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Even Harry Wiley Won’t Say a Word

By Al Alvir

Old men who tell about how they used to be so great come into the gym every couple of hours. They all think they have the secret to becoming great. They want to parrot some random knowledge, starkly simple-minded and subjective as it may be. They want to feed their egos. They want to feel important. They want to look cool and squeeze their weight around.

“You have to throw the left hook after the right hand. Step in. Step In. I bet your coach don’t tell you…”

These guys think they have the guise to make boxers think they’re helping. But they fail to realize that everyone knows in boxing that you can’t fake dedication. Dedication, the only thing that sets anything apart in any craft, only bares itself to anyone on a personal basis. Boxing knows when you are putting in time now. Boxing knows the difference between who is willing and who will. What I mean is that I know my fighters’ expiration dates and their capabilities like they know if I’m dedicated to being by their side, they know if I’m continuing to learn, they know if I know what to do, and they know if I’m going to be here. And a few hours a week bullshitting in my club or an anecdotal story or a lengthy boxing resume doesn’t mean one single iota of a thing to fighters if you don’t know them.

We all try to humble ourselves to information, but the ghost of Ray Arcel himself could rise from the turnbuckles in our ring’s corner with some eloquent tip for one of my guys, and the info would be as weighty as a cutman in the gym tipping that “you need to sit more on your shots.” Hardly prophetic to anyone. Because nothing is divine in boxing except dedication and bonds.

Once upon a regular day, true story, I came home thinking of a few O.G.’s who don’t know me, ‘don’t know a thing.

I was training like I was in my youth. Hitting bags, ready to spar, ready to be called to fight. This old guy, Arnold, who I barely know, says to me, “You not throwing your right hand right.” He meant my left. “Like this,” he questionably mirrored. I entertain and listen and agree. Humble myself to anyone, that was my way. All the greats were in my gym. All time greats. Cus D’Amato was watching over me. All these legends were watching.

I could almost see their faces. You know, when you are sure who’s there but can’t name them.

But Arnold Annoying was there. His name had changed in the moment. He was barely a regular. But he was my senior, only by age. And he continued to point out to trainers all around the gym how I wasn’t turning my hips. He wanted recognition for pointing out what he thought was my flaw. I said to someone in the slang of my youth, “I’ll just fuck this nigga up, we the same weight…”

Cus nods to me. I know all the legends in the room are watching. Cus, says, “it’s a good left hand, kid.”

I hope he’ll tell Arnold to shut the fuck up or I was going to fuck him up. It’s just how I felt. Every sole legend in the room is quiet. I’m wondering why none of them are bothering telling this guy he’s wrong.  I don’t quite understand why it doesn’t matter enough to them. I could sense they want Arnold Annoying to go away because he don’t know shit, and he’s not even ready to spar. People in boxing just have another sense.

All these all-time great trainers and fighters were there. I knew who they were. I idolized them. They were humble and quiet. But Cus was the only one I remember. They all looked on as to say, “Just ignore this guy. He don’t know a thing.”

Finally, Arnold Annoying walks away and smugly says, “I’m the only one who showed him how to throw it. The right hand.”

When I woke up, I headed to the gym with the quiet confidence that my idols had. I know something anyone outside doesn’t know. It’s an old-time gym. What we don’t know, we learn together. We know each other.

My guys even know I was a southpaw. My coach knew to show me how to throw.

And I believe in the boxing in my gym. I believe my gym is the best boxing club in the history of the world.

I wake up knowing this every single day. If the legends in this farm are ever realized, maybe a few others will know it too.

#eqbc #wegrowboxing

Need Mittwork? The Most Overused Farce In All of Boxing

(This is a follow-up and revisiting of “To Privately Train or Not To”)

by Al Alvir

This is a bit of a long-winded explanation on why I’ve always been against private training in sports.  But stay with me.  Private training (which usually ends up to be a paid extended session of what most boxers love to do: mitt-work) is an expense at slim returns. As a coach, I have always been adamant that I’m not a personal trainer, I’m not a bellhop or personal assistant. I’m not here to make practice easier to put-up with.  There’s a disconnect with many potential boxers as to what they’re aiming to accomplish when they work one to one (1:1) with any trainer.

What am I private training you for? Do you want my expertise to oversee you practice? Do you want to just have a fun extended session? What do you think will be accomplished in a private session with an experienced coach that can’t happen in an open coaching setting, a regular training day?  Seriously, do you have a learning disability?  Do you want mitts while your mechanics are not up to par? Do you want a practice partner?  What if the coach has you practice the basic “step and slide” for a whole hour while he watched you try not to do it wrong and interjected every few minutes the same exact directions he initially gave you which you aren’t following?

The only way private 1:1 coaching for any extended period of time (anything over 20 minutes) is beneficial is if, and only if, the most useful way for the boxer to spend that time AND the most useful way for a trainer’s knowledge to be used along that time span are not mutually exclusive. Otherwise, somebody is wasting her/his time.  Now, as a responsible coach, I feel I need to put aside what is important to my time and ONLY focus on how to make the boxer spend the session in the most useful way possible.  A trainer isn’t there to fill-in time; rather, his obligation is to make a boxer better while coaching the boxer within the time the boxer puts in the gym as a whole. The ultimate question is: Are you, the boxer, ready to spend money as insurance that you are getting proper guidance even if the coach tells you to do the same repetitive drill for an hour straight as opposed to getting an amalgam of upbeat exercises and compounding moves over a one to one session?  Additionally, is mittwork going to fix your mental weakness in the ring?  Will spoiling you make you overcome?  Will mitt-work make you feel indebted to me?

Boxing is no different than any other sport when it comes to the type of work one has to put in. But there’s a myth in boxing that group training, classes, or one to one time is what makes people excel. All martial arts struggle with this. For anyone new to boxing to those who are inculcated into boxing, random reservations of extended time sessions is just pandering to the neediness of people. If a new person who has only been in the gym for a few weeks wants to schedule a 30 minute session, if he is worth his blood in boxing, he is wasting his time in a session because he can accomplish more without it. The goal should be to use that time in the gym as productively as possible.  That is almost always to practice what the coach has already taught (here’s a secret: watching a fighter practice something that a coach asked is one of the most satisfying part of a coach’s regular work day). In personal/private training, there is an unwritten obligation to force feed boxers.  Or a coach could have an easy time just repeating something that can just as easily be done on a bag.  Besides it making for spoiled, shitty boxers, this kind of coaching undermines the essence of all sports training: individual practice.

