Our gym currently has not one, but two coaches with injuries. Both injuries mean they can’t use their power right, at all. Not even a little bit.
Interestingly, on sparring night both of them were in the ring with only one glove. Sinclair can’t even get a glove on his right, it’s so swollen, and Sam could have gloved (his injury was to his shoulder), but didn’t. But they still confidently put on one glove and started moving everyone toward ringtime.
Since we had a gym full of young, messy fighters, I had been expecting to get more work than usual with my two gloves. And while I did work with several different boxers in our gym, I was reminded of a few things I hadn’t thought of in a while, and I also learned something I wasn’t expecting at all.
Gear is a good signal
Sometimes when my sparring partner Yvonne and I work together, we spar without headgear. For us, this is a good signal that we’re not hitting our hardest — just working easily for speed and score. When we started this practice, I was instantly able to double my ringtime and utterly eliminate the joint stress that I had been having as a result of too much hard hitting on the heavy bag. During a regular sparring workout, when you see someone has no headgear, you ease up on your power. It just works.
We use this tactic with brand new boxers, too. Putting a geared-up experienced boxer in with a newb who is wearing no headgear or mouth guard is a great way to visually remind the experienced fighter to work only defense, and it also helps the new boxer feel more comfortable trying to land shots.
A handicap can make you into a superhero
Daredevil is the shit, y’all. He’s blind, but he can read your private snail mail by feel (probably your email too, sucka), hear your damn heartbeat if you’re hiding around the corner four blocks away, and kick your ass for you without ever getting your nasty fear-sweat on his nice red superhero suit. (Daredevil’s dad was a boxer, of course.)
As our boxers rotated in with Sam and Sinclair, I noticed there was absolutely nothing lacking in their game. In fact, several things were heightened…
They NEVER, EVER squared up.
They worked the HELL outta their jab. I saw a higher rate of left hooks and uppercuts, too.
Their footwork was supreme, children. It was superhero-level footwork. They were like hyper-powered ninja hovercraft.
The only thing that was hard for Sinclair to remember was to keep his right hand out of the way of stray shots. Essentially, he fought with half a guard. That meant he kept his right down, or behind his back (like a fencer — it was weird to watch). But I don’t think he ever took even the lightest tap to his right.
Don’t judge a boxer by their looks
Before we transitioned to sparring, the group was training together and, as often happens, there was a little smack talk going around as everyone anticipated their turn in the ring. Sinclair heard a fair amount of it before he finally stopped and good-naturedly called for everyone’s attention.
“How many of you people think you have what it takes to beat me in the ring? Raise your hand.”
I grinned and looked out over our crowd of 30 or so young boxers. Sinclair is skinny, tall, and easygoing. About 25 hands went up.
“What? What??!” He pretended to be outraged. I laughed and told him he had his work cut out for him. At this point none of the kids knew that Sinclair would be boxing with only one glove, either. I bet when they saw him roll into the ring they just about wet themselves in excitement.
As the only female, and the oldest in the gym, I’m used to being constantly underestimated as a boxer. I use it to my advantage, as you can imagine. It doesn’t take long for someone to learn, when you can make them suffer in the ring. But this happens less to the other coaches. I rather think they enjoyed it, and possibly even stirred the pot a bit.
Sinclair and and I started running them through rounds with us. After the first few boxers, the crowd around the ring thinned noticeably. This is the geography of boxing guts. The farther you are from the ring, the less likely you are to get in it. Some of the smack-talkers were making themselves scarce.
One young man in particular just wasn’t throwing anything, presumably because of Sinclair’s single glove. Their first round together mostly consisted of Sinclair jabbing at him and arguing with him to get him to work.
At the bell I gave Sinclair the signal. He immediately stopped berating his guy, and instead grinned and pointed at me. The kid looked over, and his entire demeanor changed. “Yeah, I’ll work with her,” he said.
There was an audible surge of support and encouragement from his peers, and the other coaches warning him that I was not what he believed. I gave him a good going-over and he finally did put a few good ones out there. Sometimes the risk of being shamed in front of your friends will make you get your ass going.
Fight with ANYTHING you have
This was the surprise, both for me and everyone who sparred with Sam and Sinclair. As I was working with some newer boxers, I began to hear Sinclair cornering boxers who were flagging. One guy was complaining that his arms were too tired. “Then use your footwork,” he called, “You gotta use what you have.”
Another one had no gas, and thus no footwork. “Then move your head,” I heard Sinclair shout. “Use what you have.”
It became a refrain, and one that never had a better reception than on this particular sparring night, when the two best boxers in the ring were still going strong with only one hand, and the third was… well, a woman.
When you don’t have your power hand, use your jab. If your feet are nailed to the floor, keep your head moving. When you got no gas in the tank, keep your guard up. Fight with anything you have. Not dumbass illegal moves or street bullshit. The real goods.
Just don’t quit. Make it to the bell if you have to crawl.
Remember when this happened to YOU?
Ever had one of those rounds? Weeks? Seasons? Leave me a comment below and share your story!
Image of Kotobukiya’s new Daredevil fig via Tomopop