business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

I don’t pay a lot of attention to professional boxing, and so the fact that there was a heavyweight championship fight last weekend wasn’t on my radar, either before or after it took place.

But then I started to read some of the stories about the event, and it grabbed my interest … and offered a business lesson.

The fight, to give you some brief context, was between the highly popular UK heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr., who is described as “flabby” and even calls himself “the little fat kid.” Ruiz wasn’t even supposed to be in the fight; he only got the bout because Joshua’s original opponent was suspended for using banned substances, and Ruiz lobbied aggressively for the opportunity.

The stories make clear that Joshua was heavily favored, and that while he claimed not to be looking beyond the Ruiz fight, he clearly was. “I’ve always looked at the bigger picture. Who’s in front of me. Who’s beside me. And also who’s behind me,” Joshua said.

Then they got in the ring. The fat guy against someone with a chiseled, classical physique.

Joshua dominated the first two rounds, and knocked Ruiz down in the beginning of the third. But then, Ruiz took control, knocking Joshua down twice later in the third round, and then again in the seventh round, at which point the referee stopped the fight, awarding it to Ruiz with a technical knockout.

Boxing writers agreed - it was one of boxing’s biggest upsets ever, as Ruiz now owns a bunch of titles and has become the first champ evert of Mexican heritage.

Now, to be clear … I think boxing is a brutal sport, and I’m no fan. (I’ve belonged to a boxing gym over the years and have enjoyed the training process, but I have no desire to get into the ring.)

But it was a quote from Joshua that caught my attention and struck me as a business lesson.

“I know he may not look like the typical modern day boxer, but I always say if you put 10 guys in the ring from a gym, you won’t figure out where they are at until they get punched in the face.,” Joshua told the Wall Street Journal. Then you’ll know which ones have heart.”

Joshua added that in the end, abs and biceps don’t make champions. Heart does.

That’s a great Eye-Opening metaphor for business. Competition can come from anywhere, and it is a mistake to underestimate anyone … and, in the end, it isn’t the fundamentals that make the difference. Fundamentals are a given … it is what lies beneath the fundamentals and what you do on top of them that differentiate between champions and also-rans.

But here’s the deal. Joshua is going to get a rematch. In business, that doesn’t happen all that much.

Put up your dukes.
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