Defending Defense - A Story of the Utterly Unappreciated
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Defending Defense - A Story of the Utterly Unappreciated
By Zito, Doghouse Boxing (Aug 5, 2015)

Ear - Eye - Boxing
Doghouse Boxing
Once again, the viewing public has been summoned to the jury box. It seems that another case of domestic verbal assault has taken place within the confines of professional boxing. Some months ago, a major cable network series compiled a list with the intention of depriving certain fighters of their hard earned financial credits. Leading this barrage of slanderous battery is a recent International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee, who also has a powerful media platform as the host of this cable television series. It may not have been that much of a problem if this had only been an isolated incident on a local station, but others are starting to follow the model of wordily decent that this 'Hall of Fame' commentator has made popular. And now due to this malicious dialect, an entire fighting style may be on the verge of extinction.

These unfair oral opinions and assessments are directly impacting a class of fighter that truly does not deserve this criticism. Yet in the court of pubic opinion, the people who are often seen and heard have the most influence on public perception. Should this be the case in all matters? Does the loudest speaking person in a room always have validity toward their statements? In the world of professional boxing, the promoters, commentators, and sports journalist are the loudest in the room, and only they have the access to express their 'expert' opinions. The fighters, who are the hardest workers and the main attractions, have the smallest voice. Without difficulty, a boxing entity or organization can promote their own agenda, and then claim that they are doing what the fans demand. It is enormously unjustified for a television network to use the domain of broadcast to produce a list of boring/non-action fighters. It is also a travesty that a highly recognizable figure in the boxing press would find it reasonable to speak negatively on the very individuals that allow him to succeed at his own personal profession.

Overall, boxing is a physically and mentally demanding activity, but at the end of the day it is ultimately a show. All fighters fight for the crowd. It does not matter if the pay-per-view is sold out or the clubhouse is partially empty, the people watching these bouts are the ones who are paying the fighters. If people do not want to see a particular fighter, that fighter will generate very little revenue for themselves and maybe for their families. Full time boxers generally have no other way of earning income outside of the ring. When was the last time a boxer has been seen endorsing clothes, food and beverages, general exercise equipment, or anything else popular for that matter? In most instances, the production of a fighter, during a bout, is directly related to the amount of income they will receive going forward. If a fighter engages in a highly competitive and exciting fight, they will more than likely be compensated at an even higher rate for their next scheduled bout. There is just one problem with this scenario. Many fighters do not get the positive microphone treatment that is necessary to generate interest in their ongoing careers. There are a few commentary 'skill bigots' willing to discredit any fighter that does not go all out to slaughter their opponent. These media voices attempt to purposely mislead the viewing audience into believing that certain boxing tactics are not worthy of acclaim and do not generate excitement.

Some in the boxing press may say that the public do not like watching boxing matches where too much defense is administered. If that was the case, an educated boxing spokesperson should do their best to enlighten the viewers on the exciting aspects of defense. A large number of viewers do not have knowledge of the many intricate dimensions in pugilism. It should be the responsibility of the commentators to inform the fight audience about the craftiness and allure of defensive fighting so that they would have more of an appreciation for this skill. With an increasing knowledge of total boxing, coming from sports shows and commentating, the public would learn to also find the elusive side of boxing exciting, which would generate more profits for everyone financially associated within the business of prizefighting.

What exactly does a competitive or an exciting fight look like? Well that should be up to the individual observing a specific bout. Different things intrigue different people. Two fighters constantly landing heavy punches can be considered exciting and maybe even competitive. There may not always be form or organization to their technique, but these sort of fights and fighters are known as crowd pleasers. The entertainment value of the 'blood & guts' bout cannot be denied, but that is not how the competition of boxing is totally based. Many fighters have different skills and advantages apart from one another. When a boxer has the ability to avoid offensive attacks and counter punch, why shouldn't they use it to their advantage.

