Why do I box? I struggled with this one for years, mostly because I wanted to put it to myself in a way that would sound cool to everyone else. I wanted a bullshit marketing spin that I could buy into and sell to the entire world. I ran from the truth because I wanted to believe that boxing was for everyone, that everyone could benefit from this beast of an activity. It took me a long time to get real with myself, and the truth hit me one day when I read something out of the Autobiography of Malcolm X. My favourite book of all time, btw.
In that book, Malcolm X takes a visit to Mecca, during that visit he meets a man who spits some logic on him that blows his mind, it goes like this, “You have never truly believed [in something], until you want it for your brother as much as you want it for yourself.” Bamn! there it is….let it sink in.
Honestly, I don’t want boxing for everybody, I don’t want it for my mother, my friends, the kid who plays piano 3 hours a day, and I certainly don’t want it for the MBA student who does everything his parents ever told him to. In fact, I don’t care who boxes and who doesn’t, and that’s because there are deeper issues at stake. Namely, fear and self-worth, this is what’s at stake, this is what I care about and so should you.
What is boxing? It is a medium for expressing yourself, it’s a tool and a set of techniques for relating to another human being, and that’s some classic Bruce Lee philosophy. It’s one medium among many to overcome fear, to gain confidence, to prove what you are capable of, and to establish your self-worth. Boxing is a sport, it’s also a form of combat, and in it lies the basic components of conflict that anyone trying to excel at something faces: 1) mastery over yourself, 2) mastery over your environment, 3) mastery over others.
This is what the CEO is doing, it’s what the b-boy is doing, it’s what the gold-digger is doing, it’s what the painter is doing, and it’s what you are doing everytime you step in the ring. In boxing there are no liars, the truth finds you quickly, it’s a high risk and high reward program for discovering what kind of man you really are. High reward because once you have put in the work, put in the time, gained the skills and conditioned your body to the best it can be, you know that you can walk down the street everyday for a week and not pass anybody who can do what you do. Boxing is also high risk, you face your fear when you fight, and at the same time there is still a lot of fear, it’s not fear of pain, but fear of losing what you’ve gained, fear of losing your confidence and your status. Fear of being the nobody you were before you boxed. That’s why you better learn to love yourself somewhere along the way, because this boxing shit ain’t gonna last forever.
The boxer always has a tough dilemma, we are always one punch away from being knocked down, and I mean way down, if you don’t believe me just go ask Ricky Hatton. The boxer who takes calculated risks deserves props because we all have our time when that punch turns our fate. Props to Ricky Hatton, no matter what anyone has to say. Mike Tyson took his fate turning punches from Douglas, Holyfield and Lewis. Roy Jones took his from Tarver. Roberto Duran took his from Hearns, and Hearns took his from Barkley and Hagler. As fighters, active or not, we deserve recognition from ourselves for the risks taken to face our fears, to prove our self-worth, and to gain mastery.
So why do I box? Because the pain and discontent inside me wouldn’t have had it any other way.
From a tactical point of view, I can’t think of anything that will take your boxing to the next level more than implementing and launching compound attacks. The classic scenario is you go to your opponent with a set of punches and head movement, and whether it’s 3 punches or 8 he knows that after you have launched your attack he can make his move or at least take a break for a about 5-10 seconds while you reset. When you set up a second immediate attack (within 1 or 2 seconds) there is an element of surprise and sustained pressure which separates you from 90% of fighters.
The best compound attacker right now is Pacquiao, that doesn’t mean he’s the best boxer, I still think it’s Mayweather, only time will tell. However, watch what Pacquiao does and watch his fights, he throws a fury of punches after faking and setting up angles, he resets or steps back or creates an angle, and then goes in for a second helping of beat down on his opponent.
I picked this stuff up initially from watching tons of Tyson fights, he was a master at setting up second and third attacks, and he had to because every time he launched his opponent was on the run. A good example of this is to watch him against Tyrell Biggs or Mitch Green, it took Tyson a couple of rounds to get close and start landing. I learned a lot from watching Tyson and you probably can too, you can also learn a lot from watching Tyson lose to Douglas and Holyfield in their first fight. It’s always good to see different strategies from both sides.
