Tuesday, October 9, 2007

How to Throw a Punch

One of the reasons I find boxing so interesting is that you encounter so many illusionary thoughts and perceptions about the sport. Just about every day I am amazed at what I hear people say about boxing. As for myself, I’ve been wrong about boxing so many times that I sometimes think that the amateur boxers I train would have greater success by doing the opposite of what I suggest. Of course, it’s a rare fighter who listens to his trainer in the first place so perhaps I am not guilty of anything. The first rule of a physician is “do no harm.” The first rule of a boxing trainer should be the same.
I think that one of the most dangerous assumptions about boxing is that there is just one right way to deliver a punch. How do I throw a hook? Throwing a nice hook is really a complicated affair in terms of body mechanics and describing it is even more difficult. Some people are born to the mechanics of that rather awkward motion while others seem incapable of being taught.
Yet, most people can be taught to throw a hook of one type or another, with the result being more or less effective. Whether it is an effect punch in that person’s repertoire cannot be ascertained until the bell rings. Most trainers counsel fighters to throw short hooks from the inside but what if that’s not your best fight? And who hasn’t at least once been tagged (or even dropped) by a long, looping hook which seemed to come from left or right field?
Another great illusion favored by the boxing public is that the most “diesel” or chiseled looking fighter has the best chance of winning. Nothing could be further from the truth. The heavily muscled champions of professional wrestling would stand little chance of winning the championship belt in a boxing ring. Boxing muscles are smooth, long muscles are wired for a fast-twitch response. Even fat, out-of-shape fighters can throw lightening fast punches. Think of James “Lights Out” Toney. Think of the power and speed delivered by wiry little guys like Manny Pacquiao or tall thin guys like Bernard Hopkins or Paul Williams. Boxing muscles may sometimes look pretty but they’re not designed to look pretty; they’re designed to punch.
Now that I’ve said that, I’m thinking of notable exceptions: Evander Holyfield and Ken (old school) Norton. Evander had to develop a great, chiseled body because he is a small heavyweight—he needed to pack on that armor. Ken Norton was an anomaly. Ohmigod...an SAT word!
Boxing wouldn’t be so great a sport as it is if not for the fact that everything you might say about it might one day be overruled, overturned, and just plain wrong.

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