BORING BREAKDOWN: Inside Boxing, Hand-Fighting, & Distance Management

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Inside Fighting Distance Management

It’s easy to skim over the OGs of the sport. Their fights don’t have that crispy HD quality we’ve become accustomed to. They don’t wear the swaggerish fight shorts of the present day. The hype of their heydays are separated from us by decades. We’re all guilty of not studying them as much as current-day competitors. It’s a real shame because fighters of the past are goldmines of knowledge.

Today, OGs Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe are kind enough to give us a workshop on distance. It’s a boring topic to most fans because the meaning of distance is easy to grasp… at the surface. Ask a guy watching a fight at a sports bar and he’ll tell you distance is being too far to get hit as he swigs his BudLight. He’s not wrong but let’s watch the OGs delve deeper into this topic:

The smaller Holyfield understood the punching power of Riddick Bowe. He starts the fight with offense that has built-in distance from Bowe’s punches. Here he is dipping his head into the right quadrant to keep from Bowe’s counter hook:

This right quadrant dip is important because it keeps the smaller Holyfield safe from Bowe’s hook, cross, and jab. This isn’t a passive movement though. Holyfield is more sinister than that. Let’s watch him use this dip to set up a big shot (and close distance) on Bowe:

Holyfield, known for his infighting, used his swimmer’s breast-stroke right hand to smother Bowe and enter infighting range:

Bowe responds to the closing distance. As Holyfield attempts to get close with the 1-2, Bowe shoulder rolls and has a body shot waiting for the advancing Holyfield:

As the fight continued on the inside, we see both men grappling for position. This is where it gets sticky for most fight fans. While technique on the inside may be tough to see at first, remembering these principles will help:

  1. Control their head
  2. Control their hands
  3. Control the space

With a free hand due to Holyfield’s loose left “collar-tie” position, Bowe is able to lean back, make space, and rip a right uppercut:

Distancing isn’t just about your body. As we see above, hands need to be closely monitored so there isn’t space for the glove to launch towards the gut or head. That’s why you’ll often see boxers pummeling their hands for the top or inside position: 

In the case of an incoming uppercut, the boxer with the top-hand (see above) can form a horizontal forearm bar to block the punch.

When Holyfield abandoned hand control and opted to walk in with a high guard, Bowe had both gloves free. Bowe used his forearm to create distance from the advancing Holyfield and land these bombs:

Superior head position can open up scoring potentials too. Watch how Bowe digs his head into the neck/chest of Holyfield. His head allows for enough space between the two athletes for Bowe to fire a body shot:

By now, I hope I’ve shown you that distancing on the inside involves controlling the head, hands, and space. In real time though, these three principles need to be used together. Here Bowe gets the head control but doesn’t control Holyfield’s left hand or have sufficient spatial awareness. This leaves him open for Holyfield’s left hook:

Pop quiz: Which infighting principles did Holyfield violate in the following situation?

If you guessed all 3, you’re correct. He didn’t have head control as it was Bowe’s head manipulating distance on Holyfield’s neck. He didn’t have hand control since his left glove had a weak collar-tie. And lastly, he didn’t control the space as Bowe had plenty of room to throw underneath the collar-tie.

There you have it. You’ve passed the OG workshop on distancing. I hope this has enlightened you on some of the finer aspects of the game. You’re welcome for being able to explain distancing better than our BudLight drinking friend from the beginning of this piece. As a side note, always remember that your favorite fighters watched guys like Holyfield and Bowe when they were coming up. Don’t shy away from studying guys from before the current era. They have tons to teach about the art of boxing!


Boring Breakdowns


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    1. Thanks Riaj, I’m glad you enjoyed this breakdown from Prashant. We are working on getting more articles from him soon — are there any specific topics you’d like to see covered?

  1. I was always one of those guys bored with the “hugs” boxers get into. I’d thought it was just them being tired or trying to avoid getting hit. Definitely got an eye-opener from this article. Particularly with the specific examples.

    Since you’d asked a previous poster about what they’d like to see, I’ll just contribute some ideas: conditioning your opponent/setting them up. Seems like something that could be shown to great effect with the same approach. Famous escapes from grappling (don’t remember if he escaped, but Hardy’s not tapping to GSP’s arm submissions was crazy to me. “how’d they do that?” kinda moments) and also grapplers getting a takedown or surprise submission would be good, too, I think. Just for some feedback.