South Africa

Boxers' mental fitness just as crucial as physical health

South African boxers go through a battery of tests, like hepatitis B and HIV/Aids, and lately Covid-19, to demonstrate that their health is paramount but more needs to be done.

The regulatory body must look at striking a deal with clinical psychologists whose job is to assess, diagnose and treat mental, emotional and behavioural disorders.

Most fighters have a lot of psychological problems, which affects their performances during fights. Fight fans don’t notice this and it is for that reason they don’t think twice in rubbishing fighters.

Those boxers’ personal lives get affected and they go through a lot of stress. Some are breadwinners and must be in gyms every day. That alone can be very expensive. Eating properly and healthy is another factor that contribute to mental health.

This is besides the punishment they sustain in the ring. It all begins from the gym when preparing for a fight. Most have to first deal with weight issues while being pummelled during sparring sessions. That is not good for the body.

This is what boxers go through. Some see excessive drinking of alcohol as a way out while others do drugs. They cannot deal with these demons on their own.

A positive response on this matter by Boxing SA will put SA on a global map because most governing boxing bodies ignore this  Fighters are not fighting machines but human beings who must be treated as such. Fans clap hands in appreciation of what they see inside the ring yet a lot goes on behind closed doors when that boxer is all by themselves.

It is even worse with champions losing their titles. Even fighters who lose their fights consecutively are affected. Clinical psychology will be good for fighters, and it will boost their confidence to come back stronger.

The message from Ryan Garcia – the former WBC Silver and WBO NABO and current WBC interim lightweight champion – on social media that he has withdrawn from a fight against former WBA holder Javier Fortuna on July 9 due to poor health sent shock waves.

The frightening part is when this 22-year-old fighter mentions mental problems as the real reason behind it all. Garcia – who is undefeated in 21 fights with 18 knockouts – wrote on social media that: “I know this news may be disappointing to some of my fans but I am announcing that I am withdrawing from my July 9 fight. At this time it is important to manage my health and wellbeing. I have decided to take some time off to focus on becoming a stronger version of myself.

“I still struggle everyday with anxiety and depression at times because of my anxiety. I know I look like someone who is happy all the time but inside I hurt at times struggling just to function. I want to thank God, my family, my doctors and my supporters.”

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