Learn the ancient secrets of how to get your ass beat. Joking aside, I’m talking about how to lose a fight without getting beat up.
Everybody seems to think they can coach you through a losing fight. Every wannabe trainer thinks they have the magical advice to help you come back and win. “More jabs” they’ll whisper in between rounds, or maybe even the ever-popular “keep your hands up!”
Of course, this is easier said than done. You’re tired and you’re hurt. You can barely see the punches coming at you and you can’t get out of the way fast enough! Everything you do, your opponent counters. The natural instinct is to fight back by throwing blind punches into the air which tires you out even faster. Now that your arms are tired, your opponent slips all your punches easily and so you throw even harder—wasting more energy. The harder you try, the harder you get beat up.
So now you’re panicking and trying desperately to run away. You jump away with your tired legs whereas your opponent only has to walk you down. You’re trapped along the ropes and taking shot after shot. You even duck but eat a huge uppercut in the process. You’re tired, bloody, losing, and have no hope. Don’t throw in the towel just yet. I promise you, there IS a better way…
“The better way”, as funny as it sounds, is what I call the “the art of getting your ass beat”.
So what is this “art” all about? It’s about learning how to lose fights gracefully. A crucial skill when it comes to fighting! EVERY fighter must learn this. This skill is perhaps just as important as learning how to win fights. It’s not about learning how to turn a losing fight around, it’s about learning how to make the most of a bad situation.
It doesn’t matter how good you are. Sooner or later, you WILL end up in a losing fight.
You WILL be outmatch in athleticism, skill, or tactics and you WILL have to decide between 2 choices:
- Go out like a warrior and die on your shield. That is, to go out fighting until you get knocked out.
- Tighten up your defense, stay relaxed, and avoid as many shots as you can until the fight is over.
For whatever reason, many fighters don’t believe in #2. They think #2 isn’t manly enough or that it’s for sissies. Is this just machismo talk or is there actually some truth to this?
Without having to think too hard, #2 actually does seem like a logical choice. You’re going to be training and fighting for a long time. Putting your ego in check and preserving your body is a smart idea to keep yourself able to fight bigger battles later. It’s more important to learn than it is to take a beating. Why get beat up if there is no benefit other than to make you feel tough?
So does that make #2 the winning choice in all occasions? It depends…
Going For Broke VS Minimizing Damage
#1 (Going all out) is for real competitions. When you’re losing a big fight. A loss is a loss. This loss could mean a tournament elimination in the amateurs or a title belt loss in the professional ranks. You might as well go for broke, and at the very least entertain the crowd. Who knows, you might actually win! That’s much better than accepting a loss. Going all out is totally worth it when there’s actually a reward for winning!
#2 (Going into defensive mode) is for training. Whenever you’re losing a fight in training, learn to lose the fight gracefully. There is no reward for winning a fight in training. Winning a losing fight is often more about testing your physical tolerance than it is about your skill tolerance. (After all, if you had the better skills in the first place, you’d be winning.) Even if you win a sparring match in training, everybody knows it’s just training.
Boxing is a brutal sport. Even the “winner” takes a beating. I don’t know of many sports where winners take such a beating to “win”. So don’t do it—don’t take a beating to win a sparring match. Save yourself. Your number one focus in training is to improve your skills, NOT to win. Save that “winning mentality” or “warrior mentality” for actual competitions when it matters most.
In training, protect yourself so that you may train another day. Going warrior mode all the time is a fast way to get you beat up and destroyed. Not only will you wear out faster and possibly still lose the fight, you’ll learn less because you were too busy trying to overcome your opponents’ undeniable advantages in skills/power/size as opposed to staying calm and trying to make the most of a losing situation.
How To Lose A Fight
Losing a fight gracefully can sometimes be the silver lining when taking a loss. Although you might not have won the fight, there is much to be proud about in knowing that you didn’t get knocked out and also that you were still able to contest the fight skillfully despite being completely outmatched.
The 2 goals of losing gracefully are: 1) to minimize damage and 2) to fight with skills. Both of these goals contribute to each other in a circular relationship. By minimizing the amount of damage you take, you will be more able to concentrate on fighting with skills. And by fighting with skills instead of physical aggression, you will have a higher chance of minimizing the amount of damage you take!
Every technique you use in a losing fight
should contribute to minimizing damage or using skills.
Forget about the lucky home run punch. Forget about the fancy tricks. You’ve already taken massive shots, and you’ll probably eat a few more before the bell sounds. It’s time to protect yourself intelligentally! Don’t just put up a guard, bring out your defensive boxing skills. Many of the skills you learned for offensive purposes can actually be used for defensive purposes.
Minimizing damage requires much more than a tight guard. Your defense should be more than just a static position. You can use footwork, rhythm, and other boxing skills to improve your defense just as you previously did for offense.
So here we go… a few fight tips to help you maximize the not-so-rare opportunity of losing a fight:
1) Eyes on Opponent
Seriously. Don’t dis-engage. Pay attention to your opponent and stare him down. There is nothing an aggressive opponent loves more than to attack a blind man. To a wolf, it’s like a blind sheep.
“Death begins in the eyes.
