Wednesday, August 29, 2012

BOXING: The Wisdom of Jimmy Wilde.

My deepest thanks to marbleheadmaui of for posting this.

I have been fortunate enough to find a wonderful source for old time boxing books. Mr. Clay Moyle. Moyle is best known for his recent biography of Sam Langford (which I recommend). From time to time I will provide book reports of sorts.

The first is a short 1927 book by the immortal Jimmy Wilde entitled The Art of Boxing. For those unfamiliar with Wilde he is basically the man the flyweight division was created for. A Welshman, Wilde is p4p one of the top ten punchers in history. He was tiny at 5'2 and for much of his career he fought at under 100 pounds. He usually weighed in fully clothed including his shoes and spent his whole career outweighed by 10-20 pounds. Yet somehow he knocked out over 100 men. While fighting in the US he often was forced to put on weight in order to fight legally as many states had laws limiting weight differentials. Catchweights indeed! Gene Tunney called Wilde the finest fighter he ever saw. Here are some of the points he makes in his book I found interesting. All of the below (with the obvious exceptions) are the thoughts of Jimmy Wilde:

  • Wilde was completely untaught. He learned everything through trial and error or by watching other fighters.
  • The most important basic talents are fast hands, fast feet and a quick mind;
  • He learned his trade fighting all comers, of all sizes, in traveling fair fights. The rule was one pound sterling to anyone who lasted three rounds. Wilde fought as many as 16 men in one day. He KO'd 15 that day but the 5'11, 135 pounder went the distance.
  • Throughout most of his career he fought with four ounce gloves;

The Stance

  • Upright. Wilde believes the crouch is not as effective;
  • Elbows at waist height, right arm resting across stomach, left forearm at almost a right angle to the body. Wilde believes this is the most relaxing possible position that still leaves one able to throw any punch in the book;
  • Weight on right foot

Attack and Defense

  • Defense is the most important element. This is shocking coming from one of the most offensively oriented fighters in history;
  • The key punch is of course the jab to the face. Hand and foot move together with no prior feint. Right foot stays anchored to the canvas so as not to reach or get off balance. The jab should be hard;
  • If the jab can be made to work? The rest of the fight proceeds relatively easily.
  • But another quality fighter will catch or evade the jab and counter and in this case balance is critical;
  • The likely counter is a right cross and swaying back slightly from the hips only, with feet not moving, leaves Wilde prepared to counter-counter the foe who may now be off balance himself (think James Toney or Floyd Mayweather);
  • Wilde also recommends the slip of the head. He emphasizes that you want to make the foe miss by only a little. The reason is it is easier for Wilde to stay on balance and to counterpunch with precision;
  • Wilde recommends a lot of upper body movement, but not a lot of foot movement. When they move it must be quick, but only with a purpose. Wilde preferred to stay in the pocket and pivot (think Pernell Whittaker). It takes less energy.
  • The chin should always be tucked but the head always up to maximize vision. Wilde emphasizes that the greatest opportunities come in the transition from defense to offense.

The Knock Out
  • Wilde never shoots for a KO. It is instead the inevitable result of doing things properly, of outboxing the other man. It is the result of so comprehensively battering his opponent that he can no longer defend;
  • The effectiveness of the right hand is usually dependent on how effective the left has previously been;
  • Wilde argues all punches should be thrown hard;
  • That requires tremendous confidence in one's accuracy and balance. Most light hitters lack that confidence more than anything else;
  • Speed is almost everything in doing a key thing, flustering your foe. What Wilde means by that is preventing him from thinking effectively;
  • This is when feints can lead to knockouts;
  • One should pursue opportunities to end the fight completely on the offensive, one should disregard what the other man might do in return. At this point Wilde may even square up to flurry and get the fight stopped;
  • Punching straight, and with the hands held below the shoulder, maximizes power;
  • Uppercut rarely. It is too dangerous to the thumb of the puncher (I wonder if he'd hold to that view with today's gloves);
  • When the other man covers up? Go to the body. Specifically the heart and the stomach;

Countering the Jab
  • Parry it, sway from the waist, sidestep it, 2-3 together makes for a great countering opportunity;
  • Wilde parries with either hand (something I'd never heard before). He makes the left hand parry effective by sidestepping at the same time to land a counter right cross;
  • When parrying with his right (the more ordinary method) he follows up by stepping inside and throwing the left to either the body or the head and then the right to the head. Wilde notes that classicists believe this move takes extraordinary athleticism and is a mistake for most fighters;

Injuries and How to Conceal Them
(think Jimmy Wilde was a man or what?)
  • Fighting while sick, or not at 100% is simply inevitable;
  • When a hand is injured it is essential to intentionally throw and miss with that hand. The foes must be kept thinking;
  • When hurt by a punch often the best response is a sham attack;
  • When a hand or thumb is broken a good move is to miss with that hand and then land a mild backhand shot when you bring it back. The ref will only warn you, it doesn't hurt and the foe will think the hand is functional;

  • Judgement, recognizing the true condition of the opponent, is critical (think JMM stepping on the accelerator);
  • At the end of a round relax entirely. Go slack. Never expend unnecessary energy;
  • Getting hit occasionally to set something specific up can make sense. Never make the foe miss badly. Make him miss barely;
  • Except when throwing the right hand, move only the left foot. Pivot off the right but don't move it once you are in distance. Use your left foot to chan ge the angle of attack frequently;
  • Do not let your man get yards distant or lean upon you;
  • Prioritize power over flashy movement;
  • Be quick anytime you move or punch;
  • The key is understanding what your foe is trying to do and countering it.

I hope you all learned at least something from Jimmy Wilde. I sure did.



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