THE recent run of UK shows has been a welcome return for the sport in what are still uncertain times for everyone. The two powerhouses of British boxing, some would say rightly, have led the way on a path never ventured along before, with the viewing audience tuning in to BT Sport (Queensberry Promotions) and Sky Sports (Matchroom Boxing), with Channel 5 (Hennessy Sports) competing for terrestrial viewers.
Despite what proved to be some competitive action inside the ropes, one of the biggest talking points in the lead-up to the pay-per-view Fight Camp finale among fans was the break-up of Dillian Whyte and his head trainer, Mark Tibbs. Only those privy to the inner workings of the relationship will appreciate the reasons for the break-up, although speculation is often rife in these situations. Whether the split played any part in Whyte’s subsequent defeat to Alexander Povetkin will never be known.
Boxing training is hard, often repetitious by nature and can even seem almost monotonous at times, with combinations drilled in until they’re second nature, coupled with the daily grind of runs and physical punishment. Many boxers now look to complement their boxing training with a strength and conditioning routine, but in years past a variety of differing methods have been implemented by some of the sport’s biggest names.
Boxing has been referred to as a form of ballet, where the participants just so happen to punch each other. Former cruiser and heavyweight great, Evander Holyfield, enrolled in ballet lessons to improve his balance and footwork, while perhaps the sport’s greatest exponent, Sugar Ray Robinson, was an accomplished tap dancer who was reportedly believed to drink ox and cow blood to bolster his stamina.
The “Old Mongoose”, Archie Moore, famously used to chew his steak before spitting it out in the belief that he could extract the goodness without consuming the added extra calories by actually eating it.
“Big” George Foreman may not have resorted to dance lessons or drinking ox blood but there are images of him carrying a cow over his shoulders during a training session. This may have helped him punch like a mule!
Keeping with the animal theme, former world cruiserweight champ, Vassiliy Jirov, was known to allow his trainer to release a dog onto him with the aim to improve his speed as he tried to run away.
Current pound-for-pound star, Vasyl Lomachenko, has applied a variety of different aspects to his training regime, including the use of dominoes – not in the conventional sense but in the form of stacking them to aid hand speed and precision. Touching specific numbers on a wall is also used to help his hand-eye coordination. Additionally, he’s a fan of puzzles to keep his mind sharp.
The habits of Muhammad Ali, Marvin Hagler and Barry McGuigan running in heavy boots seem quite civilised when compared to the reports of 19th century champion James “Deaf” Burke’s escapades. Holding on to the back of a horse-drawn cart while trying to keep pace until collapsing through exhaustion, only to be revived with beer and stale bread, can hopefully be consigned to a bygone era!
On that note, I’m off to the gym…