Ok, back to compound attacks. The key is to set up your opponent for an attack down the road. The biggest obstacle you will face is the conditioning to back it up, when you are not in shape you’ll be lucky to consistently get off strong single attacks, so you have to train for compound attacks. Watch my video for some ideas on how to incorporate that in your training, Slipping Punches – The Remix
You fake, move your head, and then go in with your attack, at the higher level of boxing most initial attacks will be neutralized or countered by your opponent. If your boxing is tight then you will be able to neutralize your opponents counter or stay close enough to him on his retreat. And so here lies the second attack and the compound attack; once your opponent has retreated or countered and you have successfully neutralized the counter, you then launch your second attack, it’s all about the footwork to create angles and stay close along with the constant head movement to avoid attacks. You have to work out the specifics, but you get the idea. The general pattern goes like this:
You: faking, moving side to side, in and out, moving your head
Opponent: doing the same as you
You: move in for your combination
Opponent: retreats or throws counter, or throws while retreating
You: stay within punching range as you move forward and moving head as soon as you finish punching, or move head in between punches while moving
Opponent: moves to safety or launches fresh attack against you
You: pouncing on opponent as he moves to safety (since you are close enough), or countering his attack since you are ready for it and were about to launch again.
The only thing that annoys me more than lazy skipping in the gym is a guy who doesn’t hit the heavybag, and trust me these guys are out there. They show up, do an extended warm up, hit the double end bag and then mess around waiting to get padwork from their beloved coach. Anyways, if you are anything like the way I started out then you’re probably skipping rope like you’re strolling through the housewares section at Sears…casually. This is really not acceptable, you are wasting your potential by the day. The difference in skipping ability between a real boxer and a posing trickster is…..
………….SPEED! Turn that rope brotha!
What is your skip rope routine? One thing about skipping rope is that it is much harder to increase your heart rate and level of work intensity than through running. So you have to give more of yourself to get the same benefit. If you had to choose between one or the other you’d be better off running, hands down (this includes sprints and intervals). In the real world you should be doing both, and when you skip you want to hear the air around you whistle like you’re playing a tune for entire gym.
Here are some skipping routines that I typically use when I come in the gym.
1) 4 rounds of 3 minutes at interval pace. Meaning, by the last 20 seconds of the round you are begging for a break. think of it as an 800 metre run on the rope.
2) 10 sets of 50 double jumps (one round warm up skip)
3) 10 Tabata sets of 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off. Use running on the spot skipping (this is the fastest skip step next to double jumps). Meaning that going hard for 20 seconds and easy for 10 seconds equals one set.
4) 20 sets of 15 seconds high intensity followed by 15 seconds light intensity, this is a less intense version of Tabata’s
5) 30 minute endurance skip. Every now and then it’s ok to go light, like just before or after a fight, or when you are coming back after a lay off. Just don’t make it a habit.
Overall, skipping doesn’t cause much wear and tear on the body, you will adjust to the demands easily and quickly. So do yourself, your boxing, and everyone you train with a favour by rasing the bar and skipping like you mean it!
Here is my skipping video if you want to get some ideas for variations to make it more fun.
Your body’s ability to process and utilize oxygen effectively is essential to good boxing, even though research has shown boxing to be about 70% anaerobic. This means that boxing simulates short sprints, explosive movements, and dextrous agility that requires big energy on demand and needs less oxygen a more aerobic activity.
The optimal training formula for for boxing is not locked in however, old school long distance roadwork is still a staple of many coaches and boxer’s regimen. Most good boxers and coaches have figured out one thing though, and that is that training has to simulate the intensity of the actual event, anything less than training for what a fight feels like will leave you performing suboptimally. There is a slight distinction between breathing, oxygen usage, and boxing efficiency, yet they are all related. Below, one of my Youtube subscribers brings this issue to my attention, and I’ll attempt to answer it based on a holistic view of performance training for boxing.
I really enjoy your vids! Its helping me alot in every aspect. I was wondering about breathing in sparring. The funny thing is when i hit the bags, heavybag, double end bag, body snatcher bag. i dont have a problem. But when i spar i have a problem. I guess im holding my breath. Can you please give me some pointers? Any help would be greatly apprecated.
First off, the proper breathing technique for boxing allows you to expel air almost completely when you throw your punches so the body’s natural instinct to take air back in goes into effect. This way you have a steady supply of new oxygen coming in. To do this you have to exert your exhalation from the lowest part of your abdomen. If you exhale and only exert exhalation pressure from your upper diaphram or chest then you are going to get tense and tired real quick.
