Dr. Jack Singer on Bradley-Pacquiao, Mayweather, Sports Psychology and much more...
By David Tyler, Doghouse Boxing (June 19, 2012) Doghouse Boxing
Dr. Jack Singer
Dr. Jack Singer holds a Post-Doctorate in Clinical and Sport Psychology. The National Institute of Sports Professionals, Division of Psychologists, recognizes Dr. Singer as a Certified Sport Psychologist and NIS also recognized him with a Diplomate in the Field of Sport Psychology. Dr. Singer is a frequent guest on ESPN, FOX-SPORTS, CNN, The Glen Beck Show, MSNBC and countless sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. and Canada. Please welcome Dr. Singer into the Doghouse.

David Tyler: Dr. Singer, how long have you been a Certified Sports Psychologist?

Jack Singer: 33 years.

DT: You have told me that you work with professional boxers. How long have you been a boxing fan?

JS: I've been a boxing fan since I was a kid. I grew up watching the Friday night fights with my dad and have remained a fan of the sport. When I was teaching at the Air Force Academy, they had a boxing club. I got interested in competitive collegiate boxing. I have worked with many boxers on a professional level and have enjoyed helping them to perform their best, consistently.

DT: My brother and I recently attended the Bradley/ Pacquiao event in Las Vegas. Are you aware of the controversy surrounding the results of the fight?

JS: All boxing fans are talking about the fight. I have spoken with many of my friends who are boxing fans and I have a good friend who was actually sitting ringside at the event.

DT: My dad once told me that when Joe Louis lost his Heavyweight title, millions of boxing fans refused to believe that Joe had lost. I would say that many boxing fans refuse to accept the fact that Pacquiao lost the fight. Why do fans have this type reaction?

JS: David, what you are referring to is the fact that fans develop heroes in their minds and they look at those heroes as people who can never lose. They find it hard to comprehend that someone that they have invested all their emotional energy into could actually lose. This makes the fans feel vulnerable, themselves. In this day and age people latch onto heroes because of the stresses and strains with what's going on in the world. They want to have heroes they can count on. It becomes very difficult to deal with the situation when they suddenly realize you can't count on this person because they are like the rest of us…just human and not superman. Every generation of boxing has had those kinds of heroes. It's not just boxing related. This is true for all sports when fans are so emotionally bound to their favorite team. They can go into a deep depression when their team loses a big game, especially when the team was heavily favored to win.

DT: This can be boxing related when your fighter is on the losing end of a split decision and you disagree?

JS: Yes, but not only disagree with the decision but you have a huge majority of people who saw the same fight and they also disagree with the decision. Also, the punch count was heavily favoring Pacquiao, and the telecast's own unofficial scorer had scored the fight as a lopsided victory for Pacquiao. This reinforces and fuels the anger of his fans and makes people automatically assume that the fight was fixed or some conspiracy has taken place.

DT: Dr. Singer, would you agree that the punch stats (what is a power punch?), the unofficial scorer, and the millions who thought Pacquiao won, is all subjective?

JS: Yes. It all depends on what the official judges are looking for in the fight. Maybe they are looking for a fighter that clearly hurts the opponent with punches, the activity of the fighter, the defensive ability of the fighter, is he aggressive. These are just a few examples. But the short answer is that all judging is subjective.

DT: You are aware that boxing has a long history of corruption?

JS: It's easy to jump on the band wagon and say that something is wrong. Bob Arum was adamant that he didn't want this to happen just because it would lead to a big payday for him, as a promoter of a potential rematch. People do make mistakes and the fact is that just one judge made the difference. We are talking about one person looking at something that if he or she thought was closer or even a draw, we would not have such an emotional reaction from so many fans to the results.

DT: I was at the fight with my brother and the fans sitting in our area thought it was a close fight. As I reviewed the telecast of the fight, it would appear that the crew broadcasting the fight all formed their opinion early in the fight and stayed in that direction. Can the broadcasters shape or form the fan's opinion?

JS: Absolutely. When you are watching a fight as a fan you are not necessarily looking at the same thing as the official judges are watching. When you are listening to a boxing broadcaster who is being called an expert in the sport, you just assume what that person says is reality. The judges are trained to look for certain things and it may not be the same thing that an announcer is watching. Everyone has to understand that nothing is guaranteed, you never know what a judge is going to be looking for in a particular fight. It's incumbent for every fighter to do their best in every round because you can't count on the final decision to go your way. We have all seen the examples where a fighter's corner is telling him that he has enough points to win the fight and take it easy in the last few rounds just to avoid being knocked out. Fight fans can all remember bouts where one fighter coasted during the final few rounds and wound up on the losing end of a close decision.

DT: If you were a boxing trainer, just what advice would you give your fighter during the fight?

JS: If I was advising fighters, I would tell them to pace themselves and do the psychological things that I teach them. This includes controlling their self-talk, remembering to breath (many fighters unconsciously hold their breath at crucial times), and always expect to do well, regardless of what happened during the previous rounds.

DT: When a boxer comes to you for mental training, what is the typical situation?

JS: Good question. Around 90% of the boxers that seek my help have just lost a fight and were told that the reason was mental and they should seek the help of a Sports Psychologist. But, there are a few boxers who come to me in a proactive way. They know that they are getting older and their body is being challenged. They are looking for mental ways to compensate for the things that their body is no longer able to do. That's what we call taking a “proactive approach” by preventing potential problems, as opposed to coming to be for help in their struggle to process why they lost. I get many boxers who are highly ranked or champions and they are devastated after a loss, especially after an upset loss.

DT: There is a saying in boxing that once you have been upset or knocked out, you are never the same fighter. Would you agree?

