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Tony Bellew: 'There’s more to life than getting punched in the face'

Tony Bellew gives us some life tips on how to choose your battles, fight your own corner, and pick yourself back up when life knocks you down.

Boxing clever: Bellew after beating Illunga Makubu to win the WBC World Cruiserweight Championship in 2016. Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Former boxer Tony Bellew knows a thing or two about rolling with the punches. He shares his lessons for life from a career ducking and diving everything that gets thrown at him.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

The most important trait I carried through my whole career as a boxer. In the world of professional boxing you’re thrown in the deep end and you’re swimming with sharks. I made mistakes along the way but one of my greatest strengths is I never dwelled on them. I never gave up, I managed to continue to push on and push, I always carried on believing in myself. You turn failure into opportunity – and it’s quite simple – by never giving up. A man who never gives up is a man who can never truly be defeated.

Start with honesty

The world we live in has a lot of victim mentality, it’s always somebody else’s fault. People need to take ownership of their own mistakes and their own failures. Look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. That’s a hard thing to do. I was my own worst critic. As a boxer, no matter how good I was, I was never happy. That’s the reason I achieved what I achieved. I was always extremely honest with myself, I could look myself in the mirror and know I gave 100 per cent on everything I ever did.

Get the right team in your corner

The people you need around you have got to have the same mindset and mentality as yourself. For me, it was honesty and integrity. I surrounded myself with successful people, whether they were successful in business, or whatever, they were driven. It’s hard to get those people in and amongst your team, but once it’s done you’ll only go to stronger and stronger places.

What are you willing to be punched in the face for?

Always ask yourself questions about what you want from life. First of all, why do you want it? And secondly, how bad do you want it? How much are you willing to suffer to get it? I knew how much I wanted to be a world champion. I knew what I had to go through to get it done. So when it finally did happen, I was ecstatic, I was elated – but I wasn’t surprised.

Set goals

We don’t all need to be world champion, we just need to be able to set ourselves small goals. Your goal could be to go out running. You’ve got to be realistic. You’re not going to run 10 miles the first time but you could run two or three miles, or walk for a mile. I guarantee that if you’re willing to persevere, in the end you will get to that 10 miles. Everybody says they want it. How much do you really want it is the question you should ask. When things are tough and you’re in pain, that’s the time you find out.

Keep setting goals

When I first retired I thought I was going to enjoy getting fat. Then I realised that’s not what I really wanted. I’m training as hard now as I’ve ever trained. I’m doing it not because I want to get punched in the face, I’m doing it to feel better about myself. When I was fighting, I didn’t realise how important training was in my life. I never thought about how important it was to your mental health. I’m very fortunate I have a loving family to come home to. Not every boxer has that. Sometimes the lights are all that they have. And all that they want. I’m not going to lie to you and say I don’t miss fighting. There’s not a day that goes by I don’t think about having a fight. But at the same time, every dog has its day. And as time goes on, you realise that there’s more to life than getting punched in the face, there really is.

Everybody Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Face: 12 Things Boxing Teaches You About Life by Tony Bellew is out now (Orion, £20)

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