As natural as fighting is, there are characteristics human beings develop over time, that do not serve them in the ring and could ultimately spell their downfall. These characteristics are usually unconscious, but were developed over time to protect them from harm. However, in the ring, they actually serve a detrimental effect. What both habits or traits have in common is that they both relate to fear and survival.
The first habit you may need to be aware of is closing your eyes. Sure, it sounds obvious enough, but you’d be surprised how many fighters, unknowingly close their eyes when they are punching or being punched. It’s your body’s natural way of protecting your eyes from damage, but it also prevents you from being able to see impending danger, punches coming back at you or to watch them coming in. It may hurt to get hit, but condition your mind to keep your eyes on the action. One way of doing this is just being aware of it and forcing yourself to stay focused no matter what lands. Another way is to acclimate yourself to having objects come close to your face, specifically your eyes, without making direct contact. When you work the speed bag, for instance, stay close enough to it that you get used to having the bag bounce back and forth at close range. This will help you recondition yourself and get used to the up-close action. Sugar Ray Robinson said, “It’s the punch you don’t see coming that hurts.” So keep your eyes on every one of them.
The second habit to avoid is pulling back when you’re being attacked or getting hit. This can be a dangerous response, especially since most fighters drop their hands when they do it. It may be natural to retreat when attacked or when you feel pressure, but it is much safer to move to the side, tie him up or step in even closer to him. In most cases, the closer you get to your opponent when he’s connecting, the better off you’ll be. If a fighter gets inside or lands with a few punches, do not pull away. All it does when you pull away or move straight back is it keeps you right on the end of your opponent’s punches and in his control. Moving straight back against your opponent will only add to his momentum and it puts you at an offensive disadvantage. Again, it’s a natural reaction to retreat from danger, but avoid what feels like the safest response, because it’s just the opposite. Instead, step to the side and force him to re-adjust his attack. This might buy you enough time to regroup or mount a counter-attack of your own. Or another option is to tie your opponent up and force the action to come to a complete stop altogether. If he is an aggressive fighter this might only provide a short break in the action, but the idea is to slow his progress, break his rhythm, throw his timing off and allow yourself enough time to think and properly react. Depending on his power, his ability to fight on the inside, his level of experience and ability to adjust, these all factor in to what your best strategy is, but the worst thing you can do in any case is a full retreat. Jab your way out of range or do the opposite and step forward, crowding his punches and rendering him ineffective. The old saying about “keeping your friends close and your enemies closer” applies in this situation.
When a boxer faces a threat, it’s natural to want to avoid getting hit or just wanting to get the hell out of there altogether. Both are understandable, but there’s a right way to react and a wrong way. One diffuses the situation and the other places you at greater risk of the very thing you’re trying to avoid…pain. Going against some habits you’ve acquired to protect yourself might take some re-programming, but simply knowing they exist is half the battle.