JS: I think that is true because a lot of boxers think they are indestructible and all of a sudden they realize that they are vulnerable. This adds a new dimension to their thinking when they are in the ring. The reality is that every boxer should do whatever it takes to fight a smart fight and not have the attitude that I have a strong chin and no one could ever knock me out. That's simply not true.

The mark of a true champion is how he bounces back from a setback. So, I teach all of my boxers that getting upset or knocked down is possible…”let’s plan on how you will handle that and come back even stronger!”

DT: Dr. Singer, what are some of the psychological techniques that you utilize to help a boxer become mentally tough in the ring?

JS: I use “Sports Hypnosis,” which I call the “unfair advantage,” because it is such a powerful tool....most boxers have never had training in this discipline because there are only a handful of sports psychologist in the country who are trained in this area. Once I teach this to my fighters, they will have a huge advantage over their opponent.

DT: Can you give some basic examples of how you use the hypnosis technique?

JS: I make recordings for them based on who they are going to fight...the strengths, weakness, and tendencies of their opponent. We make a series of hypnotic recordings that they start listening to every day leading up to the fight. They come into the fight focused, concentrated, and perform the way they have visualized. Of course there may be some surprises, things they didn't expect, so we have to be able to make the adjustments during this training. All of this can be done through hypnosis. I also teach my fighters a very quick and easy mental toughness routine. This consists of five things that the fighters can practice in their minds every day and in the dressing room prior to the fight. This helps them focus on positive things instead of allowing negative, self -defeating thoughts to creep into their minds.

DT: Can you tell the readers more about that technique?

JS: The biggest enemy of a fighter or any athlete is their self-talk…what they say to themselves before and during the match. If your self-talk is negative in any way, your brain goes into emergency mode, which tightens you up and makes you vulnerable to not being able to give your best performance in the ring. Everybody has an emergency switch in their brain that goes on when they perceive their life is in danger. This is called the “fight or flight response.” The default position for the subconscious mind is turn on this fight or flight response after any negative thought or worry that you have. Your brain does not know whether it's life threatening or not, so it will not take chances and simply turns on this switch. A simple thought like, “what if I lose this fight” is enough to turn on the switch. Let's say your opponent doesn't do what you expect him to do and you worry that you haven’t prepared for this strategy. This will also turn on the switch. The first symptom of “fight or flight” is that it tightens up your arm and leg muscles so that you can potentially fight off a predator or flee over a short burst of time. This is not good for a boxer because he must be loose and limber, not tight and he must remain this way for many rounds. Also, if you are giving yourself negative thoughts, you have changed the way you were trained and now you are in trouble. Also, your heart and respiration rates speed up, both to make you more efficient in helping you escape from the predator. This will affect the boxer as he will become exhausted very quickly and not be able to recover in between rounds. Many boxers have called me and said they were in their best shape ever for the fight, but after the third round they were exhausted. That's a clue to me that they were thinking negative thoughts, and turning on the “fight or flight” as a result. I teach them how to control this.

DT: Sir, we hear the phrase in boxing...mentally tough...what does that mean to you?

JS: The mark of a champion is being able to bounce back from setbacks. It's not avoiding setbacks, because everyone has setbacks even during a match. So the question is how do I bounce back from a tough shot? Mentally tough fighters say “that’s over, now let's move on to my next opportunity.” The fighters that are not mentally tough will focus on the fact that “I can't believe that he landed that punch, what if he gets to me again?” and those fighters are very vulnerable to losing at that point.

DT: Who is the most 'mentally tough' fighter you have seen through the years?

JS: That's a tough one, but Muhammad Ali was mentally tough because he truly believed that it would be almost impossible to lose and even if he did lose, he would just dig in and win his next bout. This is a very good example of mental toughness because he understood that he had the capacity to win but he could handle it if he did not win every single time. Being optimistic and consistently expecting to fight your best are hallmarks of mental toughness.

DT: Floyd Mayweather Jr. is undefeated and he is very proud of this fact. Is he mentally tough?

JS: I am sure he has been mentally tough to be undefeated at this point in his career. However, he has many distractions within his world. I believe he is more of an entertainer now, who happens to be a very gifted and skilled boxer. If someone gets the best of him in the ring, I just can't predict how he will react to a loss. David, as you know a lot of fighters just don't know when to exit the sport. I have a lot of fighters who have quit and now they’re in their late 30's and want me to make them tough enough to fight younger guys. This is not realistic-- age will erode their physical capabilities--you can't fight in your late 30's like you fought in your early 20's. No one has invented any drug that would stop us from aging.

DT: Dr. Singer, I know your time is valuable so this will be my last question. Do you agree with the Yogi Berra approach that 90% of the sport is mental and the other half is physical?

JS: Yogi had some interesting quotes and he obviously confused percentages. I would put it in a different way...10% of our emotions result from situations that happen to us. In boxing, the other 90% is how the fighter will react to the situation. That's also the way life works -- 10% of our stress is a result from events in our life, 90% of our stress is caused by our reaction to the event.

Readers: Please see the below contact information and websites for more information about Dr. Singer.

Jack N. Singer, Ph.D.
Licensed & Certified Sport Psychologist
Member, Association for Applied Sport Psychology
Diplomate, National Institute of Sports Professionals
Certification in Clinical & Sports Hypnosis, ASCH
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Diplomate, American Academy of Behavioral Medicine

1-800-497-9880 (949) 481-5027 (Fax)



***David Tyler replies to all his e-mails and loves to hear from the readers. Comments, Questions, Suggestions, E-mail David now at: dtyler53@cox.net

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