Yesterday as I was hitting the heavy bag, I had one of those “aha” moments – an epiphany of sorts. In particular, I was drilling slipping a 1-2 followed by a counter punch sequence 3-2.
After a few minutes of this, it occurred to me that this might be a more sane way of boxing.
You see, in terms of boxing styles, I’m a swarmer. Always have been and probably always will be. My legs just naturally carry me towards my opponent, whether I like it or not – which really sucks when I’m tired but definitely makes for more exciting fights. This constant pressure on my opponents is desirable, but it never comes without risk.
That's because a swarmer is always conducting a frontal assault. The bell rings, the blinders go on, and we attack head on where and when our opponents are most ready for us. They know we’re coming at them. They just have to decide when and how to launch their attack when we’re in range.
The result – you guessed it – we take a lot of punches trying to get in range and then stay there.
Sometimes, if we're smart, we try to mitigate it a bit by coming in at various angles, varying speeds, or launching an offensive on the way in, but the result is always the same – there is no surprise – my opponent knows I’m coming in to striking distance - so they wait.
More often - we just try to push our way through our opponent's defenses taking whatever punches we get as our price of admission.
So yesterday when I had my moment of clarity, it dawned on me that maybe my strategy is flawed. If my opponent is set and ready to defend as I attack, they are at their strongest. They are in a perfect position to counter or block anything I throw as I come at them no matter how fast or slow I come in.
Their base is stable. They are not off balance and they are able to react or worse - disrupt my attack.
I’m showing them my cards and hoping that if I overwhelm them with firepower that their defenses will crumble. It’s akin to smashing a fly with a sledge hammer or bombing an entire town to dust just to get at one individual.
In a sport as intense as boxing, where conditioning and fitness play such a critical role in success or defeat, the swarmer bets his success on being more fit and capable of taking more punches than his opponent. He’s hoping to quickly disable him before he runs out of energy to maintain the constant assault.
But hope is not a viable course of action…
I’m not saying for one second that a swarming style is not useful. But what I’m getting at is perhaps those of us who like to get in the face of our opponents can improve our strategy a bit.
What if, instead of charging ahead, we exercised a little patience and tested the waters a bit. Move in and out of range and see how our opponent reacts. This is nothing new, usually happens during the first round – the feeling out round.
But, instead of just feeling them out, what would happen if we combined our swarming prowess with a little bit of intelligence? Move into range and force your opponent to commit – then use that to launch into an all out swarming assault as per usual.
It would combine the tactical acumen of a boxer-puncher or counter puncher with the ferocity of a swarmer.
Exercising a little patience and launching your swarming style following a counter punch makes a lot of sense.
Rather than launching against someone who is steady in their stance, put them in motion and keep them off balance. They are not set and capable of defending in the same manner as they would be if they were stationary.
Their minds are not in defensive mode – they went offensive the second they decided to throw punches at you, so you have a split second to take advantage of that, and their new position, before they re-cock.
It could result in a lot less damage to you. Rather than just take the punches as you get into your swarming range, you use them to your advantage effectively blocking, slipping, or parrying them to open up an unobstructed lane you can use to launch an all out assault.
When you’re done, or need a breather, you extract yourself – regroup – and then get busy on a second assault in the same manner.
Rocky Marciano vs Joe Frazier
Both of these guys are swarmers. They constantly pressure their opponents and fight on the inside.
I admire Rocky's tenacity and his record speaks for itself - he's a frickin machine and his strategy was always to out condition and out hit his opponent, but have a quick look at how he boxes. Notice that when he pressures his opponent he isn't doing a whole lot to counter or even avoid those initial punches as he gets close - he just accepts them as a cost of doing business.
Now contrast that with Joe Frazier - also a formidable swarmer - and also a great boxer. Compare Rocky's advance to his target to Joe's.
In my opinion, Joe does a lot better at neutralizing those initial punches to get inside and unleash his fury. A lot more head movement. Slips followed by quick closing of the distance.
I didn't count the number of hits each boxer takes in a round, but it appears that Rocky absorbs more than Joe does.
Visualize Patience in Practice
Going back to my workout on the heavy bag, let’s try and picture how this could actually work:
- Picture an orthodox opponent standing in front of you. His left arm is forward, right arm cocked to the rear.
- You move within his range.
- He throws a 1-2 combination which you slip right and left. (outside of both punches).
- You now have a clear lane as your opponent misses with the right exposing the entire right side of his body and head. Without hesitation you quickly close the distance and counter with a 3-2.
- You’re now in range and can continue on with your assault for as long as you want before leaving the danger area happy in knowing you just inflicted a lot of damage with relatively none done to you.
Of course, all of this only works if you have the ability to draw your opponent into acting AND can neutralize that attack. If you can’t avoid the beating then you’re no further ahead and might as well have stuck with your usual tactic.
And if being patient doesn't work?
Either way you’re getting hit in the head – you might as well feel like you’re the one in control.
Swarmers are formidable opponents. They are either completely stupid or completely fearless (there’s a fine line…). It doesn’t phase them to come at you with everything regardless of the damage they will sustain on the way in.
The only thing that stops them is someone more powerful who can totally destroy them when in range or skilled enough to move around them - forcing the swarm to chase but never catch. Eventually - the swarmer runs out of gas. When they have nothing left in the tank - they are nothing more than a deflated balloon ready to be pushed over at will.
By putting a little patience into the mix, in terms of boxing styles, swarmers become even more of a threat - they can negate that power of the slugger and defeat the defenses of the pure boxer – essentially making them the most dominant style in the ring.