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No one likes to feel like their back is against the wall, whether it’s literally or figuratively. Being physically pinned in a corner, or “caught on the ropes” to borrow a well-known boxing term, can often leave us feeling like we’ve already lost the fight. This same situation can be true in life. When we’re in a match between our goals and our reality (which may be taking a bit longer than we’d like to catch up with our vision), it can make us feel like we’re trapped. Rather than take the beating lying down, we can make the best of a setback or an unanticipated set of events by having inside-fighting skills (another boxing term since we’re already on a roll).

The most important aspect of inside-fighting is changing our mindset and attitude about our position. It forces us to get down to the hard question, “When we’re on the ropes, are we going to just avoid getting hit or are we cooking up a plan to WIN?” If we’re here to win, then it’s time to make the best of a bad situation and use our position on the ropes to our advantage.

We can use the setback as our setup, and then seize the right opportunity to win!

According to, the most famous example of this strategy being put to use is known as the “rope-a-dope” – when Muhammad Ali lured an aggressive George Foreman into attacking relentlessly for the first seven rounds of the famed “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match in 1974. Ali did this not only by seemingly letting Foreman dictate the action, but by taunting Foreman mercilessly. Foreman wore himself out, and Ali seized the opportunity and knocked his drained opponent out in the eighth round. He was willing to absorb potentially devastating blows, with the knowledge (or at the very least, the hope) that he would ultimately have the ability to outlast his opponent. If we break it down and apply this concept to a few probable situations in our own life, it’ll give us a better idea of how to use this tactic when we come up against personal challenges or circumstances that can initially seem like setbacks.

If you think back to your first job or internship, there was most likely a moment when you felt like you were given all the stuff that nobody wanted to do. Someone else was dictating the action, and you simply had to take it on the chin. You tired out the opponent by handling every assignment with an attitude that said “I can take it.” Most likely, you also willingly took a few blows to the ego because you knew eventually your employer would realize that you could handle anything thrown your way.

In the long run, treating this on the ropes circumstance to your advantage put you in a better position. You got to be known as the person who gets things done, the one to call on for help with complicated tasks, and perhaps even got exposed to bigger and better projects with greater responsibility over time. Your knock out moment was you moving from internship to paid employee or from first job to first promotion.

It comes down to waiting patiently for the right opening, and then being

prepared to strike when the time comes.

But what about those moments in life we never see coming? After all, no one ever intentionally plans to fight from the ropes. An easy example is a health scare that seemingly comes out of nowhere. This can put you on the ropes financially, mentally and physically. For some, this may be where they forfeit the fight. But if you’re here to win, then even this can be used as an advantage. With many health issues, it forces us to re-prioritize what’s important. It can give us the shock we need to re-align our time and our energy toward the areas of our life that we truly value. Not to mention that many illnesses can be improved, and sometimes even cured, by a lifestyle change.

While at first it can be uncomfortable to revamp our eating habits and routines, ultimately, we are the victor in this situation. Not only do our relationships with our loved ones usually get stronger during times of uncertainty, but our health can often bounce back and we are left better off than where we started. By keeping our mindset in the game, we start to dictate the pace of the fight. It doesn’t mean we come out of the ring with no bruises, but it does mean we can effectively knock out that setback. By enduring the challenge and finding a way to win, we become the Ali in our story.

Once we learn how to successfully fight when we’re on the ropes, we find out we can come back from just about anything. We can own this entire ring, otherwise known as life, just by learning how to fight on the inside and use the rubber from the ropes to help us bounce back into the ring.

No matter what your obstacle is right now - keep your head in the game, your mind on the goal,

and be ready when your opportunity for the knockout presents itself!

Co-written by Black Zen and Karen Powers. Karen Powers is a Certified Life Coach. For purpose-lead career advice and faith-based growth, find her at

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