Tag Archives: Mike Tyson

The Jab vs. The Straight Lead of JKD

By Al Alvir

Having just read The Straight Lead by Teri Tom, I was compelled to write about “The Boxing Jab.”  The straight lead works as a more powerful jab than the boxing jab, and it indeed has more reach than the classic boxing jab.  The problem is that the straight lead serves no additional function from a ‘regular jab’ than to make up for its lack of power in the wrist (as the straight lead’s form is to not turn the wrist) with explosive hip rotation.  JKD people tend to overstate the effectiveness of hip rotation in the jab, simultaneously underestimating the effectiveness of shifting weight and the dynamics of not rotating the hip with the jab.

The boxing jab serves as a tool for measuring distance and for setting-up an opponent.  The boxing jab, too, has numerous contact spots (aka pop spots, meaning the point of snap (this is discussed in other articles on Shootafairone.com), as a fighter has the luxury to jab shooting his hip with various torques.  This is a bad habit, however, for an educated fighter, because he is giving away positioning and taking his 2 farther from his opponent.  Also, when a fighter shoots his hip for a jab, it’s wasted energy, as it complicates such a simple weapon.  If a fighter can be successful throwing a straight lead, I promise that it will only be situational and will not happen against a person with better attributes.  I, myself, used to train the straight lead and was effective with it when it was effective (I meant to state it that way), but I found that I was way out of position for intelligent onslaught after missing.  But as I always say, “test it.”

It’s just a jab, either way.  It’s likely not going to knock-out anyone worthy of fighting.  The reason jabs are so important and effective is that jabs can be thrown rapidly and at repetition without unwise commitment.

The biggest problem of JKD’s straight lead teachings is that the teachers often aren’t schooled, or simply don’t teach, the progression of functionality; in other words, they skip the education on all the functions of that lead hand.  One example is keeping that lead hand up as insurance for 2’s coming from the same stance (same lead).  Simply put, JKD men often complicate the functions of the lead hand.  This complication, or over-complication, coupled with trapping and kicking and groundwork, makes it a ridiculous testament to its absurdity.  I mean, a damn book on a single punch was written for an amalgam of students the world over who are at opposing ends of JKD practice, and from which the majority of the pool is no good.  My friend, Bryan Lamont, is a JKD coach – one of the few good ones – who criticizes the poor JKD concept guys as well as acknowledges that most traditional JKD guys as sloppy and “all over the place.”  He remains loyal to JKD, yet I see him stray as I think any good JKD man should.

The straight lead mumbo jumbo and the detailed stance to the deferential treatment of Bruce Lee’s “writings” are all akin to hero-worship and go against what I believe were Bruce Lee’s teachings which were to keep things simple and direct.  The Straight Lead, as every single JKD book I’ve ever come across, is all about teaching style cookie-cut to a whole flock.  When Tom “scientifically” talks about stance, she undermines the effectiveness of infinite stances.  Boxing coaching – like baseball batting coaching or any proven sport – is broken down into the most fundamentally simple functions, allowing for the individual to evolve from that foundation in a very personal way.  Muhammad Ali to Mike Tyson to Roy Jones Jr. to Floyd Mayweather Jr. got their styles from that foundation.  In JKD, Bruce Lee made a horrible mistake, as he himself prophesized, by setting specific “rules” or a “way” on style by detailing “his style.”  (*Aside:  Teaching such a linear stance will handicap some people from evolving and finding their own styles, as it is a more difficult way to learn how to shoot hips, weaving, slipping, offense, and moving in angles. This may be better explained in a different article, but I digress…)

Now, I am not against the straight lead, as it is called here.  Great boxers do it all the time.  Floyd Mayweather Jr. does it, but many boxing men call it an “up-jab.”  It’s a sneaky way to fit the punch between a opponent’s guard, and to find him from a greater distance.  Many boxers practice it as a sort of uppercut with the palm up and the punch rising under the chin from jab distance.  I always dismiss that stuff as signature stuff not to be taught on a greater scale.  Furthermore, it is important to know the most basic way of jabbing effectively before progressing into jabbing from different body angles, shooting the hips, and throwing the jab away from the face (aka “Lead hand no man’s land”).  Turning the fist and not the hips will provide for the best distance finder and the most practical use of energy.

Even if a well-schooled fighter throws a straight lead, he will not throw the straight lead from a high guard.  And well-schooled fighters sometimes have to have a high guard.  He may have to jab down and without turning his fist, he cannot produce the snap behind the shoulder; the vertical fist would have to be thrown with all the triceps muscle.  On a smaller note, a jab covers a little less area with the vertical fist and doesn’t cut someone as easily – this common boxer contention, however, is not the major reason turning the fist is better.  Additionally, a Floyd Mayweather Jr. shell stance is the best proven stance to throw the straight lead, but it’s important for fighters to get that chin behind that shoulder.  Mike Tyson did his version of the straight lead, but his speed advantage and his size made it necessary at times to turn his hip so explosively.  Punching up also naturally protects a fighter on that side, as the shoulder blocks the chin.

JKD practitioners such as Teri Tom discuss science behind punching, as I have in some earlier articles, and she and I are on par with the science.  Bruce Lee said “several inches and snap,” and I say “2-4 inches and snap,” but the difference is arbitrary.  But Tom discusses the Impulse-Theorem and retraction, to which I contend the reason turning the fist is better (again, see my other articles on the science of punching).  Take the hip out of the equation, and anyone will see a little more pop with the turning of the fist.

