Old Time Fighter vs. New Age Boxer
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Old Time Fighter vs. New Age Boxer
By Zito, Doghouse Boxing (Feb 23, 2015)

Doghouse Boxing
The world of sports, as with many other facets of life, has a habit of transforming and re-altering itself to a level of incredibly advanced proportions. The popularity of athletics brought about by the television era has handed the professional athlete a path to increasing fame and newly found fast fortune. Revenue for participating in professional sports have increased tremendously throughout the years now making the highest level of athletics more profitable than ever before. This durational adjustment compels the best physical prototypes in the world to challenge for a position on the grand stages of the present sports scene. It is exceptionally difficult for an individual to reach the professional level in current athletics with only a cerebral approach. The demand to make the sports world mirror today’s fast moving existence creates an infatuation with the biggest and brightest professional player participants. Athletes of today are now required to be stronger and faster than they have ever been in the past.

Owners, general managers, and coaches all focus on finding the physical attributes of what could someday become their franchise’s star player. Maybe this is due to the major sporting events of today being conducted at a remarkably heart-quickening pace. In almost every game, the football is in the air with plenty of time on the play clock, and the fast break is rolling with only a few seconds gone off of the shot clock. A pitch clock (the time a pitcher will have in between pitches) may even be implemented to speed up the game of baseball. To a certain extent, an athlete has to be physically talented on a superhuman level to compete on the highest professional plateaus of today’s world of expeditious athletics. Comparing most athletes of this era to the athletes of past generations would be an unfair overall assessment. Most NFL starting linebackers in 1970 would have a tough time making an NFL team today. A point guard in 1965 may not even receive scouting consideration to play for a professional team in the NBA of now. There have always been anomalies (Magic Johnson 6’ 9” point guard or Dick Butkus 6’ 3”+, 230+ pound linebacker), but for the most part, today’s athletics have transfigured the average athlete into a freak of nature. Does this athletic conversion throughout time apply to the competition of boxing?

It is difficult comparing pugilism to most other athletic competitions. For one thing, there are specific weight divisions. A welterweight today will not weigh more than a welterweight in 1940. There are different strength and condition methods available for fighters in this era that were not available or were previously unknown to fighters of the past, but a strong or fast middleweight in 1920 would be strong or fast in any time period. A fighter can acquire some speed through training, but some fighters are always going to have natural quickness over most other fighters. This does not change throughout time. In other words, Hector Camacho will always be considered one of the fastest lightweights ever to fight. More bulky and defined muscle can also be built onto a fighter, but that usually does not make a fighter any more effective relative to boxing. Although he is a good fighter with great physical abilities, the chiseled mold of Andre Berto does not make him quite an elite title contender in his current weight division. Hall of Famer Jake Lamotta, although well put together, was not known for having extreme muscle definition, yet he was incredibly strong, superbly well-conditioned, and exceptionally smart.

Depending upon the era of boxing, there are some differently perceivable advantages. During our time of now, fighters are not allowed to maintain a hold of any arm, hit behind the head, push their opponents around the ring, or any of the general mauling that went on with many fights of old. In this current time period, fights are scheduled months ahead of time, which gives the trainer and the fighter an opportunity to study their upcoming opponent. Weigh-ins are also held a day before the bout. This allows a fighter to rehydrate many pounds above their weigh-in limit before the actual fight. Most fighters of years past came into the ring closer to their scale weight, with the majority of weigh-ins being held on the day or night of the fight. Also, the heavyweight division of today is littered with larger men than were fighting at heavyweight in the past. George Foreman at 6’ 4” 225 pounds, who was an extremely big heavyweight in 1974, would be considered slightly above average size for a current heavyweight. Jack Johnson at 6’ 1” would have been a comparatively small heavyweight in present boxing.

