ICE ADVICE: In my book, “The Iceman Diaries” the following bit of advice appears but, for all the amateurs and young professionals out there that might not have the patience to read my entire book, I wanted to put this advice from me to you in it’s own special space for all to see. It took me years and years of training and fighting, pain, worrying, thinking, straining, struggling, disappointments, joys, highs and lows, ups and downs to figure all this out. I didn’t always follow this advice, either, mainly because I didn’t realize much of it was so true until I gained the experience that I have now. Hindsight is truly 20/20. I can tell you this much now… It’s all a legitimate group of words for the aspiring boxer to take heed in. Every word of it. Because this is EXPERIENCE talking to you and, when it comes down to it, in my opinion anyway, it’s all true. Believe this:
When all is said and done it doesn’t matter how pretty your trunks look or how shiny your boxing shoes are. You don’t have to have sequins and slick embroidery on your trunks. Don’t pay attention to the press conferences and the news articles you read about yourself. Don’t let yourself get all jazzed up about the autographs you sign or the pictures the fans want to take with you or the women that want to meet you because your the “pro boxer” now. Don’t get too caught up in the hype, the promotion, having your picture on the fight poster, talking stuff at the press conference or being invited to meet people that never cared about you before you became a “somebody” or about going to eat at fancy places with your new managers that you would never eat at in a million years before you became a pro.
I remember a guy I trained with for a while back in the 1990’s who was steady knocking guys out on hamburgers, fruit punch and ring dings. He got picked up after a while by a manager willing to invest in him and before you know it he was introduced to “linguini with white clam sauce” and other stuff like that. Maybe as Mickey Goldmill once said it, “he got civilized.” Who knows? Whatever happened, for what it’s worth, it was soon after that this particular guy hit a terrible losing streak that he never recovered from.
And remember: Talking a little trash here and there isn’t always so bad, that’s very true, because drawing attention to you and your fights is certainly one way to get your name out there, but never forget that the easiest thing in the world is to tell someone how good and tough you are while the hardest thing is actually going out and proving it. Anybody can SAY they’re tough but not everybody can BE tough.
Don’t get lost in having fans and fan clubs, seeing your picture on a fight T-Shirt, being recognized at the mall and having people that see you at your local mini-mart telling you how “You’re the MAN.” And when you actually do fight, don’t worry so much about having your boys from back home in your dressing room with you so they can walk you to the ring while they talk trash into the camera on behalf of you and then, when they get in the ring with you, they try to look hard and tough with their sunglasses on even though it is 9 O’clock at night and you guys are indoors, while all the while they are thinking somewhere in their minds about how cool they must look to the people in the audience or the girls back home that they hope are watching them. They look ridiculous and they make you look ridiculous, too.
And if you want to appeal to people in a way that can make you a star make sure you keep your friends that never fought before, but want to come along for the ride, in check. Because when you are in the hotel the week of your fight and you are there with three four of your buddies who actually seem to think it is their job to be loud, cocky and obnoxious while looking menacing because they are with you it isn’t a good reflection on you. The average boxing fan doesn’t and want to approach a boxer whose friends look and act like extras from a gang movie. The term “fan friendly” doesn’t just mean you, it means your team and the people you surround yourself with, too.
Don’t get me wrong, you can have most of those things if you really want them or feel they will help you at some point in some way. They feel good and they look good. Nice memories. Good for the ego. But, above all else, it is about the training and the fighting. Remember that much. At the heart of it all there is nothing else.
Because all those things amount to nothing when the real deal moment arrives. The only thing, the one single thing to the boxer that matters most, is that you better be in better shape come fight night than you have ever been in your life because every time you walk up those steps there is going to be some guy in the other corner who doesn’t care about your flash and razzmatazz, he doesn’t care about your glorified amateur career and your sparkly trunks (along with the old Ali tassels) and he knows that all your tough looking friends with big mouths will be sitting safely at ringside while he tries to stomp you in a few minutes. He’s mean, hungry and wants to feed his kids and the only way he can do that is to get bigger and better fights. One way for him to get those fights is by beating YOU into the ground tonight. So, you better do more sit-ups and more push-ups than the next man. Run harder and be more dedicated. And if you do choose to buy into the showy aspects of boxing, well, you had better learn to differentiate between reality and smoke and mirrors. You take guys like Sugar Ray Leonard, Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali and for some strange reason the words “tough” don’t come to mind when you think of them as easily as they do when you think of guys like Holyfield, Hagler, LaMotta and Gatti but the fact is that despite their showmanship and entourages and charisma those guys were as tough and rough and mean as any man that ever laced on gloves. You can talk about the latter guys and give examples of when they went through wars and showed big heart but you better believe that it took just as much heart for Ali to go to war in Manila with Frazier, to get up off the floor in the 15th against Frazier in 1971 and to go 12 rounds with Norton the first time with a broken jaw. How about Sugar Ray Leonard digging down as deep as anyone has ever dug when he fought back through a badly swollen eye to stop the awesome Tommy Hearns back in 81? And the Sugar man of the 40’s and 50-‘s was certainly one of the greatest boxing showman in history but he proved over and over that when the going got tough the Sugar Man got going. Like when he was past his prime and losing badly on points against the very awkward Randy Turpin back in the 1950’s he somehow found the energy and the heart and the will to let loose with a come from behind rainfall of shots that brought his title back to him one more time. So you can be cocky and a showman and have charisma and all that but, remember, you will still have to be as mean and rough and tough in your heart as those guys were. When the going gets tough you definitely got to get going.
