Wednesday, August 29, 2012

BOXING: The Wisdom of Barney Ross.

Photo credit:  Wiki

The greatest Jewish fighter of all time, the second man to be an undisputed three division champion and one of THE fascinating lives ever lived. Father killed in a robbery, worked for Al Capone, degenerate gambler, after he retired he joined the Marines and was a decorated hero on Guadalcanal and later ran guns to Israel. Shortly after he retired he published "The Fundamentals of Boxing." I'll stick to the high points. Except for the parenthetical, the thoughts are those of Barney Ross. This book is more complete and in depth than Wilde's so I am going to stick to major points and boxing tactics.

"Only a small part of a champion's greatness lies in his ability. Far more important is his eagerness to learn, his flair for adding finesse and polish to his style. Most important of all is his love of the game. Every great champion was once a beginner. Without this essential love for the sport, he would always have remained a beginner."

  • The transition from defense to offense is where fights are won. Surprise is a major weapon.
  • All punches should land with a corkscrew motion to maximize power
  • Ross disagrees with Wilde in that he believes the uppercut can be a valuable punch but that it is dangerous if not thrown correctly
  • Jumping or hopping is poor technique as one cannot counter, sidestepping is far better as is the pivot.
  • In footwork, less is more. Move the minimal distance necessary to accomplish the goal. Save the legs.
  • Unorthodox fighters like Tony Canzoneri (the 1930's Roy Jones) should not be imitated
  • A weary fighter is more easily KO'd and KO's are a matter of timing and accuracy more than simple power.

  • Often the best way to begin countering is to take a single short step backward (See Salvador Sanchez or Joe Louis)
  • "A good defensive fighters learns to judge instinctively how hard his foe can punch and where he punches most effectively" (Floyd Mayweather anyone?)
  • Clinching is a skill that must be acquired to be a good defensive fighter
  • The "sliding roll" is taking a short step backward to avoid a punch while at the same time dropping the head underneath the coming punch. Now one is in perfect position to counter (as Mr. Miyagi taught "Best block is no be there.")
  • Parrying blows to the inside is preferable to taking punches on the gloves or forearms
  • Like Wilde, Ross emphasizes the importance of "swaying at the hips." (Think Sweet Pea)
  • Methods of avoiding the jab/hook are slipping, swaying, ducking ( a dangerous method) parrying (four possible directions), sidestepping and the simplest, catching it. (How many guys know these?)
  • The left to the body is best blocked rather than jumped back or sidestepped.
  • A straight right can be parried by the right hand or blocked by hunching the left shoulder (BHOP or James Toney) though a sidestep or a slip can leave one in a better position to counter.
  • No rules for stopping the uppercut. Various blocks or the sway are possible

  • "With a counter you accumulate the power of your own body and the power of the he comes to you."
  • Sidestepping is generally preferable to ducking as a set up.
  • The trick is to catch the foe off balance and coming to you
  • To counter a straight right, side step and throw a very short left hook. If it misses throw up your arms to block the next right hand.
  • Each counter should be a lesson learned. If the foe blocked the hook to the head? Next time counter to the ribcage.
  • The exact counterpunch chosen depends upon the method of defense used to avoid the initial punch. In other words a sway will lead to a different counter than a slip or a duck etc.
  • Quickness is critical in countering
  • Perhaps the most effective countering situation is stepping inside a left hook and delivering a short right to the jaw (Joe Louis anyone?)
  • When a fighter tires the right cross often disappears.

Offensive Strategy
  • "Greatest offensive weapon is a keen mind."
  • One must learn to feint to camouflage one's punches
  • Feints employ every part of the body, the eys, half punches, false steps, rolling a shoulder etc.
  • "Drawing an opponent's lead" is critical. This means showing phony openings so he'll throw the punch you want him to throw (Juan Manuel Marquez wrecked The Baby Bull this way)
  • Of course clever fighters know you are doing this, so be careful
  • Keep on the move, but stay balanced and prepared to hit.

Bodypunching and Infighting
  • Particularly effective against tall fighters
  • The liver, kidney's (then a legal punch) and solar plexus are best spots
  • To get inside foes punches, crouch, try to draw a jab, step inside and crowd him and try to get your head to the opponents left shoulder and let go with short, snappy punches and keep him there until you are done. (That's the way Henry Armstrong retired Barney)
  • When on offensive keep elbows close to hips to stop counters.
  • If on defense, sidestep and jab, if that doesn't work, close guard and throw uppercuts or clinch

  • Three goals-Bring vitality to highest pitch, increase skill and perfect knowledge of strategy (what I call craft)
  • A training schedule must be kept with clocklike perfection.
  • As a general rule a fighter should spend approximately five minutes with the medicine ball and light weights, an hour on calisthenics and 30 minutes each on the heavy bag/speed bag/double end bag, jumping rope, sparring and shadow boxing (that's 3+ hours daily in addition to running)
  • Keep mouth closed while breathing
  • Sparring should be full speed. Anything less is too far away from an actual fight to be of use.
  • Sparring should be done with specific goals regarding specific situations
  • Eat sparingly, Ross typically ate twice a day with proteins, whole grains and vegetables

Here is how Barney Ross closes his book:

Only a small part of a champion's greatness lies in his ability. Far more important is his eagerness to learn, his flair for adding finesse and polish to his style. Most important of all is his love of the game. Every great champion was once a beginner. Without this essential love for the sport, he would always remain a beginner.

For more information, please check out:

For Barney Ross-related entries, please see:

NOTE:  My deepest thanks to marbleheadmaui for posting this distillation from Barney Ross out-of-print book and to Douglas Century, biographer of Barney Ross, for the quote.



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