Just like there are Cardinal Sins of Boxing, those things you should never do inside the ring, there are also the Golden Rules of Boxing. These aren’t basic tips that reinforce good boxing form, like using your jab or keeping your hands up. Those are techniques. The Golden Rules of Boxing are ring philosophies. They are approaches and attitudes. They are the principles you should live by in the ring in order to survive and thrive.
Rule #1: Be unpredictable, both on offense and defense. Habits, good and bad, are engrained from repetition and boxing training is one of the most repetitious sports on the planet. However, in spite of the monotony, you can’t let your mind and body go on auto-pilot or you will always throw the same punch, the same combination, act and react in pretty much the same way. Instead, you have to condition yourself to think as you go. Don’t allow yourself to just go through the motions. Mix up your attack, vary your defense and make yourself unpredictable. Change-up your lead punch, the intensity you throw it with and the speed you deliver it at. A large part of being effective is based on variety and unpredictability. Keeping your opponent guessing will keep him on the defensive. Variety may be “the spice of life”, but it’s the main course of boxing.
Rule #2: If you make your opponent miss, you have to make him pay. Otherwise, what does he have to lose by throwing punches? There’s nothing discouraging him from being aggressive and taking chances, unless you make him pay a price for the mistakes he makes. A good defense is only as valuable as the openings it creates. If you block, slip or parry a punch, be sure that you’re in position to come back with something in return. Standing around, admiring your masterful defensive skills scores no points and gets no knockdowns. Be elusive, but be aggressive in return.
Rule #3: Step with purpose. Too many fighters waste energy, miss openings and are not in position to punch. Their feet are moving all over the place; before they punch, while they punch, after they punch and even when they aren’t doing anything at all. They’re moving, dancing, hopping, bouncing, jittering around, but never really take a meaningful step. Move when it is meant to accomplish something; when it puts you in range, gives you a better angle, gets you out of danger or places you in the optimal position to land. Step with authority, with purpose and a clear intention to gain an advantage. Anything else weakens your position and robs you of energy.
Rule #4: The same rule that applies to footwork and movement, also applies to punches. Don’t throw them if you don’t intend to land them. No one wants to watch a fighter paw, poke, and stab or slap with his punches. Pointless punches are for hesitant fighters, unsure fighters. You send a message with every move you make. If you are not confident enough to throw with the intent to land, then you are not in the fight and pawing at the air will not put you there. You can fake with the strategic idea of masking a second shot and you can punch with a purpose to connect, but purposely punching the air and poking at nothing, just to stay busy and create the illusion of activity is BS and EVERYONE knows it. You are not confusing your opponent and you’re not fooling the crowd.
Rule #5: Move your head before and after you punch. Perpetual movement is hard to deal with and adds an unknown that makes most opponents uncomfortable…and uncomfortable = hesitant. The unpredictability that you gain from constantly punching and moving sounds basic, but requires focus and energy. Commit to the constant movement and you’ll wear your opponent down. You will find yourself punching while he’s waiting and forcing the action because he’s expecting a stationary target that never materializes.
Rule #6: Accept responsibility. Win, lose or draw, you only have yourself or your opponent to blame. Contrary to what some high paid, well-respected trainers would like everyone to believe, a cornerman seldom wins or loses a fight for his guy. Can they have an impact on the outcome? Sure. Do they determine it? No, they don’t. Tinkerbelle can make everyone clap as loud and as hard as she wants to, but the magic is in you. When you place the blame on someone else, you are only disempowering yourself. When you own up to your mistakes, your shortcomings or poor choices, you can change. When you don’t, you can’t. Take your losses like a man and you’ll be surprised at how much of a better one you become.
The Golden Rules of Boxing are kind of like life’s golden rule; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” except boxing’s version is “Do unto others.” Letting them do unto you is the part you want to avoid.