Thursday, February 26, 2009

Old School Balance

Friends of Boxing,

Power. Speed. Combos. Jabs. People have their ideas of what the key to boxing is. The one factor, however, that is hardly ever mentioned is balance. Balance, though, is not only the key to boxing -- it is the house. With balance, a boxer, like the early Tyson, will have the leverage in his punches and resulting power. A great offense, as Marvelous Marvin Hagler demonstrated, comes from balance and results in the ability to be ever-ready and in position to connect, even against the difficult southpaw. A super defense, JC Chavez style, is born from great balance and results in smooth side-to-side head movement and advanced footwork and counterpunching. All this, however, must begin with basic training and continually monitoring of improvement by the trainer.

Balance creates leverage which creates power. Leverage exists before the punch is thrown and not while the punch is thrown as so many teach. A punch with balance and leverage arrives with the speed, power, and snap so many trainers talk about and so many boxers wish they had. The early Mike Tyson is an example of how balance creates the leverage for awesome power.

Not only does balance form power but also the best offense. The balanced boxer will always be in position to throw a punch or combination regardless of whether moving forward, laterally, backwards, and even when hurt; and especially against a southpaw. The trouble with fighting a southpaw is not the lack of positioning to land punches (the straight right or the left hook over the southpaw's right, etc) but becoming unbalanced, and the resulting inability to land the right hand/left hook and avoid the southpaw's straight left. Hagler demonstrated superb balance and offense against all style of boxers he fought, whether the opponent was a southpaw or even when he, himself, turned southpaw.

Power, leverage, and offense won't mean too much without the expert defense that balance provides. The balanced boxer moves the upper body smoothly side-to-side in avoiding punches and counters with leverage. Then comes the footwork to position oneself for the best angles, power, and to avoid the return punch. JC Chavez Sr., king of defense for almost all of his career, landed his wicked perfect left hook to the body and avoided attacks from long, medium, and short range then continually countered with a right hand over his opponent's jab because of balance.

To end, or better yet, to start, the focus on balance should begin on the first day of training and end only when the boxer retires. If the fighter has not gone through intensive balance training, the trainer must pause all other things and get back to the basics of balance. This training includes making proper stance a habit, drilling on all areas of footwork, and learning to keep centered at all times, whether on offense or defense.

Other balance champions to learn from:
Marvin Hagler
Ricardo "Finito" Lopez
JM Marquez
Reggie Johnson
Bernard Hopkins
Azumah Nelson

Friday, February 20, 2009

Styles Make Fights part 2

Dear Boxing Fans,

Training for a fight is where the focus on styles must take place. A boxer and his trainer must focus on the type of style that the upcoming opponent has and adjust their own style to be most effective. This adjustment must take place in the gym and be hammered into the boxer so that it is second nature. This is in contrast to the way many boxers train in that they either focus on a strategy (eg. working the body more, using the double jab, etc.) or attempt to change their own style 180 degrees, with disastrous and comical results (see de la Hoya v. Trinidad rds. 9-12 or Tyson v. anybody with talent in the last 15 years).

Styles must be adjusted and not changed. All styles have their benefit and their weak points. The key is to understand the opponent's weak point and deliver. The key is also to understand one's weak point and then create a strategy to overcome that deficit. Had de la Hoya understood that his weak point as a puncher (almost a boxer-puncher) is a lack of upperbody movement and adjusted for that, he would not have been hit so cleanly and so often by a boxer-puncher like Mosley --and maybe, just maybe, would have pulled a win in that second fight.

In preparing for a fight, the boxer and trainer must look to his opponent's record and evaluate to whom the opponent has lost and what style that opponent had trouble with. With video all over the web, that is much easier than before. The boxer and trainer must then adjust his style -- more upper body movement, more jabs, early body work, etc. -- to be most effective. Only adjustments, and not style changes, truly work as the body's mechanics tend to change only a little at a time and revert back to what it knows and has done if too large of a change is attempted.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Styles Make Fights Part 1

Dear Friends of Boxing,

There is an adage in boxing that styles make fights. What does this mean? The style that each boxer has in a fight determines the tempo, activity, and even the probable outcome. I use the word "probable" for two reasons. As in any rule, there are exceptions to that rule. Secondly, there are several factors which must come into play before the rule has any consistency to it. I'll get to these factors below.

To better explain styles, I'll use some examples. Winky Wright is the prototypical boxer. Focusing more on defense and counter-punching, with a good jab and good foot movement, boxers can put you asleep, not with their power but with their boring style. Shane Mosley is the prototypical power-boxer. Focusing on power punches, this boxer also has the foot work and speed to get the respect of his opponent and often knock the opponent out in an exciting way. Oscar de la Hoya is the prototypical puncher. Focusing on the power and quality of their power shots these boxers often have less than average defense and basic footwork. Jorge Arce is the typical brawler. Whether or not they have the power or defense to do so, these boxers get in close and bang away until either they or their opponent falls. Obviously there is more to the analysis, but you get the point.

So what style wins over another? For a consistent answer --that is, one that makes sense over time, several factors must first be met. Age and experience must be basically equal (experience more important) as well as activity and preparation. Basically if you are too young or old or inexperienced or inactive or ill-prepared relative to your opponent, styles don't mean as much.

Part 2 of this post to follow soon. Add this blog to your reader.

Learn When to Hang 'Em Up

Appears that Roy Jones and Erik Morales haven't learned the lessons of so many boxers in the past that went one fight too many. Boxers, as other athletes, have physical limitations that affect their reflexes, endurance, and neurology. Adding to these limitations, boxers, unlike other athletes, generally are limited in the amount of mentoring and life coaching they receive during and after their careers.

Roy Jones and Erik Morales no longer have what it takes, physically, to succeed at their profession and will put at risk their short and long-term health. Their reflexes, Jones more notably, are nowhere near what they used to be and are, in fact, mediocre at best. Jones' success was based primarily on his reflexes, while Morales' weight division requires reflexes just to compete. Both boxers' endurance no longer exists at a championship level. Sure, both can finish a fight, and probably even start off strong, but they both lack the endurance that Father Time and years of being pounded on, both in the ring and sparring, has taken. With their lack of reflexes and endurance they will both get hurt in their next fights, if not in the short term, definitely in the long term --resulting in slurred speech, memory loss, and other physical disabilities. George Foreman, unfortunately, was the exception and not the rule.

Does Jones and Morales lack the type of mentoring and life coaching that so many other types of athletes receive? Boxers, not having a national organization, do not always have financial and after-career mentoring as many other athletes. So many boxers --top level-- have retired and died broke. Sugar Ray Robinson comes first to mind. Hopefully, Jones and Morales are not suffering economically and understand there are other ventures that they can put their heart and time into.

So why do so many boxers compete when they should retire? Is it money, fame, identity or some other factor? What a shame it would be to learn that Roy Jones and Erik Morales have run out of money, either through bad investments, bad spending, or thievery by one of their sycophants. And one can only imagine what it feels like to walk into a ring with thousands cheering their name and rooting for them to win. And what a shame it would be for Jones and Morales to see themselves only as boxers and not as the gifted people that they are --people with heart, discipline, and love for a sport that they can contribute to in so many other ways.