Imagine having practice 2 or 3 times a week in any sport and not practicing any other time. Imagine learning calculus by only being individually tutored without practicing. It’s unheard of.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

So who really needs mitt-work?

In short, no one.

Some of the greatest fighters in history never did mitt-work. Before the mid-20th century, mitt-work didn’t even exist. When the great trainer, Charley Goldman, first reversed boxing gloves to have his boxer warm up punching his padded palms, it was hardly a wildfire. It took years for trainers to catch on to the ingeniousness.  When it first became popular as a training tool, many trainers thought it was dumb. Why would anyone actually practice punching someone’s palms?

And I’ll let you in on another secret: the worst, non-excelling guys in your gym are probably the ones who get the most mitt-work.

Mitt-work has great value besides brainwashing white-collar boxing clients, giving them fun feedback to their punching. At its best, it is not for fitness or even for drilling in absence of a sparring partner.  I see little practical use in a punch-pad either, besides working some specific footwork and positioning.  Why should I hold a pad in one place, when you can do the same exact thing on a bag?  At mitt-work’s best, it is for the fine eye of a trainer to fine-tune particular skills (feints, set-ups, technique) and moves from an educated perspective.  And I personally only do it for real boxers, fighters who earn it (and it’s the only time I truly enjoy it, personally.) On a lesser note, it has some/minimal value for early boxers for assessment and pointing out fundamentals and reviewing defensive techniques. Where words and demonstration may fail, some boxers can use a coach to review on the pads, but for beginners, it’s not much more.

Open coaching settings are how most sports athletes learn and improve. Open coaching is what I call it as boxers follow a program/schedule of practice while they are “coached” or observed – and there are also often times when the coach knows that he doesn’t have to observe; a boxer just needs to practice over and over what he has been taught over and over. It isn’t always fun or fulfilling to the senses, but it is exactly how learning and improvement is achieved at the maximum rate. When real fighters come in, they often have to put in hours upon hours of the same thing to remotely be able to fathom another move. At most boxing gyms, hourly coaching is offered, but the vast majority of gyms do it in open coaching settings – not an allotted hour just for 1 person. There are some variances from club to club, but coaches seldom work as personal trainers assisting in boxers’ workouts. Stop-watch coaching, or holding hands, is what we sometimes refer to it as, and it’s insufferable. If a real boxing practitioner needs more time, he’ll get more time, organically. When he pays for it, it’s ruined.

I am bothered by the possibility that the overwhelming majority of fighters who want personal coaching just want the guidance at the cost of top-grade training time.  Personal training hours are subconsciously considered by many boxers to be shortcuts. It seems like they think they could get 3 or 4 hours a week with a coach and it will make up for the fragile 7-8 hours that is considered a minimum for serious boxers.  The time in a private session becomes a fallacy, as there is no reroute to the top; top grade training time is always going to be hard, consistent practice. The coach maps it out and makes sure that boxers are doing things correctly.

I am afraid that hourly personal training time – whether anyone likes it or not – is a swindle. The only type of person who benefits from personal training over program/schedule training is a bored person who actually needs the push.  Maybe he is in the gym for the camaraderie.  One to one time is also a relationship builder, and coaches often can do this to build rapport or to take people’s money.  But don’t fail to understand that fighters and coaches will become an unbreakable team with an undeniable bond without the private time. It’s what happens in boxing almost exclusively.  People who truly have a need for personal training are too often people with poor work ethics and people who are a little lost.  Or maybe they just don’t know how learning is achieved.  I’ve heard from several sources that “they need to get a good sweat, so they think you’re helping them.” I understand, but I vehemently disagree.   The idea of selling to the senses as opposed to a pure product is a “sellout” move.  I want to perform a job, and that’s to help people become better at boxing – even if that means discussing a few steps over a coffee in the office as opposed to burning-out their muscles telling them to do some calisthenics or force feeding them new insights on the mitts that they have no right to.  A coach is not a big brother whose job it is to hold anyone’s hand through training time.  Some privates (private trainees) just train their 3-hour sessions a week with a coach without the additional practice and exhausting repetition.  At best, that may be the only reason why privately trained boxers tend to never meet their potential (that they’re only training a few hours a week), but I think it’s a deeper personal problem in most cases. And even if I know that you should only be doing a single drill for two weeks, when I’m doing a private session even I feel obligated to move to something different and keep it somewhat constantly changing or engaging.  And I know I can blow the mind of most boxers, giving them new anecdotes and cool moves that they won’t even be able to keep up – that’s part of the con, but I never wanted a part of it.  Don’t at all get me wrong, because for those few boxers whose mechanics are a standard above par (oxymoron), an hour of a coach observing and handling pointers the boxer’s way may well be worth the money once in a while. That “while” meaning a blue moon.

The swindle is that sweat seems like money-well-spent, but a world-class session to the average boxer may not really seem to make sense.

So, if you’re choosing to hire a personal trainer, or a private session coach, know that an hour is an hour is an hour. Do your work.  Practice what you were taught.

Otherwise, it’s a waste of my time. Forget the coach though. It’s an utter waste of your time.

*This goes for you too, Greg C. Thanks for the feedback.

Notes on Quitting and its 9 Levels

by Al Alvir

Sometimes fighters quit without even knowing they’re quitting. The truest fighters fight back to win in fights they are losing AND fights they should have lost – when they’re hurt or embarrassed or slower or less skilled they still find a way to win. They are supremely disciplined and/or special. Not trying to get lucky. This is boxing.

Many fighters talk about Plan B’s, but almost all adjustments are still part of Plan A. A great fighter uses a true Plan B only 2-3% over a whole career. Plan B’s are not “adustments.” A Plan B is doing something entirely different when a fighter doesn’t believe she/he has a viable answer to what the other fighter is doing – e.g. switching stances, changing a style of fighting, etc. Plan B’s are for a quitting culture.

Plan B’s are not at all the heart of boxing.

The 9 Levels of Quitting in a Fight

9. Willingly stops contest (can’t take it, not cut out for it or realizes lack of desire).

8. Fouling to stop contest.

7. Surviving not trying to win (aka. immoral victory).

6. Going out on your shield not trying to work for win but trying to “appear as though” you’re trying to hit a homerun or give last ditch efforts (fronts).