The Straight Lead is a great conversation starter, but it’s filled with misleading information and points that are amiss.  If Tom knows what she is talking about, the semantics can be challenged.  The cookie-cutter science may seem to simplify, but that’s a fallacy.  There is nothing simpler than custom skills and honest, uber-personal evolution while maintaining what this book complicates:  basics.

After all, it is just a jab.

I can hear it already… Straight Lead zombies swearing that it is much more elaborate than that.

Stupid Fans, Teddy Atlas, and the Politics of Boxing: A Post Mortem of Pacquiao-Mosley

by Al Alvir

To the boxing world over, there is nothing valid to the argument that Manny Pacquiao was ever on HGH or, at this point, that Floyd Mayweather Jr. is clearly better than Pacquiao.  People who make livings following the sport and assessing the facts are convinced that all the talk is just fanfare to obstruct the truth: Mayweather does not want to fight Pacquiao under any circumstance – Pacquiao no drugs, no food, one arm…  There aren’t even any reliable tests for HGH, and it doesn’t mean anyone should be condemned for taking HGH only for that person being so good.  Even Barry Bonds left a trail of witnesses and suspicious corroborations; not just his size and performance.  The reasons given as to why Mayweather is ducking Pacquiao are simply ad hoc hypotheses.  Whether you know what that means or not, the point is that anyone in his right mind can objectively see that Mayweather does not want to fight Pacquiao for every reason opposite their scapegoats – he’s so much better rather than he’s on HGH, he’s so much better rather than he’s not giving me a hundred million dollars, he’s so much better rather than he’s gay.  Yes, those have all been excuses given by the Mayweather camp.

But stupid fans – oh, so stupid fans – continue to hold on to their biases or, dare I say, prejudices. 

These are the people who have played park basketball and know the material strategies of how to beat the Lakers.  They played little league baseball and know how to adjust a slumping Derek Jeter’s swing.  And maybe they’ve been in a street fight or a few, so they know the strategies that can make a Shane Mosley obliterate Manny Pacquiao. 

Perhaps I suffer from the same delusions, as I’ve argued for years against those idiots mentioned above.  But although I have studied the art of boxing under real boxing trainers since I was a child and once experienced the training life of a boxer and have taken punches in the ring, I can be objective enough to admit that I could be wrong.

Can any of those halfwits who painstakingly hold their rights to their opinions see the little things that go into applying professional game plans?  I’m not talking about the trite “crash the boards” strategy employed by people who know no other way; in boxing, it’s “keep your hands up and jab” that the average dunce exults.  I’m talking about how to set up traps, different defenses, angles, and hiding different combinations.  But the idiots who don’t know the slightest thing about boxing always act like they know more than anyone.  Do they know what makes a slick boxer slick?  No, and that ignorance and lack of education helps their hypotheses (or they may call it “theories,” although that is NOT what it is) fall flat on their faces.  I’m not saying Floyd Mayweather Jr. was not great at 135lb., but I am saying that image sells a lot to the public – dancing, talking, antics, etc.  Corollary, Naseem Richardson said that Pacquiao gets rounds when he gets excited to fight.  It’s called “stealing rounds,” and Mayweather does it a whole lot more, before and after the fight, along with his uncle and father infecting the minds of people who “don’t know [crap] about boxing.”   

Boxing is like politics.  It pulls on our heart’s strings and we put our spin on every fighter’s greatness like it’s a spin top.  The natural barriers of society – like race, religion, place, position, affinities and affections – guide our applauses.  And often, we wear our affiliations for all to see.  Teddy Atlas is one commentator whom I lost great respect for, as he is in an ESPN commentator obliged, but fails, to show objectivity as a known face of the sport, especially because he lacks Larry Merchant’s eloquence to ever explain his partiality.  Bob Jackson, who worked under Cus D’amato like Atlas did, said that he yelled at Teddy Atlas about his actions after Michael Moorer lost to George Foreman.  Atlas quit as Moorer’s trainer after the loss instead of staying by his fighter’s side.  “He only cares about himself,” Bob Jackson told me.  Worse than Atlas’s bad-mouthing Mike Tyson over and over every chance he had seeming to delight in the limelight of having supposedly been the only person who didn’t condone Tyson’s bad behavior, or his indulgence in loud antics in the corner of major fights, he questioned Manny Pacquiao’s legacy before his bout with Shane Mosley.  “Who has Pacquiao fought?” he asked.  “No one but Oscar De La Hoya.”  And now Manny Pacquiao, a Filipino who seems to be oblivious to the divides, may feel the prejudice and aversion akin to that which African-Americans have suffered for decades: “Is it because he’s black?” 

It is as though Manny Pacquiao is the true symbol of the underdog who has overcome.  He is a minority among the smallest-known minorities.  He is from an island country where the identity is arguably to have been conquered by an assortment of cultures, yet also to be servile, welcoming, and humble.  And he’s a fighter who has conquered his opponents resoundingly.  He had to overcome the Mexican elite until they all respected him almost as much as he had respected them.  And what makes him such an easy target to the people who can attack him only with their bully voices is that he is not at all boisterous.  He admits to being hurt and he claims to get lucky.  He smiles at his opponents and prays for their health while trying to crucify them.  Pacquiao also seems to be oblivious to the parade of posturing by the Mayweathers.  He may not even realize how good Mayweather may be; he just wants to fight him for honor, as though he is a throwback to 1521.

