Jul 29 2011

Gym Notes: Get Active.

My heavyweight Brian Holstein won his second fight in a row at the Ohio State Fair Boxing Tournament last night. He fights in the championship tomorrow. I like what I saw out of him as he is coming into his own in the ring. We are always perfecting in training and correcting weaknesses. The one thing that really has been speeding up his growth in the ring-and that of several other fighters in my gym- is activity.

We fight a lot. We fight all over in fight shows and all the big tournaments. Slowly but surely this pays off and fighters grow at a faster rate. Being great in the gym is one thing. That’s called being a great gym fighter. Being a very good fighter in front of a live crowd is another thing- that’s called real.

Activity pays off. You may have losses along the way but steady activity allows you to find yourself and your ring identity. Once you develop that awareness and experience, the wins start flowing as you begin to blossom into the very fighter you trained to be in the gym.

So get out there and fight!

Jul 28 2011

The Art of the Body Shot.

I wanted to share this article with you about the lost art of great body punching by Chris Jones. Well written and well-argued. Where have you gone Mike Mccallum?!

“Boxing witnessed a rarity on Saturday night in Las Vegas: not just a fight of relative consequence — when the dominant English junior welterweight Amir Khan faced American part-champ Zab Judah — but a body-shot knockout. In the fifth round, Khan lifted a right hand directly into Judah’s beltline. It was one of those singular punches that boxing’s remaining fans will talk about for a long time. Everyone will remember the night when Zab Judah’s bladder exploded. It was awesome.

After, Judah said it was a low blow, but it wasn’t. (He would have had a stronger case had he claimed that Khan dropped an elbow into his back right before the finishing punch, which he did.) It was just a fast, technically perfect punch tossed into the dead center of Judah’s soul. For punch connoisseurs, it was a thing of beauty.

Only its location might have been improved. I don’t mean the head. Head shots are overrated. Body shots are the essence of great fundamental boxing, the heart of it. And great body shots — all-time body shots — are almost always delivered to the ribs. Better yet, they’re delivered to that soft little target on a man’s right side, where, for whatever biological or evolutionary reason, a few square inches of his liver have been left exposed.

Making the short list of the modern era’s all-time body shots, the 1998 punch thrown by Roy Jones Jr. into Virgil Hill’s left kidney is probably the first to come to mind.1 That’s not wrong, exactly. That punch knocked out Hill for the first time in his long and mostly very good career, but more important, it was impossible to forget how it looked: There was something both awful and thrilling about watching Hill in those seconds after, trying to crawl into the canvas, his glove pressed to his broken side. Even in boxing, we rarely see pain like that. We see hurt, mostly. There’s a difference.

“Sometimes when you’re hunting, the shotgun makes a sound like that,” Jones said of his handiwork. “But I’ve never heard anything as devastating as that, or I would have given up hunting a long time ago.”

Micky Ward was a great body puncher;2 Arturo Gatti had a permanent knot, like a tumor, grow in his stomach after their epic trilogy finished in 2003.3

Ricky Hatton also has an outside claim to the body-shot title with the precision left hook that he put into Jose Luis Castillo’s liver in 2007. Hatton went for that spot time and again during the opening rounds of that fight, leaving himself vulnerable to counters. “I should have shown a bit more caution,” Hatton said after. But throwing that liver shot is like aiming for the target on a dunk tank. Finally, in the fourth round, he connected perfectly. Castillo twisted away and went down on one knee. The referee counted him out, shouting in his face — Ocho! Nueve! — and Castillo never once looked like he was going to get back up, because he wasn’t.

“It just about cut him in half,” Hatton said.

But my all-time favorite body shot is the one Bernard Hopkins delivered to Oscar De La Hoya in 2004. It came in a big fight. It was the textbook left hook-to-the-liver combination that fighters dream about. It came shortly after some really loud guy in the crowd called it, yelling “BODY SHOT!” over and over again. It was perfect.

Watching it again now, I love the brutality of it — and if you’re a boxing fan, you might as well admit that, deep down, you’re in love with the brutal — and I love how long it left De La Hoya on his knees, hitting the canvas with his fists. A head shot puts a man to sleep. A body shot makes him wish for it.

But here’s why I love that punch most of all: So many people thought then, and probably still think today, that a punch like that couldn’t have put down De La Hoya. He must have thrown the fight. It didn’t look like much of anything. It didn’t sound like much of anything. It was a phantom, a whisper, a glancing blow.

Those many people don’t know. I’ve taken a five-finger death punch like that, and let me tell you how it feels: A punch like that causes all sorts of strange satellite pain, express-delivered by your scrambled, panicking nervous system. You can feel a punch like that in the arches of your feet, in your balls, in your back, in your eyes. A punch like that somehow leaves you gasping for air and feeling as though you’re full of air all at once. A punch like that makes you feel, frankly, like you’re going to shit your trunks. But more than anything else, a punch like that puts a terrible picture in your head: You can see this black, spreading stain just under your skin, all of your body’s essentials bleeding out and filling spaces where they don’t have any business. A punch to the head can make you feel dizzy or woozy or sleepy, but it doesn’t hurt, exactly. A punch like that one, like the one Hopkins slipped into De La Hoya, makes you feel as though you’re about to die.

