by Bobby Franklin
The other night I witnessed further proof of just how far removed today’s boxing is from having any resemblance to the fine art it once was. It wasn’t so much the fight itself,though that did contribute greatly to my feelings, but more so to the reaction during and after.
The fight was the Gennady Golovkin vs David Lemieux Middleweight Title fight. I had debated whether or not to spend $50.00 (I had sworn never again to buy a pay per view fight) to view the bout as I do feel Golovkin is about the only fighter out there today who is worth watching. While contemplating my decision I watched some footage of Lemieux in action to see if I felt he would be at all competitive. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was certainly not going to be a match worthy of spending money on. Lemieux is a tough, strong kid with almost no boxing ability. Watching him in action I could immediately see he had learned what he knew from spending hours hitting the punch mitts.
He threw his punches from his waist up and had no sense of footwork what- so-ever. He tossed shots in a very predictable one-two and one-two-three manner while pausing in between to regain his balance. He obviously would have no chance against GGG.
Early the following morning I watched a replay of the fight. It was, as I expected, a very one-sided affair. Golovkin utilized a decent left jab to keep Lemieux at pay and to punish him. David was at a complete loss in being able to cope with the jab. He did not know how to slip it. He did not know how to parry it. It was as if he had never dealt with the jab before. It was like a foreign language to him.
Listening to the commentators, you would have thought Gennady had invented a new punch. They were in awe of his phenomenal jab. They kept rattling off the number he had thrown during each round. They also repeatedly commented on how this amazing punch was keeping Lemieux confused and unable to launch an offense. Yes! Gennady Golovkin was actually throwing left jabs. Just amazing!
The incredulity continued on social media. Fans were stunned by this display of boxing prowess. The dominant left jab was something most of them had never seen before. What was once the most basic and important punch in boxing was now being talked about as if it were a secret weapon delivered to the Earth by aliens from another planet with a vastly superior intelligence to us. Shock waves rippled throughout the Blog-a-sphere. Is Golovkin really one of us or some super being from a galaxy far away?
Back when boxing was actually being taught as the serious art it once was the left jab was the first punch taught to aspiring boxers. Students were shown how it was both an offensive and defensive punch. How it was the key to landing any other punch.
“Hey kid, if you can’t land the jab you, you can’t land any other punch.” was a common line heard in boxing gyms. Great contender Tony Shucco used to tell me, “Hit ‘em with the left, they like it. Then every once in a while toss a right so they don’t get bored.” “Stick and Move.”, “Pepper him with the left.”, “Pop that jab out there.”, were other lines you would hear over and over again back in the day.
On the flip side, young boxers were also taught how to slip and parry the jab. As great a punch as the jab could be for setting up an opponent, it could also be the opening your foe could use to counter you. Timing the jab and then throwing a right cross over it is a very effective maneuver. It takes a lot of practice, and not the type of practice you get hitting the foolish punch pads. Another skill is slipping outside the jab and hooking to the body. This is a move rarely if ever seen today.
Another lost move is feinting the jab and then turning it into a hook. This is the tactic that was employed so effectively by Billy Conn in his first fight with Joe Louis. It almost won him the title.
Jabs also come in many different varieties. There is the tapping jab where a fighter doesn’t hit his opponent terribly hard, but he hits him repeatedly and frustrates him by keeping him off balance with it. Then there is the stiff armed jab that was used so well by Light Heavyweight Champion Bob Foster. Foster would snap his jab up from his waist and punch right through his opponents. It was a brutal punch that busted up many of his challengers.
It’s funny, but as I was contemplating this column a friend sent me a clip of the Chuck Wepner vs Sonny Liston fight. We had talked a bit about this whole madness over GGG using the jab, and my friend told me to take a look at Wepner in his losing fight with Liston. Yes, Wepner, the Bayonne Bleeder, the guy considered to have very few boxing skills was actually using a fairly effective left jab in this fight. It just goes to show that it wasn’t all that long ago that even the crudest boxers knew how to throw the jab. It would be interesting to see how Mr. Wepner’s jab would do against today’s unschooled heavyweights.
I am often criticized for pointing out the lack of boxing skills in today’s fighters. I don’t blame the boxers as they train hard, are in good shape, and are just following instructions. The problem lies in the fact that there are no good teachers out there. The techniques employed to develop these skills are not there either. Abel Sanchez, GGG’s trainer, appears to one of the only trainers left who has some sense of what skills a good boxer should have, and that is why Golovkin is such a standout. The fact that his use of the most basic punch in boxing is such big news only reinforces my opinion that boxing is a dying if not dead art.