Article from bleacherreport.com by Steve Silverman
Boxers work hours in the gym to improve at their craft because it's a tough and demanding way to make a living and establish a career.
It could be the toughest of all sports to survive.
Many fighters are drawn to the sport because they love the one-on-one competition and may have seen their heroes emerge victorious in a big fight and they want to emulate that success.
Having that desire is a small part of being successful. You need to have athletic ability and the determination to turn that into fighting skill.
It takes hours in the gym and years to develop the specific characteristics needed to be a great boxer.
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This is the skill that will give you a chance to be successful in the ring. You need to be quicker than your opponent. If you can move before he hits you and you can land a punch before he moves, you have a significant advantage.
An athlete with quickness can learn the skills that it takes to be successful in the ring. A fighter who does not have enough quickness is in danger of getting hurt badly every time he enters the ring.
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In boxing, you are required to hit a moving target.
While you are sizing up your opponent and preparing to punch him, he wants to avoid the blow.
If you throw punches and miss, you will expend energy and give him a chance to hit you with a hard punch. If you throw a punch that lands, you are emboldened and you weaken your opponent.
In the video above, Manny Pacquiao throws hard punches with speed and accuracy. This has allowed him to become one of the best fighters of the last 10 years.
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Boxers need explosive strength to develop punching power.
However, it's not about lifting weights in the gym or following a certain exercise regimen. It's about timing, coordination and sensing an opening.
These are all developed in the gym in training sessions. Mike Tyson (video above) was one of the hardest punching heavyweights in the last 50 years. He was often looking up at his opponents, and they probably could lift more weight and were bigger.
But when it came to throwing punches with reckless abandon and viciousness, nobody could compare to Tyson during the early part of his career.
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You must defend yourself at all times when you are in the ring.
You have to stop your opponent from hitting your most vulnerable areas with power punches that are designed to hurt you.
Developing a strong defense means avoiding or blocking these punches. You can do this with movement, positioning your arms and your body and by using your powers of observation.
When you are fighting your opponent, you are noticing everything he does. You notice that after he fires his jab, he likes to double up on it or throw a quick hook off of it.
Once you understand your opponent's tendencies, you can take defensive maneuvers to avoid getting hit with those blows and then launch your own attack.
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It's not enough for a boxer to develop the skills necessary to throw accurate or power punches. Defending yourself and having the quickness to avoid punches is good, but it's not enough.
A fighter must train for endurance so he can do this for many rounds. A fighter may dominate with his athleticism or punching skills for a round or two, but when the fight gets into the 10th or 11th round and he has been competing for 30 minutes or more, he may become exhausted.
That means he is vulnerable to getting hurt badly. A great fighter can sustain his performance for 10, 11 or 12 rounds. This means he must be in remarkable condition, and that takes a maximum effort while training.
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A fighter who trains hard is on the road to having the discipline needed to be successful in the ring.
However, training hard is not enough. You have to conduct yourself outside the ring in a manner that will help you be successful when you are in the ring.
That means watching what you eat, drink and being careful to get enough sleep. That means staying out of trouble when you are not in the ring or training.
Marvin Hagler was one of the greatest fighters of the 1970s and '80's, and despite his muscular build and powerful punching, he was not a world-class athlete like some of the opponents he faced. He made up for that by training hard and having the discipline to get the the most out of his ability (source: Sweetscience.com).
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Call it guts or call it courage. It's one of the most underestimated characteristics that all boxers need.
When you get into the ring, you face an opponent who is trying to hit you with hard punches and hurt you.
Even the best fighters get hit hard in their bouts.
You know this in advance. It takes guts to get in the ring and fight knowing you are going to get hit. It takes even more guts to keep fighting with discipline and precision after you have gotten hurt.
Few fighters ever showed more guts than Muhammad Ali in the ring. He earned a title fight against Sonny Liston in 1964, and he was considered a huge underdog because Liston was so big and strong and hit so hard. Ali, known as Cassius Clay at the time, won that fight and a subsequent rematch.
In a series of three fights with archrival Joe Frazier, Ali absorbed many brutal punches and won two of the the three bouts.
Ali knocked out powerful champion George Foreman in a bout that many critics thought would end up with Ali flat on his back and severely injured.
Ali had many of the skills mentioned in earlier slides, and guts may have been his greatest attribute.
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They call boxing "the sweet science."
Critics may laugh at that self-important nickname, but there is quite a bit of truth behind it.
Watch two skilled boxers in the ring, and it's about employing a strategy and using your strengths against your opponent's weaknesses.
This takes intelligence. You have to know what your opponent is going to do in the ring and you have to figure out strategies that will allow you to perform at a very high level.
If you are not thinking four or five moves ahead—as a chessmaster will do—you are not giving yourself the best chance to win. You must understand what your opponent is trying to do in order to be at your best.