There are some non-negotiable attributes and traits that many of the greatest fighters in boxing history like Muhammad Ali, Rocky Marciano, Floyd Mayweather, and Roberto Duran all share that separate them from good boxers.
Some of these attributes are developed inside the boxing ring, while others are developed outside the gym. Some are physical attributes, while others are mental.
The Ten Attributes And Traits That Separate Great Boxers From Everyone Else
Want to become a great boxer someday? You’re in luck. This article will explore some of the traits and attributes the best fighters in boxing history have in common. Master these traits, and you’ll be on your way to greatness in any combat sport.
Speed is arguably the best physical attribute a boxer can have. Many would say it’s a more useful trait to have than natural power in your hands. For starters, the physics equation for power is force times velocity. Force equals mass times acceleration, so the more mass and explosive force you have, the greater the power behind your punches. Velocity refers to how fast your hands reach the target, so the faster your hand speed, the more powerful your punches will be.
Many of the best boxers in history have been known for their freakish hand speed. Floyd Mayweather and Muhammad Ali are excellent examples of boxers who dominated their opponents with this attribute. One of the reasons why Mayweather’s defense was so difficult for opponents to figure out was his laser-fast counters. His hand speed allowed him to counter before opponents could get out of the way. He most likely wouldn’t have enjoyed the same level of success if his hands weren’t so fast.
One of the first things you should prioritize when your start training in boxing is using tools like speed bags, heavy bags, and open-ended bags to improve your speed.
Here’s another attribute you need to develop to excel as a boxer. The term conditioning refers to how well a boxer can take punches without getting phased by them. For example, it was Muhammad Ali’s insane conditioning allowed him to use the rope-a-dope strategy during his fight against George Foreman. Ali leaned on the ropes and allowed Foreman to throw all his hardest punches at him, while mostly only covering his head. The strategy worked as Foreman was quickly gassed out, and Ali capitalized on it by swarming him and scoring a knockout.
Even boxers who aren’t known for their toughness like Floyd Mayweather have excellent conditioning. Many credit Mayweather’s speed, defense, and technical prowess for his perfect 50-0 professional record, but his conditioning also played a significant role. As difficult as it was to land clean punches on him, opponents like Shane Mosley and Marcos Maidana managed to land clean powerful punches on him that would have knocked out lesser-conditioned boxers. Mayweather’s superb conditioning saved the day the few times his opponents got past his defense.
You can’t call yourself a maestro of the sweet science if you haven’t mastered defense. Boxing isn’t a brawl regardless of how badly some fans might want it to be; it’s about hitting, without getting hit. The only way that’s possible is by having a deep understanding of how to defend against punches.
Think of any legendary boxer, and they probably have excellent defense. From Manny Pacquiao to Mike Tyson, you won’t have much success in boxing if you allow your opponents to tee off on you at will as if you were a heavy bag.
Defense in boxing includes footwork, head movement, moving your torso, and using your hands. It also requires quick reaction times and an ability to anticipate your opponent’s next moves. Develop the ability to notice patterns in your opponent’s fighting style and use that knowledge to set up counters. Counters are one of the most effective ways to throw a boxer off their game plan since it makes them tentative to let their hands go.
4) Cardiovascular Endurance
You won’t have much success as a boxer if you always get tired before your opponents. Fatigue is one of the worst things that can happen inside the boxing ring since your abilities become strongly diminished. For example, you might start dropping your hands due to fatigue, leaving you vulnerable to powerful shots.
Fatigue can also make a quitter out of anyone. You might be determined to win at the start of a fight, but there’s a good chance you’ll start looking for excuses to stop the fight if fatigue creeps in. Fatigue doesn’t just diminish your boxing skills and willingness to fight, it puts you in danger since you’re unable to properly defend yourself while going against a trained fighter. Boxing referees often stop fights when fighters absorb several punches without firing anything back since it’s often a sign they’re too fatigued or disoriented to defend themselves.
5) Punching Force
Having enough power behind your punches to knock anyone out is a useful skill to have. Knockouts are one of the most entertaining aspects of boxing and it’s an effective way to make an impression with fans. Knockout power also allows you to change the outcome of a fight in a split second. One second, you’re down on the cards, and your opponent is unconscious the next.
We’ve already gone over how speed increases the power your punches land with since power = force (mass x acceleration) x velocity (how fast the force reaches the target).
You can increase the force your body generates when you throw a punch by increasing explosive muscle mass in your body. As a general rule, the more mass you have, the more powerful your punches will be. It’s why heavyweights hit much harder than lightweights. The lightweights are faster, but the heavyweights have more mass behind their punches.
