Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Art of The Big Punch

I love this article on about Rocky Marciano. I have long been a fan of the fight game, especially before there were 40 or 50 "world" champions. There used to be just eight, and so everyone knew who they were. It seems that the primal reputation of the sport of boxing has been bequeathed to the gladiators of the MMA rings and octagons, but there's still something magical to me about watching a great fighter bob, weave, jab, and overhand his way to victory, or just destroy an opponent with a perfectly timed cross. The author of this excellent article singles out one of the underrated champions, though undeservedly so, the undefeated Rocky Marciano. Some snippets of "The Art of the Big Punch: No Doubting Marciano":

So what do we hear about Rocky Marciano? Much of the same, nothing really new. Rocky was too small. He would never survive in the heavyweight division of today. His so-called tremendous punching power would have little effect on the giants of the present era, presumably not even on the porcelain chin of Wladimir Klitschko.

Given his physical disadvantages, given the fact that he had little amateur experience and knew virtually nothing about boxing technique when he began his career, Marciano was an absolute wonder of the sport. He was 5’ 11’’, had a reach of just 67’’ and seldom got his weight above 190lbs. When ace trainer Charley Goldman got hold of him, Rocky could scarcely get out of the way of his own two feet.

Now to the big question: How good a heavyweight puncher was Rocky Marciano? The simple answer is that he was one of the true elite. Rocky didn’t possess the clever and versatile punching technique of Jack Dempsey and wasn’t Jack’s equal as a short range puncher. Jack still leads the heavyweight field in that department when one measures the actual distance of the punches. Nor did Marciano have the skill, economy and stunning accuracy of Joe Louis.

He discusses what makes a puncher...

The punch of a knockout fighter carries a huge amount of energy. Scientists will tell you that an uppercut which lifts a man off his feet requires the energy of ‘mgh’, where ‘m’ is the mass of the opponent, ‘g’ the acceleration due to gravity and ‘h’ the height to which the opponent is lifted. On average, it is reckoned that 700 foot-pounds of energy is required to manage this feat.

Around 1955, Rocky Marciano had his punch measured at a USA military installation, where it is believed that the test was conducted on a ballistic pendulum. Rocky achieved a score of 925 foot-pounds whilst wearing a 12oz. boxing glove. Those who witnessed the test could hardly believe what they had seen.

Power punching, for all its surface brutality and apparently meaningless violence to the eye of the layman, is a wonderful science. The precious few who genuinely possess it must marry a formidable range of components and make them flow in harmony.

Historian Mike Hunnicut says, “Some guys are just born with it and no amount of technical jargon will ever fully explain why they are so exceptional. But they all possessed the essential qualities of the true power puncher, which comprise of reflexes, natural power, balance, body-to-hand co-ordination, leverage, follow-through, positioning, snap, timing, speed of body turn, accuracy, commitment to the punch and physicality.

“I have talked to a great many fighters, trainers and sparring partners over the years, and they all make the point that it shouldn’t come as any great surprise that most of the great heavyweight hitters weren’t really big guys, because a certain degree of athleticism is needed to produce leverage, position, timing and snap. Fighters of between 190-210lbs generate more measurable power than heavier men.

“Fighters of Marciano’s calibre were taught thoroughly how to hit you and hurt you. People say that Rocky laboured to get the job done and often had to throw an awful lot of punches to beat the other man down. They say he missed a lot. Well, of course he did. He didn’t have anything in the way of reach and guys like Walcott, Charles and LaStarza were tough men who were very good defensively.

“But Marciano could hurt you from any range when he connected and he liked to work all the time. Of all the heavyweights I have studied, Rocky resented clinching the most – he was proud of that. The fact that he was a close range hitter increased his velocity and enabled him to generate enormous energy at impact.

“I’m inclined to think that Marciano was the hardest hitter behind Dempsey, because Rocky could hurt you anywhere with both hands. Louis, by contrast, wasn’t a great body puncher. Charley Goldman taught Marciano to punch short with plenty of snap. Rocky had good snap and shoulder turn.

“When you are watching a fight on TV these days, how many times do the sound of the punches make you jump out of your chair? Not too often. Now go watch the fights of Marciano with the original, real sound. Watch Louis-Conn or Louis-Schmeling and listen to some of those shots landing. They sound like explosions going off and those guys weren’t fighting at the MGM Grand. They were fighting at huge stadiums in front of huge crowds and you could hear the sound of their punches above all the noise.”

No stranger to fight fans is the still outrageously fit Ron Lipton, whose knowledge of the game has been hewn from his great experience as a fighter, sparring partner and referee.

Says Ron, “The power punching categories mentioned by Mike Hunnicut are right on the money. Essential is the use of perfect technique combined with great speed and snap practiced over and over again, with the entire body being used as one with each integral muscle group and its deep fibre being called upon instantaneously to contribute to the punch.

“Other helpful factors include being in shape to utilise vicious torque, combined body dip, shoulder snap, deep forearm muscle rotation, and all the muscles of the hand being crunched into the punch with each finger and muscle being used to contribute to the final hard fisted squeeze and snap upon landing.

Read it - it's great!

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