Category Archives: Uncategorized

Some of the Tools of the Boxing Trade

by Al Alvir

Teddy Atlas took Cus D’Amato’s Willie Bag invention and ran to the bank with it when he sold the idea to Everlast. Boxing is filled with tools for learning that have lasted many decades, possibly centuries. Cus developed some strange number system and made the Willie Bag to prepare Jose Torres for Willie Pastrano.  The evaluation line, the slipbag, slip lines (ropes), the jab plank, the floor-to-ceiling bag (double-end bag), etc., have been incorporated in boxing, but it’s unclear to whom we owe the ideas.  Trainers often take other people’s ideas and create their own systems – few have cashed-in like Atlas – without a dab of recognition to Cus D’Amato I must add.

Ringside Boxing is another company that was known for making really unique devices to keep boxing training fresh. They made a bag that was attached to surgical tube that bounced in all different directions – I even cloned it with the help of an assistant coach, and gym-members started calling it the Onion (due to the reddish-purple tape) or the Swee’ Pea in regard to Pernell Whitaker for his unpredictable movement.  Trainers consistently borrow new ways of teaching to forward to their fighters.

At Eastern Queens Boxing Club (EQBC), I created two devices. One is in the process of being patented and the other is being made for distribution.  One is the “Slip-Pipe” (patent-pending) a swinging pipe that hangs from a ceiling parallel to the floor and swings so boxers can use it to slip and bob and weave while it moves.  Think of it like slip-lines that swing. The other tool I call “The Boxing Footwork Grid” (so unoriginal, I know, but in boxing we tend to call things as they are – very little embellished).  It is a box system that I created to teach new boxers the proper foot positioning and the proper footwork for boxing.  In the gym, I have a grid of numbered taped squares on the floor so boxers can practice the steps with a fixed and guided pattern that is exactly the way one would step in a fight.  Once a boxer learns the steps, he could change the distances in his strides without losing his stance.  It’s a simple solution, but it took a lot of trial and error and struggles with teaching people how to stand.  Before this I used to tape footprints to the floor, but the footprints didn’t work for little kids.  The Footwork Grid works for anyone.

Another tool I have made part of the teaching system at EQBC is written routines on the wall that have been tried and tested over my years of boxing and innovated from the haphazard commands of trainers. The routines work like lists on the wall with optional replacements. It’s no different from how educated trainers coach their young, but it is self-managing.  It leaves no room for a boxer in a crowded gym to not know what he has to do next.

Trainers around the world also have their number systems, but the one that evolved at EQBC is consistent from head to toe. The basic punches are numbered 1-6 (this had been coincidentally created by vast numbers of trainers).  When I first found out another coach had devised the same number system, I was baffled until I looked at it more honestly – it is an obvious number system.  One thing that was not so obvious to others was my initiation of adding 11-16 to indicate the basic six punches to the body.  Head-movement is also consistent to “spots” that are odd and even.  And the lateral steps are also compatible with “odd” and “even” movement.  This makes all the communication exponentially easier, and it makes learning more accommodating.  These are also basics of boxing.  It doesn’t change the way people box, rather it has changed the way people learn.

Throughout my many years involved in boxing, I’ve studied under many coaches. I used to keep a notebook during my training years.  I’ve learned that simplification is the most toilsome duty, essential in boxing.  So many trainers make their boxers do things, and understand those things for themselves, but the boxers tend to not ever find out how to translate, explain, or process, and they tend to not know the reasoning to their moves.  Good athletes can know exactly how and when to do things in action, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find any athlete who can breakdown the process and simplify to relegate to different people.  How do you develop feints?  What are the beats that you use to counter?  Why are some spots “safe spots” and others not?

Every next year in this game, I realize how little I knew the last. But one constant is that the best ways of teaching is to habitually adjust, innovate and simplify.

Good teachers don’t make things seem more intricate than it is; in something that is already so intricate, only bad egos do that.

* Ethical coaches also don’t steal ideas and sell it as their own.

 

Controversial Decisions, Disputed Championships, and the Asterisk in Boxing

By Al Alvir

There should be a new statistic considered in boxing: the Asterisk.

Baseball has argued the idea of adding an asterisk to its record books because of all the alleged steroid use among its players.  The slippery slope might make someone argue that teams’ wins and losses might need asterisks too.  Bad calls by the officials in boxing, however, are not reviewed the way great performances are.  In boxing, next to fighters’ records of wins, losses, ko’s, decisions, and draws, there should be an asterisk to signify and quantify whatever number of those fights were controversial to the effect that the outcome, out of the fighters’ control, had a reasonable possibility of being completely reversed.  The asterisk could indicate a fighter’s wins that were close decisions, bad calls by referees affecting the scoring, lucky come-from-behind TKOs, split decisions, etc.  And in this manly art we don’t cosign excuses for losing, but we surely should recognize the rationale in not really winning.  So the asterisk will only stand for wins (otherwise, fighters might embellish their asterisks as built in excuses every time their records are announced).  Meaning, a fighter with 35-4-2-*7, one can say he clearly and mathematically won 28 fights.  Of course, controversy is almost too difficult to argue by its nature, and an asterisk cannot address bad unanimous decisions or one corrupt judge.

