Being a fighter takes a special combination of skill and will, power and finesse and an unmatched physical and mental toughness. Boxing requires a resolve to not only survive, but thrive in any situation you’re faced with. From technique to tenacity, these are the most important characteristics of any great fighter.
A well-delivered, well-timed jab can dictate the pace, the intensity and outcome of a fight like no other punch. It can serve as the fighter’s first line of offense and best defensive weapon against an incoming attack. It can nullify the power of a puncher. It can stop the onslaught of a brawler. It can break down a strong fighter. It can be used to pile up points and win round after round or it can also serve as a “smoke screen” for delivering that conclusive, knockout blow. A powerful jab is the number one physical asset of any great fighter. No matter HOW it is used, the key to any fighter’s success in the ring is that it IS used and used frequently. Shoot it straight, turn your fist over at the end and let your shoulder roll with it. Throw it at full range and the war will be waged on your terms the entire night.
Boxing’s power punch has created some of the sport’s most dramatic moments. Traveling across the entire distance of the body, the cross holds the power to end a fight in a jaw-jarring, fight ending split-second. A powerful right hand (or left hand, if you are southpaw) can keep your opponent at bay and fighting with the fear that, with one wrong move, he could find himself at the end of “the great equalizer.” Delivering the perfect cross is about weight distribution, generating bone-crunching velocity and speed from the ground up…all coming to rest in a single, clenched fist at the end of your arm. When you deliver a right cross keep your left shoulder out front, push off with your back toe, and bring your right hip forward as your right hand travels across the entire length of your body. Turn your fist over sharply as you connect, at the very end of your punch, and it’s “lights out” for anyone standing in front of you.
One of the most painful punches to be on the receiving end of, without question, is the uppercut. A well-thrown uppercut can break the nose, damage the tissue around the eyes and send your opponent into retreat. The power from an uppercut is derived from its upward motion and the natural added strength that is generated from the use of the legs that drives the punch upward and snaps the head of your opponent backwards. It is surprisingly one of the most underused punches in boxing, but one of the most dangerous weapons a boxer has at his disposal. The uppercut should be thrown from the inside and from a crouched position. Driving upward with the legs and incorporating full rotation of the shoulders and hips will produce the ideal leverage to leave your opponent flat on his is back, staring up at the lights.
The hook often ends a perfect 1-2-3 combination, but can find its way around your opponents’ defense in any number of ways. When it hits its target, the hook derives much of its dramatic affect from the quick, extreme rotation it causes of the head. This produces a sudden disconnection of the nerves that run through your opponent’s neck and can violently KO him in an instant. In order to be fully effective, the hook involves pivoting of the lead foot, rotating the hips and turning the entire side of your body into the punch. Keep your elbow up high, shift your weight, turn on the front foot, follow-through with your shoulder and then look back and see if your opponent gets up.
THE BODY SHOT
Whether it is used to wear an opponent down or takes the form of a surprising, one-punch, fight-ending blow to the solar plexus, the body shot holds an unmistakable place in a complete fighter’s arsenal. A solid body attack can sometimes expose a seemingly unbeatable fighter and leave him on the canvas gasping for air. When you’re facing a granite-chinned “comer”, a well-placed body punch can serve as your secret weapon. A consistent, persistent body attack can take its toll on even the toughest opposition. A punch to the mid-section can temporarily collapse the diaphragm and will shake up your opponent’s internal organs, not to mention his ego.
A puncher’s power originates from the ground up, while a boxer’s speed is enhanced by fluid footwork and balanced positioning of his feet. There are few things as admirable in boxing as a fighter who is always in position to punch or properly defend himself. That trait alone will make you always dangerous and difficult to contend with. A graceful fighter can move in and out of range, strategically place himself in harms’ way or get out of danger, relying on his quick footwork alone. Opponents seldom watch a fighter’s feet, so the most intricate movements will help you gain minor advantages just beyond your challengers’ field of vision. When you turn on the balls of your feet and shift your weight, using the floor for leverage and momentum, this makes the good fighter all that much more effective. Footwork maximizes movement for the fighter who realizes that his strength is not always seen in having huge biceps, but who allows the natural laws of gravity and leverage to help generate his power.
Outstanding fighters aren’t known only for their power, speed or technical prowess, but for their all-around boxing skills and for having developed a greater sense of knowing how to avoid getting hit. Many of boxing’s greatest fighters; Robinson, Ali, Leonard, all knew what to do against incoming attacks and that didn’t always mean standing toe-to-toe and letting the leather fly. It meant, as it still does, to avoid unnecessary punishment, and using your opponents’ aggressive firepower against him. There’s nothing admirable about taking punches, but developing an uncompromising guard of armor and the ability to hit and not get hit is a thing of beauty and grace. Tuck your elbows in and bring everything back to where it starts. Keep your hands up, your chin down and keep your cool in the heat of battle. That’s when you are able to see openings, make your opponent miss and make him pay.
Being a true fighter, you are made up of so much more than a set of skills…you are made up of a set of wills. You possess an inner belief in yourself, an intense need to compete, unwavering determination to overcome and the desire to win at all costs. You are not a fighter by choice, but by determination and destiny. Having heart isn’t just about being able to take punches, absorb punishment and keep coming back for more. It’s about digging deeper than most can, more than what’s common or comfortable…no matter which side of the beating you’re on. A physical heart may beat solidly in your chest, but a fighter’s heart echoes through his soul.
A real champion hasn’t only convinced himself that he is the best, he lives it, he trains like it and he exudes self belief in all he that does. If this is you, then it’s in your eyes, it is in your presence and it radiates so strong that it even makes your opponent wonder if you know something he doesn’t. Confidence is the beginning of the end, because it sets the tone and carries you through to achieving exactly what you set out to do in the first place. It is the story you tell yourself when no one else is listening and how you carry yourself when no one else is watching. Confidence is who you know you are and what more you can become even when no one else does. It may waiver, but it never falters and, even when you fall short, it never fails.
Champions find a way to win, oftentimes in circumstances or against opponents they shouldn’t. A perfect example is in a 1980 bout featuring Sugar Ray Leonard versus Thomas Hearns. Sugar Ray should not have won that fight. Hearns was knocking everyone out. He was bigger, stronger and was rising to the occasion of his life, in a fight that would define his career. Leonard withstood his power punches, adapted to his style and, in spite of a left eye that was virtually swollen shut, he beat Hearns in the final seconds of the 14th round, in a fight where he was behind on all of the scorecards. That intangible ability to “come through” to “pull it out” was rooted in Leonard’s ability to adapt. He changed his style and found a way to get to the bigger, stronger man. He adapted to the circumstances and altered his game plan to win. It may not have been a conscious decision, but he did what it takes to overcome and champions have that ability. They survive, they change, they adapt and they persevere. Against all odds and what is obvious to everyone else around them they can turn the tables. Inexplicably they win.
Being the best boxer you can means knowing what it takes to win. Whether that’s constantly executing the basics better than your opponent, being smarter than he is or working harder than he is willing to, from the inside-out, you have to have the character that it takes to deliver on sound technique and apply the level of courage required to excel. In mind and body, from top to bottom, you have to know what boxing will demand from you and be willing to pay the price. Physically and mentally you have to possess or develop not just some, but all of the attributes of a fighter.