ESPN ranks boxing as the toughest sport in the world – a sport that demands the most from the athletes who compete in it. The rules of boxing are few and easy to understand, the blank canvas and no playing field or special equipment gives the purity of boxing.
Boxing has been a huge part of my life. Some of my fondest memories as a boy are rooted in boxing which include watching live telecast fights of former Filipino IBF lightweight and flyweight Dodie Boy Penalosa alongside both my Grandfather and my Dad, two senior members of the family, and my elder brother. The four of us would huddle in our small living room with a high anticipation of the main event.
I remember as a kid (and up until now!), my hands would sweat and my heart would beat increasingly abnormal leading up to the main event. Those that share the same passion would understand the beautiful art of boxing. However it may be difficult for some to appreciate the dedication, skill and heart of a boxer unless they have fought inside the ring and experienced the pressure that comes into it. The following are succinct description of what goes through my mind each time I step in the ring.
1. Punching technique and strategy – Throwing a picture perfect jab on a punching bag is easy. However, being able to throw the same jab in the middle of the fight while slipping an opponent’s’ jab at the same time watching for the power punch involves patience and versatility. Similarly, throwing a left straight as a southpaw requires timing so as it lands perfectly on my opponent’s chin in the middle of fast exchange and being able to execute this instinctively. Equally, I have come to learn and successfully employ non power punches using small tapping shots to distract and turn my opponent, keep them away, or set them up for bigger shots.
2. Establishing range is crucial – Controlling the range also has to do with controlling the pace. It’s more than having great endurance and great footwork. Range and rhythm to me are like the same thing, because they’re connected that they’re practically two sides of the same coin. The closer I am with the opponent, the more energy I will expend. From far away, both of us will walk around circling each other. Sparring a lot has helped me develop my own range and rhythm. By practicing at all range and paces going forwards and backwards, faster and slower has allowed me to fit in the punching strategy that enables me to stay in range of my opponents and shift directions faster.
3. Pressure – Pressure is more of psychological than physical. It’s not just about throwing punches. The challenge is not so much from stopping a non-stop punching machine in front of you but rather from understanding the intent of a man who will not stop coming until you quit. One of my favourite boxers who I enjoyed watching and an avid supporter is Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao vs Marquez 4 was a classic example of suppressing an aggressor. Pacquiao was clearly the positional aggressor and landed more punches both in volume and with significance with Marquez getting the worse of it. Marquez is a master counter puncher. Coming into last seconds of 6th round, Pacquiao committed to a right hand and walked in towards Marquez which missed, the Mexican found his opening and landed a short counter right on Pacquiao’s jaw sending him face first to the canvas (Needless to say, I shed a tear that day!).
4. Defense – In boxing, slipping, blocking, holding and clinching are the four standard defensive strategies a boxer employs. However, defense is also a state of awareness. By keeping it at the back of my mind as I box gives me a heightened sense as I anticipate what my opponent’s trying to do. At the highest level, my mind is working out what trap he’s trying to set so that I am positioned for a counter attack or get into the rhythm of evading the entire assault.
5. Balance – balance is one of the most underrated techniques in boxing. It is easy to get carried away with sport’s flashy moves that some neglect the value of good balance.Being aware of the center of gravity has been valuable for me. By having a good balance means to have a good foundation that allows my body to stay upright and stable so that I can attack, defend or counter without the worry of losing footing or compromising my position.
6. Eating Plan – as with any sport, a good eating plan is a crucial part of staying in shape and keeping up with the demands of the intensive training sessions. Eating properly increases performance, decreases recovery time while maintaining the optimum fighting weight. Whilst a boxer needs muscle and power behind them, they are conditioned by the weight restrictions of their weight class.
For all the hypes, press and hysteria surrounding the savage brutality of boxing as a sport, people often ask me why I participate in such sport. Over the years of training, I have come to realize that boxing is more than just two people fighting. In my humble opinion, it’s not about wild desire to hurt someone. Boxing is a game of strategy and carries within the first definition of the word. Boxing suggests geometry, lines and angles as well as containment. Boxing for me also mimics life in general, it’s about self awareness and respect for others; it’s about being able to move forward after taking blows and rising from the canvas.
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