In a sport in which championships don’t necessarily indicate being the best or beating the best, and it certainly does not indicate earning title shots by winning a streak of fights up the ranks, at least a new statistic could tell a story.  Was Rocky Marciano really undefeated if you consider an asterisk?

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SAFO Group has tried and tested my equation to qualify or disqualify unanimous decisions within boxing’s 10 Point Must System.  I named it the Fair-Draw Asterisk Solution (FDAS).  This way all wins in boxing will be as fairly rated as they possibly could be.

FDAS = If (swing rounds x 3) > or = (scorecard 1 margin) + (scorecard 2 margin) + (scorecard 3 margin), the fight must be considered a “Fair Draw”

So, in lieu of complete fairness (and the rare 10-10 round), FDAS is the closest thing to anything remotely fair, as it is based on factual numbers and sanctioned contest numbers.  Swing-rounds are rounds that are so close that they can be subjectively judged in favor of either fighter.  To quantify what a swing-round is, FDAS defines it as any round that is not unanimously scored in favor of one fighter by the 3 official judges.  Any swing-round, therefore, can be scored +3/-3 for either fighter – that’s the swing part; it can swing one way or the other, subjectively, if something was viewed differently.

Fair-Draw Asterisks are afforded to all split decisions and all fights that are proven by the FDAS solution.

Sample:

Fighter          1         2          3         4          5          6         7         8          9        10        11       12      Total

10 10 10 10 10 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 113
9 9 9 9 9 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 115

Scorer ______ Date ______

 

Fighter          1         2          3         4          5          6         7         8          9        10        11       12      Total

10 10 10 9 10 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 112
9 9 9 10 9 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 116

Scorer ______ Date ______

 

Fighter          1         2          3         4          5          6         7         8          9        10        11       12      Total

10 10 10 10 10 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 113
8 9 9 9 9 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 114

Scorer ______ Date ______

 

  • Swing Rounds = 1 = margin of 3 (minimally, all cards can score at least 1 point in favor of one or the other)
  • Scorecard 1 margin = 2
  • Scorecard 2 margin = 4
  • Scorecard 3 margin = 1
  • Scorecard margin total = 7
  • Margin total is greater than swing round total, so this fight is not a Fair-Draw.

*Also, round 1 was scored differently, but it is not a swing-round because one fighter was the agreed winner.

It is so unfair that so many major fights of history could have had a different outcome if only one judge scored one round differently. Is that fair?  Since judgment is the basis for scores—rather than actual points or tangible evidence—without unanimity it is only fair to “draw” when considering ethically and logically.  This is why grave matters in politics require unanimity for decisions.

I stress that this asterisk won’t change anyone’s record.  It just puts a little spit on it. And it is not subjective. That makes it awesome.  This way, three assholes have to score a fight bad for any bad decision to take place.  The FDAS just determines that close fights, when viewed differently, can fairly be considered a draw… just considered. Of course the solution doesn’t overrule bad judges, but it forces the judges to a fair agreement (factually and mathematically.)  Also, because a swing round becomes a drawn round, this puts real weight onto the other rounds. It puts fate into the fighters’ hands to get everyone’s agreement. The only opposition to FDAS is that the controversy of unfair decisions can be considered good for sales.  This solution, however, will prove fighters’ dominance.

It might also prove that sales are a bunch of BS too.

How USA Boxing Should Be Changed

by Rick Brandoff

Disclaimer: Below is not necessarily a reflection of the beliefs of Eastern Queens Boxing Club, its members, its coaches, or the owner and of Shootafairone.com

Open Letter to USA Boxing amd AIBA:

Our amateur boxing system is filled with honest, hardworking volunteers and professionals who give what they can to the amateur careers of our kids and to the advancement of our sport.  There are, however, embarrassing issues that plague us.  What makes it ever so cringingly painful is that the issues seem to be capable of easy fixes. They’re such easy fixes that the growing feeling of members is that USA Boxing doesn’t give a speckle of an iota about the problems. People reduce the ignorance to being “business as usual.”

The three problems that our boxers and their families and friends tangibly know too well within USA Boxing are:

1) Fighter No-shows to Scheduled Bouts

2) Judges lack uniform competence or integrity. The scoring needs to be fixed.

3) Disorganization. The typical standards of other organizations are virtually non-existent in USA Boxing.

Fighter No-Shows are an easily avoidable nuisance. This happens all too often in boxing. Show promoters have to over-schedule just to insure having a bout card.  To avoid this, and to instill accountability, a boxer must submit his/her boxing passbook in order to confirm a bout.  If he does not show-up in time for weigh-in, or if he is not at his agreed-upon weight and the coaches do not agree to let the fight occur, the boxer must be suspended for 30-90 days and fined.