5. Going out on your shield not working for win but knowing you can win with a homerun knock out (the belief in the punch and the proven ability to do so).  This is when a fighter takes his beating willingly.

4. Pretending that it’s easy and that you’re not trying (maybe fans and judges will be fooled) while you are losing.  “This goes with “putting on a show,” fake slickness, loud grunting, mugging for the crowd while actually doing nothing in the boxing match.” – Frank Zinzi

3. Abandoning the grueling plan of working and finding a way for trying another unbecoming style trying to win even though you believe it won’t work (moral victory quitting).

2.  Not going for it when you know you need it. You’d rather get a decision-by or catch a robbery than possibly get knocked-out, hurt, or embarrassed in the last round.

1.  Coasting from behind or in a close fight. Content in a possible loss. Thinking you won instead of “going for it.”

A fighter is supposed to work for angles and imposing her/his will and the plan, adjusting timing and speed and distance and tactical moves. A fighter takes intelligent risks trying to win.



Dispelling Myths about Traditional Martial Arts (TMA) – 5 Reasons Your Kids Should Be Boxing

by A O’Toole

If you’re like many parents, you want your child involved in something safe and something that instills basic values.  For decades, Traditional Martial Arts (TMA) has banked on such branding.  It is, however, an uninformed common logic.  TMA sells itself on the quasi-military and childish fun and games model and delusion.  If you don’t want to waste your time and money on your kids breaking weak wood and pre-broken boards,  don’t join the droves of unwitting parents and their tricked children.  Here are 5 reasons – among tons more – why you should stay away from TMA (see McDojo too) and sign-up your child to a boxing club:

  1. Discipline. Boxing instills a more important discipline: self-discipline and accountability. In boxing, kids are challenged on performance and the drive to challenge oneself. The formal nature of the karate dojo (the bowing, the ritual, etc.) has its appeal for many parents, but the product of discipline in karate is often brainwashing. The product of discipline in the sport of boxing is worldly skill: fighting and self-defense that works.
  2. Confidence with humility. Boxing promotes truthfulness as opposed to delusion. In the boxing gym, you learn that there is always someone better while you get thorough understanding of fear, physicality, emotional control, and social behavior.
  3. Classes are scams. Martial arts schools may not intend to hoax their members, but classes are a false structure that makes trainers work less and gets people in and out fast. Classes warm-up together; that’s a waste of 10 minutes. You’ll find kids holding pads for eachother for the rest of the class. So how much actual training do they get when they do this 2 to 3 times a week? Hardly anything. Fighting, as any martial art, is an individual discipline. Every individual must dedicate individual time for practice. Boxing allows for greater accountability, more training, and real-world discipline. You don’t have fine art piano classes. So we don’t do that in real boxing or any real form of fighting. Classes are only good for very low-level developmental pursuits or interactive and tactile ground-fighting arts such as wrestling and BJJ. TMA practitioners may say they’re training is akin to those arts, but TMA is just not realistic. Also, attendance is a form of “achievement” in most TMA. In boxing, attendance is only an indicator, not a means to advancement.
  4. It’s Practical. TMA is filled with the participant trophy business model to keep parents coming because their kids are encouraged even if they are unfit and incompetent. TMA businesses are almost ALL based on only one thing: membership and paid advancement. Boxing even as a business, is a sport that focuses on performance and skills. The performance in karate is smoke and mirrors: attendance rewards, recital rewards, and vast remedial and inconclusive criteria unrelated to the ability to defend or fight (rated on performing Kata, the ability to recite memorized rituals, etc.) Even other self-defense arts, from Krav Maga to JKD, can sound good theoretically, but if they don’t train under sport guidelines in the dojo, they’re just tricking people. You just can’t get any real understanding of real-world training with make-believe scenarios with hypothetical outcomes. You must spar for real to be apt in a self-defense situation.
  5. Safety. There are fewer brain injuries in amateur boxing than football, and, contrary to myths, it is arguably the safest sport in the USA. Safety and defense is the first priority of boxing and the head is protected by Official Sanctioned and tested USA Boxing and AIBA headgear. On top of that, your child never has to step foot in the ring unless you and she/he wants to. Learning boxing is a skill that takes conditioning and discipline and practice months and even years before being able to step foot in the ring. You won’t see inept children flailing day-in and day-out in the boxing gym.

Boxing Over Kickboxing or MMA

  1. ALL proven and practical arts have a comprehensive detail for practicing BOXING. They’re just NEVER better than boxers at boxing. The other arts just do too much that it is impossible for them to be even half as competent in boxing as actual boxers are. Top kickboxers and mma fighters hire boxing trainers to fix their habits and fine-tune their skills.
  2. The accepted notion is that most one to one fights end up on the ground, but almost all fights are not one to one, so this means most fights DO NOT END UP ON THE GROUND. You must learn how to box in order to defend yourself.
  3. Boxers have the best footwork. Their feet are planted, and every movement is about their base working the floor/ground.
  4. ALL fights involve punching and/or the punching range. Not all fights involve kicks or grappling.
  5. Boxing training structure seldom follows class structure. There are some fine mma and kickboxing gyms, but you will often see that they have 1 to 2 hour classes that are no different from TMA class structure. The real fighters there need to find training time outside of class hours and they often need to pay for the extra coaching outside of those class hours.



A Month of Notes from Boxing

by Al Alvir

On Winning

“Winning over” is sometimes the factor for success in the subjective nature of fighting. Does anyone know what winning a fight means? Even in street fighting, no one knows what winning is unless everyone says what “winning” is or someone gets knocked out. When I was a kid, I once watched a fight in which one boy was beating another boy up with punches—bloody and bruised, but not out. When the one kid who was beating the other kid got tired, they both fell to the ground and the bloody boy strangled the exhausted boy until adults came in to stop the fight. In all ways, the majority of us would rather have been the kid who got strangled at the end. I, as many other people, still believed the one who got strangled in the end to be the winner. See, fighting is much more complicated than being viewed as “what if it were life or death.” If it were life or death, maybe the boy who got strangled would have done something other than boxing the other kid’s head to a bloody pulp, too. Maybe knowing he was in for probable death unless the other boy gets exhausted, the bloody boy would wave a white flag. Maybe the boy who was punching would conserve more energy or even run away to grab a rock after proving that the other kid was no match for him. Maybe they both show up with knives. I don’t mean to undermine that the bloody boy indeed showed heart for not quitting (even though the nature of quitting doesn’t easily lend itself to standing-up.) The point is that fighting is too subjective to clearly decide a winner and loser, so to add the “what if” factor is to continue the argument and support the idea that fighting as a whole is not easily judged. When discussing boxing, it must be established to be hell’o much more than hitting and not getting hit – so much more that such a viewpoint is only the layman way of scoring a fight.

