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Why Fighters Use Dark Alter Ego's In The Ring - Sports Psychology Breakdown

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Something I was surprised to find out while researching the fights of the 4 Kings of boxing was that 3 of the 4 fighters had an alter ego that they adopted in the ring. Some even had multiple persona’s, along with long standing rituals they used to transform into these alter egos.


For instance, Leonard looked into the mirror before each and every one of his fights. If he saw Sugar Ray looking back, he knew he could not lose the fight. After all, Sugar Ray didn’t lose. Sugar Ray was invincible. But if he saw Ray Leonard looking back, he believed that the odds of victory had been greatly diminished.

When Leonard go into trouble, he had a separate persona who he referred to in the third person, known as the Street Fighter.

Likewise, Hearns would talk about The Hitman in the third person, describing him as a whole separate person.

And Hagler described an inner monster that lived inside of him, tearing at it’s cage until fight night when Hagler unleashed and, in fact, became that monster himself.

Duran was the only man of the 4 kings who had no alter ego, perhaps because he made no effort to contain his inner monster in the first place.

Today, heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder speaks of his persona as a whole separate person, even saying that he and the Bronze Bomber at times want two different things.
Tyson adopted the alter ego of Iron Mike, which came into being one night after his mentor Cus D’Amato mentioned he wished Tyson was bigger.

Sports Psychology Alter Ego Links:

Bishop, G., & Benoit, A. (2016). Unpacking”Angry Doug Baldwin. ​Sports Illustrated​, ​125​(5),
22–28.
https://www.si.com/vault/2016/09/14/unpacking-doug-baldwin
Perry, J. (2015). Leave Winning to Your Alter Ego. ​Athletics Weekly (0004-6671)​, 52–53. https://www.athleticsweekly.com/featured/sports-psychology-leave-winning-to-your-alter-ego-36 465/
Wulf, S. (1986). The Hawk: A Nose for All Seasons, Kenny Harrelson and His Alter Ego, The Fabulous Hawk, are Again at Basesball’s Heights. ​Sports Illustrated https://amp.si.com/vault/1986/01/20/628883/the-hawk-a-nose-for-all-seasons
Hobson, N. M., Schroeder, J., Risen, J. L., Xygalatas, D., & Inzlicht, M. (2018). The Psychology of Rituals: An Integrative Review and Process-Based Framework. ​Personality and Social Psychology Review,​ ​22(​ 3), 260–284 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1088868317734944#articleCitationDownloadCont ainer
*requires access
Deford, S. (1973). In Steve’s Book, The ‘I’ Has It. ​Sports Illustrated, https://amp.si.com/vault/1973/12/10/618459/in-steves-book-the-i-has-it


Whiteside, K. (1997). Game Time Free-Spirited Simeon Rice Is Being Asked to Anchor the
Cardinals’ D. He and His Alter Ego Are Ready. ​Sports Illustrated​, 38.
https://amp.si.com/vault/1997/07/16/230298/game-time-free-spirited-simeon-rice-is-being-a
sked-to-anchor-the-cardinals-d-he-and-his-alter-ego-are-ready

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