The record shows that Pacquiao has agreed to unlimited drug tests, a 50/50 split, and even offered a possible “winner take the whole purse” solution to bring Mayweather to an agreement.  The politics of how information is exchanged and how knowledge is retained may keep people from realizing that Mayweather boxed as a Junior Flyweight, 108 lbs. and has moved up in weight – just like Pacquiao.  But Mayweather’s highest weigh-in weight, 150 lbs., is actually more than Pacquiao’s highest weigh-in weight, 145 lbs.  And Pacquiao did it even more gradually, so the argument of unnatural growth is nonsense (and Pacquiao doesn’t have to dehydrate before weigh-ins).  At welterweight, Pacquiao hadn’t shown immense power either.  Numerous opponents (exception, Shane Mosley) said that Pacquiao had great speed and accuracy, not power.  So the HGH accusations are material nonsense there, too. 

Mayweather fans who don’t know boxing may have forgotten that Jose Luis Castillo already beat Mayweather the first time on many scorecards.  Oscar De La Hoya, too, may have given that Mayweather fight away to a draw – but De La Hoya was robbed by many experts’ accounts.  Mosley badly rocked Mayweather, and Mayweather fans who don’t know better misremember Mosley as having been dismantled with ease.  Mayweather had 8 or 9 tough rounds with Ricky Hatton, as well.  He was not nearly as dominant as Pacquiao against champions or former champions or in title defenses by the sheer score of rounds.  And if it’s the outcome that counts (or even who looked better in each of their worst performances in those bouts), why not open the mind to the possibility that Manny Pacquiao, who has won more, may be better?   

At least Pacquiao is willing to prove it.  There’s no spin you could put on that.

Bruce Lee – Myth vs. Fact

by Al Alvir

Like many of you, I grew up wanting to believe, in every way possible, that Bruce Lee was, and will forever be, the greatest fighter to have ever walked the planet.  I read the Tao of Jeet Kune Do and all his pamphlets, including the one about the one-inch punch.  I studied Jun Fan and believed everything I read about Bruce Lee.  I even put all of his fight clips into video and studied his moves.  When I went to college, I used Bruce Lee clips to make a video about the Ramayana, the ancient Hindu epic, and named it “Enter the Ramayana.”  Bruce Lee was martial arts’ Moses.  I saw him as Jesus. 

While I celebrated Bruce Lee, I vilified everyone who seemed to contest him.  It is the classic psychology of idolatry.  Chuck Norris, Bob Wall, Ji Han Jae, and to a certain extent, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, were professionals who I always would bash only because they were respected fighters and athletes who had proven themselves to the world in contrast to Lee – and Bruce Lee was, simply, not proven.  And because it continues to be a common hypothetical question of who would win in a fight between Bruce Lee or Mike Tyson, I learned to hate Mike Tyson because he was considered to be dangerous enough to be mentioned in the same breath.  Martial artists who were presumed to be lesser martial artists because they had always been mentored by Bruce Lee (e.g. Dan Inosanto) were easily accepted by me, as it was understood that they were to always be beneath him. 

In the martial arts world, Bruce Lee was widely considered a teacher exclusively, not a fighter.  Even in the martial arts world of sub-cultures and hero worship, there is a dueling school of thought that considers facts when gauging anyone’s worth as a fighter: fight record.  Is the martial artist’s performance quantifiable? Validated?  More than a few-men tournament?  More than some showy, inconclusive video clips?  Not just word of mouth and interpretations and opinions? 

When Bruce Lee was mocked for having amateur skills with the nun-chucks by a reputable nun-chukka expert, I made excuses for Lee.  “They are just movies, but in real life, Bruce would kick his ass with or without the nun-chucks,” I angrily retorted to the paper’s printed words and I forwarded my sentiments to everyone I knew.  Chuck Norris, to this day, diplomatically fends questions about Bruce Lee as a real fighter.  During the 1970’s, Norris hinted that Bruce Lee was basically good for a non-fighter, and many Lee-freaks wanted to murder Chuck Norris for saying that. Until I grew up, I had always bad-mouthed Chuck Norris for that fact.  Bob Wall accounted for not fighting Bruce Lee to the fact that Bruce Lee didn’t want to risk losing his reputation.  Wall, on the other hand, was a tournament fighter who risked his status at every bout.  Gene LeBell is credited for having his way with Bruce Lee.  Kareem Abdul Jabbar spoke about how Bruce’s size deficit was too much for Bruce Lee to overcome against him, even though Jabbar accepted Lee as the master martial artist; when they toiled around in the gym, Bruce Lee couldn’t do much to the 7’2 student.  These are all people who have views that could just as easily be pointed to hearsay, but they share two major differences with what hearsay is.  They are a unanimous group of people who figure to be fighters (plus one athlete) who have a system of standards, tournament and sport, and they can corroborate their stories (Bruce Lee has the luxury, as it is a luxury of myth, to be dead).  Wong Jack Man and Bruce Lee are known to have had a fight that has numerous accounts.  For all the accounts, however, there are a few facts that no one involved had ever been known to disagree with:  Bruce Lee made a statement that any Gung-Fu man could not beat him, Wong Jack Man was the sole challenger who wanted the contest to be televised, and after rumors abounded that Bruce Lee handled Man (who denounced the rumors), Man printed a rematch challenge for the public to view to which Bruce Lee never responded. 