Judges lack uniform competence or integrity. There are no detailed standards for scoring fights, period.  Judges cannot possibly know exactly what they are looking for or looking at – this may sound like a hasty judgment, but the proof is in the disparity of scores in given bouts.  Draws, therefore, are only fair outcomes.  It is ludicrous that draws are non-existent in amateur boxing.  Hypothetically, if two fighters do identically the same things in a fight, how can a draw not be allowed possible?  There is also a glaring conflict of interest as there exist many judges and referees who are affiliated to boxing clubs – even as coaches. This sort of conflict of interest is unheard of in the American Judicial System – jury members can’t even know about a famous person on trial. Why should boxing allow any of this sort of faux-pas?

The disorganization of USA Boxing is unfathomable. One boxer’s mother at a show noted to me, “They are all uneducated, irresponsible, over-the-hill street kids, rude with brute stupidity.” This is not what I want boxing to be about.  I wouldn’t want my kids involved in this either, if that were truly the case.  I don’t believe it is the case of USA Boxing as a whole, but there are valid points.  Why are certain rules in place?  Why are draws not done beforehand in any of our local tournaments?  Why is there so much political he say/she say, who’s having sex with who, unseating of Presidents, etc? Why are promoter’s sons fighting on their own cards?  Why are our tournaments not bracket structures?  Why are email bout notices sent to fighters only and are sometimes two or three day notices only?  And now coaches can’t appeal/protest or review scorecards.  Where is the accountability?  Where is the transparency?  I have the strong belief that a cornerman should be allowed to retrieve scores in between rounds to notify his fighter (not the audience).  This is the one aspect of drama undermined in boxing and available in all other sports.  If you disagree, you sure can’t prove it either.  So why not try it?  First and foremost, rules are in place to be adhered to.  Unlike other organizations, USA Boxing has a convoluted checks and balances that often start with a broken rule and ends up with one person saying, “that’s how it is.”  I guess it’s complacent corruption, “business as usual.”

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Below is an excerpt from a piece written by Coach Al Alvir of EQBC from which I’ve discussed some ideas:

“USA Boxing Judges are Ruining Boxers’ Careers.

The classiest boxing teams don’t complain about poorly scored decisions. We remain poker-faced when we believe the scorers have misjudged. But what are the repercussions of injustice?  Where is the accountability for negligence or incompetence?

Moreover, what happens when numerous bad decisions fall upon promising boxers who become ruined by one-sided, blatantly wrong decisions?

As the head coach of a USA Boxing Club, I’ve kept my cool about innumerous bad decisions. I assure you, I am not that guy who leads scenes raving about judges’ incapabilities.  Everyone knows.  I know that bias is a coach’s natural reservation, so I accept what we get.  But one giant, loaded, bantamweight straw has broke the camel’s back.  Yesterday, a fighter of mine found himself on his 4th straight inconceivable loss.  Coaches wanted to appeal.  Fathers wanted to riot.  Opposing coaches offered their apologies.  The least action I could do is review it and consult with authorities.

I don’t expect – though it may be deserved – a reversal of a judgment. I do expect AIBA and USA Boxng to make some real efforts to change what’s happening.  Fighters’ parents will start to pull their kids from our programs.  Some more talent will be forfeited to basketball and football, as has been the case for decades in America.  This can all happen even if any of us are wrong simply because there is no consistency.

First, judges need to be accountable. They need to have their records tracked, as is done in the pros. Second, judges need to have an objective standard as to what they are looking for.  There must be a “written law” or rulebook detailing what judges are to look for.  What’s out now is not enough. Boxing is much more complicated than a hip rotation and a turn-over of a fist.  Third, judges must not have any affiliations with boxing clubs.

My suggestion is to create a council for “Judging Judges.” If any coach wants to submit a formal protest, he must fill-out a proper form and write his review of a fight along with film footage. Then an appropriate USA Boxing official reviews the judges’ decisions along with the footage. If a judge under review is deemed to have been incompetent or lacking integrity, appropriate measures should be taken, including the removal of an official from amateur boxing.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I only hope that the powers that be recognize they can be, just as much.”

(see “The Fair-Draw Asterisk” on shootafairone.com).

To Privately Train or Not To

 

by Al Alvir

There are two predominant kinds of people who train: the ones whose chief goal is to perform better and the ones whose chief goal is to be taught more. That was a difficult differentiation to make, but it is precisely designated, and I promise to explain.  Of course, there is an amalgam of sub-categories, but everybody falls under one.  Instinctively, I’d say there are two kinds of trainees: people who can follow directions and train alone versus people who need someone to hold their hands in order to train at all.  That is, however, a little harsh and unfair.

As a coach/trainer, I am adamant that I am NOT a personal trainer nor do I ever choose to do it with any client. I don’t choose to teach people how to have work-outs. It is simply not how fighters are made or how fighters get better.  But human nature will easily be tricked into thinking that they are getting more out of an hour in which they are spending more money and in which they are being told more by a superior.  Trainers are 9 a dime who understand and exploit this – and they probably don’t even know it.  They are the ones who understand business and customer service as they do hour sessions.  Heartlessly, I say.

