Stepping into the ring for the first time in your life takes enormous courage and is certainly an action that no ordinary member of society can do. Like many of us when we come to the ring, we only want to achieve one thing: a win. When I first stepped into the ring, it made me sweat in the palms from sheer anxiety to win the bout and in moments like this, we tend to overthink about all the moves and combination you’ll want to use in the ring.
So, the million-dollar question is: what are some simple tips you could use right before and during your first bout to bring home that victory?
Below are 8 top tips to keep in mind right before and during your first bout.
#1: However you feel, remember that your opponent probably feel the same.
When you are going into your first fight, most likely you will fight an opponent who is also as inexperienced as you are. It would be hard for me to believe that your coach will put you against a boxer who had 10 bouts prior to your first competition. It is crucial to keep in mind at what level you compete and use it as an advantage. The other guy is probably as scared, uncomfortable, and nervous as you. He might look tough and ready, but I don’t think there is anyone who wouldn’t stress before the first time in the ring. Be aware about this and use it to your advantage.
#2: Don’t show your cards too early!
There are different fighting styles in boxing—some guys love the street scrap, others are pressure fighters, some use the jab and smartly operate on distance, and others love to brawl. Whichever fighter you are, remember that you fight for 3 rounds, not 30 seconds!
Despite whether your main weapon is your power, technique, or endurance, don’t show all of your cards at the beginning!
Doing so will allow your opponent to potentially adjust. Many fighters treat the first round as a test—they will test how hard you hit, how quick are your reflexes, and how conditioned you are. Many people go out and have a crazy first round, just to suffer a beating in the next two. Remember that amateur/semi-pro fights are usually contracted for 3 rounds—let that work to your advantage.
Always have something that you can surprise your opponent with. Fight smartly.
#3: Pre-fight Warmup
A Crucial thing.
When you are entering the ring, you must be sweaty, warmed up, and ready to go. Watch the clips of Mike Tyson coming to the ring—he was pouring sweat. Our bodies tend to perform better at higher temperature—remember about it. Also, being warmed up, decreases the possibility of getting caught cold, which happens when you are coming to the ring without the warm up. A prime example of this was Joshua in Joshua vs Ruiz Jr. I.
Being warmed up means being ready. So don’t skip that warmup, even if you think you might be wasting energy.
#4: Remember the difference Between FIGHTING and SPARRING!
In amateur bouts, you must show the judges that you are active, aggressive and not hurt nearly all the time. Things like resting on the ropes, which is fully normal during gym sparring, might work against you in the ring. Judges might read such a resting technique as you being hurt and might potentially take points away from you.
Remember that you must respond to punches with punches. Even if you are gravely hurt, you need to fight back all the time. Getting hit 10-15 times without responding with punches might be enough for the referee to give you an 8 count.
Being too passive, which again is acceptable during sparring as a resting strategy, might cost you points in boxing competitions. Learn the rules and apply them. Your past sparring session is not like the first boxing bout.
#5: Be aggressive
At the end of the day, it is a fight.
Applying the fair-play rules, being a nice and normal person is important, but… it is a fight. Look him in the eyes, show your confidence, brawl when necessary and make him respect you and your punches.
Inside the boxing ring there are two options—dominate or be dominated. Asserting your dominance through aggression is a very important aspect in a boxing bout. This is especially true in your first round in your first bout, during which both you and your opponent are inexperienced fighters. If you teach him to respect you, then he will. If you make him hurt, you will take away his confidence.
#6: Don’t show your weakness
No matter what state you are, never show your weakness. Never.
When you feel tired, hide it. When you are hurt, don’t show it. Any problems that you are facing that are registered by your opponent will give him additional confidence and boost of energy. If he sees you tired and fatigued, he will instantly see his chance and exploit the opportunity. Try to remind yourself how you feel when you observe your sparring partner being hurt or tired… usually you’ll feel more comfortable and confident, since you know he poses as a lesser threat.
As much as bluffing that you are not hurt is not easy when you are genuinely hurt, doing so will buy you time and even make the other guy more hesitant—these factors can genuinely win you the fight. My coach always tells me that however tired I am, I cannot show it especially when I am coming back to the corner between the rounds. If your opponent sees you tired, he will attack straight away. If you look great, confident, and not fatigued, he will be more hesitant—what actually might give you time to rest.
#7: Be most active at the ends of rounds
Old trick that usually works.
Judges of your first bout are humans just like we are. They judge a round based on the impression you leave. One way to trick them into thinking you were more dominant in a particular round, is by winning the last 20-30 seconds of it. Your dominance at the end of the round is what actually stays in their memory, while they make a judgment. It does not always work, but it is a small psychological trick. It also shows to your opponent that you fight till the end and give him all you got. Use it.
#8: Give it all
I think, this is one of the most important advices that can be given at amateur level.
When you realize that at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter whether you win, draw or lose, you will see how important giving it all is.
From my experience, losing isn’t the worse. Sometimes you just lose and the other guy is better than you. It happens, it is normal. But losing when you know you could have done more is the worse. Losing when you knew you had still some gas left in your tank hurts. Then you lose with yourself, rather than an opponent. Give it all and you will not care about winning and losing. As cliché as it sounds, when you do your best you are always the winner.
#9: ENJOY YOURSELF!
We love boxing.
We love hitting and getting hit, we love to land a great punch and slip a hard-right hand that is coming at us. Don’t let the competition kill this spirit in you. Remember that you like it. I had this problem at some point—I wanted to win so bad that I forgot I love boxing. Competition does it, especially when you’re really ambitious.
Enjoying yourself is key. Do it.