Like any school or gym owner, I knew that Bruce Lee had to know what he was doing, but something in the back of my head wondered why he has no proof of being a fighter while the world accepts him as such, as Lee never bothered denying it.  I was curious as to how insecure Bruce Lee was and how his ego held him back.  More so, I wondered why such an expert on fighting would base his choreography on nonsense.  When I watched videos of Bruce Lee punching a heavy bag, I wanted to bury the footage and never mention it again.  I was a boxer who punched a hundred times better (in form) at the age of 15, and I didn’t want the world to get privy onto what I was noticing about my hero.  I never wanted to admit that the slow shutter speeds of those old cameras made everyone appear inhumanly fast.  When I read about the man he performed the one-inch punch against had bruised ribs from that single punch, I was slightly amazed, but I was more amused by the hyperbole.  I knew that it was impossible.  Plus, anyone who knows how to punch can perform this move – hardly a feat.

A million contradictory accounts of Bruce Lee happenings widened the gap from truth and myth when it should have done the opposite, narrowing the gap and increasing our understanding.  It is so astonishing how simple occurrences that were actually witnessed by normal people can get so out-of-hand ridiculous and made-up in time.  It becomes no wonder to me how the bible I read in the Catholic church had been interpreted and changed thousands of times.  And the thing about myth is that the stories can never simplify the happening – the dynamic doesn’t work that way.  If Bruce Lee were alive and told a story about how he lost a fight, the five people who witnessed it can spread a lie more easily than Bruce Lee would be able to spread the truth, as long as the truth was not as grandiose.  The key is that I, like the rest of Bruce Lee worshippers, wanted to believe every cool thing I read about the man.  I wanted to believe that his choreography was proof that he was the best fighter.    

Understand that this is a very human thing to do with the things we hold in high regard.  Mike Tyson became my favorite boxer after I had done away with my belief in the fantasy martial arts, and I’ve been prone to similar exaggerations about him.  I know that his knockouts sound even more brutal than they were when we note them in retrospect.  His knockouts are quicker when people recount them, and I liked that people regarded him so high.  And when he “bit half of Holyfield’s ear off,” I appreciated the vicious hyperbole and I didn’t offer a correction.  That’s what is happening with Bruce Lee, like any legend. 

I dare never to try to ruin Bruce Lee’s legacy, as I love what he has done for martial arts, and I respect him greatly, but because we have never seen him react under dire circumstance, beaten, hit with powerful strikes, we can never presume that he was a fighter of any sort.  Maybe he was, but unfortunately never had a chance to – or chose not to – exhibit it like real fighters do:  over and over again, building records (more than a couple tournaments) and humbling themselves to fight, and fight once more. 

To people who did see “whatever it is they saw” in regards to Bruce Lee and continue to hold their opinions high and refuse to let go of memories that are gradually perpetuating myths, I question them too:  “Could you be at all wrong?  At all?”

What’s Wrong with Boxing (Not a Question)

by Garrett Morris

Boxing has changed since the old days. In America, it seems too much has changed. Besides gyms closing-down to an economy suited for gentrification and displaced – or misplaced – welfare recipients, the fighters who remain are a meaningless percentage of people who don’t seem to need to fight. Fighters from fifteen to twenty years ago compared to today, if they were made up of the same DNA, would not be spoiled by luxuries, and I dare say that they would be better fighters. In a simpler time, fighters didn’t have choices or they didn’t know they had them.

Of course, the elite fighters today may have been able to tango with the old-timers, but as time passes, fewer and fewer elite fighters seem to be of that recognizable pedigree – poor, proud, and empowered by an implied desperation. It is no surprise that grungy gyms are a thing of the past. Gleason’s Gym, in Brooklyn, had lost its grit with the influx of white-collar boxers, and women – it may be argued. The gym is now set to close-down in 2010. “It’s already a yuppy neighborhood with people who don’t have the nerve to even pretend to be fighters,” one trainer said matter-of-factly. “And real fighters don’t want to be around that.”

Could technology and quality of life be something dooming boxing as sport in America? Every era had its boxer who defined a time, in accord or in revolt, even in their ring-fighting styles that captured peoples’ imaginations. Jack Johnson, Sugar Ray, Muhammad Ali. In the late 80s and early 90s, fighters were captivated by Mike Tyson’s ferocious hip-hop bluster in the ring. Fighters like Larry Barnes and Cliff Couser copied him in vain. After Tyson, fighters leaned like Roy Jones Jr. and threw punches from unorthodox angles. It was an era of transition and Jones embodied it as he moved in the ring unable to be predicted, and winning in weight divisions from middleweight to heavyweight. Today, a time of showiness over substance, excess and meaninglessness, luxury hiding inequity, fighters just don’t punch with the oomph of the past. They are valued by their defensiveness, not just their defense. Like Kevin Kelley once said, “People have gone from defending their titles to protecting their titles.” No thanks to Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr.; he’s just the embodiment of our time. He rolls punches, every move brilliant in itself, but only in itself.

