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By Unanimous Decision

Richard Savage
© lassedesignen |

Watch the big fight on the Saturday before last? What a brutal business boxing is. The might of one opponent pitched firmly and squarely against another. There are rules of engagement of course; you have to be within 2kg of each other, there’s a medical assessment, special equipment and even a weight of gloves for your category. All designed to level the playing field.

What follows is primal. Typical of most boxing evenings, it is hosted in a theatre type venue. An arena, in the middle of which, is the battleground (or ring as they like to call it). It is illuminated by strobe and coloured lighting; there is pounding club music dramatizing the occasion. And there is a bar, fortifying the blood thirsty spectators who have come to feast their eyes on the spectacle and revel in the ensuing carnage. Everyone willing, with every sinew, for their fighter to conquer their opponent.

There are stark parallels with the tough negotiations that we help our clients prepare for and we observe and consult on. Commercial warriors going into battle to fight their corner and bring home the spoils that subsequently fuel their colleagues’ workloads.

From the agony of this spectator’s perspective, I expected the boxers to simply get in a ring and hit their opponent as relentlessly as they could (mostly in the face) until they submit or keel over. As it turns out it is more common for a committee of independent third parties, to judge which boxer has sufficiently dominated the rounds of blood, sweat and tears, so that they can declare victory.

So, it’s all about brute force, right? Wrong. There are many, in the commercial world, who believe that resolving conflict is about how tough you are ‘on the night’, or in your day to day dealings. But it’s not. You might be surprised to hear that this approach is indeed a strategy, that regularly and dramatically hinders great opportunities.

Yes, technique is essential, as is strength, fitness and sometimes, dare I say it, aggression. But lying behind Saturday night’s 6-minute exchange was the key to it all, the preparation; detailed analysis of the task at hand, robust training programmes and then absolute focus on the objective and the development of a flexible strategy. It’s a process.

Talking of flexible strategies, there was the cunning plan to disarm the taller (by 5”) and experienced (by 2 bouts) opponent, by taking an orthodox stance at the start then switching to the much rarer ‘southpaw’ (left handed) reality. But wait…the real surprise was that opposition turned also to be a southpaw with the exact same strategy.

Since the roller coaster ride and emotional trauma of Saturday night’s fight, I have done some post bout analysis, following a unique opportunity to talk the victor directly about this all-important preparation.

A 6-month training programme was strictly followed, comprising running, sparring and gym time. In the last 16 weeks alone, leading up to the big night, there are some staggering statistics - here are some of the highlights:

  • Punches thrown - 19,200
  • Punches received - (too emotional to state – see below)
  • Squats – 864 (51.5 tonnes)
  • Deadlift weight lifted - 69 tonnes (that’s over 44 times the weight of my car)
  • 256 hours in the gym (15,360 minutes)

That puts a preparation to fight ratio in minutes of 2560:1

And the result? Well our heroine won. It was a tough fight, fought well by both opponents. But by unanimous decision the winner was…my youngest daughter: the occasion: Bristol University Fight Night, the venue: the student union hall.

Structured preparation in negotiation is what we teach in our courses. And it gets results.

I have suggested she now retires, undefeated – not sure I can go through that again.

As for James DeGale v Chris Eubank Jr, the other big fight on that night, respect to Eubank for winning IBO super-middleweight title – what did he put it all down to? Preparation. Respect.

Richard Savage
More by Richard Savage:
Liar Liar Pants On Fire
Crazy Paving
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