After stumbling across boxing at 19, Alexis Pritchard notched up a series of firsts in her amateur career, winning Commonwealth bronze in 2018 before retiring from the ring. She explains how being punched in the face influenced her life – for the better

Sixteen years of boxing has transformed me. It has forever changed me. I am who I am because I boxed.

I worked my way through so many limiting decisions, doubts, and moments of fear and panic over the years; if I hadn’t, I would have crumbled. I decided to rise every time. Boxing was testing me at each of those moments. It wanted to know how committed I was.

If you have never stepped through the ropes and got yourself punched in the face, I have the thought that we experience boxing very differently.

As a spectator, what you see is people punching each other. You see blood, black eyes, cuts, split lips and you may even see knock outs. This is the outer picture; what is inside is so much more.

It is just you in there, initially battling your thoughts and then fighting your opponent, in one of the purest battles of mental, emotional and physical challenge.

Emotionally, I needed to reconcile hitting people and learning to embrace being assertive and hitting them hard. I needed to learn to be calm and control my emotions.

Mentally, I needed to overcome my fears at those times when I felt overwhelmed by an opponent. I needed to learn to be present in the moment in front of me and not think about a big hit I took 10 seconds ago or think about how that might affect the outcome. I needed to learn to believe in me. I needed to give myself permission to be great, I needed to get out of my own way.

Physically, I needed to keep pushing beyond my self-imposed perceived limits.

You must face your darkness

Boxing is not for everyone. You must face your darkness, your demons, your insecurities and your self-doubts. It makes you go to places you didn’t think you could go. And if you are not willing to figure that shit out and struggle through the pain of it, you will not last, you will not succeed. Boxing will chew you up and spit you out.

You are overcoming your own fears, doubts and insecurities before you can ever overcome and beat an opponent. If you are not able to stop the negative voices inside your head about your abilities or inabilities, you are beaten before you ever step into the ring. This is where the beauty lies for me.

The rewards are not the trophies

Boxing demands everything from you. It demands your heart and your soul. If you are not willing to commit, you will be left disappointed and questioning yourself and your abilities.

When you are not willing to give everything, you will never get rewarded. The rewards are not the trophies or the medals. The rewards are what you learn about yourself, what you learn about your soul.

Alexis Pritchard on her way to winning her round of 16 bout against Mantoa Ranone of Lesotho on the Gold Coast. Photo: Getty Images.

You learn you are capable of so much more than you first gave yourself credit for. You learn that you have the strength to rise from the gutter even when your heart is bleeding. You learn that you are more courageous than you thought.

You learn how to control your emotions in one of the most emotional places/situations you have ever been in; if you do not, you give up your control.

You expose your soul every time you enter the ring

You go into battle again and again, you put your heart and soul on the line every time, you expose yourself. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. The highs are incredible and the lows are deep.

The world is watching, the world is critiquing. The world, who has not ever actually been in there, has an opinion and judgments. And yet, you prepare yourself to face the challenge again the next time.

You are strong because you are willing to be vulnerable

To me, boxing is art. It is beautiful. It is brutal. It is violent. It is challenging. It is pure. It reveals your soul. It reveals everything about what you are made of. Everything about you is tested over and over again. Your will, your heart, your courage. Your ability to rise. It is not for everyone.

* Alexis Pritchard writes a regular blog here. 

Alexis Pritchard is a Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and the first NZ woman boxer to win an Olympic bout. She now empowers people to live courageously as a mindset and performance coach.

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