There are also things you can’t always control like who has the better jab, speed, power, combinations etc. but there are also things you can control and one of them is that you can do your best to be in better condition than everybody you fight. So put down the pepsi, the chips and the snicker bars and focus better than everybody else in your gym. And if you are one of the millions of foolish kids in this world that is drinking alcohol and smoking pot (among other things) and you are actually doing that while also attempting to be a top of the line boxer, well, why don’t you just save yourself some time and quit boxing right now. Or, if you want to, just go out in your backyard and put some dirt in a cup and ingest that because it will do your body almost as much damage at a much cheaper price than you’re paying now. Forget what you hear from your friends and from TV and images you see in print ads because, point blank, alcohol and drugs are poison. And also, for what it’s worth, I feel that any young person that will freely allow themselves to even try alcohol and drugs in the first place probably doesn’t have the character and will to get the most out of their potential anyway. I know, I know. They will point to all the pro athletes that do drink and smoke and that’s true, a lot of them do and some of them still do very well for themselves actually. But here’s the thing, though: They will never, ever truly know what levels and what type of longevity they could have reached had they just been strong willed enough and smart enough to refuse ingesting what every idiot in the world already knows can’t possibly be good for you.
While I am at it, check this out: You all have girlfriends or wives. No problem there, of course, but remember and realize this: There are very few young woman (girls) out there that really know what it is to be a fighter and to not only fight but to prepare to fight. Boxers are a special breed of people and things really need to be right well before the fight actually takes place, mentally as much or more as physically. When someone close to you can’t truly understand what you are going through then they just won’t know any better and, as a result, peace of mind is hard often to come by. It’s a complex thing but a lot of young guys, of course, want to have a woman in their life and the younger the man the less actual commitment he might be ready for or willing to have. The problem there is that woman are the same way and when it comes down to it if you want to be the best fighter you can possibly be but you have a significant other who doesn’t seem to be able to relate to your boxing career and what it would take for you to have peace of mind then, unfortunately, sometimes it is best to part ways. If you want to be the best you can be then you better believe who you surround yourself with can be a very important point. You need to have peace of mind and you need to be able to focus on the important things. This game we are in is a dangerous one, believe that, and your mind has to be right. If your other half doesn’t have the wherewithal to recognize that and to give you the support needed then maybe there will and should come a time that you will have to choose. Choose wisely.
Bottom line? Train not just like a BOXER, but like a pound-for-pound champion. You might not have the edge in certain areas compared to the guy you are going up against but you can definitely control who trains harder, who wants it more. Make sure it is you. Do some hard work in the gym and when you feel like you cannot push any harder? Push a little bit more than you even want to because I know guys that could probably demolish you inside of three rounds and you don’t even know their names yet because they aren’t famous, undefeated or promoted by a big timer. They are strong, though, and tough and skilled, too. They may never get a chance to get you if you have a good matchmaker and a promoter that is looking out for you but they are on the sidelines waiting, just waiting, in case they do in fact get the call to step in and get a hold of some kid like you who thinks he’s a big shot already even though he hasn’t fought anybody of consequence yet. He will not be as flashy as you and won’t have very many fans at the fight to cheer him on and walk him to the ring but you better believe he’s a real fighter and he’s going to bring it and bring it hard.
You might be very talented and you may have slick moves, some pop in your punches, good speed. Maybe you are even a wonderkid, a prodigy. Maybe they call you “The Truth” or “The Messenger” or some other catchy nickname. But nicknames don’t win fights now, do they? Actually, most of the things I am talking about here don’t really help you actually win fights, right? Either way, there’s much more to this game than all that. You need to be focused enough and strong enough and mentally and physically resilient enough to fight as hard in the eleventh and twelfth rounds (or the third and fourth if you are an amateur) as you do in the first round when you feel great and things are all going your way.
Once again, the reality is that all those extra, mostly irrelevant things are fine and will give you a nice looking scrap book someday but when it really comes down to it, though, the one and only thing that matters at the end of the day is the FIGHT. You can do without nicknames, posses, promoters, sequins, trash talking, interviews, autographs, even judges, promoters, trainers and referees for that matter because when it comes down to it, at the root of it all, the only thing that boxing truly cannot do without is the fighters and the fights.
It’s all that really matters.