By Patrick Bailey
Movies like Rocky, Southpaw, or Million Dollar Baby have stated that determination leads to boxing success. Although mostly fictional in nature, the movies inspire us. There are also true boxer stories that illustrate how perseverance may help us overcome the odds. Read to know more.
When the going gets tough, the tough gets going. This is a common message that we frequently hear. We have heard stories about the triumph of inner strength over seemingly insurmountable challenges.
There are many ways to succeed in life. One path to success is drawing inspiration from others. Motivational speakers, inspirational books, and testimonials of people who suffered yet ultimately triumphed may be effective tools to learn that there is a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
Gathering motivation from stories about boxers is one way to find this inspiration. Boxers and other athletes are often known for anecdotes about the challenges they have faced training, fighting, and working. Their journeys to gain recognition in the ring are astounding and moving on several levels.
Many boxing movies and other movies about sports inspire and motivate us. But this article features stories about actual boxers and how they conquered their sport and real-life battles.
Daniel “Danny” Jacobs is so inspirational that his nickname is the Miracleman. He was a middleweight fighter with an already-successful career in 2011 when he noticed pain and tingling in his leg.
Doctors diagnosed a pinched nerve, but the problem escalated quickly. In just two weeks, “I went from a cane to crutches to a walker to a wheelchair,” said Jacobs. Another diagnosis revealed that he had an aggressive type of bone cancer known as osteosarcoma and a tumor around his spine. If he did not have his leg checked sooner, he could have died.
His fighting spirit shone through during his diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Told he would need an operation on his chest, Jacobs knew that the surgery could harm his boxing career, so he insisted on surgery on his back instead.
After the surgery to have the cancer removed, doctors informed Jacobs that he would not be able to walk or box again. He overcame the odds by participating in grueling rehabilitation. He not only learned to walk again but also returned to the boxing ring just a year later in 2012 to fight Josh Luteran at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Luteran started strong but Jacobs eventually won by a knockout, surprising the audiences and judges. The match was proof that the boxer could beat cancer and fellow boxers despite overwhelming odds.
Manny Pacquiao is a household name in the professional boxing industry and possibly one of the greatest fighters working today. Although we know him mostly for his stunning accomplishments in different fields, many of us may not know about the past struggles that led him to the present.
In his younger years, Pacquaio lived a life of extreme poverty and hunger in General Santos City, Philippines. He has mentioned how his family had to get by with little or no food at all in the past. In an address at Oxford University, he mentioned how he and his family would drink water to try to find relief from the hunger they were feeling.
Circumstances began to change for the better when Pacquiao’s uncle, Sardo Mejia, introduced his nephew to boxing. The young man initially won boxing matches close to home and in the Philippine capital of Manila for a few dollars each fight. Gradually, his hard work and determination spurred him to work his way through the world of professional boxing and achieve great success.
A turning point in his career was a match with world-class featherweight champion Marco Antonio Barrera. Pacquiao won the fight by a technical knockout (TKO). He experienced world recognition after this remarkable match. He has also pursued nonathletic pursuits and has served as a congressperson and senator in the Philippines. These accomplishments illustrate Pacquiao’s success inside and outside of the ring.
Julio César Chávez
Not all struggles occur before people enter the ring and experience boxing success. In fact, some problems happen at the peak of people’s careers, especially when people experience their wildest dreams but are still searching for their purpose and meaning.
This was the story of Julio César Chávez. Chávez is a well-known boxer who won multiple championships and also experienced career setbacks. Although people are aware of his victories as a boxer, fewer know about his struggles with addiction.
Chávez mentioned in interviews that he had everything he thought he wanted: money, female companionship, fame, and material things, but said he still felt empty. He admittedthat it was stupid for him to experiment with drugs and alcohol. He suffered under the influence of addictions for years, which created devastating professional losses and led to his resignation from the sport in 2005.
When he began drug and alcohol rehab he was in denial and found it difficult to accept his current state. He eventually embraced his treatment and has been sober ever since. Although Chávez is no longer a professional boxer, he uses his story to inspire others to fight their own addictions. He has opened clinics for sobriety to help people with this fight.
Known as the Saint Paul Thunderbolt, William Arthur “Billy” Miske became a professional middleweight contender while he was still a teenager. He reached the peak of his career and fought until the 1920s, even though he had Bright’s disease.
Bright’s disease is a kidney condition that was not treatable in the early 1900s, although it is now. Miske’s doctor told him that the diagnosis meant that he had five years to live if he retired from boxing. If he continued to box, blows to his kidneys could be fatal.
The boxer hid the diagnosis and warnings and continued to fight to pay his debts and provide for his family. He lost to renowned boxer Jack Dempsey in a knockout match in 1920.
Despite the loss and his medical prognosis, Miske did not quit. He won most of his matches as his health continued to decline. The boxer wanted a memorable Christmas with his family in 1923, so he asked his manager to set up a fight for him. Miske beat his opponent and earned $2,400 before dying just a few days later, on New Year’s Day. Miske’s achievements demonstrate his strong spirit and love for his family.
Challenges Show Character
If we look for common themes from the lives of these boxers, one of the main lessons is that challenges help develop our character. Everybody experiences setbacks. How we handle setbacks makes all of the difference. Character and success are about learning to face and overcome challenges even when they seem impossible.
Whatever your struggles, whether they are in your personal life or your professional life, remind yourself that facing them is like preparing for a boxing match. To earn the most-coveted titles, you need to train. You need to shed blood, sweat, and tears in order to attain your goals.
In boxing and in life, you overcome challenges in order to achieve success and contentment. Past failures do not matter, but finding the determination to keep going does. We hope that these stories of great boxers help inspire you to overcome life’s challenges.