Friday, November 20, 2009

Lessons from Boxing

(Photo Credit to ESPN)

Last night, I took a break from tennis and decided to watch boxing, the Friday Night Fights at ESPN.

I saw the main event 10 round lightweight fight between challenger Mexican Miguel Vasquez against undefeated and world-ranked native-Colombian Breidis Prescott (20-0, with 18 KOs).

Prescott, 5'11", 137 pounds, was clearly the stronger fighter with the longer reach and height over Vasquez. Prescott was heavily favored.

Well as you may guess, it was an upset- the underdog Vasquez won in a split decision in 10 rounds.

Vasquez was the less pretty fighter technique-wise, but fought the smarter fight. He counter-punched when Prescott took any offense. He moved, bobbed and weaved, using the ring to his advantage. Vasquez was actually knocked down in the first round, but held his mental game together and scored more points in the ensuing rounds. He finally got some solid punches up the middle into Prescott, opening up a mouth bleed and closing the left eye.

The commentators were saying things like:

*It's not always about the bigger, stronger guy with the prettier punches.
*It's sometimes about over-coming brute strength with smarts, cunning and tactics.
*Boxing is about geometry, angles and timing.
*It's about keeping it together over the long haul and finding a way.
*Boxing is about moving and using the ring (space and geometry to your advantage).
*Boxing is about frustrating your opponent, keeping him off-balance and uncomfortable and giving him shots he doesn't want.

And what about that kinetic chain movement in the boxing action? Power coming from the ground up, through the core, shoulder, arms and hands into the opponent.

I walked away from this boxing match thinking about the similarities between boxing and tennis, and the lessons in boxing and how they all apply to tennis as well.

Best, Gary

Quotation from Rod Laver's The Education of a Tennis Player (Simon and Schuster, 1971), Page 19: "Boxing and tennis, however, give you as much swinging and hitting as you want. Strangely, although they may seem worlds apart, boxing and tennis have a kinship. Two individuals head-to-head, probing for weakness and attacking it. Footwork, timing and stamina are essential. Just you and your opponent in there until one of you is beaten."

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