The Fighter vs. The Exhibitor

The great reveal of a boxer’s will tells the grand story of developing and great successes. This is the fight inside the person. It is the most important part of a boxer (unless you have the gifts of a Mike Tyson or Roy Jones Jr. whose talents far exceeded others and undermined the need for any other substance – at least in their primes). A fighter is defined by the desire to face the most difficult challenges, to struggle. The only thing a fighter is at his heart is someone seeking the exhilaration of a difficult battle.

What in life have you overcome? Everything in life is a fight. Boxing, therefore, is the greatest gift you can give anyone. Boxers learn struggle, work ethic, boredom, discontent and positivity, responsibility, fear in the smallest to the grandest ways. You can’t avoid the battle; clinching is not even technically allowed, and running is frowned upon. Above all, the boxing gym is safe, controlled. It’s not tragic.

You can lose. But you must overcome. This is not mutually exclusive.
Corollary, a boxer can have 100 fights and not learn much if he allows himself to not learn. A boxer has to have substance and process the deepest aspects of boxing to be a top boxer. Toughness and talent usually don’t dominate the puzzle. These guys on Shobox who lose, they often look just like they did when they were rank amateurs. And they can have the best camps, but it’s ultimately on the boxer to be better. A bunch of fights shouldn’t be necessary to learn to get your left hand up to avoid a right hand.

The fighter development has to start within. Polishing has to be done intricately. Fighters at some point, if they’re worthy of their talent, probably need intensive development, but too many boxers end up going to some famous gym and get worse doing some form of bullshit if they have not already been doing a different sort of it.

Are you a fighter who wants to struggle and test himself against the rigors of “best?” Or are you a person who wants to show your talents for the glory, to prove yourself to your mom, to have fun beating up people who were never supposed to beat you? If you’re the latter, you’re just an exhibitor at heart.

Winners and Losers
About a small handful of true winners in the field (the community of boxing). The rest have loser mentalities. “Learning experience,” “made it far,” “did well against top guys,” “got robbed,” “showed-out well,” “got a pro style,” “not made for the amateurs,” “is capable of beating anybody,” “we felt we won,” These are all cockamamie. At some point if you’re trying to be the best you have to be accountable. If you’re as good as you pretend to believe you are, everyone, the judges AND your opponent will feel you won. The loser rationale is a valid scapegoat if you’re just expecting to be in the mix. Forget the “victim pics” (pictures next to the guy you just lost to) and the “I’ll be back” Instagram posts. Instagram fame is your participant’s trophy. It’s fake fame and fake confidence. If you’re a loser, become something else and let your performance speak. In this sport, we’re either winners or losers.
If the other guy thinks you lost, or if one judge thinks you lost, you better treat it like you didn’t win shit. “Catch bodies or make changes.”

On Humility
There are two kinds of people who lack humility: the ones who earned the right to be arrogant by being profound successes and the ones who are deluded by their minimal successes.

Humility is knowing the worst things are possible and to suffer to avoid those things from happening. If we all can realize we’re longshots, we’ll improve our chances to overcome. That is the categorical point of boxing.

Are you above taking directions? Are you above suffering? Are you better than everyone or are you better than most? The distinction is astonishing.

On Boxing Equipment
Boxing is the only sport that we do so much practicing it without at all doing it. We box our shadows, so when we use a device, we turn it into tradition and romanticize it. Even if it’s completely bullshit. There are more effective ways to use equipment than some legends have even used various equipment.

Case in point, the slip-bag. I’m going to get flack on this, but it’s just a tool to give someone a tangible feel for moving the head – proprioception of the head, if you will. If you already can shadowbox slipping appropriately (not too exaggerated), why practice slipping a bag that moves forty times slower than an average punch? Then people slip it before it hits the back of their heads by timing the arc or seeing in the mirror. Can we make slipping more impractical? The practicality of so many devices gets lost in coaches and boxers trying to be innovative and cool. The broom stick with a glove, double-end bags that are too tight, just to name a couple. Don’t get me started on the speedbag…

The Most Selfish Pursuit in the World
Boxers spend every day of their lives thinking about themselves. It’s the life of boxing. When they’re not thinking about their diet and training, they’re dreaming about the attention they want. The world seems to move at their schedule and on their whims. Boxing is the greatest art in the world, and it gives you more than anything pound for pound, but it doesn’t require you to give back. Even in a fight, a boxer is supposed to worry about herself, not the other gal. She is supposed to fight her own fight and make her opponent fight that fight. (If you’re a male boxer, you may not even understand the context here, because everything is about you.)

Who Ever Said Fighters Are the Nicest People?
Contrary to the old adage and romanticized tales, boxers continuously prove to be the biggest ego-inflated dickheads who think they’re better than everyone. It’s not till retirement and failure’s humility that they start to actually be the nice guys they may have pretended to be. Because boxers know how to act like they are down to earth, and they’re good at it because of where they’re from. So remember, retired boxers are the nice guys.
And it has only gotten worse. Thanks for little, Floyd.

The Pitfalls of White Collar Boxing
• White collar boxing is generally not results driven or the boxers fool themselves into thinking they’re getting optimal results.
• White collar boxers tend to dwell on motivation and how they “feel” when they train (including atmosphere, friends training, coach rapport). White collar boxers care more about this than performance results.
• They shy away from all sorts of discomfort that they can’t control. This is different from seeking any discomfort that they choose (pressure, abstaining from foods, impact, etc.) They respond to being told certain things in specific ways. Real fighters, the best ones, respond when they hate it the same way they do when they’re motivated. The only things that matters is trust and the information—not the matter of delivery of information. That’s how coaches weed out the guys that can’t go anywhere. When their coaches discourage them. When they want a different gym. When they completely hate their coach. The ones bound for success don’t look elsewhere.
• They train because they love to train. So when they hate it and don’t want to go, they quit. It is not competition driven. It is fake perfection.

