When I first started boxing, I had a textbook on amateur stance and style; hands high, left hand about six inches away from the chin, fairly upright stance and active defense with a focus on ‘cover and counter’ type rhythm. It wasn’t long before my coach pulled me aside and said that this was not going to work. He had me pull my hands to my chin, square up just a bit and start working on my head movement with immediate counters and punching while the opponent was punching. Did he know that I loved Mike Tyson!? Who knows, I’m sure I gave it away somewhere in my training. This ‘new’ Peekaboo style took me to a new level in the gym. I felt like I had a style all my own (of course this wasn’t true), I imagined I was Mike Tyson, slipping and countering, and knocking guys out!
Style is one thing, ability is another, and the ability to execute your style is even another thing. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t have the punching power of Mike Tyson, most guys don’t, even the pros. After many beat downs in the first 6 months at the gym I started to get into my rhythm and style, and in my first fight I was like a white Mike Tyson, I bobbed and weaved and came ahead with heavy blows. It wasn’t all glory, I was gassed by the end of the second round from all the aggression. I won that fight, mostly from solid defense and the ability to land clean shots when it was my turn to throw, I didn’t knock my opponent out and it wasn’t the Mike Tyson-esque performance I imagined. Which brings me to the purpose of this post, a reader writes in:
… I also noticed at the amateur level, everyone learns to box the traditional way. However, I really like the unpredictability of Floyd Mayweather’s style, or the ambush style of Sergio Martinez. I believe much of their success has more to do with their unorthodox style than just there natural ability.
What are your thoughts on fighting like the above-mentioned fighters… Sergio and Roy Jones Jr. often drop their hands, yet it seems to work for them. I don’t have amazing quickness, but would certain drills or repetition help me achieve similar working styles at the amateur level?”
There are a couple things you should keep in mind with any kind of style:
1) Your style is how you put each piece of your boxing repertoire together in action. To keep it basic, one guy likes to catch the jab and counter, the other guy likes to slip the jab and counter. This is the beginning of style. Boxing is about position, technique, patterns and rhythm. You can emulate Roy Jones or Mayweather, but you will always be you with your own style, this can be good or bad. Take what you learn and make it your own, remember you are trying to win and good fighters do what it takes to win. Style is secondary to winning. Just look at how Mayweather changed up his style right after he got hit by Mosley in round 2 of their fight.
2) Fight based on your competitive arena. Most top pro boxers started with a traditional amateur style. This is because the amateur game is based on punch connects and judges don’t like fighters who stray from the amateur style template. They think that you are ‘showboating’ when you drop your hands. I’ve never seen a guy who has dropped his hands in the amateurs win against an evenly matched opponent, the judges just won’t score for him. In the amateur game you have to play to the judges favour, you can drop your hands a bit and work an evasive style, but I wouldn’t go too far from this, unless you know you can clean up your opponent.
3) Dropping your hands has it’s purpose. The main reasons to drop the left hand into a Philly shell position or to drop both hands and be cagey are; first, you can move your head quicker based on weight distribution along your body, second, you can see punches a bit easier, third, you can shoulder roll to set up counters, and fourth, you can throw punches from outside of your opponents line of vision. If you are going to drop one or both of your hands then make sure you can back it up with real technique.
4) The best way to develop any style is to take risks in sparring and practice what you are trying to achieve. You have to take risks if you want to improve and not rely 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 rhythm are critical to your boxing style. Look at Mayweather who likes to pot shot and pick opponents apart from the outside, he controls the distance and paralyzes his opponents mentally. Look at Pacquiao who moves well side to side, moves his head and the comes in with quick combos and moves a bit only to come in with a second set of combos. Look at Manuel Marquez who has slick and measured counterpunching as he waits for you to create the opening, and look at Victor Ortiz who barrages you with punches and forces openings.
All in all, your style is going to come down to your mentality, your level of proficiency with each technique, and your ability to put pieces together. Practice the techniques until you have them down and work your new style in sparring, take risks during sparring.