Once upon a time, there was a boxer named Jim. Jim loved boxing and would train up to 3 hours a day, working hard on his conditioning and generally turning himself into a hell of a fighter. Jim knew he was good, in shape, and decided to reward himself with a vacation -- a couple weeks cruising the Caribbean.
Jim will be the first one to tell you that a cruise quickly turns into a battle of who can be the bigger slug. With food everywhere, the most exercise you get is walking ten steps from bar to eatery to pool and back again. Sure there is a fitness room, but Jim wasn't there to workout. He was there to relax, drink himself silly, and eat whatever he wanted -- and he did just that.
By the end of the vacation, Jim had thoroughly indulged himself, enjoyed himself, and was ready to get back in the gym. On returning home, there was a message waiting for him -- his coach had setup a fight -- the catch -- it was in three days.
Ordinarily Jim wouldn't have blinked as he keeps himself in prime fighting condition all year long, doing his best to peak when he plans on stepping in the ring, but this time, he knew he would be in trouble. He just felt heavier, slower, and not anywhere near his peak. Not one to pass up a match though, he called his coach back and said he'd take it.
So what happened to Jim when he got in the ring? It wasn't pretty. Out of breath right from the start, he knew it was going to be a long fight -- if he could withstand the beating. Damn, he was wishing he hadn't let himself "go" for the week.
There is light at the end of the tunnel for Jim though. Because Jim knew what to do when he was out of breath, tired, and incapable of putting on his regular fleet footed show. The result, he eeked out a win, but it sure wasn't a pretty display of boxing.
No matter who you are and how much you train, you're going to have off days and there is a good chance those off days might coincide with a scheduled fight or sparring session.
On those days, your gas tank is nowhere near full and you've got to conserve your energy, using it when it counts. When you only have a 1/4 tank of gas in your car and need to drive 400 miles, you don't floor it and hope to coast on fumes. You slow it down, get the best efficiency you can, and use the gas when you need it.
Jim won that match because he knew how to cover up and choose the moments when his energy exertion was going to matter. Covering up is relatively easy and comes pretty naturally -- ever see someone turtle? The hard part is remaining focused at the same time.
Covering up doesn't take away your need to expend any energy as ideally you want to keep your head, arms, and feet moving, but it will give you a second or two to breath if required. At the same time, your opponent will be slamming you with punches, but if you're doing this right, they aren't going to be doing a lot of damage. So, he'll tire himself out, and as long as you keep an eye on what is going on, you'll find an opportunity to strike back.
To cover up, from a high peek a boo guard, simply turn both fists 90 degrees inwards to present your forearms to your opponent. Tighten your abs causing you to lean slightly forward and drive your elbows into your body. Push your hands tightly against your forehead.
This last part is important. If you have any space between your gloves and your head, you're going to be punching yourself in the face when your opponent hits your hands.
Now here is where you need to remain focused and keep your hands and head moving. If you just assume the position, your opponent is going to beat you like a heavy bag and it's going to hurt -- eventually. This position as it is does nothing to protect you from hooks and you're still going to be feeling the impact of hard straights.
But, if you keep your hands moving, sliding around your head from front to side and back, you'll end up deflecting a lot of punches and deflecting is a lot better than absorbing blocks. Plus chances of opponent connecting go way down when both head and hands are constantly moving messing up his target.
Like I said though, covering up is no good if you don't remain focused on what is going on. You have to be aware and looking for the opportunity to strike and regain the initiative. That's what Jim did. He played a smart game, knew his limitations at the moment and what he was capable of, and then adjusted his gameplan accordingly. Knowing how to cover up effectively gave him options.