Are you the white collar gym boxer you have no idea I’m talking about? Maybe you can tell you’re a white collar boxer if the elites of the gym don’t train with you and don’t spar with you when they’re the same age and weight and you already ‘move around’ regularly. If you are spar-ready and don’t spar, you, sir, can look no further because you are a “no-collar boxer.”

Positive vs.Negative Reinforcement
Pressure can be bad, but even a tiny bit too much positive reinforcement worsens weak character in any competitive environment. If we acquiesce people, they become losers who become prey to false accomplishment.

Comfort becomes more important when you over praise mundane improvement. And the common denominator in the most successful people in history to the gym, is willfully accepting discomfort. This is the #1 reason too many pad-work sessions and private sessions are unacceptable. All the losers love it.

On Judging
The way the subconscious onlooker tends to watch boxing: he tends to fixate on the person who looks better stylistically. When that happens, he mainly sees the punches thrown and the slips and the attempts of that one fighter, which, in turn, makes that fighter look to win in even, head to head action. Try it. Stare at one fighter in a fight. Guaranteed, that fighter will look to be winning if its close.

Peace Beats Dreams

“You fool. The people applauding are not your friends. They may even be your enemies. Treating what you do like success is like someone treating a landed jab as a win. You own your experiences, overcoming. Still, I hope you find yourself more than I hope you find success. The showing off, the stardom, and the luxuries are really just momentary, and therefore, make believe. Most people can’t realize it until they’re done chasing it. At some point you’re going to realize that the only thing that matters is how you die. Did you make a difference?” – Coach O’Toole.
“If you don’t dig deep inside your soul, you won’t have legs.” – Frank Zinzi
“If you don’t look in the mirror honestly, not listening to a thing that the people who don’t matter say, you will fail. Stop looking for approval. – Al Alvir

On Weights

Weights should be done slow, not fast. Weighted punches done quickly has a negative effect on the recruitment of muscle fibers. It causes hitches and loading of the muscles.

With all the developments and myth busting of prior sciences in strength training for sports, you can never go wrong with practicing as close to the real thing as possible. To punch harder, we don’t need to get stronger against gravity, we need to get stronger by way of force towards the target via proper form, period. Why people insist on putting resistance downward when punching horizontally is baffling. And then adding resistance to uppercuts usually recruit the wrong muscles because of the unnatural load that contradicts the proper way any upward punch needs to be thrown. Additionally, all punching is done loosely with little to no muscular effort at the beginning of a punch; this is not like explosive jumping or even throwing a ball in which require greater loads (including the wind-up). Punch harder by literally practicing punching harder. This fast twitch action of explosion occurs ONLY at the end of the punch. This is why punching is a lot different than fast twitch muscle recruitment for sprinting or tackling impact where there are much larger muscle groups involved. Thus, if you’re going to use proper resistance without hurting punch form and speed, the resistance should only be done at the 2-4 inches at the end of the punching “arc.” It’s called a heavybag. Put the hand-weights down. 16 oz. gloves are even too heavy for a full boxing training session.

On Cross-Training

K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, stupid. That’s an old adage for a reason. Simple. Why boxers do burpees followed by shoeshines followed by ladder drills makes no scientific sense. This is a sample of the array of fitness fads that impact boxers’ regimens. They’re just cool hodge-podge cardio routines put together that make for cool social media videos while boxers stray from the things that really work. That’s the short of it. (see Dr. Ofir Isaac for more on debunking bullshit strength coaching).

On Self-defense Training

There’s no quick fix approach to self-defense unless you’re gambling on getting lucky. Men who’ve been in fights and assaulted don’t even have the practical capability to do some course and come out ready. Sure, there are good pointers in some courses, but you’re either lying to yourself, you’re believing a lie, or you just want to be minimally informed in case you’re in a situation and need to get lucky.

Self-defense courses are garbage, period.

The only surefire way to be comfortable is by training like a fighter. And that’s not a taught course, it’s a course of life.

Don’t fall for the scams.

Red flags:

Classes. Unless you’re doing a grappling art that requires partner work to learn, holding and hitting pads don’t help if you’re inexperienced. Plus, 3 times a week for an hour for 3 months is a joke. You’ll probably see all sorts of people being praised for doing things well and hardly being corrected.

Never live sparring. You simply can never learn without the anxiety and the unknown and the pain and exhaustion of doing it for real. This is why knife fighters and gunmen have to experience the appropriate anxiety levels that even they may feel in true live or death experiences. There is no concept in fighting that holds true without being tested. If you can’t find proof that the moves work by witnessing live action (especially today’s age of Youtube), it’s probably bullshit.

Shape. If you attend any martial art and there is little emphasis on fitness, it’s fake. To believe that training to any competence in any worthy art isn’t rigorous and that to perform with competence doesn’t take fitness (even an out of shape ex-fighter has to get lucky to perform), you have to be scammed. And if you advance remaining in poor shape, you’re being scammed too.

On Trying Boxing for the First Time
If you want to see if you’ll like it:
Trying boxing to see if you like it is like trying school to see if you like it. Or maybe like a trial run through the military. It simply does not work and does no justice to the pursuit. You have to be honest and ask yourself if you want the benefits that you’ll receive in the boxing culture.

Then commit. Immerse yourself.

The absolute fact is that if you train correctly, you’re eventually not going to like the training it takes. But you’ll love all the outcomes. That is a promise.

Pugilistica Dementia – Every Coach’s Burden

by Al Alvir

I recently brought my JO team to spar at another reputable boxing club that had a crop of great talent.  After watching the other kids, ages 9 to 12, I began noticing a problem that I had once believed was a problem solely of competition performance in amateur boxing — these kids showed zero defenses as they brawled mindlessly when they engaged in the pocket.  In competition, I’ve seen some decent guys stoop to low levels of throwing haymakers and getting hit with every dumb punch around. But I didn’t realize talented kids partook in the idiocy in sparring as though it’s done on a regular basis. It’s akin to the stupidity some of these guys call “rumble drills” (drills in which boxers spar in front of each other with brawling punches and not a semblance of defense).  It’s asinine.

