“I didn’t see that coming” The glorious unpredictability of sport, leadership and life

December 1, 2015

Not a ReviewNot a week goes by without me stumbling over the unpredictability of leadership in business, sport, politics, and more seriously over environment challenges and global conflicts

Being alive brings with it the survival skill of reacting to the unexpected. Fear of the unknown is part of the evolutionary arrangements. Learning from the immediate is another.

My blogging tries to help me, and I hope readers,  to connect up the microcosmic with broader sets of ideas, sometimes known as theories. This weekend there were several moments in which my reaction was “I didn’t see that coming”.

Tyson Fury

Tyson Fury’s win over Vladimir Klitschko was one such story. It involved two excessively large boxers in a sometimes hilarious spectacle of drumming up business for their world championship match. The challenger, Tyson Fury, had a range of attention-grabbing stunts. He heaped on the obligatory abuse belittling his opponent. At one press conference he appeared dressed as Batman and gave a pantomime performance of apprehending The Joker. He burst into tuneless song, dedicating it to his pregnant wife, and once, to his impassive opponent.

His underdog back story of the Gipsy King was already in place, ticking many boxes some with similarities to those of bad boy Mike Tyson after whom he was named.

Boxing, that noble art, risks going down a path of gratuitous violence with increasing suspicions of its integrity of decisions, and welfare of its participants. I watch from to time to time with a mix of admiration and suspicion at the apotheosis of athleticism at the service of big business.

The long-established but aging champion was still widely expected to win, although Fury had his cautiously optimistic supporters among pundits. In the fight, Fury delivered the strategy he had boasted of in the pre-fight nonsense and was the shock winner. I for one was fooled, and perhaps so was Klitschko.

As one report put it

Britain’s Tyson Fury pulled off one of the great boxing upsets as he outpointed Wladimir Klitschko to become heavyweight champion of the world. It was a dour and often messy fight but Fury, courtesy of his superior boxing skills, fully deserved to be awarded a unanimous decision.

Ukrainian Klitschko, whose nine-year reign as champion was brought to an end, simply could not work the challenger out and did not do enough to win.

George Osborne

The chancellor stood up to present his autumn financial statement before a House expecting some humiliating climb down over his plans to scrap financial benefits. Osborne sat down to conservative cheers having found a way of turning a defeat into apparent victory.

He was no longing scrapping financial benefits as announced, he was scrapping his plans. A bemused Robert Peston for the BBC described the ‘conjuring trick’.

So how has George Osborne pulled off the magical trick of maintaining spending on the police, imposing smaller than anticipated departmental spending cuts in general, and performing an expensive u-turn on tax-credit reductions, while remaining seemingly on course to turn this year’s £74bn deficit into a £10bn surplus in 2020.

Well, it is because the government’s forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility, has increased its prognosis of how much the Treasury will raise from existing taxes (not new ones) and reduced what it thinks the chancellor will shell out in interest on its massive debts.

Or to put it another way, George Osborne is today £23bn better off than he thought in July, and without doing anything at all.

Time to go back to the alleged remark by Napoleon about lucky generals.

Robert and Grace Mugabe

Nothing will surprise me about Mr Mugabe anymore. Or so I thought. Then I read of the expectations of his wife that thanks to a little help from orthopaedic aids, she expects him to rule Zimambwe until he reaches his hundredth birthday. After that  Grace Mgabe is willing to assume the presidency. Grace has already astounded her observers at the speed her PhD was granted from the University of Zimbabwe, following her less successful efforts as a correspondence course student at the University of London.

Lucky Robert. Poor Zimbabwe.

 

 


Mayweather’s secret boxing skills revealed by US Air Force psychologist

May 1, 2015

Floyd Mayweather’s boxing skills are placed under the analytical microscope by psychologist and former US Air Force force and White House Strategist Gary Kline

Floyd Mayweather’s fight with Manny Pacquiao is billed as the the richest bout in boxing history.

The contest itself is of considerable interest for students of sports management and promotion.I want to concentrate on a study made by author and psychologist Gary Klein in his recent book Seeing what others don’t .

