Mike Tyson, Chess, And The Winner Effect

On August 19, 1995, Mike Tyson made his first post prison boxing appearance against Peter McNeeley.

Now at the time, Mike Tyson had just spent 3 years in jail so there was no way he was going to come back and immediately fight the current champion. This is why Don King, Tyson’s manager, had planned for Mike Tyson to go against some easy opponents at first.

McNeeley was meant to be a first easy opponent for Tyson. And despite not boxing for 3 years, it took Tyson only 89 seconds to win the fight.

On December 16, 1995, Tyson had his second post prison fight against another easy opponent, Buster Mathis Jr, which lasted 3 rounds before Tyson eventually knocked him out.

After that fight, Tyson decided that he was ready to go against the WBC World Champion Frank Bruno, and in the third round of that fight, Tyson knocked Bruno out. Again, Tyson was champion.

Study after study has shown that winning causes a surge in testosterone, which we know is important if you’re Mike Tyson trying to knock someone out. But how important is it to our everyday lives?

Alan Mazur, a Professor at Syracuse University, has helped answer this question by studying chess players.

Mazur had convinced 16 chess players from a nearby city chess club to spit into sample bottles before, during, and after each of their chess matches throughout an important chess tournament. And what Mazur found was that testosterone levels surged amongst the winners.

More importantly, though, he also found that those who had shown the biggest surges of testosterone before the tournament were more likely to win their chess matches.

In our everyday lives, whether it’s boxing or playing chess, we are constantly competing and challenging one another. And in the book “The Winner Effect,” Ian Robertson says,

“How we come out of these challenges depends not just on our state of mind and hormonal activity before the event, but also on whether or not we have won in the past.”

When the boxer or chess player wins an easy match, the surge of testosterone that is triggered by this victory somehow carries forward to his next bout against a tougher opponent, even if it’s days, weeks or months later.

Professor Landau called this “The Winner Effect,” which is the term they use in biology to describe how an animal that has won a few fights against weaker opponents is much more likely to win later fights against stronger opponents.

Unfortunately, few of us have a Don King who will give us easy matches that will give us a testosterone advantage against the Frank Brunos of our lives.

What this means then is that if you want to be successful in life, don’t go straight for the big victory. Start small and work your way up because the more you win, the more you will go on to win.



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