Saturday, April 18, 2009

De La Hoya's Retirement?

Boxing Fans,

Apparently Oscar de la Hoya has retired. Maybe it’s real, maybe not. So many boxers retire, only to come back sooner than later and make a fool of themselves. If, however, de la Hoya has truly retired for good, there are many reasons why one should honor what he has done for the sport. De la Hoya’s career is filled with awesome achievements that will leave a lasting legacy in the sport and his retirement, if it sticks, will give him an opportunity to continue to brighten the sport. De la Hoya’s achievements span the whole of his life from his first fight as an amateur to his long successful pro career to his emergence as a promoter. His legacy is grounded firmly in history because of the big fights he had, his sportsmanlike conduct, and his humility as a boxer and as a man. His retirement from the ring and his financial and physical health are an example for all boxers and will allow him to better the sport and, if he chooses, to lobby for a national organization.


Oscar de la Hoya is the most popular and successful boxer of all time. His amateur career, beginning as a child of six years old included hundreds of wins and titles including the Goodwill Games, National Champion, Golden Gloves champion, Junior Olympics, and of course, gold medalist at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He fought the best amateur competition in the world for twelve years before he even stepped in to the ring as a professional. His pro career includes titles in six different weight classes against the best opponents in each division for more than 17 years. Exciting wins against opponents like Rafael Ruelas, Fernando Vargas, JC Chavez, and Ike Quartey balance the exciting disappointments of his losses against Mosley, Bernard Hopkins, Trinidad, and Pacquiao. Those wins and losses are something that no one can ever take away from history. Now he can bring that excitement to his role as a promoter, although judging from some of his previous cards, he’s still learning.


De la Hoya’s legacy is firmly grounded in history and is a great example for all young boxers to aspire. De la Hoya fought the best in his seventeen years as a professional. The combined record of his opponents at the time he fought them was 1547 wins, 124 losses and 44 draws – that is, de la Hoya’s opponents had won more than 90 percent of their fights when they met him. Later in his career, de la Hoya did not just have fights, he had classic matchups against the best in his division. Fans will always remember the spectacular knockout of Vargas, the quick destruction of Ruelas, the bloody, emotional battle with Chavez, the blinding speed and power of Mosley and de la Hoya’s close match, the gallant effort against the bigger Hopkins, and the horrible later-rounds fight plan against Trinidad. His uncharacteristic loss against Pacquiao should do nothing to diminish his career but serve as an example that a boxer should leave the sport before that happens. De la Hoya’s humility and sportsman-like conduct was a breath of fresh air for a sport that was degenerating into WWE and UFC type nonsense, bragging, and idiotic remarks and actions from boxers such as Tyson, Mayorga, Vargas and Prince Hamed. His usual response to nonsense was that he did his talking in the ring, which he always did. And unlike Tyson and Roy Jones, he thankfully avoided referring to himself in the third person. The only qualm I have is that he, at one time, thought that his skills as a boxer would transfer over to his singing career! Well, I never said he was perfect.


Will de la Hoya remain retired and what will he do if he does? De la Hoya has apparently retired with a boatload of money, his health, and a career as a big-time promoter. With his money, prestige, and seeming intelligence he can do much to bring positive attention to the sport. No doubt that boxing has suffered and many claim that it is at death’s door, but they have been saying this for decades. A person like de la Hoya and his clout can create matches and events to rival the great fights of the 1950’s (think Ike Williams v. Beau Jack, Kid Gavilan v. Carmen Basilio, Sugar Ray Robinson v. Gene Fullmer), mid 70’s (Ali v. Frazier, Foreman v. anyone, Monzon v. Griffith) and early 80’s (Leonard, Duran, Hearns, Hagler, Curry, Arguello, Pryor, etc.). He can also lobby and use his influence to create one national organization like the NBA or MLB so that there is only one champion per weight class, more transparency, and better protection for fighters after they retire. That, however, maybe asking for too much. Adios de la Hoya and thank you for all you’ve done.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Importance of the Jab

Boxing Friends,

The jab is the most important punch in boxing. Three important factors include proper form, use as an offense tool, and use as defense. The proper form includes keeping both hands held high, stepping with the jab on the ball of the foot, keeping the shoulder level and the chin tucked in and down, and turning the jab to the 4 o’clock position at the last moment. The effective use of the jab for offense controls the opponent, sets up the opponent for power punches and combos, and measures the distance of the opponent for accurate distance and power. The boxer’s effective use of the jab as a defensive tool throws and keeps the opponent off balance, disrupts his timing, and keeps him at a distance if the boxer becomes hurt.

The proper form of the jab is the key to delivering the most effective jab. A boxer must keep his hands high and ready to throw a jab rather than deliver the jab from his waist which takes more time and loses the snap. When ready to throw, the boxer steps with the lead foot, landing on the ball of the foot so that the step is smoother and faster – in line with the punch. What is surprising is how many boxers, even top-rated, throw a jab without the proper stepping. The chin should be tucked under the lead shoulder to protect from the counter punch over the jab. The last split second, however, is the key, when the jab turns inward to the 4 o’clock position. That last split second, if done correctly, gives the jab the majority of its power and snap. Boxing commentators, trainers, and fans constantly gripe about the lack of boxers with great jabs. A return to basics will help with that.

The jab is the boxer’s most effective offensive tool. Using a strong consistent jab puts the boxer in control of the opponent by putting the opponent where the boxer wants him and creates constant pressure, both physically and mentally. Very few things in life are as frustrating as being constantly hit by a jab and being unable to hit back. That fact has caused many boxers, even great ones, to quit . (see Roberto Duran v. Leonard II) The boxer then sets up the opponent for power punches and combos by placing the boxer where he wants him, either in the center off the ring, on the ropes, moving forward, sideways or backwards. During the fight the boxer will notice when it is and in what direction that the opponent is easiest to hit. At the same time, the boxer is measuring the distance of the opponent with the jab so that the power punches and combos land with the best leverage, and therefore, the most power.

Using the jab for defense is often forgotten. The boxer’s jab keeps the opponent off balance by snapping the opponent’s head back and having to constantly change footing and position to avoid this punch. The jab should be constantly thrown but is most effective when the opponent steps. Once off balance, the opponent then loses his ability to time the boxer and finds it more difficult, if not impossible, to land a clean strong punch. (see Winky Wright schooling Felix Trinidad with the jab) And if hurt, the boxer uses his strong jab and feints to keep the opponent at a distance. So often a hurt boxer reverts either to going toe-to-toe, running around the ring, or taking a knee, when using a double jab and feints would have been more effective. And of course, keeping the opponent off balance and losing his timing allows the boxer to be more offensive, aggressive, and balanced. Revert to my earlier post to learn about the importance of balance. Basically, if you have balance and your opponent does not, you are already half-way to victory. So practice, focus, and repeat the perfect jab until you get it right. Doing so will always pay off.

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