“SUCK it up, man up, tough it out.” The list of like-minded phrases could go on and on. This is an age-old question when it comes to athletic pursuits. When is the inevitable discomfort of training crossing the line to stupidity of pushing through injury? This was a question I unfortunately confronted with this past December.
Boxing (and contact sports in general) are inherently dangerous. Injuries are part and parcel of the sport. Mental toughness or the ability to push through are integral ingredients. Without them, one can only hope to be successful. Toughness is a characteristic which is looked upon with great awe and respect. Many competitors would love to be known as tough and some even seek out ways in which to display their toughness.
We all more than likely have a fond space in our hearts for men or moments when tremendous toughness was exemplified. Who can forget Danny Williams one-armed KO against Mark Potter or the tremendous last second KO by Carl Froch against Jermain Taylor when down on the score cards? These moments of tremendous bravery and toughness have cemented these men in the annals of warriors. With such a love for tough men, is it no surprise that many find themselves pushing the boundaries of toughness and straying into the realms of stupidity? This subject is hugely applicable when talking about injuries.
We have all heard, after the fight, of fighters who went into fights with an undisclosed injury. This has been used by the loser to excuse the defeat and even by the victor the elevate his win to even bigger proportions. Andre Ward was said to have gone into his contest with Carl Froch with a broken hand. He would go on to win the fight via a dominating points decision, which was made even more impressive once he revealed the injury. But what if he would have lost? Would we have saluted his bravery or scorned his stupidity? On the surface it looks like a great decision to push forward with the fight but who knows how good a fully healthy Ward could have been against Froch?
Another more recent example of somebody entering a contest with an underlying issue but having a drastically different outcome is last years dramatic fight between David Haye and Tony Bellew. Haye went into the fight amid rumours of an Achilles injury (which he denied beforehand). He then tore said Achilles and went on to lose by TKO to Bellew after a fight that surpassed all the dramatics in the build-up. Upon that result perhaps Haye (although not his bank balance) would have been better of postponing the fight or cancelling altogether?
I had to battle with this same dilemma towards the back end of last year when a hand injury derailed my final preparations for a fight. I spent nights awake going back and forth whether to compete injured or allow my body to heal and return then. In the end I decided that it would be better for not only my career but my health and life to postpone and return later once healed. As fighters we are some of the fiercest competitors, but your health should ALWAYS be the priority over anything else – this includes your training, fight, match or game – whatever your sport.
Injuries are time to take a break, rest and re-evaluate – your body will thank you in the long run.