by Steven J. Canton, April 30, 2010 and revised December 7, 2010
When I was young I used to listen to my father and uncles as they talked about the “good old days.” I would hear them say that the fighters of their youth would destroy “today’s” fighters. They would say things like the old fighters had more heart, were in better shape, had better trainers, were more versatile, etc. I told myself that I would never do that when I get older; that I would appreciate and respect each generation of fighters. After all, I came along during a “golden age” of our sport, the 1950’s through the 1980’s. The truth is each generation has had its share of great fighters and today is no exception. However, the major difference is that in years gone by there were many great fighters in each era while today there are only a few “great” fighters. So, here I am talking about the fighters of yesterday and how they would destroy the fighters of today. As I do so, I ask myself, “why?”

We keep hearing how today’s athlete is bigger, faster, stronger. We are told that new techniques and training methods are better, diet and nutrition is better, people are smarter. We have a day before weigh in instead of a same day weigh in. Fighters have a “Strength and Conditioning coach,” a nutritionist, a spiritual advisor, a massage therapist, a manager, a promoter, a cutman and a trainer. They take vitamins and supplements. They lift weights, they train scientifically…and with all that, they are not as good or as well conditioned. And as I think about that, I ask myself, “why?”

Boxing used to be called the “Sweet Science,” but most of the sweet scientists are dead. They have been replaced with modern trainers who have abandoned the tried and proven methods of the past. Fighters today are mostly one-dimensional, rushed to the top with careful matchmaking. It used to be interesting and enjoyable to watch a fight unfold. There would be a constant ebb and flow as each fighter would adapt and change during a bout, trying to gain an advantage over his opponent. Today, most rounds are simply a duplicate of the previous round, neither fighter able to change what they are doing.

I have often tried to figure out the reason for the lack of quality fighters today. I have talked to many people within the boxing business and there is no clear-cut answer. Everyone seems to be in agreement that there are few “teachers” of the sport today. Yet, each trainer today thinks that they are a teacher, they all think that they know what they are doing. Even fighters who are very successful have many flaws, make many mistakes, and have poor fundamentals. However, they, and their trainer, are not aware of these shortcomings, hence they never get corrected.

The old trainers used to say, “What you do in the gym is what you will do in the fight,” or, “be a champion in practice, that is where champions are made.” Boxing is a very specialized sport requiring both physical and mental conditioning. The conditioning required is highly specialized in order to achieve perfection. If a fighter is spending time and energy in the type of training not specific to their sport, they are not getting much benefit from that training, and, in fact, taking away from their potential to improve. All their effort must be spent in learning, training in and perfecting their craft.

A doctor has to go the medical school before they become a doctor, a lawyer goes to law school, an actor goes to acting school, and a boxer has to go to a boxing gym, to learn from a great teacher, if they are to become a great fighter. Unfortunately, there are few great teachers around today and few great boxing gyms. It is interesting to hear a fighter say how hard they work in training and then see how tired they get during a fight.

No matter how much or how hard someone practices the piano they will never be good on the guitar…unless they practice the guitar. A truly great fighter must constantly work in a boxing gym, on boxing fundamentals and boxing techniques, from a boxing teacher who knows what they are doing.

That’s what the great fighters of the past did, and that’s why they were great fighters.


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Category: Steve's Corner

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