The best way I’ve found to do this is to make a loud “hmph” or “hugh” sound on each punch while keeping your mouth closed and breathing out through your nose. When the air goes out strong your body will call it back. It’s ideal to breath back in through your nose, I’ve had a deviated sceptum for years so breathing back in through my nose has always been tough, but it’s ideal. The specific noise you make when you exhale doesn’t matter, a lot of top boxers make a “SSS” sound when they punch, some like Ricky Hatton, make a loud “Hagh”. The key is that the air has to come from the lowest part of your abdomen, this also makes your body a bit tougher and more durable against counters to the body.
One way to test this and get a feel is to put your fingertips right below your navel and let out a forceful “Hmph”, do three or four fast ones in a row just like when you throw a combo, you should feel the exertive outward pressure of your abdomen. Now try this, put your fingertips on your upper abdomen and exhale forcefully without letting your lower abdomen exert pressure, you’ll notice that you feel tight and still have a lot of air left in your lungs to expel. In the heat of real boxing, this is how a lot of people tend to breath, it takes training, experience and conditioning to get this properly calibrated.
There is a bigger problem for my prospective boxer above though, and poor breathing may be the sympton, but it’s not the cause. One thing I stress in training is to simulate the fight feel and conditions as much as possible. A lot of fighters either forget, are unaware, or lack drive to get in the proper shape for a fight. Hitting the bag is the equivalent of a jog, and fighting is the equivalent of a sprint. Sparring and fighting is high intensity for the simple reason that the opponent moves, and appliess pressure through offense and his ability to dodge your attacks. It takes a lot of steam to launch an attack and to retreat to safety, with a bag it only takes about half the effort. Let me put it to you in measurable terms: If you are going to have a 100 punch output during a round of sparring, you need to be ready for a 300 punch round on the bag. This is about the equivalent I have found, it may be a little less depending on your footwork and head movement, but you get the idea.
One thing I stress to fighters is to hit the bag at fight pace. Fight pace is rapid, it’s dynamic, it incorporates head movement, in and outs, lateral motion, in fighting, and fast fast fast combos! My recommendation is to have at least 2 workouts a week where you go 4 rounds at fight pace. This means you warm up for 3 rounds. And then when round 4 hits, its a mad fury and all out tactical brawl with the bag.
How will you know if you are doing it right? By the end of the third round at fight pace you will be begging for the bell to ring. Another way you’ll know is when everyone in the gym is staring at you wondering if they need to exorcise the demon within.
You need to simulate the feel of a real fight in training. Another trick I used to do is when the bell would go for the round, I would bust out 20 straight burpees before stepping to the bag. I would do this for each round. Under these conditions you will learn to fight tired and under fatigue. You don’t want to train this way all the time, I recommend twice a week. Remember in training to simulate the feel of your toughest rounds in the ring!
You need to listen to this old school fighter and coach. I’ve preached this stuff to fighters until I was blue in the face. No more needs to be said, just watch this whole video and listen close. Thank me by taking heed of his advice and training your ass off.
You’ve been training for months, years, maybe a decade, and you’ve picked up a ton of knowledge along the way. As you go it’s easy to forget the little things you used to do and the optimal mindset, especially if you’ve taken some time off or got stuck in a rut. It’s not until you get clocked, land a sweet shot or suffer from absolute boredom in the gym that you remember some of the things that made you a better boxer along the way.
Do ya remember the way you used to skip furiously for the last 30 seconds of every round
…remember the way you used to jab to the opponents glove or shoulder before stepping in with a second jab
…remember the way you used to slip to the right and lean slightly back when you threw that big uppercut
…remember the way you used to duck out and step to the right after landing that right hand to the body
…remember the way you used to get up in the morning with a calm and serious mindset, focused on training
…remember the way you used to hit the bag at high intensity pace, like it was your opponent
…remember the way you used to keep your chin tight into your chest
…remember the way you used to launch an attack on your opponent, and then launch a second immediate attack.
…remember the way you used to roll off of every left hook you threw
…remember how you used to love doing ab work
…remember the way you used to work with your stable mates and leave your ego to the wayside
…remember when you used to do sprints and intervals as part of your roadwork
…remember how clean your diet used to be
…remember when your woman used to ask you what you were pensively thinking about, and all you could say was ‘boxing’
…remember how much you used to welcome and face the pain of training
…remember how you used to slip, duck and move after every combo
…remember how you used to spend two rounds just working on the jab
…remember when 3 rounds on the bag was just a warm-up
…remember telling yourself that you were NOT gonna lose this fight
…remember the thrill of surviving a fight with your best performance win, lose, or draw
…remember when the speed bag was fun and just icing on the cake in your workout
…remember when the music you listened to and boxing were synonymous
…remember when you would rip combos like a machine gun
…remember when you didn’t care how big or small your sparring partner was
…remember not being able to go another round and doing it anyway
…remember the way you used to attack to the head, then body, then back up to the head
…remember how loose and fast your left hook used to be
…remember how you used to spend 15-20 minutes just working on footwork
…remember when you could train and hang out in the gym for hours
Do ya remember how much you love boxing!?