Two fighters playing physical chess can also be entertaining. In boxing, the object is to strike your opponent while not getting struck. To do that consistently takes an extraordinary amount of skill, energy, focus, and dedication. The best pugilist usually can create and avoid continual contact on their own terms. Do not get things mistaken. It is well understood that fighting and running are two separate things. There are fights where one fighter may get hit a lot, but they work hard and are effective at landing shots. They should, and usually do, get the win and the credit in a bout where the opposing fighter may not get hit as much, but they rarely throw punches. Constant contact seekers are highly spoken of during a fight, even if they are sometimes non-effective. Fighters who put defensive efficiency first often do not get the same positive feedback despite their effectiveness.

Anyone with arms can throw punches, and anyone with legs can run from them. But it takes an acute sense of craftiness to stay within the punching range of a person and to not get hit by their offensive attacks, especially when that person is trained to hit the mark. If you look hard enough, you can find two teenagers, or adults, slugging it out on the street. That may be entertaining, but that is not boxing. Now if you take the same two teenagers, or adults, and train them daily in boxing, after a year their fight would more than likely look much different. Blocking, slipping the head to the side, and ducking would be a more consistent part of their fighting actions. A street fight is usually a sloppy offensive affair because the people involved generally throw non-damaging punches with no technique, and they rarely know how to properly avoid strikes. Is this where the competition of boxing is headed?

Defense means more in boxing than it does in all other physical competitions. The lack of defense in other sports usually results in a blowout and hurt pride. Emergency medical attention is often required when a lack of defense is prevalent during a boxing match. What other athletic activity has a participant immediately losing after an impressive early score? Protection from abuse is paramount to boxing, and the fighters that learn to perfect this art should be commended on the acquisition of an extremely difficult skill. Within the brutality of such a hazardous occupation, is it rational to denounce a fighter for mastering a crucial part of the sweet science?

Imagine the most profound artist in the world receiving negative reviews because a napkin, instead of a paint brush, was used to create their wondrous works. Better yet, what if the scientific community didn't take Albert Einstein serious because he scribbled all of his calculations while dodging punches from a 290 pound gorilla? Think about some of the critical commentary that you would hear. "Albert is a disgrace! He seems to always come up with the correct conclusions, but they need to be disregarded because he does not stand toe-to-toe and write like a man!"

In all areas and levels of employment, it is common for people to function differently, as long as they are efficient. In most areas of life, people may interpret things different from one another, but they will ultimately come to the same conclusion. "You don't get mad because they took a different path for safety reasons, be happy that they have arrived with good food!" The same thing goes for boxing, and the best fighters will win no matter how perceivably ugly a fight may appear to some viewers. If a fighter has proven to be of a high caliber, why not give them their true accolades, or at least do them the courtesy of not polluting their careers? The style of a fighter should not prevent them from receiving their rightful revenue. No one should know this better than verified boxing intellects. Hold on! Maybe I myself am being a bit pre-judgmental by assuming that all broadcast representatives are knowledgeable in the pugilistic crafts.

Those aspiring to fight in the same mold and model as the defensive greats are under persecution. Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whitaker, Muhammad Ali, and Willie Pep are three Hall of Fame pound for pound legends. How would their defensive exploits be portrayed in this day and age? Would they find themselves on a list of non-exciting fighters? All three of these champions fought in an elusive manner, and they definitely were not considered to be brawling punchers. According to the critiquing standards of many in today's media, these three fighters may not have even been promoted to the general public. Many of their legendary fights may not have taken place in our time. Prominent press voices would have claimed that their styles were too boring for entertainment, and this may have made certain promoters hesitant to sustain the careers of these fighters. Theoretically, today's media figures may even have had it so that Whitaker, Pepe, and Ali would have never make it to the Hall of Fame. Their entertainment, therefore financial, value would diminish, in current times, despite their extraordinary ring effectiveness. Certain commentators would have complained that the uneventful styles of these three Hall of Fame fighters are not worthy enough of fan adoration. Can you imagine a world where Muhammad Ali would be labelled as boring in any fashion?

