on the ropes, to be

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be on the ropes

To be in a vulnerable position and nearing failure or collapse. The phrase comes from boxing, in which a boxer may use the ropes around the ring for support. That team is definitely on the ropes—they're losing 10-1! Now that everyone knows he embezzled money from the company, his career is on the ropes.
See also: on, rope
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

on the ropes, to be

To be on the brink of collapse or ruin. The term comes from boxing, where a fighter who is on the ropes surrounding the ring is in a defenseless position, often leaning against them to keep from falling. It began to be transferred to other catastrophic situations about 1960. A Boston Globe article used it in 1988: “He acknowledged that the Dukakis campaign was on the ropes.”
See also: on
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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