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Two Qualities That Fighters Admire
Crackpot Mailbox: Han Silo Wants to Know

“James, like you have said of many of your readers, I’m a middle class suburban guy with a high IQ whose never been in a fight and I’m curious, among experienced fighters, what would be the two traits or characteristics—qualities—that are most admired in another fighter?”

In the gym, the thing fighters admire most is hard work.

That is number one and why I was able to get free training space in gyms without being some champion. Because coaches liked having me around, working steady despite my injuries, age and lack of natural ability. Mister Frank saw me as a fringe character on one hand—doing crazy stuff like stick-fighting that no sensible athlete would engage in because I could not handle boxing with elite fighters. For a while, a couple teenagers even argued over who would spar with me because they wanted an easy punching bag. But if a tomato-can like James could put in his rounds, you could, right?

The best example of work ethic in boxing is Marvin Haggler. To see what hard, sensible, dedicated work can get you look to his career and note that easily 4 of his opponents where bigger, stronger, harder hitting or more athletic than him, and that he dominated all these legends he fought, even the decision he lost to Ray Leonard.

The most admired quality of fighters in the ring, sparring and competing, is being “cagey,” nuanced, adaptable, cutting angles, doing more with less, sometimes described as slick if some showiness is in there. Making a small movement accomplish a lot is the holy grail of boxing and also stick-fighting and knife- fighting and is key in any form of combat up to military operations.

In boxing cut-off punching, feinting, stopping, measuring, clean-up punches, slipping, rolling, parrying and catching and most of all rhythm are the specific methods that are most often associated with the cagey fighter.

Roberto Duran, in his two masterpieces against Davy Moore and Iran Barkley showed these qualities. And, also, back to Haggler, the middleweight King’s use of the jab as a power punch, executed like a fencer’s lunge against John “The Beast” Mugabi and other formidable fighters, falls into that category.

In stick-fighting and knife-fighting the first most valued cagey method, the things that make the difference between the top fighters is time & measure, which results in being missed by small margins and sliding in pinpoint strokes against aggressive fighters and is the result of long experience and lots of gym work. Secondly and no-less important is dominating the combat space, mapping the fighting area so thoroughly with your footwork so as to make it familiar to you and unfamiliar to your opponent. What we are talking about is mastering sequence stepping that is thrice as complex as boxing footwork with twice the range variation between non-contact and critical-contact positions as in boxing.

Overall, the cagey boxer is looking to use minimal movement at minimal range and the weapon fighter is using maximum movement at maximum range, with both seeking the unique advantage of an uncompromised angle.

Being a Bad Man in a Worse World

Fighting Smart: Boxing, Agonistics & Survival

Twerps, Goons and Meatshields: The Basics of Full Contact Stick-Fighting

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