Sunday, February 10, 2008

Some Thoughts About "Charging"

Recently, I was talking with a friend about boxing styles and technique. He commented on the tendency of some shorter boxers to "charge in" on their taller opponents head first, without even bothering to use their jabs or other punches. Since I frequently have to move inside on a taller opponent, here are some of my thoughts about "charging."

I use my jab a lot, all the time. I need to get inside and punch--that is very often a key component of my offense--but I have found that using the jab is the best and safest way to do that. Jab low. Jab high. Fake low and then jab high (nice to add a quick left hook after that one, if possible). Or throw repeated jabs at him while I'm working to cut off the ring.

I know what my friend meant about the shorter guys who charge a taller boxer head first. Some guys can pull it off, but to me charging seems like a recipe for disaster. For one thing, if you just charge in, you give up an opportunity to score with the punches that help you get inside. In amateurs, especially, that can really put you at a disadvantage since those bouts rely so heavily on points scored, and don't give you any extra credit for a hard punch unless you knock the guy out or really clock him hard enough to get the referee to stop the match. For another thing, not using the jab throws away the "built in" defense (as well as distraction) that you have when throwing the jab. You're a much easier target to hit.

That second point can compound yet another problem that happens when you charge: getting off balance. I can't recall seeing any boxer looking well balanced when he was charging his opponent. I have seen lots of instances where the charging boxer ends up in the ropes as his opponent quickly (and rather easily) steps to the side, or where the charger finds himself in a very awkward position at an angle where he can't punch, but can probably be hit pretty well.

Finally, if the other problems aren't enough, the risks of getting clobbered while charging are just too great to make doing it worthwhile. I have spent quite a few rounds in the gym practicing for dealing with chargers when my coaches thought I would be facing one. Charging can definitely be very intimidating when you are first starting out, but if you practice drills against it, charging seems like one of the most beatable approaches out there.

The boxer who is charging is in full view of his opponent; the boxer being charged can see everything the charger is doing and he's probably in a great position to launch his own attack with both hands. Think about it. If you're the taller boxer/puncher and if I try to charge you, when I end up at the edge of your "blasting range" (my friend's term), are you going to just wait for me to finish the charge, in effect saying, "Hey, come on in; it's all yours!"? I don't think so!!!

I think I learned to box pretty much the same way my friend did--placing a lot of emphasis on developing a good jab--so the jab is an essential element of my strategy. In addition to lots of rounds of using the jab on the heavy bag, I can remember countless more rounds of jabbing while stepping forward, jabbing forward and then moving one step back, jabbing while moving laterally to left and right, jabbing while circling, and so on. Heck, I still do those kinds of drills fairly often. I've been blessed to have coaches over the years who always emphasized the importance of the basics. I figure you can never really practice them too much. The basic punches, moves, defenses, and counters are the foundation of the sport.

Even after working on some new, "fancier" technique, I might still have to resort to the basics like a good left jab and hard right cross if I can't pull off the fancy-schmancy stuff for whatever reason. I had one bout against a taller guy who was about my level of skill and a hard hitter. I was ready for him. Man, I had been practicing quick hooks to the ribs and head, uppercuts for being in close, and so on: all the textbook technique. During the first round, I was faking a hook to the head, going for a hook to the body, and so on. The problem was that it wasn't working. The guy had kind of an unusual stance, plus he moved at some strange angles that made him hard to hit. Even worse was the fact that he was hitting me, a lot.

I was really frustrated after the first round. Back in the corner, my coach gave me some of the very best between-rounds help I've ever gotten. He said, "Steve, forget about all that fancy stuff. If you couldn't do it with this guy in the first round, it's not going to happen. Use your double-jab and right hand to get inside and then pound the guy with everything you've got."

I followed his suggestion and it worked great. The irony is that it was the basics, the Boxing 101 stuff, that let me get inside and start working the speedier combinations I had been practicing. The other boxer was a very tough opponent and brought out the best in me. It just so happens that the best was the elementary boxing skills. I love this game! Smile


Unknown said...

Hey man, nice tips about "charging".. I think sometimes the basics work best too, especially when all else fails.

Ray said...

I think charging in head-first is a foul. I support Mike Tyson's right to bite Evander Holyfield's ear because of the headbutting.

When I watch boxing, I want to see boxing, not one guy exploiting a 'loophole' and charging in with his head.