I don’t claim to be better of a coach, but I can promise that I continue to be the most responsible coach possible.  And these kids’ ignorant parents applaud with jive talk of all the senseless toe to toe fighting.  These kids were obviously talented and athletic, but after every small front of boxing acumen, the kids each engaged with reckless abandon standing on the line with their hands down and racing each other’s punches to see which guy can throw harder and more.  It’s primitive and lays promise to CTE and Pugilistica Dementia.  I don’t wish it.  I know it.

I know enough is in the pudding’s proof.  My boxers, from Raleek Born to Dey’Shawn Williams, simply don’t comply with the stupid brawling.  Born sparred these kids, and even though he may have not bettered each one of them, I assure you that he didn’t get his brains beaten in to even a fraction of violence that each of them (except perhaps one of them) inflicted on each other.  Raleek would block 5 to 10 punches and land check counters. This is a losing exchange in amateur boxing, but well respected in the highest echelons of boxing (see Floyd Mayweather). The highest echelon is a barren land with only a few men who will escape rather unscathed.  I think some of the greats who think it’s okay taking shots off of the upper skull, the hard part of the head, don’t realize how the hand and glove take off a considerable amount of impact regardless of how well a skull can roll a blow. Our sport has been stuck and plagued for over a century, and maybe it’s time to note that the Mayweather style is the next evolution that boxing should embrace: To hit and truly not get hit.

Kids and even seniors throughout amateur boxing are implored to punch more, be first, be last, punch and punch.  The minute rounds for pee-wees and bantams do not allow for much a display of skills. Skills don’t necessarily have a pay off in the amateurs because 10 blocked punches is considered better than 2 landed punches – in the JO’s especially. Athleticism and fast twitch muscles is a wave that most of the best amateurs ride. Boxing has a way of finding the Roy Jones’s, but for every Roy Jones boxing, perhaps, boxing loses several fundamental geniuses. Whenever you watch a knockout or watch someone get rocked, probably 99 out of 100 times, it’s a error of fundamentals that gets the guy in trouble. Recently, Curtis Stevens was knocked out by David Lemieux. Stevens backed up to the ropes, blocked a 2, countered with a 3, and pulled his right hand back trying to race Lemieux’s 3 which was fundamentally the next obvious punch. Now with no room, because his back is to the ropes, why he’d try to open up by pulling his hand back in such a precarious position when he was cautious not to do so for the previous rounds is all beyond any mindful trainer’s plan. For a fighter to not acknowledge the mistake by saying, “I just got caught,” is a disservice to the art of boxing. Does he really not know? Okay, that all may have been hard to follow, but my point is that boxing is an art of fundamentals. It’s ignorant to think differently. So I tell all boxers that they have to expose others’ lack of fundamentals by reading and setting up their opponents. So it’s up to coaches to teach long-term skills instead of allowing little kids to hit a wall when they get older.  That wall could be great losses of brain cells.

We’ve seen too many aftermaths of non-sensical, defenseless bravado in too many of our lifetimes. Bruce Carrington just fought a kid in the semi-finals of the 2017 New York Daily News Golden Gloves whom I’ve heard my coaches say is going to die in the ring one day.  I love the kid for his heart, but his chin might be too long-lasting for his lifeline.  We cherish tough-guys who bleed and get up wobbling and determined.

It is time that we acknowledge how they could have avoided it all.  Imagine if they never bled on the brain.  Ever again. Any of them.


Eastern Queens Boxing Club


In house scored competitive sparring recs:

A Skepticism On Weapons Training

by Al Alvir

Coming from a background of a mixture of martial arts trumped by boxing, my skepticism on any theoretical training is stark yet open-minded. I’ve done all-out sparring with sticks and wooden knives.  I’ve been bruised and cut by sticks and slashed by fake knives, but I hardly respected any of it because it all felt fake.  All the reality based martial arts simply don’t have the real combat aspect of boxing.  When I did “simulation” of getting robbed, it was missing the biggest aspect of any real-life situation (and most reality based martial arts schools miss this too):  the aspect of fear.  Even though I wasn’t partaking in meaningless kata or training with a complicit partner, the initial fear of actual combat was only something I could feel in boxing (and kick-boxing) in a ring with no time-outs and no signal to end the action other than an injury or the bell.  Stick-fighting with protective suits and metal cage helmets made no sense to me either.  My brother, a world champion stick fighter, apparently beat me all the time.  I always thought I was getting the better of him, and I’m sure I was wrong, but that’s how phony the training felt.  I never really knew when I was being hit in the head, and I thought I hit him thousands of times more than he hit me.  Furthermore, I never could fathom fighting with sticks in the street in any circumstance.  Some of my early sparring boxing experiences shared the same chaos, but when you get bloody from being punched repeatedly, you find out what little things you could do to survive.  When I finally got a real coach to correct me, I found out there was much more to it. And when it comes to knives, every single training drill is theoretical or it’s incapable of being assessed anyway; the two ways of fighting is either from the outside trying to cut up the knife hand or mindless close-quarter violence while trying to disable the knife hand.  Such pandemonium seems pointless to train anyway.  It would be like training how to run away for cover under fire.  Or training to fight 10 guys at a time.  Sure, there are some good techniques and practices, but what much is there to train?  Especially without simulation and discernible liability.

Recently, I did a training course in Carbine shooting. It indeed takes skills to shoot guns of any sort, but the most duress anyone would feel in this sort of training is raising one’s heart rate.  The need to shoot from various angles, crawling, and with people yelling at you does train one’s dexterity in target shooting, but it is nothing minutely close to the feeling of danger.  It didn’t throw me off or bother me in any way.  I vomited at the end of the last course, but it was purely from trying harder than anyone there at having the best time while being tremendously out of shape (the hardest part was the sprint and jumping-jacks).  And I still had the second best time after being the only one of who had a gun-jam that added time to my run (my fat ass would have had the best time by over 22 seconds if my gun didn’t jam).  My point is that it felt like a bunch of guys in a karate class.  None of us seemed to be accomplishing what we may have thought we were accomplishing.  I just wanted to learn technique and strategy which I could have learned in a private session with more rounds and fewer hours.  But I, too, was deluded to believe I’d get a feel of what live action may be like.  If I thought I got that after the joy of busting guns, a few hours later I realized I was wrong.  I need someone shooting at me, seriously.

