Clinching To Be Banned In Boxing?

Counter Clinching, Hit-&-Holding

Fighters learn early in their boxing education to clinch – to take a break from action or to escape danger.  When I was 14 years old at the PAL, one trainer implored me, “If it’s getting tough, tie ‘im up.”  As fighters get more experienced, they use holding as a tool to abet poor training or inferior skills.  The best fighters, unfortunately, use holding to halt opponents’ onslaughts and as a strategy, too.  Clinching is simply a part of boxing.  It, however, shouldn’t be. 

Why don’t the boxing powers, the Athletic Commissions or whoever, undo this boring tactic and outlaw the use of strategic holding?  Tactical fighters are ruining fights with this “counter-clinching.”  Bernard Hopkins, one boxer who I used to support, wards off fighters, not with covering up, moving, or out-punching, but by hitting then holding.  He opens up with a two or three punch combination and, whether he scores or not, he rushes in and hugs.  If Hopkins’s opponents “get off first,” Bernard fends off only for a moment then clinches.  Repeat, that’s the strategy.  Too many world class boxers are trying to master this non-skill procedure.  Hit, score, and instead of defending a counter, you counter his “would be counter” with a clinch. It is basically avoiding a counter by stopping the action.  Lame, isn’t it?

I haven’t deemed Ricky Hatton “decent” since he fought Juan Urango.  The public was enthralled with Hatton’s non-stop workmanship, but he started learning how to counter-clinch.  He counter-clinched so much that he did it as a lead (opposite of counter).  It was a strategy essentially countering the oppositions’ intentions to fight.  Urango was hardly beaten, as neither fighter was able to throw hands.  Urango was edged in scoring, due to his inability to counter Hatton’s lead clinching; every time Urango engaged, Hatton would hold.  Arguably, Luis Collazo beat Hatton, mainly because he was faster in between the boring clinches.  Collazo proved to be the better, more skilled fighter, but the judges were ultimately duped by what seemed to be Hatton pressing the fight.  Hatton’s clinching style seemed to have been fooling everyone until Floyd Mayweather, Jr. warned everyone that Hatton would hold him.  Against Mayweather, however, Hatton didn’t use any lubed-up strategy of counter-clinching; he was just trying to tie-up, immobilize, and punch.  It was a show of force to some people, but he was simply inferior and couldn’t catch Mayweather.  It was as if Hatton knew in his gut by round 4, “my style is a sham and Floyd knows it.”  His phony onslaught was almost laughable.  I am reluctant to call any fighter a coward, but to a tangible extent of conscience, I have to consider counter-clinching as a blueprint lacking in “fighting spirit.”  It’s the cautious fighter’s lazy, skill-less way out of sticking and moving.  Boxing fans don’t seem to consider that it could be just as yellow as running.

Clinching should only be incidental, but as a part of strategy, points should be taken off.  If a fighter is hurt, it’s an acceptable survival tactic.  As a game-plan, it’s unfair and just too hard to beat when applied with any sustained deployment.  It’s a “fear” tactic, literally, not to cause fear but to exercise it.  Like a cat and mouse fight in which there is an aggressor and a retreater, trying to avoid being hit by the use of holding is similar to running.  Like the runner (note that I do not mean a boxer-style fighter, I refer to e.g. Andre Dirrell vs. Curtis Stevens), the clincher will always achieve exactly what he’s trying to achieve first, avoiding boxing.  It would then be up to the aggressor to overcome, but he will have to work harder than his opponent in a fight in order to achieve his goal of exchanging and boxing – offense and defense – from the inside.  Considering everything being equal, the aggressor will always be at an unfair disadvantage (a fair disadvantage or advantage would be attributes such as size, speed, strength, etc.) against holders and runners.  It’s like a race with different starting points – two guys begin disengaged in combat, and one guy tries to catch up to engage while the other is racing to maintain his lead.  It is common knowledge that it takes two people to tango, two people to make a competitive fight, but it only takes one fighter to stink-up a joint.  If you have ever matched against a fighter who was unwilling to try inflicting damage on you, you may know how difficult it is to do the inflicting.

The all time master of the hit-and-hold was Muhammad Ali although he was a joy to watch.  His beautiful footwork and teasing jabs and quick power shots would fill the room with awe.  But the Ali after his three year hiatus was a showy holder.  Even in the thriller in Manila it was apparent.  Frazier would struggle to get on the inside, his ideal punching range, and Ali would cuff him behind the neck until the referee broke it up.  Against Chuvalo, same story.  Even against Evangelista, the same thing.  Nobody complained about it. The ref took no points away. Yet, cuffing behind the neck is a wrestling move pure and simple. Of course, Ali still produced great fights even post Cassius Clay, but he also chose his times to deploy counter-clinching.  The downside of banning holding all-in-all is that, perhaps, some potentially great fights would end quick, by uncompetitive knockouts or disqualifications.  I, however, believe it would bring other greater fights into fruition.