On the other hand, fighters of previous generations fought many more bouts. The rigorous schedule (many fighters had more than 100 bouts within an 8 year span), and the diversity of their opposition made them extraordinarily experienced. In many instances, these fighters did not have enough time to train for the specific styles of opposing fighters. With only a little, if any, knowledge of the particular characteristics of their opponents, fighters of years past had to become highly adaptable in almost every fight. Fighters of yesteryear were also scheduled to fight more rounds than fighters of today. The endurance, stamina, and fortitude of these past fighters had to have been incredibly phenomenal.

Although many mental dynamics of individual fighters and trainers are different from past previous years, some of the ancient avenues of boxing are still in practice. There are many old-school training tactics and methods that are still in application today. Why then are there not as many old-school fighters and trainers to speak of? Has boxing been exposed to the same modern conversions of other athletic competitions? Tradition is certainly fading from boxing. To determine if this break from antiquity is positive or negative, we just have to answer one question. Can the old time fighters of yesterday matchup with the new age boxers of today?

The good thing about comparing pugilism throughout history is that time does not alter the physical aspect of what happens during the course of a fight. That makes it hard to excessively modify the bodily dimensions of a fighter. With all physical variables matching up throughout all time frames, we have to look at the preparations of an individual fighter before the time of their scheduled bouts. This means that we have to examine the difference between past and current trainers and training.

In the past, trainers made it mandatory to be physically tough as a boxer. Most successful fighters of previous eras were able to take incredible amounts of punishment while dishing out their own brutality for many rounds (Sometimes 15 rounds or more depending upon the time period). Stamina, toughness, and basic fundamentals were the focus of most trainers and training practices. It did not matter what the physical ability or appearance may have been for a fighter, toughness was always cherished. It is hard to find a championship fighter of years past that could not take a punch or survive through moments of punishment.

Fighters of previous generations were also trained with more of an all-around technical approach conducive to their own natural abilities of the flesh. Trainers would work with, or around, the physical capabilities, or handicaps, to make a fighter more boxing-effective according their own body. To put it another way, most trainers of the past were able to work with different styles to fit different fighters. Although many boxers of years gone by may have appeared awkward and unstable, they were able to manifest unordinary skill dimensions within this assumed unsteadiness. Also, many of the tough guys back in the day were not necessarily quick or powerful, but what they lacked in bodily capabilities, they made up for with precise pugilistic intellect. The greatest fighters throughout history either had exceptional physical gifts or were extraordinarily skilled, but nearly all of them had a certain mastery of the boxing basics. These past fighters also faced most, if not all, of the quality opposition in their weight division. Record did not matter. Undefeated fighters of previous eras were not discouraged from continually facing the best opposition available. A quality fighter was not downgraded because of a few tough losses. Most great champions of past previous years had 2 or more loses by the time they had reached their boxing prime.

Today’s brand of gloved prizefighting preparedness is different from the days of yesteryear. Many of the present training routines only focus on a boxer’s offensive explosion. Speed, power, and tenacity are the structural building blocks for a vast number of present-day fighters. A multitude of trainers will only put in serious time and effort with the most prime athletes. Even within training these physical specimens, the concentration usually is on gaining more explosion. Much of the time, basic boxing fundamentals are secondary. In many cases, trainers of today are capable of only training one certain style of fighting. The majority of boxing trainers can offer either an inside fighting style, a defensive/elusive style, an outside rangy style, an in an out offensively impactful style, a counterpunching style, or an all-out brawling style of training. It is rare to find a trainer today that can teach two or more of any potential fighting styles.

