Billy Miske was…a fighter from the old school, and a good one at that. He fought men like Tommy Gibbons, Harry Greb, and Battling Levinsky. He also fought Jack Dempsey for the heavyweight championship of the world. At 25, when he should have been at his peak and headed for even greater heights, he was hospitalized with a serious illness. The doctors told him to quit the ring. He should have, but fighting was the only thing he could do. By the time he was 29, his kidneys were shot. He knew he was dying of Bright’s disease and he had only one fight that year. Too weak to go to the gym to train, and too sick to seek any other job, he stayed at home with his family and watched his family’s finances reach desperate straits.
Christmas was around the corner and his love for his family cried out to him to provide that “Merry Christmas” for them. In November, Miske went into Minneapolis to see his friend and manager, Jack Reddy, to persuade him to arrange a fight. At first Reddy was adamant in his refusal. He knew of Miske’s condition and he would have no part in such a fight. Miske pleaded his case well, explained he was broke, and that he knew he wouldn’t be around much longer. He had to have just one more fight because Christmas was on its way and his family was in need. Finally, Reddy agreed… Miske knew he was too weak to get into shape, but promised he would make a good fight.
Against his better judgement, Reddy finally gave in and matched his old friend with Bill Brennan. The fight was slated to take place in Omaha, Nebraska. Brennan was a tough, hard fighter who had gone twelve rounds with Dempsey. He was past his prime, but he was still a formidable opponent for a dying man.
Since Miske didn’t have the stamina to train, he stayed at home to conserve his strength. He went to Omaha just in time for the fight. In those days, boxing commissions were considerably more lenient than they are today, so they passed Miske. The fight drew well and when it was over, Billy Miske picked up his $2,400 purse and went home to his family and Christmas. He spent it all on the things the family wanted and had been doing without. It was truly a happy occasion, the biggest Christmas the Miske family ever had. On December 26th, Miske called Jack Reddy to take him to Saint Paul Hospital where he died on New Year’s Day.1
The story shows how Billy’s love for his family fired him up. Even though he was weak and dying, he tapped into his reserve for energy and with that he won the fight. His effort was unbelievable. Billy Miske, the dying man, actually knocked out Bill Brenan in four rounds.
You may have a problem that seems to immobilize you. You feel helpless and when you look into the future, you do not see hope. Now, there are electrochemical processes going on in your brain. In your thinking in which these processes take place, you are probably being negative and this may cause you to interpret your situation in a way that has no basis in reality. But there is another way to interpret your situation – the positive way. This involves you seeing your problem as something that challenges you in such a way that a better you is being called out to solve the problem. So, rather than being immobilized as a result of the problem, you should be fired up. Yes, I know that your problem is not trivial but you should never focus on it. Acknowledge your problem but focus on the solution. When you focus on the solution and begin to work at it, circumstances slowly but surely begin to change for the better. The person you become when you solve the problem will be a better person than you are presently when you are confronted with the problem.
Let your desire to win take over you. Let it make you call out your reserve. Let it make you give your all. In the end, your desire to win will be what will differentiate you, a champion, from an average performer.
- Zig Ziglar, 2000, See You at the Top, Pelican Publishing Company Inc., pp. 331-332.