The loss of boxing legend Marvin Hagler has capped off a sad weekend for sports lovers.
It was a huge privilege to meet the great man several times, most recently a year ago at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Berlin, where I gave him a copy of In The Zone to thank him for the interview he gave me for the book. I couldn't resist grabbing the chance to have another short chat, and I'm so glad I did. Thank you Champ. Here is what he told me…
How powerful is failure on the route to success?
I don’t think you think about failure. What you do is you feed the faith and you starve the doubt. That’s how you don’t fail. If you feel as though you are a winner, you are a winner. Nobody likes the fact of losing but sometimes by losing it can help you grow. The thing is that you have to learn from your mistakes. If you don’t make mistakes you’re not going to learn.
A lot of people feel that they fail a lot more than they succeed in life, I’m one of them…
You’ve got to realise one thing: it’s never too late. That’s what life is all about. You have another opportunity and it’s what you make of it. Life is what you make of it. That’s basically what I try to do every day.
Have you taken the attitude you had as a boxer to everything you’ve done since?
My boxing has been my best education in the world. I learned from my mistakes. A lot of times we make mistakes but one thing you don’t want to do is make a mistake in that ring… In boxing if you get knocked down, you’re going to have to get straight back up or you’re going to have to start all over again. Sometimes it’s a long road coming back.
On the way up, before turned pro, did you ever allow doubts into your mind?
I don’t think so. Again, you have to starve the doubt and feed the faith. I learned that young. But what helps is when you’ve got people like your family surrounding you who help and support you. Then when you feel down, family can help build you back up before you really hurt yourself or have any doubts about yourself. Family plays a really big part in growing up.
Did you have any specific mentor that helped you along the way?
I had my manager and trainer. They have both passed away but I think about them a lot. They were the ones who guided me in the right direction. That’s basically where you want to keep it. They’re the ones who really gave me the strength to keep going and be the person I am – because they gave me the faith.
And have you since passed on that faith to others?
Yes, this is the reason I’m here at Laureus right now. Because of all the things that I learned at the early part of my career, what you want to do is to be able to return something to someone else and see them grow in the right direction. So they are not living in fear but giving them hope, and saying that if I made it, you can make it too. What does it take? It takes hard work. It’s giving something back to the young kids – and hopefully one day you’re going to see them grow up.
When you give like that, does that give you something back too?
It does. It makes you feel good. I’ve given to a lot of kids – just a bit of a boxing lesson or something. What is a great feeling is if you see the kid again in the future. You never know if you will see them again but if you do bump into them and they say: ‘Do you remember me?’ And I say: ‘No, who are you, kid?’ And they say: ‘Well, you showed me a couple of punches. I used that – and you know what’s happening now? I’m getting ready to go for the Olympics.’ I say: ‘No…’ and they say: ‘Yes it was thanks to you. You really gave me that inspiration.’ That’s what makes me feel proud.
If you can get one kid off the streets, it’s a blessing…
Monaco has been the scene for many of the world’s greatest ever sporting moments – in athletics, tennis, football and, of course, Formula 1.
This week it combined all the above and much more as it hosted the Laureus World Sports Awards – the premier global celebration of the sporting year – back where it was first held in 2000. It means Monaco has been swarming with the greatest names in the history of sport, not least the 200 Laureus Academy members and ambassadors, all bona fide legends who are now uniformly determined to give something back.
This event has long been the source of many of my most inspiring interviews, and this year has been no exception. Over the past two days I’ve had the privilege to speak to Olympic champions, Paralympic greats, World Cup winners, Wimbledon champions and stars of everything from rugby to rowing to ice skating to kitesurfing.
But the real star of the show is the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which uses sport as a power for good in some of the most deprived areas of the world. And this is summed up by one of the foundation’s newest ambassadors, Indian cricket legend Yuvraj Singh.
“It’s been a great experience to be part of Laureus,” says Singh. “The first time I came to the awards was in 2004 as an athlete, this time I’m here as an ambassador. I believe sport has the power to change the world and we share a common goal to improve lives and encourage underprivileged children to come out of whatever adversity they are going through.
"That’s also the aim of my own charity YouWeCan, which helps young cancer sufferers in India to get their lives back by giving them scholarships and getting them studying. So the common goal is great."
Singh has endured plenty of hardship of his own, having been diagnosed with lung cancer shortly after helping India win the Cricket World Cup in 2011. His eventual recovery gave him first-hand experience of what it takes to face one of the toughest battles of all.
“When you go through something like that, you have a lot of doubt about whether or not you will come through,” Singh tells me. “But if you can bounce back – in my case with the help of my family and friends – it makes you stronger and gives you belief. That was a big setback in my life and it has made me really strong as a person. If you can make it through this then nothing can ever put you down.
“So people need to identify through their own story how they can actually go through the downs, get their self-belief and let that story make them stronger. Especially in the case of kids it’s very important to be in the right environment of friends, parents and teachers, and to listen to what they say. If you have the right core system of people around you, I’m sure they’ll pull you through.”
The good news is that we don’t have to wait for such adversity to unearth the power we all have within. That’s why the legends associated with Laureus are so passionate about getting the rest of us dreaming too.
“I always say the power of the mind is the biggest, the most powerful tool,” adds Singh. “Your dreams are made of you. And I think it’s important to believe them until you achieve them. I’m sure that if you keep on believing and if you take the right path, you will live your dreams.”
Clyde Brolin spent over a decade working in F1 before moving on to the wider world of sport - all in a bid to discover the untapped power of the human mind.