The type of training I speak about are the ones in which you hear cheerleading and big-brother encouragement as the trainers don’t actually fine-tune; the trainers are usually filling-up 40+ minutes of fun mittwork routines, a bunch of exercises a fighter would do alone, and some strategies that a trainee isn’t even ready for. Some trainers make work-outs elaborately paced and exciting and different – these are by far the biggest red flags screaming: “Not for any real fighter.” These trainers can tell you how good you’re doing, but they probably don’t make any of the fundamental corrections, even over time, for a trainee to ever do those things correctly.  Clients who want to go through those boxer motions are perfect candidates for one to one training because they’re being taught more, even if they may not learn or absorb anything at all.  I’ve even witnessed boxers with some bad habits run through long ring-work sessions, going over different moves and set-ups while they didn’t know how to close distance correctly.  Anyone involved in this game has seen horrendously formed boxers throw 10-punch combinations while being praised for doing nothing fundamentally correct.  It’s ubiquitous. In my opinion, it’s a sales tactic to make the fighter think he’s getting more with this coach than he may get somewhere else.  I’d tell the kids mentioned above to work footwork in two directions and not punch for three weeks, but that’s just me.  This may hurt clients’ feelings in my own gym, but this designation of trainee make for the worst fighters who have the slowest learning curves (but they continue to make the choice, even though my coaches are capable of much more with their time.  I must also add that the false praise and elaborate beginner-ring-work is non-existent in my club).  They come in for three hours a week with a coach, and that’s it.  They get the training, but in these situations the customer is almost always wrong.

The type of trainee that I love to see and work with are the ones with single-minded goals (because they probably already lost weight or will do it alone) to perform better. These are sport-minded people, the real fighters who aim to make changes.  They may choose some private coaching to supplement their core work.  They don’t care about how a coach says things or how many hoops a coach jumps with them.  Fighters only care about getting better, and they know the only way to truly make progress is to do the same things for numerous hours at a time, in sequence, with resolve.  It is a blessing working with fighters, because they know the process. They know that an hour of fabulous mitts or reviews on different styles do nothing until the most minor steps are made perfect, step by step. In essence, the most efficient hour with a coach would often resemble the most efficient hour of training solo.  That is, unless trainees are just cataloguing notes during an hour clinic (like a lecture), as opposed to an hour one to one training session.

Open coaching is how boxers fine-tune. It is just how any team sport works; a bunch of individuals scrimmage or do drills while coaches look at all the individuals and the sub-strategies.  It’s up to the players to follow the directions and practice.  In boxing, fighters come to their club to work their individual programs while a coach oversees, gives tips, and makes corrections.  Sometimes, individual players need/want  special attention when they’re having difficulties.  And that’s when boxers seek more than just mittwork.

I’ve worked the best one to one sessions with professionals and seasoned boxers (not novices).  None were work-out based.  Some, I’d go over a move, and they’d practice it for the whole session with a lot of dialogue.  Some, I’d be asked to just observe for an hour and spot corrections.  Of course, there were some who just wanted a random switch-up of pad-work once in a while (and they’d be willing to spend their educated money).

At any rate, a full hour private one to one session is usually a waste of time unless the boxer is completely dedicated to overall performance, not just how much stuff was gone over or how much was taught in an hour. Because I can assure you that I’ve taught much, much more in given hours to insufficient trainees and I’ve “instilled” even more in given hours to fine boxers who did the work whether they liked it or did not.  Learning boxing, unlike many other pursuits, is a process of learning literally one thing at a time.

So when you are deciding on getting private boxing training or not, first come to realization on what kind of one to one coaching you are searching for. And understand that the two types are mutually exclusive:  By the end of one hour, do you want to perform better or to have been taught more?

Ultimately, if you’re looking for one to one training, I’m afraid that you’re probably just looking for a shortcut or some filler time.

If not, let’s work.

The Line (prose)

by Al Alvir

“If everything is on the line, I wanna be right here at home.

But I know I need to get off the line or be on neither side alone.

 

When the blood is dry, the bandage washed, the leather starts to crack

Like wrinkles ply with brandished scars, I weather the attack.
 

If everything is on the line, I wanna be right here at home.

My body’s lying. My mommy’s vying for a place that’s not my own.
 

My daydreams rig my nightmares with a fear of open roads

I wake to sprint and breathe on. Years, I’m racing to be slow.

 

My labor is the mute complaints and hustle for more purse.

Every day I look forward to a struggle that’s much worse.

 

Cancer. Beat. Mourning too. Divorce and war. What’s left?

I’m looking for the battle where I stand against myself.

 

If everything is on the line, I wanna be right here at home.

But I know I need to get off the line or be on neither side alone.”

To Be a Champion

I got beat up.

Every other day.

I loved this game.

But I was beat. The coaches couldn’t see my dedication? What was going on? I was Ali. I was Lamotta. I was Tyson. Sweet Pea. I coulda’ been somebody. Before I hopped on to another gym, I looked at all the coaches and wondered if they could ever understand…

That was circa 1994. Now I’m running a small business, a gym borrowing from the process of life. Being lost, losing, working, triumphing. And I’m seeing kids with talent. Some are athletic and can’t listen a lick. Some remind me of why I fell in love with boxing. Some are born under the bullshit of circumstance. Because I don’t give a notion of a fuck if they’re poor or if they have some other handicap on their shoulders. I believe that overachievers win over underachievers 99.99% of the time. And it’s a state of mind, it’s not circumstance.

