Boxing: Brains or Brawn...

30.08.05 - By Fadi Khawaja: Boxing is commonly viewed as a brutal sport dependant on brawn and not brains. This is a complete misconception and as the novelist WC Heinz once said, "boxing is too intricate an art for the average person, fight fan or not, to comprehend." To become successful in boxing and truly understand the game it takes more than being a bodybuilder or a street fighter to succeed. It is a hard art that takes years of honing. The classic scenario is that a heavily muscled man walks into the gym sure that he can box successfully because he has muscles, however once put in to spar he is given a lesson in ‘the sweet science’.

The same applies to a street fighter; fighters like Bernard Hopkins and Mike Tyson were from the street but this is not where their success was developed, it was due to their tutoring and hard hours in the gym that saw them blossom into finely tuned machines..

Boxing is about being versatile and versatility is not acquired off the whim. It is not simply about having speed, power or reach because on any given day if one executes the right game plan he can walk away victorious. Unlike many other sports anyone can participate in boxing. All sports take dedication and hard work but in some if one is not gifted he cannot succeed. If someone is not a fast runner, all the training in the world will not take that individual to world class level. The reason being because in boxing there is a number of ways to fight and each man has tangibles and intangibles, which can help him to victory on any given day. In sport, players usually find there position and stick to it, seldom venturing out. If a goalkeeper is best in goal then that is where he will stay, he will not switch positions depending on the game. In boxing however if one is a boxer he can promptly switch from style to style like Ray Leonard did versus Thomas Hearns. A boxer can get to the top through god given qualities like George Foreman who had strength and power but ultimately he was beaten by Muhammad Ali who executed the right game plan. Nat Fleischer tipped Rocky Marciano to fail as soon as he faced a complete boxer, but despite not being considered as talented as Ezzard Charles, Archie Moore or Joe Walcott he overcame these obstacles through his intangibles like heart and tangibles like power. Though no perceived so, both Foreman and Marciano were clever in their own right. They were not slick boxers but in their mould they were intelligent fighters having to do things such as cut off the ring and work the body en route to victory. Foreman and Marciano like other fighters would be given instructions but it is up to the fighter to execute a game plan and find the answers and he who does so will leave victorious.

Boxing is about finding the answer. If two combatants are fighting, it is about picking off the opponents disadvantages and capitalising on it, for example if a fighter is holding his left hand low or dropping it after jabbing, it is up to the boxer to capitalise on this by throwing the right hand over it. Boxers enter fights with game plans and must execute it as meticulously as possible like Max Schmeling did against Joe Louis.

If you think boxing is easy, give it a try. Learning the bare basics will frustrate you, let alone getting to the stage where you can go punch for punch with a man who may present you with problems you have never had to find the answer to. When you reach this stage however you will have realised it is not a match of wills or strength but a match of smarts and it is your job to out smart your opponent. If you cannot out smart your opponent however there has been many cases of fighters winning based on their heart but this in itself is finding the answer.

Superior ring intelligence has been the crucial factor in some of the greatest upsets in boxing history. Take Max Schmelings win over Joe Louis. Schmeling was not as naturally gifted as Louis, he did not hit as fast or as hard nor was he as complete a fighter as Louis but on 19th June 1939 he managed to exploit flaws in Louis' armour that saw his hand raised. In response however Louis showed his brains by turning it around in the rematch.

So next time you watch a fight, look a little closer and see the brains behind boxing. Look past the violence and see the tactical side. Only then will you see the true beauty of ‘the sweet science’.

Article posted on 30.08.2005

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