Spirituality, Sports

Entering 2016 as a Loser

jose aldo crying locker

UFC’s Jose Aldo, weeping in his locker room, after his crushing 13-sec loss. He was undefeated for 10 years until December.

As someone who only really started to get into both watching and playing a sport these last couple years, I’ve come to realize why athletes and coaches so often compare sports with life.

In the sports I watch, losing has been one of the predominant themes this year. In boxing, Wladimir Klitschko, who has been the reigning undefeated heavyweight champ for 10 years—lost in a stunning upset to Tyson Fury. In MMA, the invincible superstar Rhonda Rousey got taken to school by Holly Holm; longtime champ Jose Aldo was KO’ed in 13 seconds by Conor McGregor. And the championship Niners I grew up with are currently tied with the Cowboys for last place in the NFL.

Perhaps these losses speak so loudly to me because I have felt the sting of loss more than once this year. Not the losing of loved ones, as I know some of you have, but the losing of battles. Some of the losses are a little too personal to share, but suffice to say, they are battles I’ve lost in my work, in personal relationships, in my spiritual life, and in my journey to pick up boxing at the same age most boxers retire.

One of my favorite TV characters of all time is Coach Taylor, of Friday Night Lights fame. And in the midst of a 26-0 shellacking, Taylor gives this storied locker room speech to his team during halftime:

Every man at some point in his life is going to lose a battle. He is going to fight and he is going to lose. But what makes him a man is that in the midst of that battle he does not lose himself. This game is not over, this battle is not over.

When a new year comes around, we usually look for that fresh start. But as a wannabe athlete…and mostly as someone who is now squarely in my adult years, there are rarely true fresh starts in life. Nor should there be. You can’t push the reset button in between rounds or during halftime. In real life as in sports, you must continue to fight. And even once this fight is over, the next one is just around the corner.

And while winning and losing does matter, it is not what ultimately matters. Most athletes, especially in fight sports, will tell you that the real battle isn’t with your opponent; the real battle is within yourself. Will you lose yourself in the face of this contest? What will be revealed about your character? And even if you end up losing, will you let that loss change you for better, or for worse? What makes him a man is that in the midst of that battle he does not lose himself. Even after we’ve left the ring or the field, this game is not over, this battle is not over.

And even if you ended up winning the game, it’s still possible to have lost…yourself.

As I enter into this new year, my losses are not far behind me. Some of them, I am still in the middle of experiencing. But the invitation that God has been giving to me at this threshold isn’t an invitation to a fresh start, but to keep fighting. And not just in the external battles of life; in fact, the invitation is more so into the internal struggle. Will I lose myself? Will I sacrifice my character, my values, or even my loved ones for the win? Or will I remain true? Will I grow? Will I allow the crucible of battle press and refine me to become the man God sent his Son to die for me to become?

With God’s grace, I sure hope so. We’ll see in 2017.


Mayweather v. Pacquiao Newbies FAQ

Pacquiao v. Mayweather


Skip to the bottom if you just want to know how to appreciate the actual fight.

What time will Mayweather & Pacquiao fight?
People estimate it’ll start around 8pm PST. It’s approximate because it depends on how long the undercards fight.

Where can I watch?
Either at a sports bar or HBO PPV or Showtime PPV. Boxing has a weird business model. But if you notice, it’s coming back to free TV! Not that you watched boxing before…

Why is this fight such a big deal?
Floyd “Money” Mayweather and Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao are widely considered the two greatest boxers of our generation. But they have never fought each other. After 5 years of teasing and disappointing boxing fans, they’ve finally agree to a fight.

Also, if Pacquiao wins, he will the first fighter ever to hold lineal championship in five weight divisions. But bottom line: whoever wins will be considered the greatest fighter of our generation.

Will this be the greatest fight ever?
Probably not. This will be the biggest money-making fight ever because of social media and more people having access to cable TV than ever–Floyd will earn $120M+, Manny $80M+. But despite Mayweather’s claim that he is TBE “The Best Ever” — few boxing aficionados truly consider him or Pacquiao the two greatest ever. Plus, this isn’t expecting to be a wildly entertaining or brutal fight. Floyd’s fighting style will probably not be entertaining for most casual boxing fans, since it is primarily defensive (Floyd is considered the greatest defensive genius of all time by many, however).

How do you win in boxing?

