Training for sparring -- it ain't easy at all
Before you can even get in the ring, you have to get yourself in shape
Published: Thursday, May 8, 2003
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 20:07
Editor's Note: Today's article is the second in a six-part series that will examine boxing at Albany's Victory Gym.
When most people think boxing, they think Mike Tyson, or Muhammad Ali. When most people think about training for boxing, they think about Rocky Balboa and his famous run to the top of the stairs, or his sit-ups and breakfasts of raw eggs.
The discipline and drive it takes to be a boxer is really not far off from Sylvester Stallone's portrayal.
After my first day training at Victory Gym in Albany, I could barely lift my arms.
I was an athlete at OSU, and although I haven't done much hard training in the last few months, I am somewhat physically conditioned to athletic training. This was different.
From 6:45 to 8:30 in the evening, about eight boxers and I trained. We never really stopped. There is a timer bolted to one of the thick beams on the second floor of Victory Gym. It usually gets set for two minutes with 30 seconds in between. You go for two minutes, then you rest, then you go. It's tough.
Boxers start to show up around 6:30 or so. They joke with each other and Dan Dunn, who owns the gym and does the coaching. When they have finished wrapping their hands, they each grab a rope and start jumping.
Each class starts with 15 minutes of jumping rope. This just gets your heart rate up and loosens your muscles. After that is shadow boxing.
This is a visualization and technique drill. You don't wear gloves; you just throw punches and bob and weave. It just helps get the muscles warmed up and allows some practice for technique, which is far more complicated than you might imagine.
When I throw a punch, I want it to be a haymaker.
"Most bar fights end so fast because someone gets hit and gives up," Dunn said. "But when you're going against a practiced fighter, he doesn't get shocked when he gets hit so you can't expect to knock him out with each punch."
It's all about speed. You learn to throw quick punches. If you try big powerful ones, you'll get beat down.
Plus you have to protect yourself. You have to protect your face with your hands and your body with your elbows. It's a lot to remember and think about in a situation where things happen so fast that reactions are all that can be counted on.
On my second day of training I was in the ring with Dunn. He was wearing target gloves and I was wearing bag gloves. I would throw a punch and he would exploit the weakness I exposed. In other words, I would throw a right cross and before my right hand was back over my chin, he would hit me in the side of the head with his left hand.
"See, you gotta get that hand back there," he would say. "Plus I'm trying to get you used to getting hit so you don't freak out when you spar."
"Thanks," I would say with a smile.
It's a rough sport and definitely more technical than most people might realize. Boxing is not just two guys throwing punches at each other. It is timed and practiced explosions. Boxers are athletes who can hit you with their fist in the blink of an eye and who can block a punch just as fast. Each movement has a purpose, each step sets up another, it's a perfect balance between agility and quickness, strength and fortitude. Your feet must be able to move and dance, but they must also be planted to supply the power behind your punch.
The other thing people may not understand is the workout you get by learning to fight. Strap two-pound gloves on your hands and then throw about 200 punches in an hour and a half. Oh yeah, then when you're done, you can do about 150 push-ups and sit-ups. When you're driving home you'll struggle to hold your arm up on the steering wheel.
You drive home sore and sweaty. It seems that your whole body hurts and you haven't even spared, you've just thrown punches.
Even with all that, you still can't wait to go back tomorrow.
Alex Close is a sports writer for The Daily Barometer. He can be reached at email@example.com.