Why do Fighters in this West African neighborhood
The young guns were going at it!
Even though this was a typical Tuesday sparring session at Seconds Out boxing gym in Jamestown Ghana the 2 young boxers in the ring were boxing each other like this round was going to decide the World Championship Title.
I recently visited a boxing gym in Jamestown Ghana to meet with the boxers and trainers there. Jamestown is known globally as a talent hotbed for boxers, it produces a high number of World Class boxers relative to the population of the neighborhood.
Jamestown is one of the oldest districts in Accra, Ghana. It is a rough neighborhood with fishing being the #1 industry for men and women to work. Three out of Ghana's four Olympic medals have come from boxing and in Jamestown and its immediate surroundings boxing is a way of life.
Ghana has produced six World champions, five of whom have come from the Jamestown district. They include Ike Quartey, who held the WBA welterweight title between 1994 and 1998 and Joshua Clottey, who in 2008 won the IBF Welterweight title. In Jamestown boxing is more than a sport, it is a way of life. Jamestown is one of the poorest communities in the city and boxing is the ticket out of Jamestown, away from the poverty, unemployment and absence of opportunity. So why does Jamestown produce so many World-Class boxers? Dozens of reasons but here are a few that stood out to me in the short time that I was there.
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
The gym I visited in Jamestown Seconds Out Boxing had a distinct progression for all boxers that entered into their program. The first week the boxers would just shadow throwing the same short combination over and over again. No movement of the feet, no punching the bag, no boxing against other fighters. In week 2 they would add foot movement to the combination. In week 3 they would add head movement and defense. This progression would continue for months as the boxers gained a strong foundation of the fundamentals needed to become elite.
This is important because doing anything at high speed whether that is boxing, sprinting, or chopping vegetables should be rehearsed at slow speeds and then progressively ramped up to maximize speed and effort. Starting out slowly allows you to properly coordinate the firing order of the motor units involved and recruit more muscle fibers in the movement pattern. When you do something very quickly with improper form, your body will find ways to cheat the movement with inefficient muscle activity.
EXECUTING THE TASK
Jamestown is a rough place that can bring a number of distractions that impact a boxer’s development. How are the best boxers able to continue to develop despite the distractions and poverty that they are surrounded by? By keeping it simple and focusing on the immediate task at hand. I noticed a distinct level of concentration and focus in the eyes and actions of the boxers in Seconds Out Boxing gym.
The Best athletes in the World know how to do this. They know how to keep things simple in their day-to-day approach. They think small; they are focused on tasks. They do not allow extraneous issues and circumstances to take them out of their training plan—which is simply to attack and execute. All big thoughts are unmanageable, out of a performer’s control.
Carpe momentum. The moment that now must be seized. Living in and for the moment makes it easier for the athlete to adapt to situations as they change. The focus is narrow; the requirements are limited to that time and space. All attention is concentrated on executing the next task: a jab, a counter, a combination. He can understand that; he can control that. It is small and elemental. That task at hand is his exclusive concern, and always should be.
The best boxers and the best athletes can execute the task at hand. And then do it again, and again and again.
REPS, REPS, REPS.
The boxers in Jamestown do the same boxing fundamentals over and over and over again. The same warm up, the same combinations, the same footwork. The boxers in Jamestown understand the power of repetition. Greatness in boxing (just like anything else) comes from the power of repetition.
STRETCHING YOUR IDGAF MUSCLE
The best athletes including the best boxers in Jamestown Ghana are able to train their IDGAF muscle. There I don’t give a fuck muscle. This muscle can be trained just like any other muscle and this muscle is the muscle that elevates ability and separates you from the things and people you need to get away from.
The IDGAF muscle gives you freedom and the athletes that become elite in places like Jamestown use it on the regular. They stop spending time on things they don’t like to do. They don’t worry about their chances of becoming a professional or whether or not they are wasting their time spending hours and hours in the gym boxing or what family or friends will think of them and their pursuit.
The focus is on what they want and where they are trying to go and they don’t apologize for it. This requires discipline but becoming great at boxing, becoming great at anything requires discipline. Discipline is the root of all good qualities. Discipline is the trigger for the hard work, late nights, early mornings, the repetition, the sweat, the frustration…
NATURE VS. NURTURE
Jamestown produces an extraordinary number of elite boxers in comparison to its population.
Hopefully this article provided you with some insight on how they accomplished this. Many people like to say that the reason Jamestown produces so many boxers is because of genetics. This idea of Nature vs Nurture...
What is more important when it comes to talent development in places like Jamestown Ghana? Is it Nature? or is it Nurture? Which plays a bigger role in the success of these boxers. In my opinion: Neither… To me, it is not about nature or nurture: It is about choice...
The fighters who become elite decide they are going to become elite. They make that choice. And they make other choices. They decide to study hard. They decide to work hard. They decide to be the first person in the gym and the last to go home. There are no naturals. No one magically rises to the top without a ton of training and practice.
They decide they are going to take on the hard training, the hard sparring sessions. Take on the challenges. They decide they are going to lead when no one else will. They choose who they are going to hang around and they choose who they will emulate.
They choose to become who they want to become—they aren’t limited by nature or nurture. They overcome both. These fighters don’t think about what they’ve been through and where they were. They think about where they are going, and choose.
Choose to make yourself smarter and stronger and more skilled. Choose to train and study and eat good food and keep your mind clean.
Don’t let nature or nurture make you. Choose to MAKE. YOUR. SELF.
QUESTIONS TO ASK
What can YOU do today to stretch your IDGAF muscle?
ACTIONS TO TAKE
The next time you practice/train, focus 100% on executing the task at hand. Nothing more, nothing less.
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