Being in shape and being in fighting shape are 2 entirely different things. Are you ready for competitive fighting? Let’s find out…
Boxing is tough, I know. But just exactly HOW tough? I spoke to several boxing trainers and from what they all told me, here is the bare minimum for anybody looking to fight in amateur boxing competition. This here is the VERY MINIMUM you should at least be able to do all in one day if you want to compete at the amateur level:
- Run 3-5 miles without getting too tired
- Jumprope for 30 minutes straight
- Hit the heavy bag for 15 minutes non-stop
- Be able to spar with any amateur from any gym (excluding pro-level amateurs with over 100 fights)
- Spar double the required rounds (amateur boxing is 3 rounds)
Notice how I didn’t say anything about training routines, X number of push-ups or X number of sit-ups. It’s because training is only a means of achieving amateur fight-level conditioning. If you can do all of the above, then you’re in pretty good shape regardless of how you trained to get there. Some people will require more training and conditioning than others. Every individual will always have their advantages in certain exercises over others. The list isn’t the end-all be-all of what is considered to be “fighting shape” but it’s a good start.
Have some fun and test yourself on the physical benchmarks above. Just make sure you don’t be too hard on yourself or get offended if you can’t do everything above. Being an amateur boxer is extremely physically demanding. Competitive fighting doesn’t purely judge on skillful execution or who “fought better”. It is simply a contest of points, which are scored by direct hits. Quite often, a boxing competition can resemble an awkward game of tag moreso than a Rocky movie. On the other hand, amateur boxing can also become bouts of pure aggression. You can be as skillful as you want but if you’re only throwing 50 punches a round and your opponent throws 200, it makes a hard case for judges to give you the fight.
Whether it’s a lot of running or punching, you need to be prepared to do lots of both. Yes, skill is more important than power and endurance but only when you have reached the minimum levels of conditioning for boxing will you then be capable of applying your skills to fights.
One of my favorite videos of what real amateur boxing looks like. It’s the Oxnard PAL National Boxing Tournament in Oxnard, California.
5 Important Attributes For Amateur Boxing
Whether you’re executing offensive or defensive moves, you need energy to do anything. If you don’t have the energy to throw punches and keep your opponent off you, you’re pretty much dead meat. I know you see boxers getting tired on TV or youtube, but that’s just them getting tired–they’re not completely gassed out. In reality, boxers are NEVER allowed to get tired. I once got tired during some focus mitt work and my trainer slapped me in the face and yelled, “DON’T GET TIRED!” As he explains, “The moment you get tired, you get knocked out.” It’s that simple.
There are 2 types of endurance you absolutely MUST have:
1. Leg Endurance
- Leg endurance allows you to move around the ring, more importantly: in and out of range. I’ve watched many fighters get destroyed in the late rounds because they ran out of leg strength. This is when your legs feel like cement and you’re no longer able to move swiftly. All the punching power in the world means nothing if you can’t even get to your opponent. It sucks when your opponent easily moves in and out of distance while you’re dragging your legs around the ring. Build up your leg endurance with the jumprope. Don’t just do running. Jumping rope ensures your legs will always have that bounce. You don’t want to be a sitting duck on the ropes while your opponent hits you and disappears before you fire back. I’ve been there dozens of times…it sucks.
2. Shoulder Endurance
- VERY crucial. Once your shoulders get tired, you’re screwed. You’re too tired to throw punches fast enough to hit your opponent. You’re too tired to pull your hands back to defense when you punch. You’re even too tired to hold up your gloves to cover your face. Your shoulders run your offense and defense, without them you’re pretty much a punching bag on legs (assuming you still got your legs). Work those shoulders in training, do the speedbag and arm endurance drills!
Your opponent will average 60-150 power punches per round. If you don’t know how to block punches, ESPECIALLY when you’re tired and every punch hurts more, you’re gonna get knocked out. Pay attention, cover your face, and protect yourself at all times!
If your punches aren’t fast enough to hit your opponent, you’re screwed. Not only will you not be able to score, you’re also unable to hurt him and keep him from attacking you with everything he has. Make sure your hand speed stays with you throughout the fight. You can have all the power in the world, but without the speed, it means nothing! You can be as tired as you want, but your hands better be fast enough to touch your opponent–or else your punches will have absolutely ZERO effect on your opponent.
If you don’t have the proper technique and physicality to hurt your opponent, he will walk you down and outgun you till you hit the canvas. Power doesn’t come from wild swinging, that only wastes energy. True power comes from good technique. You want effective and efficient punching form! And then of course, you need to do explosive work in training. You don’t need to have knockout power, you just need to make sure that you have the power to hurt him.
