You’re going to move your feet, to jab then slip and counter punch. You’re going to stay out of range and not get touched. You’re going to……then you get hit with the first jab. “Abort Mission” the body says. “Move, get out of the way!” Another punch comes flying in and you take it right on the chin. Your body instinctively shells up. You forget how long it’s been, you wonder how much time is remaining in the round. The sound of the bell brings relief from the onslaught. It doesn’t occur to you until an hour later that you just spent 3 very long minutes being a human punching bag.
For some this excerpt sounds all too reminiscent of their first boxing sparring session. “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” This often quoted Mike Tyson line holds too much truth not to repeat. There is a steep slope to climb when it comes to applying learned skills in a sparring session (and a steeper gradient still, to utilize said skills under fight conditions).
It could be the naivety and over exuberance of a newbie, the perceived disrespect by a veteran, or a number of other factors that can sometimes lead to sparring sessions descending into an exercise in “punch as hard as I can and run”. Whilst some may argue that this is good preparation for those boxing fights that descend into chaos, this is not an ideal sparring scenario. Sparring, just like every other boxing drill, is meant to be a form of practice that conditions you for a real fight. Sparring mindset and efficiency is key to drawing the most out of a session. You will be honing your boxing skills under conditions as similar to fighting as possible but you shouldn’t lose sight that this is still practice. Getting over the fear of being hit, or the ability to maintain poise after being hit, like every other skill, is best developed through practice.
Untouchable boxers do not exist. You will get hit. It’s going to happen and on occasion it will be hard enough to rattle you somewhat. Get over it. Boxing is going to ask questions of you that will need to be answered. Even when training with the fight team, the best thing I can do to help a teammate prepare for an upcoming fight, ironically, is to find some way to hit them cleanly. The goal is never to hurt them but to ‘keep them honest’ as being hit means there is still something to learn, still something to work on and believe me when I say there is always something to work on.
I’m regularly approached with questions on how to improve a particular boxing skill or composure whilst sparring and my reply never fails to surprise. Keep practicing the same skill or technique over and over again, fine tuning your technique and removing the errors. Nothing beats repetition and time spent. Training isn’t glamorous but it is effective. All the fancy equipment and new routines can never replace the core requirement. To get better at boxing, you must practice boxing. Swimmers swim, runners run and boxers box.
Till next time! – AJ