You can see the moment when one gives up hope.”
- Dereck Joubert
When a fighter turns away from his opponent, he’s communicating that he doesn’t want to fight anymore. When a fighter looks away, it communicates that he wants to be somewhere else and that he no longer wants to face his opponent. This is a natural instinct in fighting.
DON’T be that guy. Don’t give up hope and don’t look away from your opponent. Hang on to your fighting spirit for just a little while longer. If not in your body, then at least in your eyes. Keeping your eyes on your opponent allows you to see incoming punches and psychologically keeps your opponent at bay.
2) Avoid the Second Punch
The second punch in every combination is usually the most dangerous. The second punch will be the best aimed and carries most power. The second punch carries the most deadly intent. Think of a boxer moving in with his jabs. He’ll keep moving in with multiple jabs but it’s not until the jab lands that he decides to throw a hard right hand (the second punch). So now you realize that the jabs was just him testing the first punch (the rangefinder) over and over and that his follow-up right hand (the second punch) is typically followed by the rest of the combination (the other hard punches).
Avoiding the first punch doesn’t disrupt his combination, his right hand can still land in effectively and leave you vulnerable to other punches.
An inexperienced boxer is one that avoids the jab,
but gets hit by the right hand.
Don’t try to roll and slip jabs! When you take his jab, you bait him into throwing a hard right. Keep an eye on that giant right hand. Yes, block one jab after another but be sure to pull your head out of the way when you see that right hand coming. Do NOT be distracted by the jabs—look past them as you watch for the bigger punches! Now, I’m not suggesting for you to eat jabs—not at all. I’m suggesting that you block the jabs with a simple defense and save your energy for slipping the big punches. If you slip his jab, he’s not going to follow-up. He’ll just move closer into you and throw another jab—which will tire you out if you keep trying to slip every jab.
Avoid that second punch and you will have disrupted his entire combination. With a little bit of luck, he may have over-committed to that punch and thrown himself over you entirely, giving you a precious opportunity to clinch or slip out of harm’s way.
3) Stop and Go
Don’t just run away the whole time. You’ll only get tired and run out of room faster. Instead, you should stop, take a step, stop, take a step, repeat. It’ll force your opponent to have to keep stopping and moving. With every stop and go, you’ve gained a few precious seconds where your opponent had to think instead of throwing punches.
Let’s imagine the scenarios:
a) You back-pedal non-stop until you’re backed into a corner and tired. he chases you down, traps you against the ropes, and gives you a beat down. you have nowhere to hide, no room to escape, and no energy to keep him off you. (this option sucks, so don’t do it)
b) You stand still and bait him to throw punches. He moves in with a 1-2 as you take one step away. His jab might land but his right cross will miss because you backstepped away. Now because you didn’t try to jump away entirely, you have more energy and more room behind you to repeat this over and over until the round’s end. Sure you might be hit by a ton of jabs, but at least you’ve gotten out of the way when the big shots come. That’s not so bad! (much better option, do this one)
4) In and Out
This is the advanced version of the “stop and go” tactic. If you want to maintain your room to move, you’re going to have to fight for your ground. Don’t just backpedal until you have no room to move.
The tactic this time is sit on the edge of range (that’s the distance where you’re slightly within his reach). This time your plan is to walk yourself into danger and then pull yourself out of harms way as soon as the punches start coming. It’s scary but it’s much better to walk into punches and back out than to have punches following you around the ring. Think about it. If you walk yourself into range, your opponent might not bother to move forward into you, he’ll punch from where he is, which allows you to control the distance!
The “In and Out” tactic isn’t limited to just footwork. You can do the same thing with your head. Just stand on the edge of range and lean your head in. As he aims for you head, just pull it back out, BUT MAKE SURE YOU PUT IT BACK IN AGAIN. If you pull your head back out and leave it out, he will advance onto your ground to get closer to your head. Whether it’s foot movement or head movement, just remember to keep going IN AND OUT!
5) Head or Feet
Constant defense relies on constant movement.
To keep yourself (the target) moving, you only have to either move your feet or move your head. That’s all it is, one or the other—BUT NOT BOTH AT THE SAME TIME! Why? Because you’ll get tired if you’re constantly moving your entire body at the same time. Keep it simple and stay relaxed. When you’re getting pursued, just take a step back, two slips, take another step, one slip, whatever…repeat. Move your feet and then your head, and do it all over again. No need to be whipping your head around all the time as you’re trying to jump all over the place. It’s a total waste of energy. You either move your head or move your feet—just make sure you’re constantly moving. I learned this since the second week of boxing.
6) Lower Your Hands
Yes, I know it’s crazy but just hear me out. If you show a little bit of your face, at least then you’ll know he’s aiming for your head. If you cover your head entirely, he’ll throw punches in all sorts of crazy directions making it impossible for you to know where he’ll throw next. Drop your hands a few inches, rest those shoulders, but be ready to defend. What you don’t want to do is drop your hands entirely. That’s just dumb and you’ll be caught in no time.
The advantage of baiting with your head is that you can avoid head punches by using minimal amounts of energy. A quick little slip or parry of the hand easily deflects head punches. What you dont want to do is take any body shots. Body shots sap your strength, take away your legs, and prevent you from moving around the ring.
