Can you take a punch?
Could you take a punch from Mike Tyson? He is most famous for his saying “Everybody has a plan - until they get punched in the face”. That is Mike Tyson’s over-confidence that once he punched you, it was game over.
If you get punched in the face it might be game over. Or, you could get the unexpected. The unexpected happens when the other guy does not stay down. That’s when you had better have a plan B or the underdog suddenly becomes the Alpha Dog.
Which brings me back to the story of Mike Tyson and the day he was knocked out for the first time by an unknown named Buster Douglas. Buster who? The betting odds against Buster Douglas in that fight were 42-1. Tyson was a powerhouse who was undefeated. A month earlier he had knocked out heavyweight champion Carl “The Truth” Williams in only 93 seconds and one sports announcer laughed and said he expected to be working on the Tyson-Douglas fight for a total of about sixty seconds.
But it wasn’t how the match unfolded. Tyson came out swinging, brute force like all the times before and most people thought the fight was over when he knocked down Buster Douglas with a vicious uppercut in the eighth round. But Douglas did the unthinkable, he got up again. In the ninth round, he came back to knock out the invincible Mike Tyson. The boxing world could not believe the spectacle of a bewildered Tyson crawling around the ring with one eye swelled shut, looking for his mouthpiece and wondering what had happened.
So why did Buster Douglas the underdog win? Everything seemed stacked against him. His wife was leaving him, he was all but broke, and Douglas himself was sick with the flu. Worse, his mom had died two weeks before and boxing experts predicted that this devastating combination of circumstances in his real life would crush his spirit even before he entered the ring. What happened? Maybe Buster Douglas was used to taking a punch in real life. Maybe Mike Tyson was not the object of the fight, but a barrier Douglas had to fight through to get to what he was really fighting for. Douglas was not fighting to destroy, he was fighting to build and preserve things not apparent in the ring.
Let me tell you a story that shows the outcome of a match where no one can see beyond the battle. My youngest daughter had a preying mantis in a jar. It was uncanny to watch this docile-looking bug transform into a predator every time you threw a hapless bug into the jar. The one-sided battle would end up with the mantis munching on the head of his victim...until one day we put a big juicy garden spider in the jar. I thought it would be another easy victory but this is not what happened. The spider and the preying mantis eyeballed each other for a bit, shuffled around the jar circling each other. I was momentarily confused thinking the spider was avoiding the mantis, until the spider leaped upon the mantis and bit him on the soft stomach. The garden spider was on the offensive, not the defensive. The mantis responded by spearing the spider in its grasp and biting back. A few minutes later, both predators were dead. They weren’t fighting for their lives, they were fighting to the death. You see, the problem with the predator mentality, is that no one survives.
So after the punch, then what? Maybe Jesus had a good point about turning-the-other-cheek even if it doesn’t seem rational. Engaging hate with hate, revenge with revenge, can make you lose sight of the real prize. Sometimes you have to take a punch in order to preserve the bigger picture, what comes after.
We all know that Tyson went on a downward spiral in both his private life and public life. He was in and out of the courts, spent time in jail, famously bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear. Tyson used up his millions on drugs and women, but Buster Douglas’s life told a different story. He kept his earnings and went on to do productive things - sponsored a boxing ranch where he would coach the next generation of kids. He took a punch, maybe because he had better things to do. The real victory was not what Buster Douglas did in the ring, it was what he did after the fight was over. He lived.
I have heard it said that the opposite of war is peace but it is not. The opposite of strife, the desire to destroy, is creation. People who can take a punch have things to make and do in the world that are real and important. It’s all about having a bigger vision than revenge, and something to live for. So tell me. Would you take a punch? For what and for whom? If you take a punch, do it for yourself. And after that, what are you going to live for?