Professional style as a hobbyist

When I started boxing, I had a textbook on fan posture and style; hands up, left hand about six inches from chin, fairly upright stance, and active defense with a focus on “cover and counter” pace. It wasn’t long before my coach took me aside and told me this wasn’t going to work. It made me bring my hands to my chin, square myself a bit, and start working on my head movement with immediate counterattacks and punches as the opponent struck. Did you know you loved Mike Tyson? Who knows, I’m sure I gave it away at some point in my training. This ‘new’ Peekaboo style took me to a new level in the gym. I felt like he had a style of his own (of course this wasn’t true), I figured it was Mike Tyson, slipping and countering, and knocking out the guys!

Style is one thing, skill is another, and the ability to execute your style is something else. It didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t have the punching power of Mike Tyson, most guys don’t, even the pros. After a lot of beatings in the first 6 months in the gym, I started to get into my rhythm and style, and in my first fight it was like a white Mike Tyson, I rocked, moved, and came forward with heavy punches. Not everything was glory, he was gassed at the end of the second round of all the aggression. I won that fight, mainly because of solid defense and the ability to throw clean shots when it was my turn to shoot, I didn’t knock out my opponent and it wasn’t the Mike Tyson-style performance that I envisioned. Which brings me to the purpose of this post, a reader writes in:

… I also noticed that at the amateur level, everyone learns to box in the traditional way. However, I really like the unpredictability of Floyd Mayweather’s style or Sergio Martinez’s ambush style. I think a lot of his success has more to do with his unorthodox style than his natural ability.

What do you think about fighting like the aforementioned fighters? Sergio and Roy Jones Jr. often drop their hand, but it seems to work for them. I don’t have astonishing speed, but would certain exercises or repetition help me achieve similar work styles at the amateur level? “

There are a couple of things to keep in mind with any type of style:

1) Your style is how you put each piece of your boxing repertoire into action. To keep it basic, one guy likes to catch the jab and counter, the other likes to slide the jab and counter. This is the beginning of the style. Boxing is about position, technique, patterns, and rhythm. You can emulate Roy Jones or Mayweather, but it will always be you with your own style, this can be good or bad. Take what you learn and make it yours, remember that you are trying to win and good fighters do whatever it takes to win. Style is secondary to winning. Just look at how Mayweather changed his style right after Mosley hit him in the second round of their fight.

2) Fight based on your competitive field. Most of the best professional boxers started with a traditional amateur style. This is because amateur play is based on hitting connections and judges do not like fighters who deviate from the amateur style template. They think you’re “showing off” when you drop your hands. I’ve never seen a guy drop his hands in the fans’ victory against an even opponent, the judges just won’t score for him. In the amateur game you have to play for the judges, you can lower your hands a little and work with an evasive style, but I wouldn’t go too far from this, unless you know that you can clean up your opponent.

3) Dropping your hands has its purpose. The main reasons for dropping your left hand into a Philadelphia shell position or dropping both hands and being cautious are; first, you can move your head faster based on the distribution of weight along your body, second, you can see the punches a little more easily, third, you can rotate your shoulder to set up counterattacks, and fourth, you can throw punches from outside the your opponents line of vision. If you are going to drop one or both hands, make sure you can back off with real technique.

4) The best way to develop any style is to take a chance in combat and practice what you are trying to achieve. You have to take risks if you want to improve and not depend on what works all the time. You have to put your ego aside and risk losing a round or two to try something new, that’s the best way to learn.

5) Understand that distance and pace are critical to your boxing style. Look at Mayweather who likes to shoot and pick opponents apart from the outside, controls distance and mentally paralyzes his opponents. Look at Pacquiao moving well from side to side, shaking his head and coming in with quick combos and moving around a bit only to get in with a second set of combos. Look at Manuel Márquez, who has a deft, measured backlash as he waits for you to create the opening, and look at Víctor Ortiz holding you back with punches and forced starts.

All in all, your style will come down to your mindset, your level of proficiency with each technique, and your ability to put pieces together. Practice the techniques until you master them and work your new style in combat, take risks during combat.

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