7) Throw Some Feints
Yes, we know you’re too tired to throw real punches. However, you can still put your opponent on the defensive by faking some punches and buying yourself a few precious seconds. The feints are more effective if you actually throw some real punches every now and then. You feint can be anything, a quick jerk of the arm, a quick forward step with your front foot, or maybe just you taking a sharp breath as if you were going to punch. A great time to fake him out is right after you land a big counter. Jerk your head towards him as if you’re going to follow up with some big shots. He might panic and jump away which will buy you some time to walk around and catch your breath.
8) Work on New Skills
Remember those tricky punches or fancy footwork you’ve been practicing aroung the bag? Well here’s your chance to try them out. You’re already losing the fight. Might as well have fun and try something new. Who knows, it might work, especially if your opponent thinks you’re all out of ideas by now.
Things you shouldn’t do when you’re losing:
Getting Sucked into a Brawl
I thought this would be obvious but still, I’ll remind you again. DON’T FIGHT BACK! Don’t fight fire with fire. This will play right into his hands. He knows your tired. He WANTS you to punch with him until you tire out completely, which is when he’s going to hit even harder.
If your offense wasn’t working when you had energy, it has less chance of working now that you’re tired. Unless you see some huge openings, don’t go for it!
Looking for the Home Run Punch
The harder you try to knock him out, the easier you make it for him to knock you out. For demonstrative purposes, here’s a tired Ricky Hatton chasing Floyd Mayweather around the ring. Not so great, see? The lucky punch is for the movies. It doesn’t happen so much in training, and it happens much less if you’re wearing headgear in training. Don’t do it.
Even if it works, you’ve proven nothing. It’s still just a lucky punch and doesn’t take away from the fact that you’ve been losing the whole fight. Everybody knows who the better fighter was all along.
Run Straight Into Your Opponent
Some guys think this is clever or warrior-like. They brag to me about how they go forward when they’re tired and hurt. Think of injured sheep running towards a wolf. If this sounds dumb, that’s because it is.
Some boxers do it as a psychological ploy as if to prove they’re not hurt, or that they’re not afraid. Well, you won’t be fooling anyone—I can assure you that. Some boxers just do it all wrong. They hang their head in which leaves them open to counters. Or they abandon the jab and basic defense which leaves them open to just about anything. Yes, going forward CAN be a good tactic if you’re doing it to smother his punches. But when you’re tired, it doesn’t work so well. Trust me.
The only time I would ever recommend this tactic is if you’re the bigger guy. Otherwise, make him work and make him come to you!
There’s a difference between ducking (bending at the waist) and squatting (bending at the knees). When you’re trying to avoid punches by going under them, ducking isn’t the greatest option. Bending over at the waist allows them to hold you down at the head which tires you out even faster and also throw punches you can see because you’re looking at the ground. You’ll get hit by uppercuts, hooks, and anything else they decide to throw at you. Just keep your hands up, elbows down and keep moving. Sure sure, you can duck a punch or two here and there but don’t do “standing sit-ups” in the corner!
Clinching is a tricky and often misunderstood tactic. Everyone thinks you can “just clinch” when you get tired but it’s not so easy. If you’re too tired to hold your hands up to block punches, what makes you think “GRABBING” an opponent’s arm is going to be easy? It may be possible if they’re overly aggressive and leaning into you or they’re shorter than you. But that isn’t always going to be the case.
Clinching does require some skill. From what I’ve seen of clinching, it’s very rare that inferior fighters can clinch superior fighters. I’ve more commonly seen clinching used by the better skilled boxer during fights. They either clinching to avoid fighting on the inside (Ali/Klitschko), or they were momentarily stunned by a big punch (Mayweather/Cotto). Very rarely do I see an inferior fighter actually succeed in clinching against a better fighter.
If anything clinching is a tactic you use early on to stall the fight and keep opponents from getting inside. To rely purely on clinching when you are hurt is risky since it requires you to run into your opponent’s punches. Sure it can work, but think about how tired you are compared to your opponents’. Just how many punches are you prepared to take just so you can lean on your opponent for a few seconds?
(If you do decide to clinch, visualize being tall and long. Don’t think “inside”. Clinches are won by the man on the OUTSIDE of the clinch.)
Final Thoughts on the Art of Losing (hahaha)
Losing a fight is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be painful or humiliating. You might not always be able to win, but you can certainly defend intelligently and save yourself for another day. Learning how to lose fights without taking too much damage will allow you to spar against higher level opponents. Soon enough, the losses start becoming wins. Just don’t get too big-headed, ok? Good luck.
I hope I didn’t inspire legions of boxers to go get an ass-beating. Don’t be too proud to quit. A loss is a loss. You don’t owe it to your manhood or to anybody’s expectations to take unnecessary punishment. “Those who fight and run away, live to fight another day.” A quitter is a boxer that leaves the ring and never comes back. Protect yourself, your passion, and your future in the sport. Do what’s right for you. If you still insist on going out “like a man”, at least have some respect for yourself. Don’t get knocked out by some chump brawler.