Acceleration is determined by the fast-twitch muscles that power your punches in your shoulders, core, and legs. Strengthen these areas with explosive strength training routines and the power of your punches will increase. You can also increase your punching power by improving your technique, so more of your body mass is rotated into your strikes. Improving your timing also helps with power since it increases your chances of catching opponents as they move toward you.
Many of the greatest boxers ever are extremely disciplined, especially regarding their boxing training. Floyd Mayweather is one of the best examples of how disciplined boxers at the top of the food chain are. Despite all the wealth Mayweather made while he was boxing professionally, he never did any drugs or alcohol. He also never missed training sessions, and this still holds true several years after his retirement. It’s what allowed him to come back to face Conor McGregor after walking away from the sport for a few years. It’s what allows him to keep making millions fighting in exhibition matches all over the world fighting lesser-known opponents at 45.
Mayweather was so obsessed with training during his prime. He would often run back home after going out for some fun at night, while his bodyguards trailed behind in several expensive cars.
You’ll need that level of discipline if you want to become one of the best. You’ll need to be disciplined with everything you do from your diet to your training routines. The best boxers never stop training so any lapse in discipline can end up preventing you from realizing your dreams.
You also need to be extremely disciplined with the way you carry yourself outside the ring, especially in the social media age. Any little controversy can end up derailing your career. For example, you can make an argument that Mike Tyson never reached his full potential despite his many accomplishments inside the ring.
Legal troubles cost him a few years of his career when he got sentenced to prison, and the ear-biting controversy got him banned from boxing for several years. Be a wise boxer and learn from the mistakes of others.
Developing your footwork is one of the most underrated aspects of boxing training. Many casual boxing fans don’t even notice how boxers use their feet to set up combinations or avoid them. However, you’ll have limited success inside a boxing ring if you don’t develop fluid footwork.
Your footwork is one of the most effective defensive tools you have since it allows you to get out of the way of punches so you don’t take any damage. You still take some damage when you block a punch with your hands; it only minimizes it.
Muhammad Ali said it best, “Float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.” Your footwork is what allows you to float around the ring and puts you in position to sting your opponent with your hardest punches.
Footwork should be one of the first things you master when you start training in boxing. Work on it anytime you shadow box, hit heavy bags, or do focus mitt work. There are also countless footwork drills boxers use these days. Drills used by the Cuban boxing system are universally viewed as the best for footwork.
There’s a reason boxing is called the sweet science. Intelligence is one of the most important attributes for boxers to have, and it often separates good boxers from great ones. You don’t have to be smart enough to understand rocket science, but you need to study boxing like the science it is to reach your full potential.
Put two equally skilled boxers with similar physical attributes inside a ring, and it becomes a chess match. The boxer who is better at problem-solving, anticipating their opponent, and setting up their punches often emerges victorious.
Study any of the best boxers in history as you’ll notice they’re very sharp guys despite the misconception that boxing is a brutish sport. For example, Muhammad Ali is one of the wittiest people to ever live, while Floyd Mayweather is one of the most business-savvy athletes ever given the way he took over his career early on to ensure he enjoyed the lion’s share of his purses. Oscar De La Hoya owns one of the top promotions in boxing.
You’ll need lots of grit to succeed as a boxer. Regardless of how good you are inside the ring, you’ll have to deal with adversity from time to time inside the ring. You might also deal with challenges outside the ring that could hinder your performance.
Grit refers to your courage and resolve; it’s the strength of your character and your ability to overcome obstacles.
Simply stepping inside a boxing ring requires guts since you know the other person is going to try to beat you up. You’ll need even more grit to keep fighting when things get tough during a fight. There are no timeouts in boxing so you have to be able to power through any problems you run into inside the ring. For example, your nose might be broken during a fight, and you’ll need to learn how to fight through that if you want to be successful in boxing. Boxing as a sport wouldn’t exist if every fighter was ready to quit as soon as they started bleeding.
You also need emotional grit as a boxer. You’re bound to deal with things that might bother you during your fights like fans heckling you, an opponent getting away with illegal punches, or a referee who seems biased against you. You can’t let any of these things distract you during your fights or they might end up costing you the match.
An excellent example of a boxer showing the guts needed to get to the top is Muhammad Ali during his first major fight against Sonny Liston. Liston was the man at the time, and most boxing experts expected him to humble the younger, trash-talking Ali. Ali didn’t let his detractors or Liston’s reputation as a dangerous puncher get into his head. He got inside the ring, fought him as if he was anyone else, and won the fight. Ali’s grit was also on full display during his fights against Joe Frazier and George Foreman.
Accuracy is king in boxing since you have to hit a moving target. Every punch you throw uses up energy, so you want to make most of them count. Every punch you land reassures you, while everyone you miss emboldens your opponent.
Many of the biggest names in boxing are extremely accurate with their punches to the extent they sometimes win rounds even when their opponents throw significantly more punches thanks to how accurate their punches are.
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