Believing in ourselves is very important in our quest for athletic glory. Believing will help us to get through rough times and difficult situations. Don’t get me wrong, we all have doubts about ourselves at times. This is natural.
However, we must understand that “believing” plays a vital role in our performance and advancement.
My favorite example of someone who had a strong belief in their self was Muhammed Ali in the 1974 World Heavyweight Boxing Championship, “Rumble in the Jungle.” Ali was challenging George Foreman, who was the reigning World Champion. Foreman was crushing all of his opponents. He knocked out most of all of the top contenders prior to this big event in Zaire, Africa. No one thought that Ali could beat Foreman. In fact, even Ali’s own trainers and coaches thought that Ali was going to get destroyed against the seemingly unstoppable Foreman.
As described in the documentary, “When We Were Kings,” before the fight, Ali’s dressing room was like a morgue. It was like Ali was going to his “last supper.” At one point Ali noticed that everyone was down and sad. Ali turned and said, “What is the matter with you people? Why is everybody so unhappy?”
They, his support team, believed that Ali was going to be defeated. And, they were terrified. They thought with his pride that he would take one of the world’s worst beatings ever and he would not give up. They thought that Ali would be destroyed in the ring. They thought he would possibly be killed. They were deeply frightened.
Then Ali looked to Drew “Bundini Brown (Ali’s trainer) and said, “We’re gonna dance, we’re gonna dance and dance!” Then he turned to them and said, “What are we gonna do?” And they said, “Your gonna dance, your gonna dance and dance!”
Ali chanted, “We’re gonna dance tonight, aren’t we…. and Foremand…. he is gonna be bewildered!”
Ali repeated this over and over until his dressing room of trainers and support team were crying. And with that, Ali built them up so as to make them “half” happy.
The atmosphere at the beginning of the fight was as intense as ever before a Championship bout. Ali was expected to dance, however at the start of the first round Ali did not dance. He came at Foreman with a different strategy. He threw 12 right hand leads in that first round trying to knock Foreman down or out. But instead of knocking Foreman down or out, Foreman went crazy. He started throwing powerful punches, over and over again, a lot of them connecting with Ali.
The bell rang ending the first round. Ali went to his corner. The nightmare that had awaited Ali finally came to visit. Ali was in the ring with a man that he could not dominate. He was in the right with a man who was stronger, not afraid, determined, and could punch harder and was unstoppable.
Ali had a look on his face that for the first time showed fear. Then as he stood there catching his breath, you could see him looking into himself and he seemed to be thinking, “This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. It is that hour.” He seemed to be thinking, “Do you have the guts, boy?” Then he nodded his head, seeming saying to himself, “You’ve gotta get it together. You ARE going to get it together. You WILL get it together.” And as he continued to nod and not to himself, as if he was looking into the eyes of his maker, he turned to the crowd and chanted “ALI BOMA YE!” which means, “Ali, kill him!”
The crowd went wild and started chanting, “Ali boma ye!, Ali boma ye!” and Ali went back out in the ring as if he had a new focus and energy. He picked up the pace…
The next four rounds George Foreman with his powerful punches continued to wallop and bash at Ali, as Ali went to the “rope-a-dope.” Again, and again Foreman pummeled Ali against the ropes.
Ali was bobbing and weaving taking most of the powerful punches and sliding a few. And as Foreman whacked ferociously at Ali, Ali kept talking to him, “George, you’re not hitting hard enough. I thought you hit harder. George, you are not even breaking popcorn.”
As Ali kept taunting him, George Foreman continued to slug at him. By the end of the fifth round Foreman had punched himself out. It took five rounds for George to exhaust himself.
Then in the eight round, Ali spun Foreman around in the ring and threw a combination of punches which, in a spectacular fashion, knocked Foreman down and out!
Ali was World Heavyweight Champion once again!
I think this is one of the ultimate examples of a man who had to believe in himself. When no one else did, he still believed.
It is not really important that Ali knocked out George Foreman to make his dream come true, what is important is that YOU can make your dream come true. You can achieve anything you want in this life.
Have the attitude “Expect to Win.” Set your goals high and see yourself winning. Enjoy the battle and the journey along the way. Get tough and make it fun and you will get to the top in your sport and in life!
Written by Coach Steve Frasier, Olympic Champion
Read more about having a positive attitude here.