In-fighting is a part of Western Boxing that is only truly appreciated by people who genuinely love boxing. Many all-time greats – Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Roberto Duran, Floyd Mayweather Jnr and even the fleet-footed Muhammad Ali – were experts at fighting on the inside. Tonight’s lesson, which brought my client up to the eight hour mark of his 10 hour course in Western Boxing for Martial Arts Cross-Training, began to look at this range with more depth once the revision was tied up.
We warmed up with mirror footwork, and then replicated yesterday’s series of build-up drills for upper-body mobility and footwork coordination. At my client/fighter’s request, I spent some extra time looking at angling off, using “Sugar Ray” Leonard as a source of inspiration. This section was completed with a round of sparring, restricting the coach to mainly jabbing and throwing long hooks to encourage the fighter to use good head and foot movement.
This nicely moved matters into the realm of in-fighting. Last lesson I touched upon the clinch and the use of bobbing within the clinch. Tonight we spent a longer time in this area. This began with a revision on how to tie up an opponent, followed by moving said opponent. I see a direct connection between the way a Muay Thai clincher moves back and off into a “V” movement, and the way a western boxer like Leonard used his particular footwork from the outside. I would even go as far to say that such a movement can be found in the irimi/tenkan of Aikido. Next we integrated head movement. Western boxers need to know how to dominate and manipulate the clinch. Here they can not only wear opponent down, but break their balance. Understanding how to tie up the arms is a skill in modern boxing that predates the gloved era and arguably predates most punches we see today. Wearing gloves and the general rules of boxing makes grappling very limited – you can no longer throw or lock-up your opponent and technically you cannot really grip him – however, these restrictions make for the development of some amazing close range punching tactics and techniques.
After looking at controlling the arms, we used this action to send inside punches to their targets. I isolated the liver and spleen punches, before combining these techniques with head movement and footwork whilst in the clinch. This was then covered in two rounds of specific sparring. The first round put the focus on the fighter getting the clinch and the second round was restricted to just clinch-fighting.
Here’s some nice in-fighting drills filmed by ES News