Champions are adaptable. They 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 and stronger and was rising to the occasion of his life, in a fight that would define his career. Sugar Ray 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 in which he was behind on all scorecards. That intangible ability to “come through” to “pull it out” was rooted in Ray’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 perservere. Against all odds and what is obvious to everyone else around them they turn the tables. Inexplicably they win.
What attributes can define a champion?
A well-timed jab can dictate the pace, the intensity and outcome of a fight like no other punch. It can nullify the power of a puncher. It can be used to beat a boxer at his own game. Used effectively, it can win round after round and is the number one physical attribute of any great fighter. It can dictate the distance the war is waged at and can also serve as a “smoke screen” for delivering that conclusive blow. 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, extend it fully and let your shoulder roll over with it. Throw it with intent to land, turn your fist over at the end and hear it crack like a whip.
THE RIGHT CROSS
Boxing's power punch has created some of the sport’s most dramatic moments. Traveling across the entire distance of the body, the right cross holds the power to end a fight in a jaw-jarring split second. A powerful right hand can keep your opponent at bay and have them fighting with the fear that with one wrong move, they could find themself 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 a boxer’s right arm. Beginning with your left shoulder out front, push off with your back toe and bring your right hip forward with your right hand across the entire length of your body. Turn your fist over sharply as you connect at the very end of your punch.
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 affect from the quick, extreme rotation it causes of the neck and head. This produces a sudden disconnect of the nerves that run through them and can KO your opponent in an instant. In order to be fully effective, the hook involves digging into the canvas, leverage derived from your core and rotation of the hips. Keep the elbow up high, shift your weight, follow-through with your shoulder and then look back and see if your opponent gets up.
Perhaps one of the most painful punches to be on the receiving end of 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. The natural added strength is generated from the use of the legs that drive the punch upward and snaps the head 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 a crouch, driving upward with the legs and violent rotation of the shoulders and hips to get the most leverage in the delivery of the perfect knockout punch.
THE BODY SHOT
Whether it is used to wear an opponent down, to test his work ethic or in the form of a surprising, fight ending punch, the body shot holds an unmistakable place in the arsenal of any complete fighter. A solid body attack can sometimes unmask and reveal seemingly unbeatable fighters and leave them on the canvas grasping for air. A well-placed body punch temporarily collapses the diaphragm and can cause damage to internal organs, not to mention your opponents’’ pride.
STANCE & FOOTWORK
A puncher’s power originates from the ground up. A boxer’s speed is enhanced by fluid footwork and dependable, consistent positioning. There are few things as valuable in boxing as a fighter who is always in position to punch or defend himself. That trait alone makes him 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 with his footwork alone. Opponents seldom watch fighter’s feet, so he is able to gain small advantages just beyond his challengers’ field of vision. Turning on the balls of his feet and shifting his weight, using the floor for momentum, all works to gain efficiencies 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 be his allies.
Outstanding fighters aren’t known only for their power, speed or technical prowess, but for their all-around boxing skills. They develop a “sixth sense” when it comes to avoiding 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 use your opponents’ aggressive firepower against him. There’s nothing admirable about taking punches, but developing an unpenetrateable 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 your butt off the canvas.
A real champion is not only convinced he is the best, he lives it, he trains like it and he exudes confidence in all he that does. It is in his eyes, it is in his presence and it does more damage than the first punch. It makes his opponent doubt himself. That’s the beginning of the end and what makes the attitude of a champion such an integral characteristic to possess.
A FIGHTER'S HEART
A true fighter is made up of so much more than a set of skills...he is made up of a set of wills. He possesses a belief in himself, the desire to win, unwavering determination to overcome and an intense need to compete. He is a fighter not by choice, but by destiny and determination. He is a fighter because that’s what he does and quit is not a part of his vocabulary. Meeting in the middle of the ring is like coming home. It’s where he feels most alive.