Think like a boxer: 4 key elements of success in policing

After a decade as a law enforcement professional and an active amateur boxer, I have come to recognize key similarities between the two


By David Bermudez

Being a successful boxer is no easy task. The same can be said about being a police officer. After 10 years in the law enforcement profession and as an active amateur boxer for the United Combat Association, I have realized that there are a great number of similarities between the two pursuits.

Both require tremendous grit, hardship on the body and patience. You have to be both mentally and physically sharp. Being both a competitive boxer and a police officer, here are my thoughts on four disinct elements of success that apply to a career in both policing and boxing.

1. Staying in shape is essential
As a boxer, if you are not in shape, you are in big trouble. When you get tired, you are open to getting hit. Your hands drop and your chin is exposed. When fatigue rears its ugly head, mistakes and bad decisions are made. Even when you are going on the offensive, the punches aren’t as technically sound, fast or powerful.

In other words, if you are not in shape, you are going to get hurt. The same goes for police work.

There are no rules out in the street. There are crooks out there who do not want to go to jail and have no respect for authority or rules. You, the officer, are seen as the one standing in their way. Fight or flight kicks in, and that crook decides to fight you because the gamble means a chance he could escape. The crook goes for broke; even the threat of lethal force doesn’t deter him because he has nothing to lose.

During the fight, fatigue happens no matter what. The question becomes who is going to get tired first? Who is going to go home that night? The crook or you? Staying in shape is key, because you never know when you are going to be in the fight of your life.

2. Train how you fight
In boxing, you want to train as realistically as possible for competition. That’s why boxers spar round after round to get used to absorbing and dishing out the punishment. You want to be able to last so that when it’s fight night, your body knows the drill and the experience will not be a shock to the system. Mentally and physically, you have to be placed in situations that are going to be similar to what you are going to encounter in a real fight. The same goes for police work.

Police work requires countless hours of ongoing training and practice in all aspects of the profession — shooting, defensive tactics, building searches and driving, just to name a few. You have to learn how to shoot during the day and night. You have to learn how to search and take down crooks when it is legal and appropriate. You have to pie the corner safely. You have to be trained on policy and procedure to know when and how to drive Code 3 when it is legal and appropriate. Doing all this requires intense training and being placed in real-life situations.

3. Prepare to be stereotyped
As a boxer, you are stereotyped all the time. People think you are a brute and a threat. Some perceive you as strange because you hit and get hit in the face as a hobby or a profession. I have come across people who want to test out your skills in the street or in the gym. The same goes for police work.

The public tends to see an officer either with great admiration or disdain. The majority of people I have come across believe it is a noble profession and respect it, but when I’m driving in areas where people are not so keen on the police, I know I will most likely come across dirty looks and inappropriate hand gestures. I also know that when I answer a call in a not-so-pro-police area, I should be prepared for insults, being recorded with a cellphone and looks of disdain.

4. You believe the risk to your life is worth it
There is tremendous risk in boxing. One good shot to the head could have devastating health consequences. Potential injuries can include everything from busted lips, swollen eyes, and torn retinas to fractured hands, concussions and even death. The same goes for police work.

When an officer straps on that body armor, puts on his or her uniform and snaps on the keepers holding the duty belt in place, he or she is instantly a target. Everyone knows what that officer represents and what his job is. It is very scary because there are so many people who simply hate the police. It is a risk we take every day we go in service. But truly successful police officers and boxers know it is a risk worth taking.


About the author
David Bermudez is a 10-year law enforcement veteran for the East Bay (California) Regional Parks Police Department. His assignments have included patrol and investigations. David is also a defensive tactics instructor and gang expert and a member of the Contra Costa County Mutual Aid Mobile Field Force. David has coached boxing for more than 10 years and is an active amateur boxer for the United Combat Association, a league consisting of police, fire and military service men and women.

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