Don't wait. Be first.
My coach used to always bark that phrase at me when I was inside the ring. I've adopted more of a counter-puncher style, a fighter who reacts based on his opponents moves. But I think that's symbolic of how you go through life. Whether you are creative of your own actions or if you are reactionary of others. Be first. Create your own destiny.
Keep your hands up.
I used to always have this tendency to drop my hands. Blame it on tiredness or watching too many damn Floyd Mayweather Jr. fights. Those habits cost me. Those habits hurt. Literally. In life, one should be trusting but never get too comfortable. Never forget that at any moment the fight can change, and you better have your guard up. Therefore, above all, protect yourself at all times.
Get off the ropes.
I began adopting the game plan of moving once I felt my back touch the ropes. Before it used to be sort of a resting area, a place where I'd practice my Philly-shell defense, but more often than not, it just became target practice for my sparring partner. I was an immobile subject, waiting to get picked off. You should always be moving, not idle on the ropes.
Control the center.
In order to stay off the ropes, you have to have some type of authority within the center. You have to stand your ground and not let yourself be pushed around. If your opponent is stronger than you, box him. If he's a better boxer, bully him. If he's better in both, exploit his anger. Make him sloppy. Find something. Use your opponents flaws against him to control the center. You control the center, you control the fight.
Make him miss. Make him pay.
I began getting better at making my opponents miss but I could always hear my coach's voice yelling, "make him pay when you make him miss!" To me it was like acting on your accomplishments. Don't just sit there and be happy that you avoided a bad stroke of luck, but take advantage of your position. Act.
Don't admire your work.
Boxing commentators used to always echo this phrase; essentially the equivalent of not dwelling on your past accomplishments. In boxing when a fighter would "admire his work" and in thinking too long about how great of a combination he just threw, he'd get caught, punched, and pounded while his mind was elsewhere. Don't think of the past, focus on the present.
Punch with him.
Part of the reason sparring has gotten easier for me is because I am punching with Maicelo and you know, sometimes I land when he's coming in, which means it interrupts his whole rhythm, which means his potential 5 punch combination was reduced to 1. Despite the fact that I know he'll beat me, I still punch back. It's like facing an adversity you know is too overwhelming, but at least you're still throwing.