Tag Archives: muhammad ali

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.

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.

Clinching To Be Banned In Boxing?

Counter Clinching, Hit-&-Holding

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

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

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

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

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

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