Street Fighting

04.12.04 - By Ron DiMichele: Muhammed Ali once said that as long as there's a street corner and two people with a difference of opinion, boxing would never die. That's likely true, and his words go double for street fighting. But what happens when we mix the two? Boxer vs. street thug. Who wins?

"Guys come in and say, "I wanna box. I'm a street fighter," says former light-heavyweight contender Iceman John Scully from the gym where he trains fighters in Windsor, CT. “First question: Did you ever box before? "No, but I had a lot of fights in the street." My reply is always the same. "You go out and find the baddest guy you know in the street. The toughest guy. The guy that knocks everybody out. You bring him here and I'll have fifteen guys beat him half to death for the fun of it."

Makes sense. But then again, few boxers respect street fighters. Unless your name is Mike Tyson, or Mitch "Blood" Green, or Hector "Macho" Camacho, you left street scrapes behind once you entered the gym. In comparing boxing to street fighting, a brief survey might be helpful. Let's rate several well-known boxers (Felix Trinidad, Bernard Hopkins, Chris Byrd, and
Antonio Tarver) in certain select categories of fighting skills (1 = excellent, 2 = good, 3 = fair, 4 = poor). Ready?
Okay, let's go:

eye gouging


kneeing the groin

hair pulling

Get the point? The skill and stamina of a trained boxer rule the ring. But what happens when we move out onto the asphalt? Or the barroom floor? In a street jam, anything goes. In the street, a boxer will revert to what he knows best; boxing rules and tactics as they are in the ring. The street fighter knows no rules. Advantage: street fighter.

"Some of them [street fighters] don't believe me," says Scully. "I say, Okay here, put the gloves on. I'm gonna box you. I'm not even gonna hit you. You hit me. And they say things like, "You're gonna let me hit you? I'm gonna knock you out." I say, "You're going to hit me with the power of a mosquito." I say, "Let me show you something." They get in there, throw a few
punches, thirty seconds later, they're done."

How long does the average street fight last? Well, if it lasts ten seconds it's WAY above average. The average street fight lasts about five seconds. Most street fights are over before stamina becomes an issue. Add to that, the experienced street fighter has the element of surprise on his side. He attacks suddenly, often unexpectedly, giving himself a big initial edge. And do you think he picks an opponent who's bigger than he is? Advantage: street fighter.

"The average guy in the street would not even know what happened to him," says Scully. "If he threw a jab, or threw a punch, and you stepped back and blasted him in the face with a right hand, he wouldn't know what in the world happened. He'd think he's surrounded."

Street fights are quick, dirty, and very violent. One combatant overwhelms his opponent in seconds and the contest is over. If a boxer survives the street thug's initial onslaught and shows any skills whatsoever, the experienced street fighter takes him to the floor where his boxing skills are useless. Advantage: street fighter.

"Once in a while you'll get a [street] guy that'll all of a sudden start shouting out like, "C'mon! C'mon! Talking to me!" says Scully. "Because they see I'm not doing that much to 'em and they think that's the best I have and so they get brave. Oh??? Do you want to feel something? Bloop! I've hit more guys with body shots and folded them over."

Most street fights consist of continuous combat until one participant is vanquished. Obviously, there are now rounds, and there sure as heck isn't a point system. Breaks in the action are rare. If a trained boxer steps back, as Teddy Atlas says, "to admire his work," he gives his opponent an opening to attack, maybe pick up a pool cue. Remember, no DQ's in the
street or barroom.

"In the street, You're fighting a guy you've never fought," explains Scully. "He's not a boxer, but he's two hundred and ten pounds and he gets a hold of your shirt. Now you're boxing goes out the window. The only thing that'll save you is your ability to keep calm. You're wrestling the guy and he's going crazy. "I'm going to kill you! I'm going to kill you! I'm going to break your face!" If that was me, I'd just be holding on. I'd make sure I had a hold of his shirt, like the shoulder of his shirt so he couldn't throw punches. I'd stay calm and relaxed because I'm used to doing that in a clinch with a guy. Not letting him wear me out."

Here's where the tide turns. Sparring sessions are no joke. A boxer is used to taking the shots. He stays relaxed during the fray. That means more zip to his punches, defensive awareness, and less wasted energy.

"When I throw punches it's all about letting go," says Scully. "Letting your anger and your fury go. Then harnessing it back right away. You gotta go back to being calm. So you gotta do your thing, recover, so you can do it again. You let go when you have to, you're reserved when you have to."

Relaxation and economy of movement are the ultimate weapons of the boxer. The street fighter attacks with overhand rights and wide hooks. A boxer ducks, steps away, or moves inside of these shots and counterpunches effectively. The street fighter reverts almost immediately to throwing one punch at a time, the boxer answers with combinations.

The boxer's greatest advantage in a street fight? "The ability not to get hit," says Scully.

In the final analysis, Scully insists the legs are your most valuable weapon. "You're about to fight," he says. "There's nothing to stop your legs from carrying you a hundred yards in twelve seconds. Go! Get out of there! You're going to fight over some nonsense. You're going to have a busted mouth, a hurt hand. You're going to get suspended, maybe arrested. Maybe
you'll hit this guy and he'll hit his head on a curb and die, now you're going to prison for thirty years.

"A week later nobody's going to know why you fought. You're going to end up being friends with [the person] you had the fight with."

Both seasoned street fighters and experienced boxers agree with John Scully. Street fighting is bad news for everyone.

Ron DiMichele's email address is:

Article posted on 04.12.2004

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