The problem with all this type of weapons training is the lack of danger involved. When you get robbed (unfortunately, I have been robbed by ambush or the threat of weapon[s] as an adolescent in the 1990’s New York City over 14 times) or when you get into what you think is a life or death street altercation, you feel a fear that cannot be deliberately replicated.  The closest feeling to anything that gives that fight or flight response is getting into an actual one to one fight after planning to meet somewhere (usually outside of the bar), but none of the courses that deal with weapons even offer the slightest simulation to a fight or flight feeling.  People are often too scared to “step outside,’ so they end up throwing punches inside the bar where it’s a little safer, more immediate, and probably wouldn’t last as long.  The nerves of a street-fight can only be replicated in a small way if you’re about to spar in a striking art when you aren’t used to it.  Wrestling/grappling isn’t the least bit scary unless you are a true sissy.  There’s just something about getting punched in the face that orders danger.

I’m a proponent to sport training in regards to any pursuit because you are testing your skills in a controlled environment with material standards. It’s arguable that sport-trained shooters will act better in an real-life active-shooter scenario than many of these white-collared, weekend warriors, who run all sorts of tactical drills really based only on target shooting – because the sport shooters test themselves under a true set of standards after practicing and qualifying.  Maybe a paintballer has a greater chance of acting appropriately in war or combat than someone trained in self-defense gun training because  a paintballer trains against skilled opponents returning shots.  The thing about any sport training – from Taekwondo to Judo to Kickboxing to paintball – it ultimately can’t be cheated or lied on; it’s appreciable.  Sport training is the opposite of theory, and theoretical combat is too often hypothetical combat.  A sport trained shooter proves himself in a controlled environment against people who are trying to beat him.  He has to react instantly and decisively.  He’s testing himself on someone else’s command and within a model of spectators and judges.  It’s a little more serious than practicing in the shower.  Yes, competition shooting is not real combat, but being a part of one-day class doing a bunch of drills is also a controlled environment in which they do not consistently practice and they are not in conditions that have a standard to test themselves against or to test their improvement compared to other people.  Maybe I’m wrong, but the gun course business seems like a good money-making scheme with unsustainable results for its practitioners.  The practice is, in obvious fact, not included.  These courses are informative and introductory, but competitive shooting  emphasizes practice.  Corollary, I would never recommend a one-day crash course in boxing training.  It would be a waste of time.

What, without fearful consequences, is generally the best kind of training for shootout training, meaning one person with a gun versus one or more people with guns? A hunter, a paintball/airsoft player, a marksman target shooter, a competitive shooter, or someone who does tactical training?  Maybe each training should be done in order to be a better soldier or a better man in a shootout.  I tend to side with what gives the best simulation and accountability.  Hunting and marksmanship from stationary positioning often have stationary targets, so this offers little simulation, but their accountability is in harvesting their prey.  Paintball/airsoft players get the accountability because they play a win-lose game, but it is arguable that the simulation is not quite translatable to actual firearms.  Marksmen may not get any of the simulation of actual combat, but they sure can account for their performances on a daily basis.  A competitive shooter gets the most simulation and the accountability of being tested.  Tactical trainees get the most simulation without real accountability; the classes have no basis for consistently testing.  And live practicing on one’s own isn’t so available or legal – that’s why competitive shooting teams are choice places to become better at arms.  Not having any form of accountability is one of the most dangerous facets of any martial pursuit.  It makes it almost make-believe.  Improving would hardly be accomplished.  Imagine if paintball players had no discernible way (perhaps no winner, no loser, no pain, no paint) to assess performance – it would be like my experience in stick-fighting.   Sure, it’s practicing, but what the hell am I practicing for?  What skills do I need improvement on?  Where am I running to?  What is my real world goal?  These should be questions asked by any gunman.  We, gunmen, just seem too much like dweebs who live in a pretend world.  Afraid.  But without the means or wills to simulate frightening situations.  If shooting guns were martial arts, we seem to be more Aikido practitioners than Thai Boxers.  We seem to want to spar with bare fists and not really punch rather than spar with gloves and feel real hits.

As for now, I will continue to partake in some gun courses, but my instinct is that this all would have a better pay-off if there were a way to test the skills. There needs to have the sustainability that a school offers so people can practice often.  The best option, therefore, seems to be competitive shooting. I like guns.  I like shooting.  But I am not afraid of a damn thing related to me wanting to shoot.  I just like the idea of guns.  And until I find simulation training courses that I can attend on a weekly basis and test myself under duress, I’m going to have to stay “make believe,” too.  Just like too many forms of karate.

Unfortunately, without giving its practitioners fear and live training, all the forms of shooting practice and all the pro-gun circles may be losing out on the type of people who may be the best possible shooters: real fighters.

sidenote: The majority of fighters I’ve known tend to not like the idea of hunting either, because it seems too safe and unfair to them. That’s for a later article…

What Exceptional Boxing Coaches Should Do

by Al Alvir

As someone whose sporting history has tied in with an education background, I am continuously perplexed by the ubiquitous lack of sports coaching following the standards of scholarly pursuits. In boxing especially, fighters can only be grateful to have coaches who care and who communicate the art well enough – I’ve had very good coaches who did just that. But just that.

What low standards that is in this age in which writing communication is a part of our everyday lives.

It is already so that boxing coaches never had to be educated, but it should be obvious that great coaches should share the standards of great educators of any field.

