“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses- behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”- Muhammad Ali
Richard Haliburton is a seasoned boxer and coach who understands the months of preparation that happen before a fight. I recently had the absolute pleasure of interviewing him and discuss the current standing of USA Boxing. Richard was one of my coaches in high school and the first person on my list to interview for Fight Culture. He has about fifty years of coaching experience and currently coaches at Cutman Boxing in Carrollton, Georgia and was the two-time head coach for the USA All-State Boxing Team. This team included such fighters as the Four Time World Champion Evander Holyfield and the former Middle Weight Professional contender Harry Heatwave Daniels. He was also the head coach of the Carrollton Recreation Department Boxing Team where he produced nine Open Division State Champions. He is a U.S. Olympic certified National Coach and has received to PRO/AM Lifetime Achievement Award by the Georgia Boxing Promoters Organization.
I say all of this to tell you… this man knows his stuff. He learned the ropes from his dad when he was about eleven years old.
“My father, a WWII vet, grew up during the depression in a little town called cabbage town and him and the boys heard that you could go to the fair grounds and get paid to fight other boys. They’d go to the carnival and they’d fight. Now if it was a good fight the people would throw pennies in the ring. When I was 11 or 12 years old my daddy bought me and my brother a pair of gloves and rigged us up a speed bag. We’d grab just about any boy we could find in the neighborhood and slap the gloves on ‘em.”
In the late 70’s a fighter named Kim Duk-Koo died after the world championship fight against Ray Mancini. The American Medical Association was calling for a ban on the sport of boxing and Richard was asked to represent Georgia Boxing in a public debate.
“We aren’t fighting, we are boxing.”
Richard outlined how boxing is an Olympic sport with a strict set of rules (USA Boxing Handbook) and It’s not entirely about who can hit the hardest. The USA Boxing Handbook is about a fifty page document that covers everything from headgear, gloves, and medical procedures to the athletes code of conduct in the ring. Boxing and Fighting are about who is the most hard working in and out of the ring. To outsiders who don’t understand, Boxing seems like a barbaric sport that’s goal is to detrimentally hurt the opponent. But Boxing is like a game of chess and people who have never played don’t understand the rules. In our interview, Richard pointed out that you don’t get points for hurting your opponent, you get points for strategized punches, and planned articulated movements.
“But most importantly, for the right kids boxing can make a big change in their lives… boxing offers tremendous positive behavioral aspects because what the kids learn is that you face some of your fears when you’re in that ring. There is no time out, no passing the ball, and no substitute. You learn how to lose with dignity and win with humility.”
A lot of people look at me surprised when I tell them I fight. They don’t understand the kind of outlet it provides for frustration and bad days. Boxing is a sport that demands your entire attention, physically and mentally, so much that there isn’t room for anything else. My friends go to get their nails done on a rainy day. I, on the other hand, wrap up my hands, put on my gloves, and forget about the rain. While talking with Richard I was thinking about how boxing is viewed and how much it is misunderstood by the public. I asked Richard what he thought about it all and he said no one summed it up better than Teddy Roosevelt,
“It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles. Or where the doer of deeds could have done the better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least failed while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid should who neither know victory nor defeat”