By Jay Rivera
On ESPN’s Friday Night Fights, the voice of reason and the man to listen to is Teddy Atlas. His vast ring experience as both a trainer and boxer provides a unique view and perspective through his comments and his scientific approach on how he describes the weaknesses and strengths of each fighter, would make you feel as though you were in a lab watching and listening to a chemist describe a complex formula in an easy and comprehensive way to digest. His classic New Yorkish voice takes you back to the classic era of the forties and fifties under the bright lights at the MSG.
I always agree with all of his insights, and the great Teddy Atlas is my favorite commentator in the sport of boxing, but tonight, during his comments on the Verdejo vs. Chavez fight in Las Vegas, where Verdejo won a clear and easy decision, Teddy made a mistake and I had to disagree. One of the classic mistakes that most trainers do is to try to train the boxer in a style that trainers favor because it is more than likely the style that the trainer himself used at one point during his late career. Some trainers believe and are in error when assuming this position and it transcends to commentators and judges as well. You have your boxer, judge,trainer, commentator and you have your brawler judge, trainer, commentator which will favor that particular style the majority of times because it is closer to their liking and preference in styles.
Felix Verdejo fought a great fight tonight and although there is room to grow, his future as a boxing star is very promising. Felix provided a barrage of punches and clearly out landed his opponent to give him his first victory. Most of the comments that Teddy was making, however, was directed at the fact that Felix was “jumping around too much” and that he should settle in to provide more solid and effective punches. In most cases this might be true, but there are many styles in the art of boxing and good leg movement for a fighter who favors the stick and move approach, is no less effective than a brawler that likes to go toe to toe with his opponent.
There are many fighters that make a living in boxing using their legs as both a defensive and offensive tool and Felix, following a long list of Puerto Rican fighters like the late Hector Macho Camacho Sr., Eric Morel and Ivan Calderon, too mention a few, are great examples of boxers that know how to move, use angles and lateral movement to their advantage.
A boxer that is constantly moving and pivoting creates a much harder target for his opponent to land punches on, and the result is a brawler who is off balance throwing punches with no sting and very little accuracy while taking chances to run in to a punch.
Teddy’s mistake is insisting that Felix, a natural stick and move boxer, should settle his feet more in order to be more effective, but there is always an advantage and disadvantage to which ever preference you might prefer.
Trainers should always analyze what their fighter abilities and physical advantages are, and work with what comes natural to that boxer. You can’t force a brawling style on to a natural stick and move boxer and much less try to make a natural brawler to try to stick and move. Sure, some adjustments can be made, but in the end that boxer will have his own predominantly natural style.
As trainers, judges and in Teddy’s case, as a commentator, maintaining neutrality on how you view and make your decisions should always be paramount and significantly important. Doing the opposite, will encourage a certain favoritism to a particular style which can influence the decision process and destabilized the other style.
The ooohhs and aaahhs that are drawn from the crowd aren’t necessarily a result of one particular style. Some fans like the blood, guts and glory that the toe to toe brawling style brings, while others prefer the sweet science behind the elegant movement and dismantlement of his opponent by a stylish stick and move boxer.
Gotti, Chavez and even the never defeated Rocky Marciano, to name a few brawlers, were known for being those all blood, guts and glory fighters and are for sure some of the most exciting pugilists to come across the sport of boxing. But then again there were many stick and move boxers like Willie Pep, who although wasn’t a KO artist, had a record of 229 fights with 65 KO’s against only 11 losses, which in comparison to today’s standards is an amazing accomplishment. Willie Pep is probably the only boxer to win a round without throwing a single punch and I’m very sure that jumping around and relying on his legs had everything to do with it. After all, the famous quote “Float like a butterfly…sting like a bee” had nothing to do with going toe to toe…hey, it worked for “The Greatest”…Muhamad Ali.