Inside the ring is not the place for you to be thinking about what to do next. All your punch combinations and counters should be automatic by now.
It’s ok to think about general fight strategy such as “Pump the jab. Hooks to the body in close. Pivot off the ropes.”
What you should NOT be thinking is “Jab, right, left hook, right uppercut, left hook, right cross. Block the jab with the right hand. Keep the chin down.”
I mean seriously, if you still have to remind yourself to keep your hands up, then you’re not ready for amateur fighting. Your stance and defense should have been automatic by now. Actually, EVERYTHING should be automatic by now. Offensive moves, defensive moves, counter moves, everything. If you can’t fight automatically and respond instantaneously, you’re in deep trouble.
Imagine a basketball player. He’s not thinking about how to dribble between his legs or how to make a jumpshot. He’s paying attention to to other players in the game and deciding where he wants to be.
A boxer in the ring should be paying attention to his opponent,
If you’re busy trying to think during a fight, you’ll always be one step behind your opponent the entire fight. He’ll land a jab and as you prepare to counter his next jab, it’s too late because now he’s already hit you with his right hand. Now you’re thinking about his right hand and it’s too late because he’s already jabbed you again, AND thrown another right hand. By the time you’re ready to counter his right hand it won’t matter because he’s throwing hooks now.
Your opponent, mindless he may be, will walk you down and pry your guard apart with combination after combination, while you’re still trying to figure out what counters to throw and when to do the fancy shoulder roll you practiced. If you’re trying to remember counters to common punches, you are pretty much NOT ready for competing. Everything should be automatic by now.
Stuff That Does Not Matter
This is the stuff beginning amateur boxers should not be worried about.
1. Knockout Power
It’s pretty hard to knock someone out considering they’re moving so fast and wearing headgear. Although knockouts do happen at the amateur level, they tend to have more to do with endurance than power. Besides, great timing and beautiful counter-punching are more likely to cause a knockout than just pure power alone. As long as you have perfect technique and punching form, you are fine.
Please watch an amateur fight, not a pro fight. You notice there’s not much slipping in there and there’s a reason for that. Slipping is a beautiful skill but just how many punches are you prepared to slip? 1? 2? Try a hundred. Yes, a hundred. It’s a lot of punches, and trying to slip all those will never work. You’ll get tired and eventually get caught. Learn how to slip a punch or two here and there but don’t choreograph it into your routine as if that’s all you’ll be doing. More often than not, you’ll be relying on a solid high guard defense instead of slipping movements.
3. Trick Combinations
Relying on trick combinations is silly. I’d say trick combinations are best used to break your opponent’s rhythm. You throw trick punches to score a few points here and there. In the overall scheme of things, tricks combinations mean little in regards to the hundreds of normal punches you and your opponent will be throwing. Stick with basic boxing punches (like THE JAB), and basic counters. Trick punches are something you do to escape a situation or have a little fun to confuse your opponent. You’re not supposed to fight an entire fight on trick combinations. Lastly, trick combos are like magic tricks; they require work to setup and everything must be perfect for the trick to work. And if it doesn’t work, you get punished badly.
Amateur Boxing is 100% Physical
I don’t know where people got the idea that boxing was some kind of secret martial art. You’re in for a giant surprise if you believe you can think your way to victory and not have to fight with power or force.
I’m going to share 2 secrets with you. Are you ready? Here goes the first reason why boxing is so damn physical.
Higher-level boxing moves require more physical ability.
Doing higher level boxing moves is going to require more energy. So even if you’re trying to beat your opponent with higher-level skills, you’re still going to use more energy. For example, notice how slipping requires more energy than blocking.
Boxing is 90% mental and 10% physical.
But that 10% physical requires 100% of your physical capacity.
Get it?! Boxing is based more on mental capacity than physical capacity. However, you need every bit of that physical edge to make use of your fight intelligence. Boxing is not literally a game of chess. It’s physical. Look at boxers after their matches and you’ll see that their headaches are from taking punches and not necessarily from thinking too hard. You need to be in the best shape possible if you want to make the most of your fighting knowledge.
Professional fighters never get tired and so you get to see pro fights elevate to a level where there is a high difference in skill. Amateur fighting is entirely different. Quite often, boxers step into the ring at less than 100% shape and so the fight doesn’t elevate beyond the physical side of boxing. If you ever want to use all the boxing skills you know, you need to make sure you are in shape to take the fight to that next level.