the ring with a man who is 200lbs and is trying to take you head off there is a danger. I for one have the utmost respect for any man who climbs between the ropes win or lose, and as for Freddy I had huge respect for him before and this only strengthens that respect…win or lose he will always be a winner in my eyes because he dares to do what others fear to do….
I cant speak for Freddy but I know that there are things in life we get pulled towards and feel we need to have a go at...For some people this may be to try to make base camp at Everest or to complete a marathon. For others the need to have a buzz in your life can only be achieved by trying things that others wouldn't dream of.....
by Adam Hollioake