Counter-clinching has been around since the bare-knuckle game.  The Marquess of Queensberry Rules, gloved fighting, came into effect for one reason:  to add more violence and to hinder the wrestling.  Some people called it dirty boxing, but it was more like a dirty, boring hug-fest.  It sounds mythological when you hear that fighters went 70 rounds, but hugging and falling battle does not an epic make.  When we study, perhaps, the most exciting fighter ever, Mike Tyson, we may find his most lackluster bouts were due to opponents counter-clinching.  From an unable James Smith to an impelled Evander Holyfield, this wrestling style took away from the level playing field, or canvas.  I wanted to see toe to toe action, Holyfield with Tyson, Hopkins with Trinidad, Hatton with Mayweather.  Of course, some of those fights were memorable and masterpieces in their own right.  But they could have been better no matter the outcome.  I understand the science of boxing better than the next boxing pundit and pun-ditz, but I also believe in its rules a little more.  Holding is boring, unfair, and illegal in boxing.  With the right enforcement, it could have changed the course of boxing history.  When will it change boxing’s future?

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9 responses to “Clinching To Be Banned In Boxing?

  1. tHE author makes some good points, but I don’t think clinching should be banned. It has an obvious trategic use when you are being hammered and lost and don’t know where you are. But it is just like another fighting style, IMO, its like saying bobbing and weaving should be banned because it allows the guy to not e punched in the face enough. The clinch is not impossible to break through, to perform a clinch a boxer must move his hands away from his head and spread his arms wide enough to wrap up the other guy. that involves tremendous risk, and every guy who I fought like that I floored quickly with upper cuts, hooks, crosses, and some times just a barrage of straights and jabs.

    I do agree that judges should not be giving rounds to guys who are clinching all round long and not throwing punches, but if your Joe Frazier and Ali is cuffing you behind the head, bob his cuff and give him a left hook to the body or an upper cut to the chin or body. But then Ali’d find ways to counter that, much like Frazier bob and weave didn’t stop Ali’s jabs, so you see the problem here isn’t clinching. And what did Hatton’s clinching get him, knocked out in the 10th round when he tried to clinch mayweather and mayweather, surprise surprise, caught him with a left hook, precisely what I said is the “Anti-dote” to a clinch.

    If I was writting the article, I’d write, why the left hook is a lost art, and if it weren’t people wouldn’t clinch. Don’t believe me, how did clinching and head cuffing work against Sonny Liston, not very well, once you dropped your left hand he floored you

    • @juan petro lol did you just compare clinching to bobbing and weaving? What a stupid argument to make. Take clinching out of boxing and the sport instantly becomes more exciting. It stops the action in the ring too much.

  2. I agree with this article. I think there should be some debate about clinching rule. As the writer is hinting it might create trouble separating strategic clinching from the legitimate panick-clinching that shouldn’t be eliminated. Ward, a great fighter, is ruining super middleweight with clinching. He won against Kessler with pure clinching, and he ruined the beginning of his fight with Green by counterclinching.

  3. Did poetic drink even read the article? I don’t care if he is Bernard Hopkins, clinching is a by-product of boxing. It is NOT boxing. It is illegal in amateur boxing for a reason. If you are going to disagree with banning clinching, give a compelling argument or don’t comment. I hate stupid brawls but I hate unskilled clinching halting fight action. I boxed in the Philly golden gloves and have competed nationally in the 1980’s. Clinching is for pussies, cheaters and guys on queer street.

    By the way visit boxingdispatch.com to complement all fight reading

  4. It’s the people who never experience boxing inside the ring who complain about boxing. They want every boxing match to be a slugfest, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots. They want a weak puncher to stand there and trade with a puncher.

    I have over 13 years boxing experience. Clinching should not be banned.

  5. True true. It’s like running. Scared.

  6. I couldn’t agree more with the article- “fighters fight” in the words of teddy atlas. Holding is for lovers-not for combat- its boring , unentertaining, and is similar to a wrestling match with nobody going to the floor- Holding should be use “primarly” for surving an onslaught in my opinion ,with no other option of a way out- Using holding as a offense- to limit or to not have to engage with the opponent is not in the dictionary under fighter- u prolly find it under coward, better yet under ricky fatton. Holding in boxing becomes sort of MMA’ish looking and thats the last thing boxing needs right now from some of the top fighters in the sport- To put it in lamen terms ” THE SHIT IS WACK “. Has had me yelling at that the screen sometimes with that wack , coward, 90% of the time gurantee win, fighting style- Im upset now lol. SHOOTAFAIRONE THE REALEST WEBSITE YO- BIG UPS- VERY GOOD ARTICLE

  7. Boxing is just like the WWF, made-up. I saw the fight, yes he won by decision, a cream would have been a clear knockout, did not happen. Floyd Mayweather maybe the best boxer of all time to beat up on washed up fighters. So Floyd Mayweather, did not make the weight for the fight, so he heavier than the weight class that he is fighting in, and his opponent was older, shorter and weigh less. Are we impressed that he won, what a charade. Had we seen him come back and defeat Pacman, Cotto, Mosley or Margarito, then maybe he would deserve our attention, till then, snore, snore. Now we find out that this piece of work owes our government millions of dollars. Why should we believe this guy? I guess the rumors are true that he did everything to avoid fighting Antonio Margarito, before his unexpected first retirement, chicken.

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