The pre-match ritual is maybe the most tense, nail-biting sequence in a film. The conflict has set in and we feel our hero’s struggle for the upcoming fight, waiting to see what they’ll learn in the ring and solve that conflict.
We’ve all seen the movies, all the Rocky montages, Jake Gyllenhaal screaming in a car about turning up, and Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy verbally sparring about their family. But surely no one can keep up that level of mental exhaustion, so how do real pro boxers handle the lead-up to a fight?
Thankfully, we know a professional boxer that we could ask about their pre-ritual routines. So we asked Harry Garside, a bronze-winning Olympic boxer and Swisse ambassador, how he prepares for a match.
PTV: Hiya Harry, what’s your pre-match ritual?
Harry: I’ve tried my best to stay away from superstitions. When I was younger and new to the sport, they really played with my head because so many of my superstitions were out of my control. I do have one common pre-match ritual though, just before I enter the ring, I take one large deep breath and bang my chest three times to signal to myself, “It’s time to fight”.
What do you think was the hardest match you’ve competed in?
The Olympic semi-final was definitely up there. Also, my first ever fight when I was 12 years old was really hard. I had tears rolling down my face in the third round because I was getting beaten up so badly.
Do you have a night routine to make getting up early for training easier?
Just the common hygiene stuff – i.e. get to bed early, wind down well. But also, I love to visualise my goals, reflect on my day and mentally prepare for the next day – especially when I have something important on. Sometimes I write poetry when I feel called, and I try to get off my phone at 9 p.m. for a 9:30 sleep.
How do you fight the jitters when you’ve got a huge comp coming up?
I don’t fight them — I sit in them. It’s a beautiful feeling to sit in the discomfort and reassure yourself that you are okay and you’ve done the work to be ready for whatever the universe throws at you. This is very hard to do when I haven’t prepared to the best of my ability. But, when I am fully prepared, sitting in the discomfort is a lot easier.
Do you have any superstitions? Can you say Macbeth three times in the ring or is that banned?
This is a great question! When I was younger I used to have to fight in new socks and new jocks and I’d almost have a Rafael Nadal attention to detail when it came to my drink bottle labels facing the same way. Thankfully I’ve grown out of that and have learned to trust myself.
What’s the most intense personal challenge you’ve given yourself?
Since the start of 2019, I’ve done one challenge per month of things that make me uncomfortable. Some are hard, some are fun, some are painful – but all have made me grow and evolve in some amazing way. Notable mentions are 100km sand runs on Bondi Beach, 50 hours of no talking, and one month without technology.
What do you do the morning of a match?
After weighing in, I hydrate and refuel, map out my game plan and try to sit in the panic feeling going through my mind and body. It’s an amazing feeling to feel so alive with so much energy and emotion moving through your body.
How do you build yourself back up after losing a match?
Critique, analyse, adapt and grow. Win, lose or draw, we can always get better – and it seems easier when you lose as you have more to learn from. It’s good to be able to critically analyse yourself after a loss, so you can grow and improve, and not feel those negative emotions again.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to pick up boxing or another combat sport?
Like anything, go in with an open mind and have a red hot crack. Combat sports push your body and [its] limits like no other sport. Try to embrace it and most importantly, find a community you gel well with. Most combat places have a great community so it shouldn’t be hard to find your place.
What’s your opinion of Xu Xiadong, the mixed martial artist fighting fake martial artists and exposing their fighting experience?
I don’t really have an opinion on it. I think like with any industry, it’s great to uncover what works and what doesn’t work. I’m sure that many of the people he has exposed have been in communities where that practice has helped them mentally, psychically and emotionally, so I can see good and bad on both sides, like most topics.
Garry Shandling used to say boxing was great for getting people out of their heads. Do you agree?
As I mentioned, I feel that combat sports will make you feel in your body like nothing else. For me, it is the most pure form of meditation.
Image credit: Lionsgate / Warrior