  • Knockout: You can win by KO or TKO (technical KO). KO is when you’re knocked down and you don’t get up before the 10 count. TKO is when the ref stops the fight, regardless of whether you’ve been KO’ed because it’s clear you can’t safely continue in the fight.
  • Scoring: There will be 12 rounds. For each round, you win 10 points if you win, 9 if you’re the lose (according to the judges). You lose an extra point for each time you get knocked down. There are three judges and their individual scores are revealed at the end of the match. If you convince at least 2 of the 3 judges, you win. Occasionally, there is a tie. Many think this fight will “go to the cards” and that the scoring will be controversial. Try keeping score in between rounds; it’ll keep you more engaged.

Who is expected to win?
Mayweather. But it’s still expected to be a close fight. Interestingly, almost all those who’ve fought both think Floyd will win. But you’ll find experts and insiders on both sides.

Who has more to lose?
Mayweather. He is undefeated 47-0 and the higher ranked fighter. If he wins, he cements his place as the best pound-for-pound fighter. But if he loses, he loses that “0” loss record, and he’ll drop to #2.

Pacquiao is the second best pound-for-pound fighter, so if he loses, nothing changes and he’ll still be respected for taking the fight. But if he wins, he has the most to gain.

Will there be rematch?
There is no rematch clause in their contract. Many people think if Mayweather wins, he won’t grant Pacquiao a rematch. But if Pacquiao wins, he will grant Mayweather one.

What are “undercards”?
Undercards are like the “show openers”. These are fighters who promoters want to give more exposure to. There are two undercards, each expected to be a blow out. But if you’re looking to see a knockout, tune in. The heavy favorites are Lomachenko and Santa Cruz. Undercards start sometime after 3pm PST.

Who are “Flomos” and “Pactards”?
Flomos is a derogatory name for fanboys of Mayweather; Pactards for fanboys of Pacquiao. Yes, boxing isn’t a politically correct sport. Mayweather’s last opponent is known as Marcos “Chino” Maidana because of his squinty eyes. Deal with it.

Why do people hate Mayweather so much?
Because he wants you to. He knows people will pay not just to see you win, but to see you lose. His ridiculously extravagant lifestyle and flamboyant ego is in part a marketing ploy. That, and he beats women.

Why is Justin Bieber walking in with Mayweather?
Some of life’s questions have no answers.


  • Full contact chess: Many people only think a boxing match is “good” if there is a lot of punches exchanged. But boxing is about two things: hitting and not getting hit; not just one. It’s full contact chess. In the first 3-4 rounds, most boxers are testing each other, observing each other’s predictable patterns, learning each other’s tells, exposing weaknesses. When I punch, what do you do? What kind of punches are you most likely to throw at me? As the rounds progress, they will try to capitalize on these things. Look for how they adjust to each other round by round. Unlike most fights, we don’t expect these guys to tire out; their conditioning is excellent.
  • Styles make fights: Fights aren’t only about who’s “better”, but also about styles. Mayweather and Pacquiao have very different styles. The most obvious: Mayweather uses “The Crab” or “Philly Shell”–covering his whole body; Pacquiao is a southpaw (left-handed). Mayweather is a defensive genius, throws less punches, but is very accurate. Pacquiao a lightning fast aggressor, throws many punches, and still lands a lot of them. Mayweather also has a reach advantage. Look for how Mayweather dodges/blocks punches–but also how he comes right back with a punch; we call this counter-punching. Look for how Pacquiao fires off punching combinations–quickly and from many different angles.
  • Floyd’s secret weapons: Floyd is exceptional at popping up his left shoulder to “roll” his opponent’s punches off, and then returning fire with his right hand. Mayweather is also a master of evading punches in general–he has never been knocked down in his 47 fights*–so watch for his head and body movement. Many people think Floyd is just “running” or “riding his bicycle” but what he does no one else can do. Look for how quickly he is able to evade and block punches. His best punches: straight right hand, left jab to the body, left hook.
  • Manny’s secret weapons: Manny is known to be lightning fast with both his hands and feet. This is why he is so fun to watch, even for casual fans. Notice how he moves in and escapes at different angles. Notice his punching combinations. His best punches: straight right hand, right hook, left uppercut. Notice how they share one strength: the straight right hand. Floyd’s straight right hand is known for its speed; Manny’s for its power.
  • Center of the ring v. The ropes: Look for how the fight changes depending on whether they fight in the center of the ring (where they both can move) versus on the ropes (where one person has their back against the ropes). Mayweather often allows his opponents to take him to the ropes because he’s so good at defending and counterpunching. But Pacquiao is also amazing at peppering his opponents against the ropes with combinations from every direction; he’s so fast that his previous opponents have said it often felt like they were being attacked not by one, but by three opponents at once.
  • Nothing beats watching though. So here are some highlight reels of Manny and Floyd’s “Greatest Hits”: