Boxing is a sport popularly viewed as a display of brute strength. However the true essence of boxing is skill and not strength. One of the most controversial subjects in martial arts deals with importance of skill or strength in a fight. But boxing is not just about the fight, it’s a sport. Analyzing how it evolved over the years, the various techniques it uses, the emphasis it place on skill and strength and the concept of skill and strength in general we can understand what fuels the sport.
There are 4 basic punches in boxing that are used in various combinations and forms along with movements like ‘slip’ and ‘clinch’. These are the jab, cross, hook and uppercut. The jab is done with the hand of your lead leg, you snap your hand out in a straight line towards your opponent and bring it back to position. In the process of the punch, you turn the hip and shift your weight to the front for powerful execution of the technique. The cross has similar movement to the jab but done using the hand of your rear leg. In a hook, one hand is raised sideways and held parallel to the ground. It’s a lateral punch in which you shift your weight forward and move your hips and body in the direction of the punch. For an uppercut, Drop one of the lower arms and turn the fist so that the lower and the upper arm form a rough right angle. Now you abruptly hit from below, while stretching the legs, turning the body and the hips, and shifting your weight to the front. These punches have many variations but the movement remains roughly the same. Sometimes these punches follow a step in to add more power from the acceleration. Pivoting the leg of the shooting hand and transferring your weight through the punch leads to an improved punch. Professional boxers can use these techniques to strike at a speed twice as fast as a rattle snake. Furthermore, there are 2 rules to every punch. Every punch should end where it started, at the chin. Secondly, the non punching hand should remain touching the chin. This is because fighter tent to drop the guard when they attack. Since the human head is like a fulcrum, striking at the chin causes damage to be transferred to the brain which results in a concussion or a knock out. Not surprisingly, most knock outs are caused by fighters dropping their guard while attacking. Furthermore, boxing also have techniques like clinch, parry and slip used to stop, redirect and avoid punches.
Posture, structure and distance are also important in boxing. There are 2 ways to win a fight, by decision or by knock out. Points can be scored by clearly landing any of the above punches, whereas Range mastery, accuracy, timing and speed are essential for a knock out. It’s not about loading up for a Sunday punch but using the right punch at the right time. Tight shovel hooks are responsible for more KOs than any other body shot. Punches also have to travel a minimum distance before they have enough power for a Knock out. A good posture is also fundamental. Posture refers to the back being straight from head to hips: The backbone is straight, the head sits atop the shoulders and is not slumped forward, the tailbone is tucked, and the pelvis is tilted in such a way that the lower back is straight. Having a direct connection from fist to the floor help generate more power. This job is done by pushing the leg towards the ground and allowing the reaction force to travel through the punch. A good punch requires good body mechanics which includes stepping in, transfer of force and the speedy thrust. Having knowledge of the motion and how it is completed is vital. This knowledge makes the difference between a good fighter and a great fighter. As for distance and time, the length of the limb and the distance between the fighters determine what techniques they can use and a perfect technique requires coordination of body parts, starting and stopping at the right time is crucial. These are the concepts that govern the skilled side of boxing. But strength also plays an important role in boxing.
When we refer to strength we are talking about size, height, weight or big muscles. A bigger opponent would have an advantage in a fight. A taller opponent would have more reach, a heavier opponent would have a stronger punch because of all the mass he would have behind the punch. While this is not always the case it happens majority of the times. Therefore, the most preferred method for development is a blend of strength and skill. But more importance must be placed in skill. An over-reliance on strength comes at the detriment of skill, leading to plateaus in development and a degradation of prowess as the practitioner ages. Another important factor is people often resort to anger for strength. The adrenaline can give the feeling that you are strong but an angry fighter throw always technique and tent to leave openings that the opponent can exploit. An angry fighter is helpless in the ring. The following is a rule of thumb concerning strength and skill: Broad skill always trumps broad strength. Increasing strength or size does not necessarily mean an increase in fighting skills but developing once technique result in an increase in strength and fighting skills. Too much strength also leads to overpowering of techniques which affects structure, speed and leads to lack of efficiency. Fighters who are small in size but produce incredible power are not a rare site. This is because their training emphasizes precision of technique and the exercises in which they engage are always ‘technique specific’. They consider speed to be more impotent than strength because in a fight what causes defeat is often the punch you don’t see coming not the heavy punches. An example for this is Mendoza who weighed only 160 pounds (73 kg), and his fighting style therefore emphasized speed over brute strength.
Boxing is a sport that evolved to help skill survive over strength. During the bare knuckle era of boxing they had no gloves, no weight division and very little rules. They fought for an agreed amount while the audience wagered on who would win. Jack Broughton is credited with taking the first steps toward boxing’s acceptance as a respectable athletic endeavour. He made it illegal to grab an opponent below the waist, hitting a downed opponent was forbidden, he also introduced boxing gloves to protect the boxers fist and the opponents head. It is said that Broughton sought such regulations after one of his opponents died as a result of his fight-related injuries. These rules where followed until John Graham Bell introduced the queensberry rules. The Queensberry rules differed from the London rules in four major respects: contestants wore padded gloves; a round consisted of three minutes of fighting followed by a minute of rest; wrestling was illegal; and any fighter who went down had to get up unaided within 10 seconds. During the 19th and again at the beginning of the 20th century, the popularity of boxing brought about the formation of weight divisions other than the heavyweight class to eliminate the handicap of smaller contestants’ having to concede excessive weight to their opponents. Therefore, a fighter would always end up fighting someone of the same weight division and those who depend only on strength will inevitable meet there match in an opponent who knows the science of the sport.
In a boxing audience prefer to watch toe to toe fights. As a result, Defensive boxing faces a lot of prejudice. It existed from the beginning of boxing when fighters used to fall down to avoid punches. Technically it was against the rules of bare knuckle boxing to fall down without being hit or thrown but this was easy to fake. This was treated as cowardice by the audience. The technique came to be known as “shifting” and as time went by the technique evolved and people who succeeded by using this technique increased and it gained acceptance in the boxing community. Today’s pound-for-pound leader, Floyd Mayweather Jr., is one of the greatest “shifters” of all time. In fights where one fighter focus on attack and the other on defense, the judgments are very close. But if the fight goes the distance the winner is always the fighter who lands the most punishing punches. Even so the prejudice against defensive boxing still exist because does not consider it to be elegant. But there is no shortage of practice the art since its very effective. In the end boxing is a sport and not a street fight.
Street fights are similar to boxing during bare knuckle era where there were no rules, no gloves and very dangerous. In a boxing match there is a set time for each round and time to rest but a street fight does not end till one of the fighters are down. The possibility of getting hurt is much larger in a street fight. Since such fights are bare fist it is much easier to cut skin or break your hand by striking your opponents forehead or elbow. As the fight drags on you are more and more in danger. So the best way to escape danger is to end the fight as soon as possible by a knock out. What is known as the knockout punch is landed on the jaw usually on the side. It can be delivered from the side or in front. The force of the blow necessary to produce unconsciousness depends upon two things the jaw that is hit and the power of the blow. A comparatively light punch will be sufficient for the average untrained man, while there are some professional boxers whom it is almost impossible to knock out, because of the strength and formation of their jaws.
In the end strength is an important factor in a fight. Depending on it in a street fight is not a bad choice. But boxing is a sport and it is unlikely that you would face an opponent who is bigger or smaller than you. In these circumstances it is fatal to depend only on strength. Boxing evolved in such a way that a person who has time in hand and spirit to train can overcome someone who is senior to him with more years of experience. Martial arts are called ‘arts’ because of the possibility of spirit and technique to overcome brute strength. Boxing held onto this concept throughout its development and so it can be said that the essence of boxing is certainly skill over strength.