A few times a day guys walk in my club and proclaim that they’re going to be world champions but don’t even know the beginning process. How do I train? How do I get prepared to spar? How do I get a fight? What weight will I fight at? I know right away that they’re dogs that will eventually need to be put to sleep. Be it time or the lies of circumstance that sound their flat line. They’re not calculating like swift fighters. They’re under-valuing the difficulty. Or they’re projecting their insecurities, lying to me not knowing that they’ve said the wrong thing on what is, essentially, an interview. Yet they still get the job – at the back of a line led by quiet, unassuming murderers who will never squeal a word. Those murderers might end up as accountants or janitors, but they won’t end up as liars. Everybody learns something.

The training in this game is a job. It’s seems perfect when you love it. But how you train when you love it no longer is where the perfect beauty comes out? When you need motivation, can you do without it? As a contender can you be by yourself running through a program/routine as you were as a rank amateur, working harder than anyone you’ve ever seen? Can you follow a correction to break a habit built over years of training? Can you do the hardcore conditioning without a team or without affording a conditioning coach to pay by the hour? The real workers, the ones with hearts of champions, continue to work harder than the next guy in the gym. The real ones with champion hearts do all the work when they hate it, and that’s when they realize that they are really made to see this through. Other guys lose, or what they consider losing, in sparring, and they leave. Other guys lose fights, and they leave. Other guys lose the love, and they leave. They lose something and look outside themselves to get it back, but that’s a fallacy. The point is that you set a goal; you better friggin’ “see it through” whatever it may be. Seeing it through to failure is noble; quitting is never noble.

What it takes to become a champion of the world is something twenty-plus years in boxing doesn’t even teach. But I know it’s more impressive to me than any Ivy League Doctorate with a 4.0 average. It’s improbable and it doesn’t involve even an atom of luck. I indulge in a note that I’ve shared rings and heavy-bags with world-champions. I also believed I was just like them. I thought I was robbed of opportunities they got, and it took a gut and a bad back, years later, to convince me that I was just a moron.

Maybe those coaches watching me train as a kid understood that I couldn’t be nobody, anybody.  ‘Irony is that it was always up to me.

I’m standing here with a bloody stopwatch of hope and I know I look beat. But I’m no longer a liar, and I never, never stopped loving boxing.  Plus, I think a champion is in my gym and I want him to find himself.  As I did.

— Just a coach… Al

The Story in the Details

by Al Alvir

The boxing business, like any other business nowadays, is appraised through social media and is essential in building. As a coach, my absolute instinct is to be private about everything. But social media is a tool for constant marketing and contact and, more importantly to me, a learning tool for my fighters.  But I never, never aimed a message of attack at any one particular person unless I named him; if I notice a trend, however, I will probably note it whether or not one guy may have been a source of reproach. There has always been a method to my insanity, and I try to be precise with a specific intent.  I recently posted a blurb status: “None of us aint shit. We’re in the grind just like everyone else in their respective work. We aint legends. The boxers don’t even make money from this shit. Most pros end up with jobs. Most coaches make shit money or failed as fighters. You see the same guys at the tournaments year in and year out, then people wanna hug you when you start winning. That’s fake shit. For one, don’t do that. Be humble and nice with everyone. The next person might know more than anyone you ever met. Popularity contests and ass-kissing for two, don’t do that.”  I still mean it.  It’s my typical vein of harshness, but I know that the most important asset for any of us is what is on the wall of our club: to “be humble.”

Boxing will have been the hardest undertaking that any serious boxer will ever set upon. Boxers know that this art is so difficult, so they develop superiority complexes of increasing levels. I’ve seen more elitist attitude and cockiness behind the scenes in boxing than I would have ever expected in such a blue-collar sport. As a child in boxing, I was oblivious to the snubs. Years later, I learned it was epidemic in boxing. As an old adult and manager of many boxers, I hope that boxers in my stable never seek an autograph and only take pictures with a famed boxing person to capture a moment other than “that time I was a groupie for some man who won’t even care who the fuck I am.” Conversely, I don’t want any young person to feel he can’t approach a boxer of mine in any situation. But I’ve learned that the sort of big-headedness that I speak about in boxing even happens in the Department of Sanitation (a pursuit in which they are arguably just “picking up garbage”); people “think who they are” without having real perspective of “who they actually are.” Through the difficult times in a boxers career, boxers form defense mechanisms that may actually be impregnable, not like their guards. Boxing will offer seeds of delusions to the tiniest of successes. Boxing, at its best, will force men to answer questions that normal people don’t have the violent luxury to ever know. As a studied coach, I know this, so my heart is with my guys – hundreds of whom I’ve built relationships with and only two of which I’ve learned to dislike before ties were broken. I have always said, “if I don’t like who you are, I don’t train you.” What I like is integrity.