It is hard to understand how an individual can dictate what is entertaining to another individual, especially to someone whom they do not know. It is even harder to watch someone, whom has nothing physically or mentally invested in boxing, add to the struggles of any fighter. The road through a career of boxing can be an excessively difficult process that will effect a fighter throughout the remainder of their entire lives. As financially relentless as prizefighting can be on the promotional, managerial, and competitive levels, fighters should not have to endure the media using spheres of control to also chip away at their well deserved earnings. And for what benefit? Does a network, or a specific entity, receive extra dividends for bad-mouthing a fighter to the public? That doesn't make much sense. The promotion of all boxers brings more money to all who are involved within prizefighting. To verbally tear down a fighter simply for their style of combat not only can cause a state of monetary non-advancement, but it turns many potential fans off to the entire competition of boxing, which does not need any more bad press. For the media to direct viewers away from defensive boxing is not only an injustice to specific fighters, it ultimately limits the revenue in all of boxing. That not only damages the overall competition, it seems like an unsound business decision.

Nicolino Locche was a light welterweight fighter that fought from 1958 to 1976. His nickname was "El Intocable" (The Untouchable), and this was for a good reason. He is probably the best pure defensive fighter of any era, and there is footage to back this declaration. Nicolino had the ability to stand directly in front of his opponents, for long moments, with his hands below the waist, feet flat, and shoulders squared. Anyone associated with boxing knows that this is taboo to the health, yet not for El Intocable. As his opponent would let off a hurricane of punches, Nicolino would duck, slip, dip, and pull away from the onslaught. During his best moments, Locche was nearly impossible to hit clean, and I mean this is as close to impossible as it gets. That aspect of boxing is even more impressive than fast and hard knockouts. It also takes more skill. Let's consider it a good thing that Nicolino Locche did not fight in today's current competition of gloved prizefighting. He would more than likely be labeled with negative regard for his defensive showmanship along with such names as Erislandy Lara, Guillermo Rigondeaux, and even Floyd Mayweather.

The better the defensive capabilities, the more successful a fighter generally will be. Even if a fighter is tough and can take a shot, that doesn't necessarily mean they should always rely on that during a fight, or during the course of their careers. Unfortunately, the sweet defensive elusiveness of Muhammad Ali did not last, and so he depended mostly upon his toughness later in his illustrious career. The results of his extreme durability eventually manifested itself into a depleted physical condition. To ask a fighter to sacrifice defensive skill in order to receive punishment for the purpose of crowd pleasing is reprehensible.

There once was a small army marching swiftly toward a fortified position. As the army approached this mighty obstacle, the fort opened up with its heavy artillery. The shells exploded all around the small military force, yet the massive barrage did not inflict many casualties. Most of the soldiers had either made it to some sort of cover, rapidly moved out of the line of fire, or fell flat on the ground. As they were avoiding the big guns of the fort, a few snipers in the small army began to shoot the exposed artillery troops and the officers in the fort. This greatly reduced the rate and accuracy of the fortification's heavy gun fire. This went on for a while until the sun went down and both sides mutually retired from the day's violence. Which side appears to be more victorious?

Apologies must be made for using such drastic terms to prove a point, yet there are no regrets for the implications and insinuations which are based in violent facts. For every person, the difference between health and harm depends upon the thoughtfulness of decision making, and it is always a wise decision for a defensively crafted boxer to constantly apply that skill to the best of their ability. Even something thought to be as trivial as boxing defense can potentially have deadly consequences when not applied. Sometimes, the difference between life and death may be a matter of a few blocked or slipped punches. Why do we not celebrate that preservation of safety? No one should have to sacrifice their overall well-being for any amount of proceeds. It is almost as if certain members of the boxing media are attempting to destroy the art of the 'sweet science', and replace it with a purge of slugfest anarchy. Not to take credit away from any fighter that prefers toe-to-toe combat, but that should not have to be the required fighting style of a successful boxer. Without defensive tactics, boxing ceases to be a competition and we are left with nothing more than a partially organized fight. The quality of prizefighting on television should not always mirror fights at the bar. It is the responsibility of the networks to promote a professional, civilized, and fair brand of boxing. For the sake of all who love and appreciate true pugilism, lets hope that this is a trend that will soon fade away.

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

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