Championship Fighting: Explosive Punching and Aggressive Defense

Punchers Are Made; Not Born

Dempsey Jack
Глава 3. Punchers Are Made; Not Born
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Louis retired as undefeated heavyweight champion in 1949. And I'll bet that, as he retired, Joe considered himself a natural-born puncher. I know that's probably true because I had the same mistaken idea about myself during my career and for a time after I hung up my gloves, If you're a punching

Punchers Are Made; Not Born

Louis retired as undefeated heavyweight champion in 1949. And I'll bet that, as he retired, Joe considered himself a natural-born puncher. I know that's probably true because I had the same mistaken idea about myself during my career and for a time after I hung up my gloves,

If you're a punching champion it's natural for you to get the wrong appreciation of yourself. Hundreds of admirers pat you on the back and tell you what a "natural-born" fighter you are. And when you're swept along toward seventh heaven by the roar of the crowd in your magnificent moments of triumph, it's easy to forget the painstaking labor with which you and your instructors and trainers and sparring partners fashioned each step in your stairway to the throne. It's easy to forget the disappointments and despair that, at times, made the uncompleted stairway seem like "Heartbreak Hill." Ah yes, when you're on the throne, it's easy to regard yourself as one who was born to the royalty of the ring.

In your heyday as champion, you can't "see the forest for the trees." As an historian might express it, you're too close to your career to get the proper perspective of highlights and background. It was only after I had retired and had begun trying to teach others how to fight that I investigated the steps in my stairway-analyzed my own technique. And that was a tough job.

You see: by the time a fellow becomes a successful professional fighter, nearly all his moves are so instinctive, through long practice, that it's difficult for him to sort out the details of each move. Accordingly, it's nearly impossible-at first-for him to explain his moves to a beginner. He can say to the beginner, "You throw a straight right like this." Then he can shoot a straight right at a punching bag. But the beginner will have no more conception of how to punch with the right than he had before. That's the chief reason why so few good fighters developed into good instructors. They failed to go back and examine each little link in each boxing move. They tried to give their pupils the chains without the links.

When I began breaking down my moves for the purpose of instruction, I found it most helpful to swing my memory clear back to the days when I was a kid at Manassa, a small town in southern Colorado. I was fortunate as a kid. My older brothers, Bernie and Johnny, were professional fighters. They had begun teaching me self-defense by the time I was six years old. In my break-down, I tried to recall exact details of the first fundamentals my brothers taught me. I jotted down every detail of those instructions I could remember, and every detail that dawned on me while I was practicing those early fundamentals.

Then I moved mentally across the Great Divide to Montrose, Colorado, the town where I spent my latter youth. There was more interest in fighting in Montrose than in any place of its size I've ever known. It was a town of would-be fighters. In some Montrose families there were four or five brothers who wanted to be fighters. I found plenty of kid sparmates there and plenty of instructors- some good, some bad.

My investigation of technique took me on a long mental journey as I followed my fighting trail through the West, where I had worked at any job I could get in mines, lumber camps, hash-houses, on ranches, etc. I was fighting on the side in those days, and I was getting pointers on self-defense from all the old-timers I met. Each trainer, each manager, each fighter had his own ideas and his own specialities. Like a blotter on legs, I absorbed all that information in those days, and then discarded what seemed wrong.

Swinging back through Memory Lane, I found myself, at twenty-one, making my first trip to New York, where I fought Andre Anderson, "Wild Bert" Kenny and John Lester Johnson, who cracked two of my ribs. Although that New York trip was a disappointment, I received much valuable fighting information from top-flight heavies like Frank Moran, Bill Brennan, Billy Miske and Gunboat Smith, when each dropped into Grupp's Gymnasium.

And I recalled the details of my later post-graduate courses in fighting from Doc Kearns and Trainer Deforest, one of the best instructors in the world. Deforest's career went clear back to the days of Peter Jackson and London prize-ring rules.

That geographic investigation of my own technique really humbled me. It hit me right on the chin with the booming fact that since I was six years old, I'd had the opportunity to learn punching from a long parade of guys who had studied it. I had absorbed their instructions, their pointers, their theories, in Manassa, Montrose, Provo, Ogden, Salt Lake City, Goldfield, Tonopah, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, St. Paul, and many other cities-before I met Willard at Toledo.

And let me emphasize that in the days when I was drinking in all that information, the fighters, trainers and managers knew much more about punching than they generally know today. You must remember that when I fought Willard in 1919, it was only twenty-seven years after Jim Corbett had beaten John L. Sullivan at New Orleans in the first championship fight with big gloves. While I was coming up, the technique of the old masters was still fresh in the minds of the fighting men. Now, it is over thirty years since the day I fought Willard. During those years fighting became "big business"; but in the scramble for money in the cauliflower patch, the punching technique of the old masters-Sullivan, Corbett, Bob Fitzsimmons, Tommy Ryan, Joe Gans, Terry McGovern, and others- seems to have been forgotten.


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