Now this is a very important question and there has to be a distinction made here. Whenever you discuss boxing with someone, the question inevitably follows – who is your favourite boxer?
But should you fight like your favourite boxer and how does one determine what boxing style should I use? Muhammad Ali was a new breed of heavyweight boxer, no one had seen someone 6’3 and 15st move the way he did and punch as fast as he did, his style gave rise to many copycats wanting to fight like him. Then in the 1980’s a young Mike Tyson came out and scared everyone, now everyone wanted to fight in the peek-a-boo style like Tyson. More recently we had Floyd Mayweather Jr popularise the Shoulder Roll and Philly Shell, all of a sudden so many youngsters want to fight using the shoulder roll just like their favourite boxer does. All of these should ask the question though of what boxing style suits me and your general disposition and character.
Is it really a good idea though to fight the way your favourite boxer does? For example, my favourite boxer is Muhammad Ali, but if I tried fighting like Ali did, with my hands low and floating around the ring like a butterfly suffice to say I would get very very tired and then get knocked clean out because my hands were too low. So which fighters do I study? As a coach I would be helping beginners learn boxing and then help them along the sparring process so they could get comfortable learning how to attack an opponent. This meant very often they would be hitting me and I would have to use a defensive mindset in order to help them grow as a fighter. This naturally meant I developed a more cautious and defensive approach, fighting like Ali or Tyson(another of my favourite boxers) would not be ideal so instead I ended up taking a shine to defensive and counter punching boxers, guys like James Toney would be the main boxer I would recommend studying in this instance. That led to researching defensive wizards, some of whom I ended up writing about in my book Forgotten Legends of the Ring including Nicolino Locche, George Benton and Wilfred Benitez.
If you are 6ft tall and weigh 11st and Mike Tyson is your favourite boxer, Tyson would not be the ideal style for your body type, a better example perhaps would be someone like Thomas Hearns. That’s not a given, once you start boxing you will fall into a style. The style of boxing picks you, you don’t choose your style of boxing. Other factors come into play when ending up with your style, are you naturally aggressive? Do you like to come forward? Do you have a heavy punch? Are you quick on your feet? Even your personality has an effect on your style, All of these things will eventually decide what type of fighter you are and then you can go and watch fighters who are similar to this style. Right now the lightweight(9st 9lbs) Vasyl Lomachenko is viewed by many as the top boxer in the sport, and he is a treat to watch, what sets him apart is his ballet like footwork, if you are 5ft 10 and 12st 7lbs like me he would not be the man to copy. Don’t just copy a fighter because he is your favourite or because he is the current darling of the sport, you’ve got to find a fighter who fits in to what you do and how you are as a person, you might have quick hands so wanting to fight like Sonny Liston – a knockout puncher at heavyweight wouldn’t be the best route, you might be naturally aggressive in which case Sonny Liston would be a better choice. Don’t confine yourself to a box and force a style upon you, start sparring and noting how you feel and think in the ring and then start finding fighters who match your physique and mindset. If you are a short and stocky heavyweight for example, then sure maybe Mike Tyson or Rocky Marciano make good choices to follow. I didn’t really follow James Toney growing up, it was only recently when I noticed that his style of boxing would actually be perfect for me, so have a look at different fighters, not only will it help find your ‘boxing role model’ but it will also increase and broaden your boxing knowledge!
Boxing Coach Strength and Conditioning Coach Boxing Author of: The Boxing Cheat Sheet - Your Ultimate Guide to Ring Survival Strength and Conditioning for Boxing - Work out Hits to get you Fighting Fit! Forgotten Legends of the Ring - Ten Past Masters of the Squared Circle
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