Growing up in the 1980’s, Tim Witherspoon was one of the more well known heavyweight boxers. Of course there was Mike Tyson, but being in the UK we knew all about how good Witherspoon was because he beat the guy we all loved in the UK – Frank Bruno…
Tim Witherspoon was a two time Heavyweight champion and was from quite possibly the greatest boxing city of them all – Philadelphia. The city has a rich and deep history when it comes to boxing and if you’ve read my site or follow my Youtube channel you would have seen numerous breakdowns on old school philly fighters such as George Benton. Terrible Tim as he was called was another of the old school, taught by great trainers such as Slim Jim Robinson, Witherspoon had a robust and versatile defence that we can all learn more of the art of defence from.
Something we don’t see a lot of is rubber necking – today Canelo Alvarez does this and in the past the likes of Roberto Duran and Michael Carbajal were especially good at this and Tim Witherspoon was another who could use the subtle skill of rubber necking. This is a very advanced skill and involves turning the head to ride the punch, taking the sting off the shot – it doesn’t necessarily mean you make the opponent miss but by rubber necking you avoid getting caught flush by the punch and in effect you skim the punch.
The cross block is one of my favourite forms of defence in boxing, as an orthodox boxer this involves using the rear hand to protect the left side of your face and is very effective in defending the right cross, the lead arm is generally kept low but the elbow can be raised to form a more tight cross block. There are plenty of times I’ve seen the elbow raised high in conjunction with the cross block and the opponent ends up punching the tip of the elbow instead. The cross block can also defend against the jab and you can also combine it with a pivot to change the angle, other times you can slightly rotate the left hip(from orthodox stance) to get cover in or when raising that lead forearm as an extra barrier.
Witherspoon was also adept at using the cross arm defence. Made famous by the great Archie Moore, the cross arm is very effective in blocking head punches. This involves raising the rear arm pinning it against your forehead, your lead arm then raises depending on which shot you are intending to block – if it is a head shot the lead arm raises up to tighten the window and block the punch, if it is a body shot it stays lower. Witherspoon could even use the cross arm to ‘catch’ your punch and throw his hooks off it. The cross arm is very good for counter punching using the left hook.
Now in the video below, Witherspoon is facing one of the all time greats at Heavyweight, Larry Holmes. Holmes was also one of the best ever at using the stiff arm so it is interesting to see how Tim Witherspoon handled the stiff arm. We see Witherspoon using a couple of effective methods. The first is generally rolling under the stiff arm, rather than trying to push against it as many do, Witherspoon moves his head to make himself a slippery target and does roll away, he rolls in closer to Holmes to try and close the gap. The other method we see is that Witherspoon looks to land big shots when Holmes is trying to stiff arm him. Before Holmes can get set and line him up for a punch, Witherspoon will throw big hooks on the inside.
You see the old school boxing tricks of Tim Witherspoon in the video here…