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The Connection Between The Boxing Game and Mental Health

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By Vince D’Writer – After a 19-month layoff, former two-division champion Danny “Swift” Garcia stepped into the ring for the first time as a 154 pound fighter to face Jose Benavidez Jr. The Philadelphia native didn’t show any ring rust as he made an impressive debut at super welterweight, and earned a majority decision victory.

Garcia (36-3, 21 KOs) looked comfortable as he fought a very intelligent fight. He seemed to be well prepared, and he did a good job of being efficient and using good punch placement. Garcia was able to stay active, and maintained a steady pace throughout the fight. He gave different looks, landed several counter punches, used his jab in a variety of ways, and sustained a consistent attack to the body.

Garcia had a great debut in his new weight class as he earned the win in the ring, but during the post fight interview Garcia revealed how he collected a victory outside of the squared circle.

In the course of the post fight interview with Jim Gray, Danny Garcia became very emotional as he revealed his long layoff was due to his struggles with mental health issues. “I felt a little dark. I went through some anxiety and depression, and I tried my best to stay strong. That’s it,” Garcia stated. What Danny Garcia shared in regards to his mental health issue is becoming a common theme in the boxing community. Last April, Ryan Garcia cancelled a fight because he was dealing with anxiety, and recently Omar Figueroa Jr. admitted his time away from the ring was due to his battle with mental health issues.

The question some fans are asking is why are all these boxers experiencing mental health issues? The simple answer to the question is the word “Pressure.” Athletes in all sports have to deal with anxiety and pressure, but in the sport of boxing it’s a different type of pressure because you’re competing alone. In a team sport, if the team loses, they’re different moments you can look at and say these are the reasons why we lost, but in the sport of boxing, a boxer can’t point his finger at a moment, he only can point the finger at himself.

When a boxer is inside of the ring he has no one to help. They have a coach in the corner to help navigate them through the fight, but they have no one inside of the ring to help them through certain situations. For example in the game of basketball, if a player is getting dominated one on one in the post, the coach can make a call for help defense where a teammate can come down and double the person on defense. Same thing applies in the game of football. If a cornerback is being dominated in one on one play by the wide receiver, then the coach can switch things up and go to a zone defense where the cornerback’s teammates are placed in position to help him. Unfortunately there is no help in boxing, and the only person to blame for a loss is yourself because you’re the only one competing.

The stress of winning is immense for boxers, because winning equates to bigger opportunities, championship gold, and consistency in regards to earning a living. If a NFL football team loses four or five games in a row during the regular season, that team could still have a chance of making the playoffs and going to the Super Bowl. If a boxer loses four or five fights in a row, his career is basically over.

Boxing is rough, but it is seen as a glamour type sport because we see the boxers with the exotic cars, designer clothes, and the expensive jewelry, but the truth of the matter is everybody doesn’t make it to the bright lights. The pressure some boxers feel in regards to making it under the bright lights can trigger anxiety and mental health issues. For the elite boxers who have reached the pinnacle of success, they have a different type of potential anxiety due to the fact that they feel the pressure of needing to win to remain in position under the bright lights.

Boxing is a unique and very entertaining sport, but for the individuals participating in the ring, the sport comes with a great deal of challenges that are both physical and mental. Now that the boxers are actually coming out and admitting to the challenges they’re experiencing, hopefully the heads of boxing can put some type of support system in place to get a firm grip on this issue.

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