Who and what inspires you? For me it mostly comes from loved ones and many of the people I am lucky enough to work with. But inspiration really can crop up in the most surprising places too.
by Darren Caveney
As a youngster I became a big boxing fan, watching all the big 80s fights with my Dad. This was a golden era for the sport, with the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvellous Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns and Roberto Duran putting everything on the line in a series of what became known as ‘Super Fights’ between these talented and brave exponents.
Boxing is often referred to as the noble art. Men and women putting their health quite literally on the line to put food on their family’s tables. But at the end of most fights a respectful embrace breaks out. Warriors appreciating their opponents.
Of course, there are ethical issues surrounding the sport. Indeed, I stopped watching it after the sickening outcome of the Michael Watson vs Chris Eubank fight of 1991. Whatever your views on boxing you have to give enormous respect to anyone who laces up gloves for a living.
Compare and contrast the conduct and respect between boxers, with so much at stake, with some of the behaviours we see each day in the media and online in the UK. It’s not a pretty sight.
An inspirational story
It was British heavyweight champion of the world, Anthony Joshua, who got me back into boxing recently. You’d be hard pressed to find a better sporting role model in the UK.
And then there’s Tyson Fury. The ex-heavyweight champion of the world who has cut a controversial figure throughout his career. He is quoted as having said some deeply unpleasant and utterly unacceptable things in his early career.
But the Tyson Fury story of the past three years is a quite incredible one, and one which Fury has opened up on – in brutal honesty – in the run-up to his return to the world title scene with the clash with American champ, Deontay Wilder in LA this weekend.
Fury has suffered mental health issues, depression and confessed to considering suicide on several occasions. His weight ballooned to 28 stone too as he fought drug and alcohol addiction.
You’ll find many recent interviews online where he talks incredibly frankly about his problems, how he is managing them, and how he got himself back into shape and ready to fight again. It’s a powerful story and doesn’t always make for comfortable listening.
But it’s this raw honesty which made me to take a closer look and a desire to understand a little more about the Fury story.
Incidentally, Fury has just declared that he will donate his $8million fight purse to homeless charities. That is some turnaround from the ugly figure I felt he cut a couple of years ago.
All in, whatever your views of him, it’s an inspirational story of what can be achieved against the odds. So long as we are honest with ourselves and those around us.
We are in desperate need of more honestly right now
So many conversations I’ve had this year have had a common denominator running through them, whether it has been the news of the day and something spotted on social media – dishonesty and fakery.
I won’t mention the orange-haired one in the US here. We have enough of our own UK examples before we begin pointing accusing fingers across the pond. Brexit alone has thrown up a lifetime of lies and encouraged an element in our society which I like less and less.
The UK feels bereft of honesty right now. Like so many of our most influential leaders are largely in it for themselves.
Watch or listen to any news bulletin and on a daily basis we’re awash with national politicians who simply will not answer questions. Most politicians’ answers to media questions include the lines “let me be clear”, “I have been very clear”, “I want to be very clear”.
Clear, clear very clear.
Except in reality they are generally anything but clear. This irony is allowed to slide, interview after interview. All parties are guilty of it, this isn’t a one party tirade.
We live in fake times with fake news, chancers and con artists trying their luck in various walks of political, business and social life. I feel like parts of our media have been remiss in challenging untruths.
How often do we now see expert opinions sullied by non-experts without it seems much if any recourse.
All of which is why I was so struck with the Fury interviews.
It’s somewhat surprising to me that a boxer with a very debatable back catalogue of comments has provided one of the most impressively honest observations about himself and those around him and, in the process, reminded me that we should never accept fakery, lies and deception.
And it’s this honesty which made me sign up for his very, very early morning pay per view fight. I wanted to see the end of the story.
What does this have to do with communications?
As communicators we know it’s our role, and in our collective JDs, to challenge dishonesty wherever we see it.
But maybe that alone is no longer enough. Maybe we need a bit more Fury-style ‘brutal honesty’ to stand a chance of cutting through the country’s current hyperbole.
It may be my age but I'm up for it.
The end of this particular story
There’s a final piece of inspiration to take from this true boxing tale and which prompted this post.
This guy, who battled mental health issues, depression, thoughts of suicide, substance abuse and a 10 stone weight loss crusade and who (in the view of all impartial pundits and journalists I heard), went on to win the fight.
But Fury had this barely-believable, Hollywood-style ending ripped from his grasp by a terrible judge’s score. As a result, the fight was declared a draw, meaning he missed out on the heavyweight belt.
This could have understandably devastated someone who has been on such a tumultuous three-year journey and prompted an angry and disappointed outcry.
But Fury’s response in the official post-fight press conference was humble and graceful - if you watch this video clip from 16 mins 58 seconds onwards you’ll see it’s priceless, warm and funny too.
It’s a lesson to us all in being dignified in adversity.
Fury was brave and skillful in the fight, and he got me up off my sofa cheering at 4.30am.
But even more inspirational than that is the job Fury is now doing to promote mental health issues by becoming an influential ambassador. What a turn-around.
Inspiration really can come from the most unusual places.
Darren Caveney is creator of comms2point0 and owner of creative communicators ltd
image via The State Library of New South Wales