I am the head coach of a small club. My gut believes we’re the best, but I am grounded enough to know that we are perpetually fledgling.  I admire my fighters.  And I learn their weaknesses.  I find their skeletons all over the crevices of the gym, and I sometimes love my fighters despite it.  Through the years I’m getting more and more skilled at  learning guys’ expiration dates.  I’ve had people steal money from me.  I’ve had boxers promise me dues that I’ve never received. I’ve had boxers I believed-in, leave the club for a higher-profile gym – and, sadly, I become certain, only then, that they will never make it.  See, boxers are especially selfish and take things for granted.  It is almost a prerequisite.  They have to care about their work solely, and they have to ignore some basic conditions – sometimes it’s pain, sometimes it’s loyalty.  I don’t make any actual accounting for this, but our coaches have been thanked by fighters only a handful of times over our 5 years, yet each time it was like a jolt to my lungs and a pinch in my tear ducts.

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EQBC was born the month Zurana Horton was killed in Brownsville, Brooklyn.  I was a caseplanner at a non-for-profit agency working with families in drug-rehabilitation where Ms. Horton  was registered.  On October 21, 2010, Zurana Horton was killed shielding her children from gangbangers having a shootout just two blocks from my office.  Because Ms. Horton was a client of my agency, the Administration for Children Services closed-down my job, and I was to be unemployed.  During my work as a caseplanner, I was still training boxers, so I decided to put everything I had into what I loved most: boxing.  I’ve always been inclined to teach and counsel, analyze and re-analyze.  It just so happens that I was always infatuated with boxing.  The little money I had, I put into boxing equipment and forming a business in which I had only 2 prospective members. I never borrowed a dollar, and I never applied for another job.  I struggled.  I always thought that I wasn’t going to do anything extraordinary, but boxing was the best chance I had at doing more.  The irony of this all is that the 3 boys who were involved in the shootout were local boxers who trained out of a Brownsville club that was closed-down two years earlier. They each said that they wouldn’t have been gangbanging if they still had boxing.

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Some guys have grand delusions that they will be millionaires because of boxing, yet they haven’t had one match.  I always hope it’s true for their sake, but any promise is false without basis. Other guys walk into my club having boxed for several months, or even years, and say that loyalty is their thing.  Each person has his story, so I cannot fairly judge without knowing it.  But why do people come from other gyms, other trainers?  Everything they do, I’m looking for expiration dates.  I’m reading their cues.  I’m advising for change.  The sad thing is that borrowed guys are often broken even when they come from fine homes, fine coaches. From Timothy Bradley going to Teddy Atlas to Miguel Cotto serially hopping to Freddie Roach, these guys may have had honest falling-outs or broke their expiration dates just to put the same old soup in different packaging.  I, personally, just don’t get it as a whole.  Bryan Lamont said, “You gotta be an asshole to leave somebody who took you to high levels of success and when it’s time to make another big payday, you go to some millionaire coach to make him richer off of years of someone else’s hardwork. Free mittwork. Driving you around to spar at other gyms. Caring for you.”  Maybe some fighters need big names to bolster their confidence.  That indeed sounds broken to me.  Materially, any decent coach is going to know what one famous fighter needs to do to beat another famous fighter.  Does a gym-hopper fighter know the communication resume of given trainers?  I don’t care how many champions any trainer has coached, but I’ll put some ad-hominid value in how many good fighters – champion or not – a trainer has actually produced from scratch. What does a Freddie Roach necessarily know that any low-level coach doesn’t? The answers are all hearsay or hypothesis. The fact is that any trainer worth the sodium in his blood will produce skillful, knowledgeable fighters and will pay attention to detail.  Do you know a trainer’s I.Q? Do you know how much experience a trainer has retained over the experiences he has neglected?  Do you know what a trainer has been through?  Do you know his value, his integrity? Do you know how much heart and thought he will invest?

There’s something romantic about this thankless job.  Good thing none of us ain’t shit.

Still, I will never rest my laurels there.

The Importance of Loyalty In Boxing

By Al Alvir

Coaches get broken. Their hearts become more damaged than anyone may know. Years of promises gone awry. Some of those promises gon’ stray. Boxing, more than any other sport, has an aspect of loyalty – ironic of a one to one sport. And in no other endeavor does it get tested more.

The relationship formed between coaches and their fighters is not just about time spent together and bonds built, but it has a tangible effect on fighters’ skills and performance. Over time, trust is built between the coach and the fighter and the team, and the coach’s acumen for application fitting to each specific fighter shouldn’t ever be underestimated. The way a fighter needs to be spoken to, the drills a fighter needs more than others, the mistakes temporarily allowed only to him in order for him to learn better, are each small examples of what, when done well, is cultivated by trust.