If a current boxer has the physical toughness and ability to become effective as a pressure fighter, they cannot go to any given gym to get the training that is cohesive to their style. The fighter may have to travel and reside in another part of the country, or the world, in order to receive the proper training for their own unique skill set. A large portion of boxers today are being crafted with a single style approach by their trainers. There is rarely any diversity in training anymore. So now when the strengths of a fighter are not working out during a bout, they tend to have no other aspect of how to fight. A lot of fighters are also being taught according to the likes and dislikes of their trainers instead of having their own physical statures crafted and constructed to make their bodily dimensions more advantageous relative to fighting. To put it simply, a large number of fighters lose their effective fighting identities with many trainers of today, which makes them less efficient boxers. Another fact in current boxing is that it is not required to have toughness to be a thought of as a star. As fast, powerful, skilled, and sharp as Victor Ortiz can be, does he contain the durability that it would take to deal with the rugged rumbling of Carmen Basilio for 12 rounds, and earn a victory?

Competitive matchmaking is also diminishing in boxing. Fighters are allowed to skip over mandatory challengers for less competitive fights with bigger paydays. No longer do we have all of the elite fighters cleaning out a division or facing the stiffest competition on a consistent basis (Andre Ward and Gannady Golovkin may be the only exceptions for now). The undefeated record is treasured during these times. A fighter with no losses is valued more than a fighter with one or more losses. It does not matter that the fighter with losses may have faced and beaten better competition and is more experienced than the undefeated fighter. From the pedestrian fan all the way to the everyday trainer, flashes of unbeaten combustion in today’s pugilism seems to take center stage away from the technical details of boxing craftsmanship.

One disturbing indifference throughout all eras is that the financial output given to a fighter has not dramatically increased with the passage of time. Lesser known fighters in the 1960’s may have made a few hundred dollars per fight. Although the well-known fighters of today are able to generate millions of dollars for themselves and their promotors, the lesser publicized fighters of today are generally paid a few thousands of dollars, if even that, per fight. With the cost of living much higher than it has been in the past, most fighters of this day are still receiving substantially less profit than their managers and promotors. The passing of time has not change the dilemma of a fighter’s monetary plight.

There are certainly a few fighters in every time frame that can compete with fighters of any era. But on a general basis, it would be extremely difficult for most fighters of today to compete against the fighters of the past. The changes to the rules and the shadowed officiating of modern boxing would not matter. With enough time, most fighters of the past could more than likely have adapted to the rules of today, and possibly could have excelled beyond the success of their previous careers. At the same time, to ask most fighters of this day and age to fight by old school standards would probably end with many individual negative results. The better skilled usually will prevail over the better build.

When a fighter is trained to focus on fighting technique and basic fundamentals during training, they tend to have a comfortably heightened awareness during real fighting situations. Developing the physical frame for power, speed, conditioning, and durability can always be useful in combat competitions, but the main focal point of a fighter should always be in their acquisition of skill. Many fighters of today are directed to concentrate on explosiveness and building extreme muscle definition. Although it may look good and add some initial fighting strength, but that sort of physical frame and eruptive fighting burst generally will wear a fighter out within a few rounds, especially if a substantial amount of punches are missed. The powerfully packed muscles of Mike Tyson were generated into a skillful force of collision, and he became the youngest heavyweight champion ever. When his trainer Kevin Rooney was fired, an obvious technical deterioration took place within the boxing skills of Iron Mike.

Prizefighters do not need excessive amounts of bulk or possess light-speed quickness to be successful. Most boxers of old did not focus much on physique or over-excessive rapidness. The majority these past fighters only focused on physical efficiency and mental awareness within all areas of boxing. The truth of the matter is that muscles do not equal mental toughness, explosion does not equal intelligent effectiveness, and the average old time fighter would more than likely defeat the average new age boxer with consistency. Congratulations are in order. The competition of boxing is probably the only athletic endeavor which can reasonably claim that their past participants can keep up with, if not exceed beyond, the current athletic standards of today.

By Zito

Buckle with the Knuckle is an installment of fight breakdowns, analysis and predictions presented by Zito and Tai of The Fightin’ Words Radio Show. Catch our host Butch, Tai, and Zito every Saturday at 6:00pm on The Fightin’ Words Radio Show on Blog Talk Radio.

Questions/Comments: Contact Zito and Tai at bucklewiththeknuckle@gmail.com

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