Boxing today is overrun by belts and interim titles and rankings. 20 years ago was much simpler. Sure, there were alphabet titles of the full assortment, but fighters fought everyone they had to. It was the culture of boxing. That’s why when anyone avoided a fight, he was “outted” for “ducking.” Today, “ducking” is “just business,” American politics that fighters today regularly practice. No thanks to Roy Jones Jr; people just saw what worked when Jones stood by his demands and fight terms. Now every fighter is dotting his I’s and crossing his T’s and trying to make everything as safe as can be.

When Jones ducked Bernard Hopkins, it signified change in boxing. Not to say fighters had not represented themselves before this, but this was a high profile negotiation that proved one thing about boxers that would never before had been associated with them: Proving themselves is not worth a fair fight. Jones refused to give Hopkins, a champion with a string of top-notch wins, even money. He wouldn’t fight Hopkins for anything less than 60% of the purse until they were both on the decline in their forties. This marked the age of “sissification” of boxing.

Years ago, fighters never copped-out or pleaded to any disadvantage. Of course, casting hand-wraps, mixing a fighter’s drink, unstuffing gloves, being off-weight or too heavy, blinding an opponent with a substance that stings the eyes, biased judging, and taking performance-enhancement drugs are completely wrong, but this stuff was around before and fighters used to not be such quakers in dealing against it. Although “skills pay the bills,” as Floyd Mayweather Jr. once said, he managed to make Manny Pacquiao’s strength an issue worth not fighting. Mayweather imposed his own demands onto Manny Pacquiao that no other fighter had to submit to before – only because he believed Pacquiao to be too strong at their weight class. Imagine Jake LaMotta complaining about Sugar Ray Robinson being too good at middleweight? Fighters have moved up in weight before, but Manny Pacquiao’s performance was questioned, not because of any previous suspicious acts, but because he was the only 7-division title holder in the history of boxing. Boxing had never put such a cap on itself before. What, boxing can’t be that good? Who can blame Pacquiao for not bending more, when Mayweather never bent at all?

If Paulie Malignaggi were an old-timer, he wouldn’t defame anyone, like Manny Pacquiao, with what his “opinion” was about the other guy taking enhancement drugs. He probably wouldn’t even let it cross his mind. All it means is that he thinks the other guy is too good. It’s that simple. It’s also an unwarranted compliment and it’s bad for boxing. It even makes the boxers look irresolute, soft. Cus D’Amato discussed this with his fighters when he taught the psychology of fighting. A fighter should never concede size, strength, stamina, or toughness to any other fighter. “To be the best, you have to believe you’re the best” no matter what implications your mind might let in. Of course Malignaggi would take the fight – anyone but an extravagantly rich and undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. would – but believe that he, Malignaggi, would be at a psychological disadvantage. He publicly said that Pacquiao has too much energy, takes too good of a shot, and does not break down like other fighters. You can call it awe. The accusation of performance enhancement drug intake is also a built in excuse for losing, and if it’s not that, it seems that way, therefore, it’s a pansy thing to say. “Fighters should withhold comments that make them look like a bunch of washwomen if it doesn’t fair on the side of being brave,” one old-timer said. When Muhammad Ali’s couldn’t see and his whole corner suspected foul play on the part of Sonny Liston’s corner, Angelo Dundee demanded that Ali still go out there and “get on your bicycle.” That old-time stuff would never happen with these pampered athletes of today. At the very least, if a fighter thinks something and doesn’t say it, he isn’t giving a psychological boost to his opponent.

For all the fear and crying ubiquitous in boxing today, Miguel Cotto gets, perhaps, the most respect. He just doesn’t whine and complain. Perhaps it’s because he knows deep-down that Antonio Margarito would have beaten him with or without casts, but imagine if Cotto were less of a man. It wouldn’t do anything for the sport of boxing. It is as it will be. Margarito got caught doing a despicable, cheater tactic and hopefully it doesn’t happen again. Most of today’s fighters, it seems, in Cotto’s position would have gone on camera and made allegations and made pleas as to why they probably lost that fight.

Fighters are special because they seem to have a sense of self, almost to the point of obliviousness to everything that can do them harm. They just deal with things, count their blessings, and eat their losses. Years ago, when steroids were first introduced to sports, fighters didn’t even acknowledge a possible problem. It was as if anyone did steroids, no one cared because it was seen as the fighter’s insecurity or weakness that caused him to take it. Other fighters believed they didn’t need it. Even when Evander Holyfield was heavily suspected (some say it is proven) of taking steroids – causing a heart problem – fighters didn’t give the drugs credence for making Holyfield better. It was not even an issue. When performance-enhancement drugs were found in James Toney’s tests, fighters didn’t protest or reconsider previous losses to him. And years ago when Luis Resto’s gloves were discovered to have the stuffing taken out, not one of his previous opponents accused him of anything. And Mike Tyson could have blamed his corner for his loss to James “Buster” Douglas, as they had no proper enswell or compress for his swelling eye. But the real issue was that Mike didn’t train. Of course, Don King tried to protest the long-count, but that was not a worldly representation of boxing. The point is that boxing used to be made of tough guys in a tough sport who did the toughest things on a regular basis. Today, it’s just more and more regular guys making the toughest sport as soft and regular as it can be. Maybe they’re just preparing for their landing.

