Getting Started in Boxing
“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses — behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”
Like Joe Frazier stresses in his book, Box Like the Pros, I would recommend that a person desiring to learn how to box (and not in the fitness boxing sense) first develop a solid conditioning base before attempting to sign up at a serious boxing gym. He says, “Some people find the physical demands of the initial training so difficult that they give up. They can’t handle it. A lot of the time it’s because they go from doing nothing to trying to take on one of the most demanding training regimens there is… Practice a regimen that includes [stamina, flexibility, and strength] for a good three or four months before you go to a gym.”1 Boxing is a very demanding activity, and it would be tough for a boxing trainer to teach you anything if you’re exhausted after throwing your first 50 punches. A common saying among boxing trainers is, “Once fatigue sets in, the first thing to go is skill.” You can’t learn and develop proficiency in the finer points of boxing if you’re exhausted. Your body will not be able to perform the movement correctly and hence, you may even teach yourself poor form through repetition of the incorrect movement.
I think someone serious about learning how to box should learn from a trainer at a true boxing gym in order to experience the environment. The atmosphere in a boxing gym is quite motivational.
In The Boxer’s Workout, Peter DePasquale reminds us, “The Boxer’s Workout is strenuous. Ease into it gradually by establishing a preconditioning period. During this time you’ll develop an aerobic fitness base and get your mind and muscles used to the essential physical moves of the sport.”2 As a rule of thumb, I think that before starting to train at a boxing gym you should be able to do 100 pushups without overstraining (don’t worry I don’t mean all at once, 4 sets of 25 is fine), 100 true situps (not crunches), and run a mile or two without stopping. No offense to you guys out there but if you’re not even able to do that, you can’t be that serious about fitness, much less about boxing.
As a side note, if you get a chance to catch re-runs of the Ray Mercer vs Marion Wilson fight, you’ll hear the commentators make some observations about boxing conditioning. They come to the conclusion that coming in anywhere less than 100% could be setting yourself up to get injured.
If you’re a newbie to fitness, that’s fine. Just start slow. Run around the block several times to start out without measuring how far you’ve run. During consecutive workouts, try to increase the total time spent running without stopping. Aim for 25-30 minutes. Once that becomes easy, start measuring your running distance by going to a track or cross-country course. For pushups, start out by doing less repetitions. Build yourself up from sets of 10 until you hit at least the 25 mark.
While the vast majority of learning to box will take place in the gym, there is still a plethora of boxing guides written by reputable trainers that can explain basic punch mechanics. Remember that this is obviously no substitute for going to the gym, but it will definitely help if before your first session with a trainer you have already practiced at home by teaching yourself with the boxing guides. Below are some of my favorites.
1. Frazier, Joe. Box Like the Pros. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005.