Boxing is a science that simply needs attention to detail. It’s an individual sport in which each individual is autonomous and whose responsibility it lies on to follow the proper strategies and mechanics. Different coaches lend their strengths and resources, but a fighter’s attributes will never be held back at any place more than another UNLESS the opportunities are not given or one coach is just clueless. When you’re a person who moves from university to university, you fail at any of the detail needed to excel. You become a serial quitter. Gym hoppers carry that badge of dishonor. Bryan Lamont of Eastern Queens Boxing Club pointed out, “Doctors don’t hop from one Ivy league college to another to get different teachers’ takes…”

If Freddie Roach opened a Wild Card near your local competitive boxing gym, what would indicate that there’s better coaching or a better chance at the Wild Card? That’s the mentality of short-cutters and it’s based on a famous logical fallacy called post hoc ergo propter hoc. In other words, it’s a belief that because Manny Pacquiao went there and became a champion, the next person who goes there will become a champion. It’s absurd. It’s ignorant. It’s simply an unfair assessment. Boxing lends itself to track records and fight records that are often irrelevant to the levels of program quality. There are an array of more logical fallacies this train of stupidity falls on. Gym-hoppers are always the first to board that train.

Acquiring skills in boxing is not like crossing out things on a bucket list. Sure, a fighter can borrow tricks from an assortment of trainers, but historically this tactic has never – never – worked for a fighter to change teams. It has only ever worked when one coach didn’t afford his fighter opportunities or new challenges. Look at these boxers: Floyd Mayweather, Bernard Hopkins, Andre Ward. They’ve each had only one team since they started boxing. On the other hand, Mike Tyson may have made the worst mistake when he left his original team. He started losing when he became a coach hopper. Every fighter who has gym-hopped (not from a fall-out or lack of opportunity) hasn’t found success, rather a place to blame other than himself. The formula for good boxing will always come back to intelligence and fundamentals practiced hard. There is no other place to do this than home, the place where relationships and camaraderie has been developed and trust and loyalty nurtured. Like friendships, one doesn’t turn on his friends for a set of other friends who may or may not be better in whatever ways. What then would be the point of building relationships if you would abandon at a whim?

When a fighter switches teams, his foundation becomes weakened. He starts to do drills that negate each other. He ends up making mistakes that are worse than any mistake he had made before. His new coach will say something negative and make the fighter doubt things he had been taught years before. And if he can’t trust his coaching, no coach can trust his worth as a fighter.

Loyalty tells you who to trust. Loyalty tells you that you should definitely not turn pro. Loyalty keeps you away from the snake.

See, coaches get broken, and who cares. Fighters break themselves.

*The manipulation of fighters is well documented in movies, books, and documentaries about boxing, but the dirtiness didn’t quite hit home like it had when one locally known trainer told my fighter’s father that “a fighter should try out different gyms and see different coaches.” This coach was featured in a documentary in which he was snaked by a promoter who put in a “pro” coach to train his fighter. Imagine, he was portrayed as the good guy. I’m shaking my head.

The Boxing Scores – What Are We Trying To Achieve When We Fight?

by Al Alvir

Boxing is widely recognized as being an art about “hitting and not getting hit,” but that’s obvious. And it’s also an insult. If that is all boxing is about, then anyone who threw punches in a fight has been boxing.

Stripped down to its essence, boxing is about one of two things: damage and/or control (ultimately control means more, as good damage usually leads into control). The idea is very subjective and boxing used to be about scoring punches cleanly and effectively, but ‘clean and effective’ also brings subjectivity more greatly into the equation. USA Boxing recently changed the scoring from a ‘points’ game into the 10-Must system which makes boxing more subjective as a whole (not just scoring punches) but arguably more fair and true to the essence of fighting. Some people continue to argue that the scoring of punches is ultimately more precise – I disagree.

The current system matches the professional boxing game more closely. Boxing comes down to the art of the show. This ‘show’ of boxing has many factors that fall under damage and control. And all the aspects have to be expressed to the judges and the spectators. At my club, we call this “selling” to the judges.

Damage

  • Clean punching – fundamental and technical mechanics in landing punches. USA boxing defines this as punching with the hips and/or shoulders while the fist’s landing area connects flush on the opponent’s face or stomach and rib area.
  • Strength – This is a factor for each person, the fighter and the foe. How strong punches look also depends on how strong the opponent’s defense looks.
  • Durability – The reaction to opponent’s punches, the balance, the response can all ‘show’ someone’s durability or the opponent’s ability to inflict damage.
  • Output – aka activity. This can be done just to ensure that one’s damaging punches land. (see “Control” section too)
  • Selling punches – the appearance that punches are being thrown at full power. This has to be done in order to set up other punches and to conserve energy. This has the similar effect of a ‘touch’ (a punch not designed to have power but to set up or conceal punches later thrown).
  • Will to Win – this is an overlooked aspect of boxing strategy, but judges are extremely influenced by the person who is trying to impose his strategy in order to inflict damage.  This is usually aggressiveness (but certainly not always), and aggressiveness wins fights more because it usually means control of the fight (aka “imposing the will”).

