The History of Boxing Training Tools
One of the oldest and earliest pieces of equipment, the medicine ball, dates to ancient Greece.
At that time, medicine balls were made from pig bladders or animal skins, that were filled with sand.
Back then, they were mostly tossed back-and-forth for fun, fitness, and sport, before being more prominently used for any real type of “training.”
Medicine Balls didn’t really come-into-play or catch the attention of the public until the 1930s, when President, Herbert Hoover and his staff were seen on the White House lawn, playing a game called Hoover Ball.
The game looked like volleyball except that a heavy ball was thrown back and forth over the net and was presented as “the perfect prescription” for better health and wellness. And, obviously, that’s where the name MEDICINE BALL came from.
Anyway, after that, some of the earliest images and references of the use of medicine balls (in terms of them being used in boxing and for hardcore training) came about with Jack Johnson. He was an innovator, who welcomed new ideas and was “a first” on many levels.
Since that time, nearly every recognizable fighter, from Sugar Ray Robinson to Sonny Liston has had a medicine ball thrown at their midsection, tossed it back and forth to a partner, jumped with it, ran with it, punched at it or, in some way, incorporated it into their routine.
Now, more than ever, we understand how the Medicine Ball can be a highly beneficial part of boxing training and can enhance total body power. It demands the use of all the muscles together to generate maximum force and is still “the prescription” for better health and overall peak physical conditioning.
In its earlier boxing days, medicine balls featured all leather construction for durability and grip.
Today, they have a wider range of uses and, therefore, require a greater variety of materials.
Rubber versions can be used for throwing and catching drills that focus on being responsive.
Flexible “slam balls” can be used for more explosive power drills.
And more traditional designs lend themselves to all-around gym use and mimicking the ways that our forefathers of boxing used them. If you GOOGLE Medicine Ball Sonny Liston, Medicine Ball Sugar Ray Robinson, or Medicine Ball Jack Johnson, you’ll see all you need to know, to make it a part of your boxing training.
Although painted images of skipping bamboo and vines date all the way back to Egyptian times (around 1600 B.C.), Dutch settlers are credited with bringing the jump rope to America during the 1600’s. At that time, it was only used by kids for fun, but the activity of skipping rope thrived in the early 1940s and ‘50s, predominantly with children in the inner cities, because it was inexpensive and could be taken anywhere.
In the early 20th century, boxers began using ropes in training to improve conditioning, leg strength and foot speed.
The game changer really happened in 1963 when Heavyweight Champion, Sonny Liston appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. His brief segment showed him skipping rope to the song “Night Train.”
Although it had been in the fight game a long time, the popularity of the jump rope surged after that and became a staple of every fighter’s routine.
Now, you can watch footage of nearly EVERY boxing great, putting time in on this crucial piece of equipment. Ray Robinson, Ali, Tyson, Ray Leonard, Duran, Mayweather...every fighter who takes his craft seriously can put on a clinic with one of these.
Originally, jump Ropes were primarily constructed of leather, but now use a variety of dense rubber materials and plastics.
Styles range from leather, to rubber, to plastic beads. Many feature ball bearings in the handles that increase the rope speed and decrease wear and tear at the point of rotation.
Using it to get in peak physical condition, to gain foot speed, and muscular endurance in the legs, makes it the perfect addition to the sport of boxing.
You only must look at some of the boxing greats, to recognize who changed skipping rope from a pastime to a pursuit.
BOXING SAUNA SUITS
Sauna suits and their benefits were first introduced in 1967 by Manuel Greenwald who had a Florida-based mail-order gift and novelty catalog business. That’s where the “Swedish Sauna Suit” would first be advertised to the masses, as a “personal steam bath” that would enable anyone to “melt pounds away.” The catalog boasted that, either by exercising while wearing the suit, or by doing nothing other than wearing it around the house while doing ordinary household chores, any man or woman could lose inches and feel more refreshed. His ads claimed that the sauna suit “burns up calories as you exercise,” like a Swedish bath.
Swedish baths houses, which gained some level of popularity in America in the late 1920s and early 1930s, were a four-step process of extreme damp heat, steam, massage and cold. These were prominent and were believed to help you lose weight, open your pores, cleanse out impurities or sweat out illness. So that’s where the name “Swedish sauna” came into play and made its way into the marketing of this “revolutionary” product concept.
Then, we jump forward to when the sauna suit really made its presence known in athletics, which was through the wrestling field. It gained a bunch of notoriety when a publication reported the story of a young high school wrestler named Chris Pickett, who in 1977 weighed 155 pounds, but then realized his best chance to get a competitive edge over his opponents was to make a drastic weight cut down to 135 pounds. The article said, “To make weight for weigh-ins, [Pickett] would run five miles in a rubber sauna suit the day before a match, then take a sauna bath, then he would run again and hit the sauna again, all the morning of the weigh-ins.”
That story caught on and soon sauna suits became a staple of every wrestling program, at every level, across the country.
Then, it finally made its cross-over, into the fight game in the 1990s. It happened in kind of an odd way because it was part of a non-successful story. When 1988 Olympian Michael Carbajal fought and beat Muangchai Kittikasem of Thailand for the IBF light-flyweight title, it was reported that his opponent had tremendous difficulty making the 108lb weight limit, but was able to get there by jumping rope, while wearing a sauna suit in 104-degree heat for two hours. That enabled him to lose his final 1.5 pounds.
Even though Carbajal knocked out the exhausted, previously unbeaten Kittikasem in seven short rounds, the term “sauna suit” and the awareness of its potential had been planted and other boxers began using the suits to drop weight.
Now...you see them as a regular part of a fighter’s daily routine and training camps all the time because they are great for helping fighters to sweat out toxins, adapt to fighting in hotter environments and “warming up” during training. Sauna suits also increase the loss of water, which can improve the recovery process.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, people commonly wore one-piece flannel “union suits” under their clothes to stay warm.
Then, English clothing manufacture, John Smedley introduced to the public what was called thermal, or “long” underwear. He named them “Long Johns”, supposedly after bare knuckle heavyweight champion, John L. Sullivan, who always entered the ring wearing only his long underwear.
From that time, on you can see fighters of all eras wearing Long Johns in training, because they retain heat, are absorbent, but are also breathable. They can keep fighters warm during a cold winter run, decrease warm-up time in the gym or help to “sweat it out.”
They could be considered sauna suits, before sauna suits came about, because they were used to accomplish some of the same benefits and are even more applicable to all-around boxing training.