WHEN you are going into a fight against a true world class champion like Vasyl Lomachenko, it is only natural for there to be some doubts trying to invade your mind, especially if it comes against someone who is levels above the previous best you’ve ever faced.
By the same token, though, in some cases a certain level of comfort can be found in the fact that you have nothing to lose and that you are free to fight your fight without the pressure of everyone in attendance expecting you to win.
‘It feels a lot better once you reach the point of acceptance that you are about to go out there and attempt to capture your dreams at any cost’
Waiting in the dressing room can be a nerve wracking experience before any fight but it often takes on a whole new level of unexpected thoughts and feelings when you are in there counting down the minutes before you head out to face one of the most formidable technicians in the entire world. Sometimes you can internally run the whole gamut of thoughts and emotions in there, alternating between being super confident and unnervingly doubtful.
The ultimate key before any fight, really, is to be able to control and contain your thoughts and emotions in those moments. It feels a lot better once you reach the point of acceptance that you are about to go out there and attempt to capture your dreams at any cost. Once you’ve reached the point where you realise there is no turning back, things become much, much easier going forward.
In these type situations there is an innate respect for an elite opponent that needs to be kept in check and under control. You must reach a moment where you want to win and your opponent’s status in the game has to take back seat to your intentions to win.
When I challenged Henry Maske in 1996 for the IBF light-heavyweight title I do remember the exact moment in the fight when I turned a corner to a certain degree. I had been overly respectful of him as a legit world champion and Olympic gold medallist, so much so that early on in the fight there were numerous moments when he would push my head down when we were in close so that the referee would have to come in and break us.
Looking back I’ve always thought my respect for him allowed him to push my head down much too easily. But at one point I decided enough was enough and as a reaction to his tactic I stomped down hard on his toe with my foot while he was in the act of pushing my head down again, drawing an immediate warning from referee Stanley Christodoulou. After that moment passed, I happily felt less respectful of him and settled in for a tougher fight. I didn’t win it, of course, but that was the moment when I shed a great deal of that unnecessary respect for him.
There has to be a moment when you realise you are just as important to the event as your opponent is.
If I could sit and talk with Luke Campbell for a moment, I would simply tell him to go out there and fight his best fight. To be prepared to push himself to his limits in order to win each round, one at a time. To realise that it is a big fight and he’s going to have to go the extra mile but at the same time to just also realise that you are here for a reason, you’re a world class operator yourself and you have a chance here to do something special that you’ve no doubt dreamed about now for many, many years. You are in with an elite guy, one of the world’s best, but this might be your last chance to win a world title. You’ve got to let it all hang out, give it everything you’ve got and more on this one particular night.
When it’s over – win, lose or draw – you’ve got to be able to look deep inside and say you gave it everything you had.