Klein had been working on a theory of how insight occur. His interest in sport and boxing had prompted him to study an unexpected result of a fight between Mayweather and the British boxer Ricky ‘The Hitman’ Hatton for the welterweight championship, also for the welterweight championship in Las Vagas [December, 2007].

The contestants had similar records. Neither had lost as a professional boxer.
Hatton was considered the more explosive puncher, Mayweather the consummate boxer.

Hatton’s power threatened Mayweather at the start, although Mayweather, according to Klein hung on, until with two rounds to go, Mayweather launched what Klein saw as a desperate but lucky punch from a defensive position, and with Hatton moving in. Lights out for Hatton.

The end of the fight was as surprising to Klein as it was to Ricky Hatton.

Was it just luck?

Klein took the video of the fight and analysed carefully and repeatedly what had happened. His original view was that he had witnessed a ‘get out of jail break’ by the American.

But as he looked more closely, he finds the pattern which he and Hatton had not. In the early rounds, Hatton’s fierce left hand sweeping hook damaged Mayweather. But Klein began to see how Mayweather pwas increasingly coping in defense. He was learning that the attack brought with it a weakness in defense and was waiting for the time to make his own reply.

It almost worked in round eight. Hatton, tiring, continued his plan, now against an opponent waiting. In round ten, Hatton continued his strategy against a prepared opponent. Mayweather took his second chance. Hatton lost on a technical knockout.

Klein suggested that Mayweather had also analyzed Hatton’s style in advance, but needed to learn it again from experience. It suggests how expertise is acquired.

Other examples

Other examples abound. The unexpected slice of luck may be open to another interpretation. It may be the reaction of a goal keeper saving a penalty, or a great tennis player ‘guessing where an opponent’s serve or reply is going or even a strong chess player playing a move likely to induce an error rather than a technically sounder move.

Klein suggests his own change of belief, from seeing a lucky punch, to seeing a process of experiential learning, weakens the ‘aha’ theory of insight.

It also helps those interested in the fight to see what is going on in a different light.


Amir Kahn and his world-beating team

July 19, 2009
Amir Kahn

Amir Kahn

When Amir Kahn won the WBA Light-Welterweight Boxing Championship in July 2009, he was quick to thank the efforts of his team. But did he overlook one influential figure, while including another?

In the UK, Amir Kahn has been a hero in waiting since winning a silver medal at the Athens Olympics as a spindly teenager of 17. He turned professional shortly afterwards and retained loyalty to his coaching team for a while after turning Professional.

But loyalty was not enough to take him to the highest levels, and he switched trainers several times. The most significant switch occurred after his first professional loss, a first round humiliation [to Bredis Prescott, 6th Sept 2008].

The changes seem to have been orchestrated by Kahn’s promoter, the colourful and controversial Frank Warren.

The World Championship match

Amir Kahn had his first world championship match, [July 18th 2009] against Andreas Kotelnik, at the MEN Arena, in Manchester for the WBA Light-Welterweight Championship. Khan outboxed a dangerous puncher of an opponent, despite tiring toward the end.

Khan thanks his team

After the fight, Kahn, remarkably level-headed in a sport which encourages hyperbole was fulsome in his praise for his team. I thought I heard him say the following, which has the added charm of ambiguity regrading the membership of his team:

“First of all I want to thank God, thank my mum and dad and thank Freddie Roach [his new trainer]. Without the team I got it wouldn’t have been possible.”

To date I haven’t heard a replay, so my memory may be letting me down. The BBC report cut out mention of God on Amir’s team. (too controversial?).

On Teams and Super-teams

Regular subscribers to LWD will know of our affinity of looking for signs of leadership distributed across membership of a social group or team. See the post on distributed leadership at Chelsea Football Club. That seems also to be the case here.

Khan has recognized the benefits of a switch to a world-class trainer. Also the longer-term familial support. Interesting that in his ingenuous first remarks he omitted to mention Frank Warren. Not so much a team member as an influential power broker, perhaps?

Maybe Amir figured he had all the powerbroking he needs on his super- team, and he doesn’t recognise Frank’s influence.

Acknowledgement

Image from wikipedia