Click to Subscribe
▶  More from Modern Combat The Man Cave The Combat Space
Name Two Deficiencies in a Fighter
Crackpot Mailbox: Han Silo Wants to Know

“James, could you name two deficiencies in a fighter that would lead you to not want to coach them anymore and if it comes to that how is that relationship severed?”

Passive laziness is number one, the easiest call, because this guy does not get off the ground. There is no need to severe ties as long as you do not make the mistake, as a coach, of trying to provide Will. You provide Skill, he provides Will.

This is why experienced boxing coaches never try to talk fighters into training or fighting and why very experienced coaches will try and discourage new fighters, so that their time is not wasted on a dead end. When the lazy man comes to you ready to train, sure, train him, it helps you hone your craft, when he comes to you. But don’t rearrange your day to accommodate him. This applies to many endeavors and helps people sort out what they are suited for, as laziness concerning boxing might just mean that he and it are not a fit. He might be a real hard working skateboarder or billiards player.

The second deficiency is moral laxity, athletic hubris, a kind of laziness, I guess. This is the baggage most often brought to the gym by the naturally talented fighter, the guy who has exceptional balance, eye-hand coordination, keen timing, strength, speed and mechanical recall. If the guy has all the goods he is generally doomed to peak early and use his ability as a crutch. Ali, for instance, was totally uncoachable, refused the best coaching that could be had in return for a manager who would cater to him and market his personality. When his body changed, he did not. He just depended on his remarkable chin and got is brains beat in. That is a morally lazy man who will not test his character and risk growth at the expense of his ego, which is a result of is natural athletic perfection.

The counterpoint to Ali would be Marvin Haggler, who dominated the Middleweight division better than any other man after he hit the age wall and his body began to change. Were Ali fell into sloth Haggler reached for true greatness. With coaches no better than the norm for a champion and hailing from a small town where he could not draw crowds, Haggler found himself, the best man in the division by a slight margin, losing 2 decisions out of town. He completely reinvented himself. I was coached by a man who sparred with the young Haggler, who described him as “your typical, slick, black boxer, move and jab.” Then, after Haggler literally reinvented himself, going from dancer to hunter, my coach was shocked, and having handled the younger Haggler easily sparring in the gym, looked at him years later as a champion and was in awe, seeing a wrecking machine where once there was a window washer. Haggler had the character to change his nature, to challenge that wicked bitch Fate and win.

Again, the Ali type of moral slacker does not have to be broken away from in any fashion that might upset him. These men are engaged in deadly work and the coach has a responsibility to put his ego aside and let them go without messing up their head anymore than it is. Just stop catering to him and following his lead, and when you see him resisting the prospect of self-improvement, stop making suggestions. You could even keep coaching him, not innovatively but tolerantly, not making suggestions but just answering questions—he doesn’t ask, you don’t correct. If this does not get through to him he will stagnate at that level and not go up into more dangerous territory or he will leave you and seek an ass-kisser that will cheer him on into unnecessary peril. Even then, and even after the worst happens, so long as he is not disruptive to your other fighters—and very few fighters are—be there for him when he comes back, possibly having learned a lesson and seeking to break those self-imposed barriers, or more likely, needing someone who cares about him while he slides down the downside, something he is completely unprepared for.

All Power Fighting

A Fighter's View of Mixed Martial Arts from Achilles to Alexander (The Broken Dance) (Volume 3)

Add Comment
JJ PrzybylskiMay 24, 2019 5:04 AM UTC

This is deep shit and, at the same time, the stuff of everyday life. One could humorously apply Ali's hubris to a beautiful sexy woman. I mean a beautifully sexy woman who refuses to work on her weaknesses and make herself worthy of intelligent and worldly company as she ages.

Just look at how Ali aged. All hype. No dignity as a brain-dead narcissist/buffoon.

I always loved Marvin Hagler. Even at the nadir of my life I recognized Hagler's combination of humility and mean, I mean very mean, pride.
responds:May 26, 2019 3:25 PM UTC

Hagler has aged well and emerged socially as the serious boxing fan's favorite and would have been the favorite in bareknuckle days and in ancient times.

Thanks, JJ.