If You Want To Succeed In Boxing, You’ll Have To Turn And Face Your Opponent

By: Jon Millstein

Another loss, huh kid? Don’t sweat it. Martinez is a great fighter. He’s agile as all hell, and he packs a right hook that’ll make you see stars. You’ve got talent too, though, pal. You have what it takes to kick Martinez’s butt — you just need to learn a couple of things from him first. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to fight like the best, and that means turning around so that you’re facing your opponent.

Remember how Martinez oriented his body when he delivered the KO? I’ll remind you, because it might have been hard for you to see. He was facing you straight on. That’s real important, kid. That’s how you win. You can throw punches all day long, but punches don’t count for nothing unless they’re directed at the guy you’re fighting, like Martinez’s were. Landing a solid uppercut is tough. But it’s damn near impossible if your hand is moving away from the other fighter instead of towards him.

Granted, you had a couple of decent hits out there. I saw them. Problem was you were only hitting stuff floating around in the air, moisture and dust and all that, ‘cause you were facing the wrong way. Dust won’t get you the title, kid. The local champ ain’t a floaty piece of dust, and he ain’t the ropes, the crowd, or the referee neither. He’s the guy who knows that if he’s throwing jab after jab and he doesn’t feel his fists smacking against someone else’s body, well, he should turn around. Recognize that, and he could be you.

I know damn well that old habits die hard, and you’ve been fighting like this since you first laced up your gloves. Maybe that’s just how you do things. Maybe you spent too much of your childhood riding in the way-back seat of an old-fashioned station wagon, and it flipped your world around for good. But I’ve seen you outside the ring. Using a computer, opening doors — interacting with things in front of you like it was the easiest thing you ever did. So I know you can move past all this facing-in-the-opposite-direction-than-you-should stuff.

You’ve got your work cut out for you, that’s for sure, but things could be a lot worse. You’re only off on one rotational axis — I’ve coached guys who were off on all three. Ever heard of Ernie “The Worm” Kalinowski? I was the guy who got him to stand up. I took him aside and said, “Look, Ernie, have you ever seen a boxing match? Nobody lies on their face when they do this. You’re tiring yourself out punching the floor like that — it ain’t doing you no good.” I worked with him for eleven years. He was on his feet by the fifth. Sure, his stance wasn’t perfect: he still leaned way forward, and he let his neck hang down so that he looked sort of like a showerhead. But after nine years on the amateur circuit that technique paid off, when old Ernie lost his balance, fell onto another fighter and got so tangled up with him that he nearly won the championship bout.

I’ve got even higher hopes for you, kid. You’ve got real potential. Your footwork, for example, is top-notch. You’ve just got to learn the move where you put one foot over the other, and then use friction to spin yourself 180 degrees. ­­And you sure can take a punch, at least with the back parts of your body. Do it with the front ones and you’ll be twice as good.

Listen: do you know what separates a good boxer from a great boxer? It’s heart. Keeping an eye on one’s competitor, that’s important too, but it ain’t nearly as important as heart. And man, have you got heart. You keep climbing back into that ring, though all that’s waiting for you there is a pain you may not fully understand, and which you certainly don’t know how to defend yourself against. That’s why I know you can be a great boxer. You just need to turn around.

What? Oh. Shoot. I apologize. I thought you were someone else. You look just like him from behind.


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