More than fifty years ago Floyd Patterson fought Sonny Liston twice and got destroyed twice. Trainer Cus D’Amato didn’t want Floyd to fight Liston. He knew Floyd was intimidated by the Big Bear. Before Cassius Clay dethroned him, Liston was the most feared fighter around. Cus doubted whether Floyd could beat the Big Bear, and to make matters worse, Cus felt a loss would mean the most coveted championship in all of sport would fall into the hands of one of the most undesirable characters in the fight game. Liston was an ex-con and there were rumors about him being controlled by the mob. Their first fight took place at Comiskey Park in front of crowd of over 18,000 fight fans.
At that time, Liston was a scary brute. He outweighed Patterson by 25 lbs. and enjoyed a 13 inch reach advantage. Floyd was an over grown light heavy, having won the Olympic Gold as a middleweight. Cus advised Patterson against taking the fight, but Floyd overruled him. Floyd desperately wanted to be a true champion and fight the best challengers. As history tells us, Floyd was like a lamb being led to the slaughter. Liston used a powerful jab with big blasts from both hands to destroy Floyd in less than one round. Then Sonny proved it was no fluke by doing it again in a rematch.
Floyd’s fear froze him. Normally Floyd would couple his peek-a-boo style with head and foot movement. His fear left him with one insufficient defense: keeping his hands up. With Liston, that presented no problem at all. He just blasted through his stationary target’s inept attempt at defense, first with his paralyzing jab and then with pulverizing lefts and rights that rendered Floyd unconscious.
To a lesser degree, back in February of 1990 it happened with Mike Tyson. He became part of one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. Against James “Buster” Douglas, Iron Mike got stopped in the 10th round at the Tokyo Dome, in Japan.The circumstances were different from the Patterson vs. Liston fight. In this fight, the eventual loser was a huge favorite, so much so that trying to get odds to lay down a bet proved difficult. Douglas was given no chance. A lot of fans didn’t even bother tuning in the contest. Like Patterson, Douglas was viewed as the sacrificial lamb. However, in this case, Douglas was able to conquer his fears and fight the best fight of his career. His best was good enough to conquer one of the most feared fighters since Sonny Liston. Buster did it like Liston, first using his powerful jab and following it with powerful straight right hands and uppercuts, followed by one spectacular straight left. To make it even better, Douglas had to pull himself off the canvas in the eighth to come back even stronger. There was something different about Mike in this fight. For one thing, he no longer had the same people in his corner. Another thing, Mike wasn’t moving his head or his feet like he normally did, which made his head more of a target for the determined Douglas. That type of flaw was evident in two of the fights Friday night at Cellular Park.
Keeping your hands up is good advice, but that alone isn’t enough against skilled competition. That was evident in both of Mike Mollo fights against Artur Szpilka. In their first fight, Mollo was cut over both eyes, one from an elbow, and the other from an accidental head butt. Mollo was having a hell of a time seeing, and Szpilka’s jab in his face didn’t help. Southpaw Szpilka was able to overcome a knockdown and get a clean unsean straight left through Mollo’s porous defense to take Mollo out in the sixth. In their rematch on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights, Szpilka was able to repeat the process. This time it occurred in the fifth. The same thing was true in both fights, Mollo’s vision was obstructed, so he didn’t see the knockout blow coming. In one fight it was Szpilka’s glove (a jab), and in the other it was Mollo’s own left glove held too high and in the wrong spot that obstructed his vision. Mollo’s real undoing was failure to make use of head and foot movement. Total dependence on “keeping your hands up” is not enough.
In the main event, it looked like Andrzej Fonfara might fall victim to the same mistake. He too was depending too much on “keeping his hands up”. He did try to use some footwork, but too often he moved straight back, and Gabriel “The Handsome Man” Campillo moved right with him and kept on throwing and landing combinations. Fortunately for Fonfara, he proved able to take some pretty heavy shots. When there was a lull in Campillo’s attack, Fonfara would become the aggressor, behind his own good jab. When he did that, he enjoyed some success, but it wasn’t often enough to win rounds. The left side of his face, and the right eye of Campillo were starting to swell, but it seemed clear Campillo had the edge. He looked comfortable, moving well, utilizing his good footwork and head movement. He would pop into range long enough to let loose with a good combination, and then get out of range, or slip and slide enough to make Fonfara’s attempts to retaliate miss. He was making Fonfara miss more than a few of his shots. Thankfully for Fonfara’s fans, the Polish Prince didn’t get discouraged, and pressed his own attack whenever possible. When he jabbed and double jabbed, it slowed down the head movement of Campillo, and the Prince’s right hand started making contact and causing some damage, but time was running out. In the ninth round, Fonfara ripped through with a good combination that rocked Campillo. The last punch of the combination was a hard right body shot. He couldn’t block it, so he tried to turn and deflect it, but the shot crunched into his solar plexus. That bundle of nerves, when hit, has a way of paralyzing a fighter, and that’s was happened with Campillo. The head shots wobbled Campillo, but it was the right hand punch to the center of Campillo’s chest that really did him in.
Fonfara remains undefeated and was declared the winner by KO in the Tenth round, but he was in real danger of losing the fight by decision. Time was running out for him, and it looked like he might disappoint his hometown fans. something they would not like. In order for Fonfara to continue with his success, he has to improve and eliminate flaws, and one glaring one is a lack of head movement. It’s amazing how many experienced fighters don’t know they’re not exercising this fundamental movement. Without it, they’re targets. With it they’re elusive and can make their opponents pay with proper counter punching. Fonfara knows the value of proper head movement, but he obviously doesn’t realize he’s not doing it! His trainer needs to drill into Fonfara through repetition, so much so that he gets tired of it. It will then become automatic and instinctive. Then if his opponent slips one through, Fonfara won’t be there for another. If he doesn’t rid himself of this flaw, he will continue to pay a heavy price. He will discover the hard way it’s not enough to be tough and have a good right hand. If he faces a heavier puncher than Campillo, it might also prove to be lights out for the Polish Prince.