And hopefully, it’s face first on the canvas. At least in America.

Size, Clinching, and the Klitschkos

There is a lot to be said about winning fighters:  they can be applauded for their hard work, for their dedication, and for the fact that they must be more skilled than everyone else.  But it doesn’t necessarily hold weight when considering how imbalanced the playing field may be.  Although I don’t fault Randy Johnson for throwing 100 mph fast balls due to his size, I do believe that if everyone else with his similar size threw just as hard, his greatness would be diminished, at least when considering accomplishment and talent.  For Johnson, that is not the case.  He’d probably be great if he were 5’9”.  If Shaquille O’Neal only excelled against guys who were less than 7’ tall, I would question his abilities.  But if he was the only 7’+ player who could be effective against sub-7’ players, his greatness would be validated.  And because there were, in reality, many players of comparable size to O’Neal, his place among the top players will remain. This goes for any attribute; if a guy is fast, he will only prove himself against the fastest, if he is strong, he will only prove himself against the strongest, and if he is the fastest and the strongest, he will need to be tested even further.  This is the whole idea behind fighting, and sport in general.  The idea of competition is epitomized when the challenge is just right.  This is “shooting a fair one,” if you will.  Some of the great old-timers would go boozing the night before a fight just to test themselves.  Those are sportsmen if I’ve ever heard of one.

In sizing-up Vitali Klitschko, who is due respect in his own right, his skill-set must be considered that of the mediocre sort.  If you have any attribute like size, and are winning solely because of it and you are not, for whatever reason, competing against anyone who shares the attribute with you, you may be a lot worse than your popularity asserts.  I agree with the boxing adage, “A good big guy almost always beats a good little guy,” but over the last 10 years or so, the heavyweight division has been “run-of-the-mill big guys skimming by undersized good guys by not out-boxing them, but by out-defending them.”  It was either them running away or jumping on the little guy’s back when punches were being thrown – both tactics with little technique.  The moves have often been boring, boorish non-fighting.  I’m not saying that Vitali is that bad – I mean he did practically beat Lennox Lewis, the other big guy who was a little more “big” than good.  It is just that he is the quintessential boxing dilettante who seems to excel primarily due to his size.  The deftness and expertise of Lewis and Klitschko was, by mere exhibition, status quo.  I know “lack of luster” has always been the problem with the heavyweights, but now, more than ever before, size is the only thing dominating the division.  It is arguable that you can get ten NBA forwards and put them in the same training that Lewis or the V. Klitschko had, and they would be just as good, or even better.  This is something any informed aficionado can never say about top fighters in other divisions.

I strongly oppose the increase of the minimum weight for the heavyweight division, but I think illegal clinching (also refer to my article, “Counter Clinching”) needs to be enforced more in this division.  This way, boxing avoids making more of a joke out of the heavyweights simply by keeping its largest and more talented consensus, the lower 200-pounders.  And with reducing clinching, it allows everyone a fair fight.  But the slippery-slope does not apply so harshly to other attributes other than size because size is not changeable, it is what it is.  Also, there are few guys who are of a Vitali Klitschko’s size; if there were more, I would have no argument.  (So don’t try to say that something needs to be done to balance out a fast fighter’s speed by putting weights on his elbows).  Also, size discrepancy is the biggest culprit of the advantageous hoaxes that plague good competition.  It is similar to my dissatisfaction with mma; mma is a competition wringing-wet with different high jinks, and it becomes a competition in which participants try to make it the least fair at every given moment.  The big, lumbering heavyweights in boxing, like the Klitschko brothers, are essentially doing the same; they are supposed to be in fair boxing fights, but they turn it into the game of cheating.  It may sound bitter that I am indicting these fighters for trying to “not fight the good fight,” but clinching to avoid boxing, like wrestling to avoid equal ground, is akin to cheating, however you want to preface it.  Boxing, on the other hand, is like Chess, the game of kings, in which it is all about the nuance of outsmarting one’s opponent, not avoiding him. 

Maybe a bigger guy will come along, someone the size of Nikolai Valuev, who will finally excite us about the heavyweights.  Maybe he will menace the division as a gifted boxer, not a savvy escape artist.  But if he’s a giant built with any talent and the fighting spirit that can make us imagine greatness, we’ll all believe that he could do it “even if he were a welterweight” because his skills will outweigh his build and his heart will overshadow his wingspan.  He will take hold of our imagination, in the ring never holding. 

Maybe I’m just dreaming of an overgrown era of Rocky Marcianos, Joe Fraziers, Jack Dempseys, and Mike Tysons… and other all-time super-cruisers.  

Or maybe they’ll be called junior heavies.

