“Protect yourself at all times.”
That’s what you hear from the referee before you touch gloves and get after it. So, what does it mean?
Well, you are responsible for protecting yourself. You, and you alone.
Despite all the rules, rounds, and presence of the third man, things can (and do) sometimes go wrong. Low blows, punches after the bell, fingers in the eyes.. the list goes on and on.
Point being, sometimes things happen that aren’t supposed to. Sometimes things happen that aren’t fair. And often, these things come out of nowhere. It is, after all, the punch you don’t see coming that gets you in the end.
It’s no use crying foul after the fact. The damage is already done. So don’t expect your opponent, your obligations, or the world at large to take it easy on you.
In life, as in the ring, keep your guard up, your eyes on the ball, and your head on a swivel. Always be ready to react to whatever nonsense comes your way. Because that’s the definition of responsibility, isn’t it? Response-ability: the ability to respond.
And obviously you’ll find that the more aware you are, the more responsible you are, and the more that you are ready to protect yourself at all times, the less you get caught off balance — on the mats or otherwise.