Monday, March 23, 2009

A Consistent Approach to Boxing

Boxing Friends,

Making the most of your boxing career takes a consistent approach to improvement of skills and consistency in weight management. A consistent approach on improving your skills, where there is always room for improvement, demands a return to basics. A consistent approach in weight management requires a change in lifestyle and eating habits so that there will be focus on skill improvement, instead of weight loss, and less wear and tear on the body over time. A consistent approach results in a longer, more successful career and injury avoidance, as demonstrated in the long and successful careers of many fighters.

A continuous improvement of skill is necessary because you are either improving or losing. Despite many boxers that have stopped improving, there is always room to improve the skills one has whether becoming faster, stronger, or more technically skilled. Improvement depends upon a return to the basics of boxing, such as balance, jab training, and defense, as well as improving upon that special skill (killer body attack, big right hand, etc.) that sets them apart from others. Fighters, such as Bernard Hopkins, that focus on improving throughout their careers rather than sitting on their accomplishments, enjoy the results of their behavior. Hopkins could have trained just enough to get him through fights and many would have said that is to be expected of an older fighter. Hopkins, however, has taken consistency to a whole new level, fighting at top form against the best in his division, while former foe Roy Jones hit the wall years ago.

Consistent weight management sets the boxer up for a longer, more successful career. Making weight management a lifestyle change, such as eating properly (more whole foods and greens) and keeping fit throughout the year, as opposed to dieting and binging, helps to keep weight under control and helps avoid the yo-yo weight gain and loss that damages the body. Moreover, the boxer that controls his weight and begins a lifestyle change can then focus his training on improving his skills, endurance, and power.

The results of a consistent approach in skill improvement and weight management add to the success of the boxer's career. The most obvious benefit is length and quality of the boxer’s career by staying ahead of same-age fighters and keeping even with or better than up-and-coming fighters. Also, the boxer experiences lesser injuries due to better health, sharper skills, and stronger body. Two prime examples of the benefits of a consistent approach in skill improvement and weight management are Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., and one of my favorites, the underestimated Harold Brazier.

Julio Cesar Chavez continuously improved his skills and was always in shape, ready to fight. Chavez ended his 22-year career with a record of 107-6-2 with 86 KOs. Throughout his career he was always sharp with his overhand right hands, body attack, and supreme defense that does not come from jumping rope but from dedication to skill, focusing on the basics, and a consistent approach to weight management. Only when age finally caught up with him –and perhaps the rumored hard partying—did his skills begin to diminish. For the first 12 years of his career no more than four months passed between fights, in contrast to the one fight a year of the pampered paper champions nowadays. Then from the age of 33 to 43 he fought on average every six months for the next ten years. That activity plus the continued constant activity fighting and training kept Julio Cesar Chavez in shape and sharp for each and every fight and made him the legend he has become.

Harold Brazier is an even better, though lesser known, example of consistency. After becoming a professional at the age of 32, he fought for the next seventeen years fighting former, future, and wannabe champions, ending his career with a record of 105-18-1 with 64 KOs, averaging almost three fights every two months throughout his career. When most boxers were ending their careers Harold Brazier was starting his, usually keeping a full-time job his whole career! His commitment to improving his skills, focus on the basics of boxing, and constant activity kept him as a top contender for several years fighting Vince Phillips, Pernel l Whitaker, Livingstone Bramble, Juan Martin Coggi, and Roger Mayweather, among many others. A strong clue for his longevity and success is that his first fight was at 138 lbs. and his last, 17 years later, was at 148.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sparring Fundamentals

Boxing Students,

Sparring is a fundamental but often undervalued and poorly used tool for trainers and boxers. The purpose of sparring is for the boxer to put the tools together and prepares the boxer mentally and physically for the real thing. Basic sparring should be directed in such a way that the trainer and boxer plans each round and sparring session, reviews each session, and repeats the plan over and over. Sparring in preparation for a fight also involves planning each session and round, in addition to focusing on the upcoming opponent's style and adjusting strategy accordingly, and should become lighter as the fight approaches.
++++JC Chavez and de la Hoya Sparring++++

Boxers spar so often but often undervalue its benefits. Sparring gives the opportunity to improve form, style, balance, along with all other tools, putting it all together, rather than focusing on winning the session or hurting the sparring partner. The boxer becomes prepared mentally by focusing all his effort on his specific plan for the round and the session. Physically, he not only gains endurance and stamina, but with focus on form and style he will set those moves into his muscle memory so that they occur naturally.

Basic sparring --that is, for beginners and experienced boxers not training for a specific fight -- has certain factors that must be met to be most effective. The trainer should have a specific plan for the sparring session as a whole, and for each individual round. For example, the trainer would use a round to have the boxer stay only in the center of the ring, or cut off the ring from a foot-loosed fighter, or even land a certain specific punch a specific amount of times. This is equivalent to a football trainer having the players go over a play again and again. Why not in boxing? Review the session and round during (even pausing the sparring if necessary) and after to make sure that the boxer sticks with the plan and does it correctly. Then repeat the plan again and again until it becomes a habit.

Sparring for a specific fight requires more than basic sparring. Again, the boxer and trainer must have a specific plan for each session and specific round, even more so now because of the limited time leading up to a fight. The boxer must focus on the upcoming opponent's style and the adjustments to be made so that the boxer is most effective against that style. Simply sparring for endurance and even worse, to lose weight, simply doesn't cut it if you want to become a champion or top-level fighter. And as the fight approaches, the sparring should become lighter to rest the body and allow more emphasis on form and defense.

Sparring is serious business and shouldn't be taken lightly. If a trainer does not closely monitor, plan, and review each session bad form not only occurs but eventually becomes set in body and mind and becomes difficult, though not impossible, to change. Lack of planning and monitoring over time leads to the dreaded sparring partner mentality that is impossible to change. So spar right, spar often, and take it seriously.