When I first started boxing I had a textbook amateur stance and style; hands high, left hand about six inches away from the chin, fairly upright stance and active defense with a focus on ‘cover and counter’ type rhythm. It wasn’t long before my coach pulled me aside and said that this was not going to work. He had me pull my hands to my chin, square up just a bit and start working on my head movement with immediate counters and punching while the opponent was punching. Did he know that I loved Mike Tyson!? Who knows, I’m sure I gave it away somewhere in my training. This ‘new’ Peekaboo style took me to a new level in the gym, I felt like I had a style all my own (of course this wasn’t true), I imagined I was Mike Tyson, slipping and countering, and knocking guys out!
Style is one thing, ability is another, and the ability to execute your style is even another thing. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t have the punching power of Mike Tyson, most guys don’t, even the pros. After many beat downs in the first 6 months at the gym I started to get into my rhythm and style, and in my first fight I was like a white Mike Tyson, I bobbed and weaved and came ahead with heavy blows. It wasn’t all glory, I was gassed by the end of the second round from all the aggression. I won that fight, mostly from solid defense and the ability to land clean shots when it was my turn to throw, I didn’t knock my opponent out and it wasn’t the Mike Tyson-esque performance I imagined. Which brings me to the purpose of this post, a reader writes in:
… I also noticed at the amateur level, everyone learns to box the traditional way. However, I really like the unpredictability of Floyd Mayweather’s style, or the ambush style of Sergio Martinez. I believe much of their success has more to do with their unorthodox style than just there natural ability.
What are your thoughts on fighting like the above-mentioned fighters…Sergio and Roy Jones Jr. often drop their hands, yet it seems to work for them. I don’t have amazing quickness, but would certain drills or repetition help me achieve similar working styles at the amateur level?”
There are a couple things you should keep in mind with any kind of style:
1) Your style is how you put each piece of your boxing repertoire together in action. To keep it basic, one guy likes to catch the jab and counter, the other guy likes to slip the jab and counter. This is the beginning of style. Boxing is about position, technique, patterns and rhythm. You can emulate Roy Jones or Mayweather, but you will always be you with your own style, this can be good or bad. Take what you learn and make it your own, remember you are trying to win and good fighters do what it takes to win. Style is secondary to winning. Just look at how Mayweather changed up his style right after he got hit by Mosley in round 2 of their fight.
2) Fight based on your competitive arena. Most top pro boxers started with a traditional amateur style. This is because the amateur game is based on punch connects and judges don’t like fighters who stray from the amateur style template. They think that you are ‘showboating’ when you drop your hands. I’ve never seen a guy who has dropped his hands in the amateurs win against an evenly matched opponent, the judges just won’t score for him. In the amateur game you have to play to the judges favour, you can drop your hands a bit and work an evasive style, but I wouldn’t go too far from this, unless you know you can clean up your opponent.
3) Dropping your hands has it’s purpose. The main reasons to drop the left hand into a Philly shell position or to drop both hands and be cagey are; first, you can move your head quicker based on weight distribution along your body, second, you can see punches a bit easier, third, you can shoulder roll to set up counters, and fourth, you can throw punches from outside of your opponents line of vision. If you are going to drop one or both of your hands then make sure you can back it up with real technique.
4) The best way to develop any style is to take risks in sparring and practice what you are trying to achieve. You have to take risks if you want to improve and not rely on what works all the time. You have to put your ego aside and risk losing a round or two to try something new, that’s the best way to learn.
5) Understand that distance and rhythm are critical to your boxing style. Look at Mayweather who likes to pot shot and pick opponents apart from the outside, he controls the distance and paralyzes his opponents mentally. Look at Pacquiao who moves well side to side, moves his head and the comes in with quick combos and moves a bit only to come in with a second set of combos. Look at Manuel Marquez who has slick and measured counterpunching as he waits for you to create the opening, and look at Victor Ortiz who barrages you with punches and forces openings.
All in all, your style is going to come down to your mentality, your level of proficiency with each technique, and your ability to put pieces together. Practice the techniques until you have them down and work your new style in sparring, take risks during sparring.
Having said all that, I like this guy’s video below on how to work on the Philly Shell defense.