LIFE doesn’t necessarily end with boxing. Tony Jeffries won an Olympic bronze medal but his career as a prizefighter was curtailed by troublesome hands.
“Up until a year ago, I missed it. I got depressed after retiring. I didn’t want to retire. But now I don’t miss fighting at all. My life’s better now than it ever has been. I never thought I would be saying this,” Jeffries started.
He had been training in the USA with Tommy Brooks and, after getting a green card, set up his own Box N Burn gym. The man from Sunderland sounds surprised at how successful he has been. “Life is really good out here, shorts and T-shirts all the time, the gym’s booming. We’re rated the best gym in Los Angeles at the minute,” Tony said. “Life is so easy when you’re not boxing, boxing is the hardest sport in the world, when you’ve got to diet, when you’ve got to train six days a week. You’re constantly thinking about your next fight.
“Not having to diet, in the sun, it’s like living on holiday every day.”
His Box N Burn gym has seen famous faces, like Thor actor Chris Hemsworth and American football player Tim Tebow, pass through its doors. More intriguingly top UFC fighter, Brendan Schaub has enlisted Jeffries as his head trainer. “It’s something completely different to boxing, but I enjoy it,” Tony explained. “It’s very important for UFC, for guys to have good footwork. That’s what I’ve been working on with Brendan.
“Footwork and a lot of feints, especially in the heavyweight division they’re normally flat-footed walking forward. Put in a lot of feints, head movement, just keeping the hands as fast as possible.”
Jeffries now writes the mixed martial artist’s training programme and handles his conditioning. He’s also in charge of Schaub’s corner for fights. “I’ve cornered an amateur boxing bout before but never a professional one. I’d never been to a UFC tournament and I went to Toronto, it was a packed stadium with 15,000 people or more. It was so loud,” Tony explained. “It was pretty nerve wracking doing that but it went well.” Schaub won in the first round and publicly praised Jeffries for his help.
With footwork, head movement and feinting essential for a boxer or even a UFC fighter, here Tony details some essential training drills.
I put cones in a triangle, start at the bottom in the middle of the triangle, then you go forward, in your boxing stance, up around the top cone, back round the bottom left, back round the top cone then bottom right. This way you’re moving in all different directions, forward back, diagonal, side to side. When you’re doing that you’ve got to concentrate on keeping your feet apart the whole time, never bringing your feet together, when moving to your left move your left foot first, when you move to your right, move your right foot first, when you move forward, move your front foot first, when you move back, move your back foot first. Never bring your feet together, they should be apart. To do that, you’ve got to do smaller foot movements.
Another one, you can scatter cones all around the ring and then you got your hands up and you move around and each time you come to a cone, you pivot either left or right and then go in that direction and go forward, you come to a cone, pivot, then go in a different direction. Or you come to a cone and you throw a one-two or a little combination, then change direction and go the other way.
What Tommy Brooks, my trainer used to do with me was just tell me to move my head after every punch or every combination. When you’re on the bags, or on the mitts, or shadow boxing, you’re constantly moving your head. He used to drill it into us. So before and after every combination move your head, this way you get in the habit of moving your head and then you’re not a standing target. If I’m fighting you and you’re just standing there in front of me with your head in one position, I’m going to throw the punches and I’m going to hit you or you’re going to move out of the way then. If you’re in front of me with your head moving constantly, it’s harder for me, it takes the confidence out of me throwing the punch because your head’s moving. If you’re moving your head as well, I’m thinking is he going to come back with a punch, when are you going to throw the punch. Keep moving your head to confuse your opponent.
Feinting, you’ve got to do it exactly the way you’re going to throw a punch… It’s good to throw a feint to see what your [opponent’s] reaction is. Say if I’m jabbing you and if you’re catching it with your right hand, then I know next time I throw a feint, your right hand’s going to come away from your face and I’m going to hit you with a left hook. So I jab you in the body, I jab you in the body again, next time I’ll feint the jab to the body, you’ll drop your hands to block it, I’ll come over the top with a left hook. But the feint’s got to be so realistic. So I’ve got to use my eyes, every part of the body to make it so realistic.
You practise it in training, shadowboxing, on the bags, in the sparring, with a partner. Another good way of practicing it and it’s great for the footwork as well was an Olympic drill that we did where, say me and you are using the ring together, we’ve both got our hands down by our side, in our boxing stance, I’ve got to try to touch your shoulder, you’ve got to try to touch my shoulder with either hand and you’ve got to move your feet to get out the way or move your upper body to move. It’s a really good workout. Then I can practise my feints on that as well.