The Fear All Fighters Have: “Fast” Eddie Chambers Explains How He Won His Battle With Nerves

By James Slater: Though he looks extremely relaxed, fluid and in his element when doing his thing in the ring, 29-year-old “Fast” Eddie Chambers, like many other fighters, suffers from nerves ahead of the big fights.

Next up for the Philly slickster is an IBF elimination against veteran Tony Thompson and no doubt, as he awaits the first bell for the October 28th bout, Chambers will feel the customary butterflies in his stomach. But, like the greats, Chambers has been able to overcome his pre-fight jitters. (even Ali, Robinson, Foreman and Tyson went through it whilst awaiting that opening bell - Foreman famously remarked once that he simply “ate the butterflies in his stomach!”)

But nerves, for any pro athlete, are no laughing matter. Just how does a fighter - a man who is literally risking his health, even his life by stepping into the ring - make himself relax ahead of combat?

Very kindly speaking about how he won his own personal battle of nerves, the former (and, he hopes, future) world heavyweight title challenger with the fine 36-2(18) record had the following things to say on the subject:

James Slater: They say all fighters get nervous, but that being nervous is needed to give your best in the ring. Did you suffer from nerves, and do you still?

Eddie Chambers: Oh, absolutely! Even now. But you get used to it and you understand it; it’s all part of the business you’re in. You know, you chose to do this with your life, to be a fighter and nerves have to be expected as a part of it.

J.S: Were the nerves worse at the very start of your career, as an amateur, or did they worsen as you went pro?

E.C: It was probably worse when I went pro - my first few professional fights. The pressure seemed more intense as a pro, seeing as how there were so many expectations of me. Saying that, as an amateur, I was so nervous before my very first, I actually thought about running out of the building! I actually felt that. For my first pro fight, I was so nervous I was numb - the first few punches the guy hit me with, I didn’t even feel at all. But I learnt that nerves and how you deal with them are what separate good fighters from great fighters.

J.S: What is it you worried about especially? What made you so nervous?

E.C: It’s a combination of things. You worry about letting people down, not giving the performance you know you are capable of and not doing everything in your power to win. And, yes, you do fear losing. We are competitive males, and there’s the ego thing. You don’t want that man to beat you, because then he is looked at as a better man than you. All sorts of things go around in your head.

J.S: When would you say is the worst time for nerves to strike? The night before the fight, in the dressing room……?

E.C: Honestly, it is the actual night of the fight - the waiting in the dressing room is the hardest part to deal with. You go over the fight so many times in your head; again and again! The anticipation of the fight is the hardest part. But once the first punch is thrown, you get past all that.

J.S: So how did you get over your bad nerves - I remember one time you told me you couldn’t eat before a fight! How would you say you conquered your nerves?

E.C: They say you put pressure on yourself. The thing is learning to understand what happens in the ring. Learning to understand that everybody, or almost everybody, loses. You can’t worry about being knocked out, you have to put faith in yourself and your ability. We [fighters] all know that one punch can end a fight at any time, but you have to trust in your skill in avoiding that. And as you get older, you learn to trust your ability, and how much it has improved, that much more. I never actually feared or fear any man, I just worried about letting folks down. But you have to realise that you are ready to give your life for what you believe in - you have to believe what you were put on this earth for. I told myself to stop worrying, that I have dreamt about this [becoming heavyweight champion] for so long, that now I’ve got to go out and do it!

J.S: Was there ever a time when the nerves were that bad you felt about doing something else other than boxing?

E.C: Honestly, yes. I thought to myself a number of times in the early days, ‘how on earth did I get myself into this?’ (laughs). Even the press conferences and public speaking, that’s all part of the job and that can be nerve-wracking, too. It’s not just boxers that have nerves, either - all athletes, soccer players, baseball, all sports really. But, basically, you decide what you want to do with your life and you trust your decision. Even now, I have nerves, but I tell myself there is no reason to worry as long as I give my best. I realised that I can’t afford to worry about other people, and letting them down. I’m the one in the ring and I have the power to control what happens in the ring. It gets easier with experience, too. I still get nervous in the dressing room before the fight, but I tell myself that as soon as the first punch comes all that goes away and my fighter’s instincts take over.

Article posted on 18.10.2011

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