Barristers & Boxing – Gladiators in an alternative arena

Guy Williamson is a former police officer and former ABA Super Heavyweight Champion turned barrister.
Called to the Bar in 2002 to further his career in the law, Guy now specialises in sports law. As a former regional ABA ABA Heavyweight and National Super Heavyweight Champion, two times Police Olympic Super Heavyweight gold medalist, Police and Fire World Games Super Heavyweight gold medalist and former Head Coach of the multiple medal winning British Boxing Team at the 1997 Police, Fire World Championships and recipient of the Queen’s Police Medal for “distinguished service” in the Queen’s 2004 Birthday Honours list, Guy is the perfect barrister to represent both amateur and professional boxers the world over. His deep knowledge and understanding of both the world of boxing and the world of law leave him ideally placed to advise and comment on boxing and related legal matters.
In this article Guy focuses on his experiences as a boxer and highlights a number of transferable skills from the world of boxing that he has taken into the Bar. The Bar is certainly not where one would expect to find former boxing Olympic and World Championship gold medalists, but it appears that there are a number of similarities between the two vocations.


Gladiators in an alternative arena

Boxing is: ‘The sweet science of Pugilism’ a sport that displays grace and power as an art form in the face of violence and skill. Akin to a game of chess played in the face of danger. Unfortunately boxing suffers more than any other sport from misconceived perceptions concerning the intellectual capacity of Boxers. The majority of people have no understanding or disregard the intelligence required to be a boxer, due to a lack of knowledge to dispel injudicious stereotyping and misconception encouraging the belief boxer are inarticulate brutes who can only express themselves through their fists.

Boxing is a complicated sport that requires a high level of innate and acquired knowledge in the application. Encompassing a broad knowledge of the key concepts in the discipline of pugilism, perfecting skills and the mastery of ring craft. A boxer will use the training environment to integrate positive new knowledge and behavioural routines which become subconscious competencies, which are difficult to deconstruct during the pressure of intensive competition when using mental and physical agility to incorporate a combination of tactics.

Boxers have to embrace the fundamental principles of learning where the purpose of the training is to increase their knowledge and understanding of pugilism by developing a competitive disposition, coupled with flexibility in problem solving with a situational capacity for change when faced with new and unexpected findings.

Boxing training encompasses an ethos of ‘Never give up’, reinforced with a strong work ethic where in order to succeed you develop the ability to think laterally whilst keeping within the rules. The use of key concepts in the discipline of pugilism, utilising fresh approaches and frameworks whist remaining objective. Boxers will then develop their own unique style and work within the rules that govern boxing by building on their practical experiences and then pushing beyond it.

Boxing encourages a state of mind that instills a sense of discipline, dedication and fearlessness in preparing for an uncertain future. In order to become a successful boxer, the boxer has to ask himself the question, ‘Am I ready to live, eat, sleep, and breathe boxing in the pursuit of my aspirations and dreams?’ Boxers learns to develop by being critical and analytical of their performance, encompassing self assessment and looking at issues strategically.

Boxing encourages an individual to become decisive and confident to trust their cultivated judgment. They learn as a boxer to take control of situations and your emotions and not to let the situation control you. Tactics are very important, they do not want to walk into the fists of a harder hitting opponent. They learn that preparation is everything if they do not prepare, they prepare to fail in a situation where they may suffer serious physical and/or psychological harm.

There are no easy options for a boxer, The combinations of athleticism and mental conditioning where you have the tenacity to work hard until they are unable to push themselves further.

They work hard in the gym to be prepared for the contest or they do not work in the gym and have a harder contest than it may have been. Staying prepared is necessary so they do not have to restructure for every new occasion. The culture in boxing gymnasiums promotes core values, encouraging the boxer to become hard working, ambitious, respectful, disciplined, determined and dedicated to shape the lives they hope to live. Unlike those three world famous Boxers: Wouldov, Couldov and Shouldov. (I would have done it, I could have done it. I should have done it).

Exposure to boxing can sometimes be a humbling experience where they develop empathy and understanding of all echelons of society. Maintaining alternative outlooks on their socio-political and economic environmental issues. This is the true epitome of what boxing hopes to achieve in the development in the mind set of young people, that there is no substitute for hard work as the foundation for success. To develop platforms for change in themselves by empowering them to become psychologically present, responsive and productive.

Individuals experience different advantages and disadvantages in direct relationship to their assigned position in society and it is impossible to either deny or ignore the reality of the impact these categorisation have on people lives. Boxing thrives in a cosmopolitan atmosphere where enquiry and the pursuit of knowledge is actively encouraged, the participants enthralled by every developing issue and their appreciation of the chosen topics which shaped the choice made in their lives.

The boxing gym is a place where a boxer’s peers will inspire, encourage and motivate each other to believe the impossible is achievable. Boxing has had immeasurable benefits on young minds where it has a positive effect on people who are vulnerable, suffer from low self esteem, have anger management issues and those participating in crime.

From sparring in the ring to sparring in court

There is a clear overlap between the competitive nature of a boxer and that of being a barrister, where the skill level of the combatants determine the outcome of the contest. The Boxers and Barristers develop interchangeable skills where they are capable of evaluating a situation, utilising analytical and critical thought processes collecting and categorizing information in order to create methods to succeed. Practicing designed and developed general techniques and theoretical approaches when making decisions.

The ability to think laterally and strategically is essential for a boxer where consideration is given to the development of short, medium and long term plans that are aligned, focused, carefully measured and balanced when preparing for a contest, it is necessary to have a pre-fight strategy that question the boxer’s passion and will, this will ensure they remain focused to achieve their goals. The creativity used by the boxer during the contest where challenges have to be foreseen, information gathered about an opponents technique, style and work ethic are utilised. During the contest traps will be laid and bluffs undertaken.

The sportsmanship and self worth that is developed from boxing is unrivalled in any other sport. It leads a person to learn many things about themselves and about others. They learn that the most valuable lesson is knowing how to deal with deal with failure or victory. Most boxers’ expectations are echoed in the passage from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s Flight to Arras (Saint-Exupery 1987):

‘He who bears in his heart a cathedral to be built is already victorious. He who seeks to become a sexton of a finished cathedral is already defeated’. Boxers endeavor to live by this maxim every day’. THE ONLY WAY TO PREDICT THE FUTURE IS TO CREATE IT’.

The creativity and critical judgment they develop as a boxer enables them to be successful by being self-motivated and ensuring any new knowledge is relevant and integrated in there preparation for maximum use. Be it as a boxer or as a barrister paying regular ‘homage’ in a temple, albeit a library, court room or gymnasium sees the practice of discipline and almost religious devotion, both are merely Gladiators in the arena.

Barristers who contributed to this article

Year of Call - 2002

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