Body-shot knockouts are rare because of our modern obsession with the human head and its well-documented vulnerabilities; there’s something almost hard-wired into us to equate punches with faces. Noses seem like a better target, because noses break, and besides, fans want to see blood. Body-shot knockouts aren’t bloody until the victim tries to take a piss later. Body-shot knockouts also make it possible for fans to say that the opponent was weak or in the tank or just wanted to quit. They make it possible for the recipient to say that it was low or illegal or unsporting, the way Judah did on Saturday night. In a sport that often demands a more mathematical proof, body-shot knockouts are too abstract, too mysterious.

But they’re beautiful precisely because of their rarity — because they’re so fundamentally sound, because they require discipline and technique and art. Body-shot knockouts are boxing’s equivalent of a great wraparound, open-field tackle in football, or those nights when Michael Jordan went after Grant Hill’s ankles, because Jordan knew that’s where Hill’s worst weakness hid. They display an intelligence, a determination, a self-control that, for me, is far more impressive than fireworks.

They tell me that I’m watching a man who isn’t worried about how things look; he’s more concerned with how things feel.

Watch Oscar De La Hoya cry out again. That’s how it feels.”

Chris Jones is a Writer at Large for Esquire; he covers the American League East for Grantland.

Jul 25 2011

Weekend Wrap Up: Ring Generalship At Its Finest.

Khan beat Judah’s ass all over the ring last Saturday night. It wasn’t even close. I’m ashamed to have given Zab a good chance of winning. Zab quit, he punked out and represented Brooklyn wrong!

Props to Khan for fighting a brilliant fight. Freddie Roach laid a perfect fight plan out and Khan executed that fight plan to near perfection.

I was impressed with how Amir took control of the ring; he made Zab fight on his terms. His jab was good and his right hand even better. He moved wisely away from Judah’s powerful left hand.

Khan looked like a mature fighter in the ring that night. He didn’t allow Zab to get back in the fight. When Zab would land one nice shot, Khan took back control. That’s a smart and good fighter. Understanding pace, distance, tempo, and where he’s at in the fight.

Khan has a great trainer and teacher in Freddie. He is coming near completion of a well rounded fighter. Both their dedication to each other and their understanding of boxing is proof of this.

Boxing is more than throwing punches. Khan displayed that. He’s doing the little things very well and seizing control of the ring. His ring generalship that night should be studied.

Khan gets an A+ for that dominant performance.

I for one would love to see Amir rematch Maidana. If he shuts down Marcos this time, talk of P4P is due.

Jul 22 2011

Battle Of Execution & Corner Men.

Judah-Khan is the biggest fight in the Jr. Welterweight division this year. Where Bradley-Alexander displayed little flair, Judah-Khan should produce fireworks. This is a great summer fight.

Judah and Khan won’t be shy in this fight and both will bring it. While Khan has the advantage in youth, Judah has it with experience. Judah has more power, better defense, and I feel he’s faster than Khan. What Zab has always lacked is consistency. That could get him in trouble against Amir.

Amir’s toughest fight was against Marcos Maidana. He started fast but faded late. He displayed heart and grit though after being hurt bad and fighting back to take control. But, if Maidana’s wild man punches got through Khan’s defense, how’s Khan going to handle Zab’s fast technical heavy shots against a suspect chin he still caries?

This fight comes down to execution. Freddie Roach is brilliant with laying out stellar fight plans. Freddie is facing another brilliant mind and also a fighter who did what he plans to lay out for Zab. Pernell knows how to handle a cat like Amir and shut him down. To me, this is very stimulating to have two brilliant strategists go at it.

Look for Khan to fight a distance fight, keeping Zab on the end of his jab setting up that heavy right hand of his. Khan’s right hand could be key to timing Zab zipping in with his south paw stance. Khan has the technique, dimensions, and speed to cause Zab fits only if he executes.

Zab is going to use his footwork and head movement to stay inside Khan’s jab to land that fast heavy left hand of his. Zab must punch in combinations and not just pop shot to win. You can’t take a title away from a Golden Boy star in the making like that. I think Zab will beat on Khan’s body when he’s on the inside to slow the tempo to his liking. If the tempo is slowed, Zab can take over. If Khan controls the ring and keeps the tempo high, Zab could fade late as he normally does.

Zab has been working successfully with Pernell. Pernell has cleaned up his defense and picked up his consistency a bit. Pernell’s presence alone has improved Zab’s swag. Having a former P4P fighter and 4 division titlist in your corner can only help!

Judah has also been working with Victor Conte. Although Conte has a dark past, the dude knows his shit and understands how to train the better and rest it to make it better. Conte could prove to be the deciding factor in this fight too. Don’t laugh, not being over trained is a HUGE advantage.

So along with execution being a determining factor, the corner’s ability to guide and redirect their fighter will be everything as well. Freddie has Khan’s ear and trust, as does Pernell have Zab’s. If this fight is close and tight like it very well may be, the conditioning coach and corner man/trainer could be getting just as much prise as their fighter.

Execution baby, who ever executes their brilliant trainer’s fight plan is going to win. There will be no room for errors in this highly contested fight.