Little Known Boxing Wisdom – 12 Things Maybe Only Cus D’Amato Knew

I consider Cus D’Amato to be the greatest boxing mind to have ever lived.  He was the closest thing to a boxing clairvoyant, a man who had an uncanny ability to read people and tell what their future would likely be.  He could point out the minutia of fights, what to focus on, and what would make the difference in the outcome.  D’Amato had the inexplicable ability to gauge fighters just by an exchange of words, even a demeanor or a handshake.  D’Amato had his defined philosophy on boxing, but he adapted to his fighters in his approach to coaching them.  He took in fighters who he deemed to fit in his stable of fighters.  Bob Jackson, renowned boxing trainer who worked under D’Amato, once told me that it was “that thing, [Cus] could see it if you got it.”  It might be something about being around for so long; Bob started to see it, too.  Cus D’Amato saw “that thing” when these fighters were just boys: Rocky Graziano, Floyd Patterson, and Mike Tyson.  (D’Amato also trained Jose Torres a few years before turning pro, but he wasn’t as young).  Great trainers all over the world have worked corners of dozens of hall-of-fame champions, but D’Amato may be the only one who had ever forecasted multiple children to become greats on their own rights (meaning, someone else wasn’t touting them as prodigies before D’Amato did).  Bob Jackson believed his magnum opus was a young Rohnique Posey who Jackson took off the streets of Far Rockaway, NY.  Posey, 30, has not become a champion, but is a grown man and perhaps a magnum opus in his own right.

 

Too many boxing trainers are hacks and boxing quacks – they know surface fundamentals, figure they can come up with some strategy for a slugger and a boxer, and improvise with the appearance of nuance.  A lot of them had personal success in the ring, often by no means of strategic genius or extensive boxing IQ, but they purport to have more understanding of the sweet science than others.  Many of them learned boxing in a common martial arts academy where real boxing is hardly anything more than boxing terms taught by good communicators, so they know their terms well.  Some are just boxing fans who know what they know from watching boxing, but they can communicate it to beginning fighters.  The regretful thing is that you don’t have to communicate the right stuff to be a good communicator.  There is only a small percentage of trainers, from my observations and education, who come from the school of thought about studying the idiosyncrasies of fighting from every aspect: reading, watching, training, and doing.  I have a great respect for old school gym guys, such as Cus D’Amato and Bob Jackson, who inundate[d] themselves in the art.  D’Amato was a boxing fanatic, not like some sports analyst who fancied sport to fill a void in his life, but one who relished in boxing’s kinship to the nature of people and simply loved the art.  Boxing is widely considered a microcosm of life, and D’Amato, the philosopher he was, saw it as such.  D’Amato used fighters’ fears as tools for fighters to build their mentality.  D’Amato is the most widely recognized trainer known for creating his own distinct style and system of fighting.  The implementation of original training devices such as the Willie Bag (Teddy Atlas cashed in on this with Everlast) and slip bag could arguably be credited to Cus D’Amato.

 

I’ve seen world-class trainers showing people nonsense in top gyms.  It is common to see trainers speeding up the necessary process of learning fundamentals just so they can make it “fun” for fighters.  Yuppies and coddled upper-middle class people across the world are learning boxing… the wrong way.  Some trainers just don’t care to give some of the minor things any thought.  Others believe that the real effort should only be put in real fighters who want to go “somewhere,” like turning professional.  So many trainers rely on tradition and ignore other possibilities – e.g. if a trainer is not from the school of pressure fighters, meaning he doesn’t choose to teach it, he might omit the use of certain tactics that would make the fighter more productive moving forward and get him to start countering and stepping back.  Boxing is steeped in a culture of inheritance, the passing down of techniques, training regimens, and lore.  And boxing, as proven of an art as it is, is not part of a gym culture that examines beyond the realm of what has been passed down to its trainers.  This is the crux of boxing’s integrity; it always works so well and dumps the uselessness and ignores the fads, but it hardly evolves in the ways other sports do.  When other athletes drop miles off road work because scientific proof says that anything over x amount of miles of running a day can be counter-productive, boxers run more.  When other athletes find that lifting weights enhances their speed and strength, boxers continue doing push-ups only.  When other athletes swear that sex doesn’t affect their game-play, boxers swear-off their wives and reduce to masturbation (trainers I’ve known have always sworn-off ejaculation of any sort).  When other athletes drink protein shakes that help them get their nutrients, boxers continue downing their urine.  Some of these are old boxing myths, and certainly not jokes, but their prevalence in boxing culture continues.  Of course, some top pros skip the old superstitions and hire specialists for their training camps in order to harness optimal preparedness.  But for the overwhelming majority of boxing gyms, fighters continue doing what they’ve done for years – what they believe has worked for years from the trainers they know. 

 

If you were to adopt a regimen for training, first comparing the detailed routine of 10 top pro-fighters, the work-outs would vary in an alarming way.  They do so many different kinds of work-outs, but it’s not really known whether it’s the routines that work best for particular fighters or just their choice work-outs.  The fundamentals of boxing are exact enough, but the philosophies of trainers, too, vary to the point that fighters would have to wonder, “What will work for me in this sea of contradiction?”  If one core-workout is the best, why don’t all fighters do it?  So, one would have to question what works best in all of boxing.  I’ve been in gyms for many years and follow boxing like an anal retentive grump.  I can explain and debate for days with anyone in the world about the fundamentals that I believe work better or worse, the training styles that can be enhanced, the strategies that certain fighters should use against their opponents, and I will never prescribe to ad hominem.  Trainers of all sorts will always have something to disagree about, as boxing can be very subjectively complicated, but I’ve met only a handful of trainers who have the forethought and stamina to examine their convictions on a daily basis and possibly evolve.  If I were ever proven wrong, I would want to accept it and test it, and test it some more.  I urge everyone, including trainers and cutmen, to strive at being craftsmen at what they do, not just go through the motions to get it done.  As a trainer, if you feel you have the luxury to be lazy or to make an arbitrary choice, you are not doing your fighters any justice.  Here is a list of some classic passed-down common knowledge, obsessive compulsive pet peeves, personal decrees, and some tips maybe only Cus D’Amato knew (but don’t think I wouldn’t fight him tooth and nail on it, as well, if he disagreed.  He may be Cus, but ad hominem… you know):

