During his 18-bout professional boxing career, lasting from 1998 to 2006, Goadby Marwood heavyweight Scott Lansdowne enjoyed 14 victories, six by the way of knockout.
From the outside he looked every bit the tough guy. But internally he faced a battle to overcome his pre-bout fears, including help from a hypnotist and some additional wise words. Here is his story...
“I’ve been so lucky in the fact that I swapped punches with some of the best fighters in the world.
I was drawn to boxing from an early age and I remember dreaming of being like my heroes.
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In my early teens I use to walk with my friends and picture myself winning spectacular victories, like ‘Marvellous’ Marvin Hagler after he stopped Thomas the ‘Hitman’ Hearns and was sitting on Goody Petronelli’s shoulders, battered, bruised and bleeding with copious amounts of steam coming from his head.
This was all very romantic but didn’t deal with the elephant in the room.
As beautiful as boxing is, it can be just as scary. ‘It’s a man’s game,’ trainer Howard Rainey use to say.
Fighters place it all on the line each time they enter the ring and I remember champions telling me ‘you just got to keep winning Scott’, so your pride, reputation, credibility and ranking are all on the line the minute you step through those ropes.
No one will invest in a loser and how many times does a loser become a champion of repute.
Man, I wanted to be someone. I wanted those big belts, I loved the class guys: Clinton Woods, Michael Sprott, David Haye, Terry Dunstan, and Scott Welch.
These people just seemed so special. I always wondered what made them so good, they were so brave and they worked so very hard?
They were also supported well by family, friends, managers, trainers like Dennis Hobson jnr and Rainey. So was I.
My second professional fight was on a Sky Sports show against Luke Simpkin and I can tell you I was terrified.
I wanted to learn how to master this debilitating fear and this fight was definitely a big step in the right direction.
Interestingly, in the build-up I was fine, I ran very well and had perfect world class sparring from the gifted former number one cruiserweight in the world Terry Dunstan.
I even had excellent mental preparation from a brilliant hypnotist Paul Dorkin, who is sadly no longer with us.
When I got to the arena I froze. The nerves really kicked in and my para sympathetic nervous system was in full swing with my fight or flight response.
I felt alone and terrified.
Rainey, who was one of the finest trainers you could come across, got me on the phone to Dorkin.
I still don’t know how he managed to calm me down.
Howard got me doing sprints in the car park of the Hillsborough Leisure Centre in Sheffield to help calm my nerves.
Luckily, Luke was already waiting for me in the ring and I literally just walked upstairs, put on my gloves and walked to the ring.
I say luckily, as there was no waiting around for me in dressing rooms where doubts could start creeping in again.
After very nearly being knocked out in the last round I managed to win by one point, by being brave and stepping into my fear with a clear focus.
After the win the fear was replaced by an awareness of confidence and experience, and a euphoric floating on cloud nine.
I did my duty and honoured the very hard work my team had put into me. And most importantly I did myself justice.
To desensitise to such fearful environments I think flooding is vital.
If the fight game is what you really want, fight every week.
This is something you can do in the amateur ranks.
I knew rags to riches was possible I could see my peers achieving it, I felt it was possible for me.
Fear is essential it’s a natural response that heightens the senses and helps us deliver our best performance. Adrenalin is a natural pain reliever it also causes a notable increase in strength flooding your muscles with oxygen.
No wonder the great Mike Tyson once said ‘if I don’t have fear I don’t fight’.
Our self-talk often gets in the way and we refer to these feelings as weak or bottling it.
Which just isn’t true, anyone who even walks into a proper boxing gym to train I admire.
There’s certainly a bigger queue to criticise boxers than there is people who actually have the guts to give it a go.
Even the smell at the bottom of the stairs at my old amateur club Belgrave ABC use to make my adrenals do cartwheels.
The way I see it this ultimate test of physical confrontation with a trained professional gave me a wonderful blue print for life.
Within reason no matter what life presented me with, I knew that I had conquered my ultimate fear.
So job interviews, exams or difficult confrontations at work were dwarfed by my previous personal achievements in confronting my fears and dreams of living a full and brave life.
If you’ve done the work and understand the realities of boxing and you’ve asked yourself if this is really what you want. I think a great way of taking the pressure off is summed up by former SAS supremo Andy McNab.
When interviewed by Paul McKenna he was asked what he thought when it all kicked off. He said: “I just used to think **** it!”.
Often where there’s resistance there’s reward, fear can be the X on the map that marks the buried treasure.”