Control

  • Ring generalship – this refers to positioning and putting the opponent in the position you want. This can also be about aggression.
  • Appearing First – being first is an easy way to make this happen, but it is more important to appear to be first. The problem with one-dimensionally being first is that it can play into counter punches. The way to appear to be first is with feints, playing “spots” (EQBC language), touches, and causing a freeze of your opponent. It’s important to mix in some “sold” power punches. After he freezes, control will cause him to “actually” initiate into your “turn” and counters.
  • Defensive Fundamentals – some of us call this selling defensive skill.  This is the show that the opponent cannot land specific punches.  Fighters who can exhibit proper blocking and positioning off of defense show a high level of skill and usually means control.  ‘Specific defenses’ is a primary way to assert strategic control.  This is the first part of the chess game of boxing.  A boxer sees how you defend and then problem solves.
  • Counterpunching – the beauty about counterpunching is that it shows control and exhibits multiple skills while committing damage. It shows defensive technique and offensive technique and can lead to showing ring generalship if turns are made. It also can lead to more output as it can make opponents hesitate.
  • Feinting – feinting freezes foes. That’s control. It is one must have tool to controlling what happens in a fight. And it controls the opponent.
  • Output. This is usually an effective even if dumbed-down way of controlling a fight. If you have more output than your opponent, the judges will see more lands, more damage (usually), and more control of what is happening in a fight.

Boxing is all about perception.  If one judge is on the opposite side of some punches, a boxer has a great opportunity to ‘sell.’  So when a boxer feels like he got robbed, it doesn’t matter. It’s what the judges saw.  L’s, therefore, are so often better than W’s. Accept the loss as an amateur and see it truly as a learning experience. What are the judges telling you about why you lost that fight?

The Hardest Art

by Al Alvir

Arguably the most transcendental art ever to be. An evolving condition of conflict, not a discovery. Not made up. Simple, yet intricately methodical. Climactic.

That’s boxing.

Romantic things can be said about ‘the manly art’ – more so than any other art that challenges its bravado – but what ruins the spirit of anyone involved in boxing is what drives its profundity. It’s just so damn difficult.

Boxing will beat you down. The discipline, the demands, and the deprivation that makes fighters the best is not the life normal people choose. And for the small percentage of people who choose the life, the overwhelming majority of them end up realizing that they just might not have what it takes. Failure in boxing is more prevalent than in any other sport. Baseball has an argument for its difficulty with the statement that if you hit 30% of the time, you’re a really good performer. (I argue that the 70% success rate of the opposing pitcher makes him subpar, so that kind of kills that argument). In boxing, according to MotionFACT Statistics, most fighters land about 30% of punches, so they get hit 30% of the time too. That level of difficulty (frustration and damage) is objectively and subjectively hard to argue against.

The will of the boxer almost has to thrive from ignorance; a stubborn certainty that this is what the boxer wants to suffer through NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS. Some boxers mistake this for a blind belief that they will be champions, or that they are the best. But when guys lie to themselves without any resume of validation, they crash. It happens at every level of boxing. Professionals are always making promises that they can’t secure. What happened to just promising that one will do his best? I am convinced that the greatest wills, the strongest minds, are the ones that accept the possibilities of tragedy. The best minds have plan B’s and plan C’s. So it’s counter-intuitive for any fighter to deny the possibilities of defeat. It’s bad business practice, it’s bad war practice, and it’s bad life practice. Imagine a top soldier in war being unprepared for losses of all sorts. So boxers must not lie away their insecurities either. Honesty beats doubt every time.

Boxing is not a game for the season. The trek to being at the pinnacle of the sport can be equivalent to the will of a Navy Seal – but boxing BUDS may last a career. I am adamant that boxers don’t have to be inculcated into the sport as small children, but every piece of discipline and persistence has to be in place. That means years of missed work has to be made up for with consistency and regimen. 1 hour of training 6 days a week for a year is better than 4 hours a day 3 times a week every other week. Sure, breaks are important and necessary, but boxing is a year-round pursuit.

As a coach who has been running a boxing club for over 5 years, I’ve had hundreds of boxers come and go, and a couple hundred of those gone had sworn to me that they were the genuine articles. Boxing is filled with analogies and cool quotes that depict the content of the sport, but besides the will and hard work that goes into it, it is more importantly a skill. It’s a fine skill, refined around natural gifts and the will. The study and refinement of the skills is just as demanding as the other aspects. Most people lose to this sport. The winners are the ones who don’t lie about what they want and what they plan to do, and they see it through.

“At some point in boxing you realize what your 100% is,” said Lee Terzakos, a young boxing coach whose dreams of being a boxing champion fell on bad knees. “And then you make a decision.” Good boxers come in with no egos. They listen to instructions and become consumed into the sport. They deprive themselves of the girls, the good food, and the partying. They ignore the haters and the doubters. They live every other day in pain. They build confidence. Ego comes knocking at their spirits. They win. They start to believe they can be the best in the world. Then they lose. They hit walls in skill-training. Doubt seeps in. Some guys blame everyone but themselves. Some guys become coaches. Some guys turn pro. Some guys find safe ways to quit. Some guys simply fight on. One guy might become a world champion.

But always remember that in all the greatness that may come at the end of the boxing road, humility thrusts itself upon everyone.

How do the delusions persist?