  1. Putting out the cigarette.  It does not mean you are properly shifting your weight or turning your hips just because you a pivoting on the ball of your foot.  There is more to shifting weight and turning your hips than that.  When someone pivots like he’s putting out a cigarette, it often means he has too much weight on that leg.  Power comes from the hips AND shifting your weight.
  2. Turning hooks.  Trainers say to turn over the hook so that your palm faces down, but guys tend to turn it too early.  The turn adds snap and force and it should be on contact.  See Mike Tyson vs. Trevor Berbick.
  3. Step and slide.  You do not slide the second step, you hover.  The point is to be as close to the floor as possible, but you don’t want to drag your feet.  Dragging, or sliding, your feet slows you down and could tire your leg.
  4. Enswell pressure.  When a cutman rubs swelling with the enswell, pushing the blood away, it is a temporary job, and it lends to the swelling increasing faster.  A cutman should only, if ever, rub out swelling if it’s the last chance for his fighter or the fight is going to be stopped.
  5. Mayweather-like Patty-cake-work.  Here’s another example of ad hominem.  I’ve said for years that the Mayweather pad-work was pointless.  But because Mayweather is/was on top, gym fighters insisted it worked.  Anybody can do it; it’s partially choreographed and it doesn’t help simulate a real fight or real moves.  It’s just a display of fluidity and speed at its best.  But it’s not great pad-work feeding or a display of great skills.  Fighters of all sorts are doing it now, and it’s plain bad and obviously not too difficult.  If you have a routine and can look away, you are obviously not doing what its intended use is—to focus.  Patty-cake Baker’s man, it’s all show.
  6. Speedbag.  It’s good at first, but any fighter gets used to a bag and a platform after seconds and can do it with his eyes closed, so it takes away from the training.  Switch bags and change up the way you hit the bag to get the most out of it.  Pin the bag.  Play around. It’s for hand-eye coordination, so if you can look away, trust that it’s not doing much more than keeping your arms moving.
  7. Snap.  Contrary to what boxers may feel like they’re doing when they punch, they are not punching through the target.  They are actually punching at the target and transferring the greatest force by snapping at the target and changing the trajectory of the punch.  It’s a complicated explanation in physics, but very simple and natural for boxers to perform.  Twisting the fist uses more, larger muscles and increases kinetic energy.  Even if a fighter punches with a follow through, there is a point when he snaps/pops his punch and changes the trajectory even slightly.  Force has to transfer to the target and not dissipate with it. 
  8. Uppercuts.  You should rotate your fist and you should throw it from angles.  People tend to throw the uppercut with the weakest fulcrum – as though their arm is in a cast and sling as they swing their arm up.  That is the weakest angle for your punch because you’re using the weakest muscles.  Your palm should rotate as though you are flexing your bicep, so you get more leverage.  And uppercuts, when possible, should use your chest muscles as much as possible – like a vertical hook.  And try not to throw uppercuts right in front of your opponent.
  9. Where to look.  Generally, stare at the center of the chest, but let your eyes roam.  You want to peak at your opponent’s eyes, he may be cut or having a seizure.  You want to be aware of his hand (only from far away), he may have a ripped glove that could cut you up.  Also, your opponent might have a give with his eyes.  You might have a guy staring into your eyes, and you can trick him by looking up or down. The point is, your eyes are a tool to maximize your awareness.  Also, when you hit the bags, train your peripheral vision.  When hitting the double-end bag or slip-bag, look past the bag at times.  You can’t treat the thing you’re slipping the same way you do the thing you’re punching; you don’t stare at a fist when you’re bobbing and weaving, do you?
  10. Breathing through teeth.  Leave the grunting to tennis players.  Boxers breathe through a bitten-down mouthpiece and make a “sst” sound, not a “shh” sound.  A “sst” sound through the teeth and mouthpiece comes from deep down.  A “shh,” as though you’re telling someone to shush, is basically a superficial exhale.  And biting down will keep you from getting your jaw broken.  Only Manny Pacquiao hasn’t had his jaw wired for this girlish quirk.
  11. Cross vs. Straight vs. Overhand.  Know your 2’s.  It’s important to know the differences between all your 2’s because of the different functions.  I’ve seen it dozens of times when a guy is trying to break through someone’s defense and could do so with a different approach with his 2 punch.  These three shots each function as different punches depending on the angles you get and the angles you make in a fight.
  12. Stepping and punching.  Stepping is ONLY about moving location.  You never have to step with a punch if you are not moving location.  Trainers sometimes insist that fighters step with the jab regardless of positioning.  It’s not going to add power without true forward movement and it can be another give/tip-off.