Here are some characteristics of the most effective teachers, and boxing coaches should put forth no less. This list is from

  • Great teachers set high expectations for all students. Too many boxing coaches cherry-pick their boxers. They ignore people who seem like they’re less, whether that means novice or slow-learners or those who show lower work-ethic. It is a job of a good coach to inspire, not squire (like one would for a lady).
  • Great teachers have clear, written-out objectives. Boxing coaches have a stigma to not read, research, expand knowledge, or write. How can any leader have a detailed plan without it being written down? “Effective teachers have lesson plans that give students a clear idea of what they will be learning, what the assignments are and what the [criteria for judgment is].”
  • Great teachers are prepared and organized.  Boxing coaches should lead, and that means being prepared more than any of his boxers are. Professionalism begets good habits and more professionalism. So when a coach doesn’t have tape, scissors, etc. at a sanctioned fight, how great of a coach could he be? Great coaches should also track their progress and have their own tactics for taking statistics.
  • Great teachers engage students and get them to look at issues in a variety of ways. Effective boxing coaches understand the subjectivity and the lack of boundaries of boxing. Every boxer is different too, so what works for one fighter may not work for anyone else. Boxing is an intricate art and should be viewed as such. Questions should have explanations that lead to other questions and explanations. Mechanical knowledge should be thorough and translatable but custom to every individual.
  • Great teachers form strong relationships with their students and show that they care about them as people. Great coaches have to really care about the boxers. Show me a coach who doesn’t care about the individual boxer, show me a coach who should be fired or who should let go of his fighter. Great coaches need to know his fighters, as they are all different and have to be taught differently (this applies to strategy and personality). Coaching, as opposed to boxing, is supposed to be a selfless pursuit; a fighter boxing, on the other hand, is following, arguably, the most selfish pursuit in the world. Coaches should view their relationships with boxers like close partnerships, as boxers should view it, too.  Communication, honesty and listening, is what forms strong relationships.  When a coach can reflect on his mistakes, as well, it is a sign of a great coach.  A great coach should also be loyal to his fighter, never leaving his side or backstabbing him even after conflict.  And loyalty is a single-lane, two-way street. Boxers and coaches become extensions of families. Commitment is the heart of the relationship. The problem is when fighters lose sight of the partnership. This is often when they find out something they weren’t looking for.
  • Great teachers are masters of their subject matter.  This is tricky, because there are plenty of tournament champions who are far from masters of the subject matter of boxing. To truly see the weight of a coach’s mastery of the art of boxing, see what he produces. Check what he knows. Great coaches evolve, too. They continue their education into the art of boxing and are very self-aware about where they stand in their art. The exhibition of expertise comes in their communication more than anything. This is especially because of the subjective nature of boxing. Plenty of great fighters can show a tactic, but they surely may not be able to discuss the causes and effects, the what ifs, the what next’s, the way someone else might think, reasoning, etc. Exploring new tools and methods for teaching is what keeps coaches masters of the subject matter.  Communication, and its many forms, is a theme of great coaching that carries into all the bullets presented above.

The State of the Art of Boxing

by Al Alvir

If there were boxing Gods, all powerful judges overlooking every aspect of the art of boxing, what would They think about it?  The quality of boxing has arguably never been up to a standard worthy of Gods. Regretfully, boxing may have never been up to a standard of itself.  With all the basic tenets and fundamentals of boxing, why do most boxers neglect them?

The apogee of boxing has always been about 10 to 15 people in the history of boxing out of hundreds of thousands of boxers. After those 15 or so fighters, we have countless generations of intermediate and inferior boxers.  Of the 10 to 15 men who exuded the major fundamentals of boxing, have you seen them get hit doing things de facto dumb?  Looking back at some of those 15 people, why do you think they got hit so much?  Do you think they should have or could have avoided being hit as much as they did?

The practical problem is that boxing is entertainment and boxing at its pinnacle, by conventional definition, the art of hitting and not being hit, is not a violent and exciting rumble. Boxing at it’s very best, in any generation, is akin to Mayweather v. Pacquiao I.  Boxing at its best, is loathsome to most spectators.  The ubiquitous dueling of fighters going blow for blow– albeit all heart – is what we all remember.  It’s why Gatti-Ward gets more credit than any Mayweather fight for being considered a great fight.

5 of the most popular fights in history were all wars. These are widely considered the “greatest”: Hagler-Hearns, Diego Corrales-Jose Castillo, Dempsey-Firpo, Pryor-Arguello, and of course Ali-Frazier III.  It’s noted that these fights each exhibited the best part of a fighter – his will.  Will versus will is a recipe for drama like nothing else.  None of the greatest fights, however, exhibited genius.  Genius vs. genius presents us something else that maybe only a jaded boxing coach could respect.  There’s some thinking and minimal intelligence in the bouts above (early, perhaps, before dulled fracas), but it cannot be argued that there was genius displayed in any of these greatest fights of all time.  Intelligence in boxing is a factor that is displayed before the deepest parts of “will” can manifest.  Genius, therefore, the most sustainable factor if present, must only be displayed in boxing when will does not come into play.  My point is that the art of boxing has a paradox that most people seem to not care about; that is, greatness in the world of boxing does not care about genius at all, rather the will of the man is what people adore.

This is what undermines boxing as a whole, because what exists of boxing (the fights themselves) is simply not as impeccable as the science and theory intends. Obviously, as a coach, I care deeply about the will of my fighters, because without it, they would not make it far in boxing.  The will embodies “the fight.”  The culture of boxing is dead without it.  But acumen is absolutely what the art of boxing is about.

As an active member of amateur boxing in the US, I see terrible skills on a monthly basis, across the country, and in all major tournaments. Open and pro boxers have come to me not knowing how to block right hands “because they know how to slip.”  Accomplished fighters I’ve known had not a semblance of the function of basic mechanics – why do we pivot, why do we turn our hands over, why do we step before we slide, etc.  At an AIBA 1-Star coaching certification class, an ex-olympian couldn’t give two examples of how to not get hit with a right hand to the body.  I can offer dozens of anecdotal references to how uneducated and un-studied boxing people are.  The negligence is a common cross-section of boxing, and I’m sorry, not anomalies.  The people who are full of shit roar in boxing.

Boxing people can give great quotes about how boxing is a sweet science. They can do fancy mitt routines and repeat  some hackneyed instructions.  But a lot of the successful boxers who grow up in this culture tend to just punch well.  They shoeshine on a whim and seem to have go to moves that they execute like they “count to three and go on three.”  Some of the highest ranked fighters get hit during every combination and just try to race and outgun opponents.  I’ve seen little pee-wee’s beating each other’s brains in, perhaps because they will learn defense if they don’t bleed on their brains first.  The art of counter-punching is limited to shoulder-rolls and lean-backs because they are in style due to the follower nature of people (that is all they got from Mayweather’s genius).  For each of the Andre Wards, Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweathers, Guillermo Rigondeaux’s, and Vasyl Lomachenkos, there are 30 contenders with all the talent in the world and none of the info.  There are countless numbers more of boxers without any talent whatsoever.

I never claim to say I have all the info, but at least I implore fundamentals, and I’m not going to stand idle while my fighters prepare to slur their speech.