I think there is a slight misconception surrounding technical boxing. We tend to jump to the conclusion that it is a back-footed, defensive style designed to mitigate risk and excitement. I’d mainly attribute this to the success of the immensely popular Floyd Mayweather Jr and his highly technical approach. However, his style is only one iteration of technical boxing.
Fundamentally, technical boxing is a style that requires you to outwit your opponent rather than outworking them. The best analogy I can think of is chess, it’s a highly strategic game that is dependent on your mental sharpness and skills.
Technical boxing is no different, it requires fighters to be thinking ahead, which generally involves setting up their opponents.
With technical boxing, the mental aspect is very much the focus rather than the physical. The objective of boxing is “to hit and not be hit” and technical boxing styles closely follow this thesis rather than initiating brawls. A lack of violence actually isn’t a repercussion of this style, but you’ll find that technical boxers make calculated risks and tend to press the action at the right moments.
Styles within technical boxing
There is a lot of variation within technical boxing. As we mentioned earlier, the most iconic representative of technical boxing would probably be Floyd Mayweather Jr. I think this is the reason why people automatically associate technical boxing with a defensive style.Embed from Getty Images
However, you can be an aggressive fighter and still be technical. There are lots of great fighters who had a technical offensive style, for instance, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Bernard Hopkins, and Roy Jones Jr to name a few.
The point being is that technicality and finesse don’t necessarily equate to a defense-oriented style of boxing. However, every fighter that is technical will put an emphasis and effort into ensuring that their defense is substantial.
The reason I’m pointing this out is that there seems to be a narrative floating around that being technical is a weak, back-footed style of boxing, for boxers that don’t have a punch. Not only is this absolutely false but its also a foolish message to spread. Telling young fighters to brawl when boxing will only hurt them in the long term. Knowing how to brawl is a useful skill but its more important to know how to properly box.
Technical boxing skills
- Thinking Ahead/Setting up: Being strategic is one of the fundamental elements of technical boxing. This skill is centered around observation and adjustment. It’s about how well you can read what your opponent is going to do or thinking of doing and then have appropriate counter-measures for several steps ahead.
- Game-planing: A game-plan is an overall route to victory that many technical boxers use. An iconic recent example is Floyd Mayweather Jr’s bout with Conor McGregor in 2017. Floyd let Conor take the first few rounds where he was explosive, fast, and awkward. However, he knew that Conor didn’t have the experience to manage his gas tank so he pressed him hard. Floyd tucked his chin down, kept his hands up, and brought the fight to McGregor at round 5 from where on he completely dominated.
- Movement: Being able to move around the ring well is another essential facet of technical boxing. The ring is limited in space so you need to know how to correctly position and orientate yourself in different situations so you can move around freely. This allows fighters to create angles, control range, and move away from their opponent’s attacks.
- Timing: Timing is something that technical boxers tend to be quite good at. It can be trained but generally speaking, it seems to come naturally. Timing is simply knowing when to punch and when to hold back. This might not sound like much but it is crucial to technical boxers and counter-punchers.
- Footwork: Whether you are a power puncher or a technical fighter, having good footwork is essential. This means that you’ll be balanced which will allow you to take a punch but it will also mean that you’re able to put more power into your shots. Clever footwork also allows fighters like Vasyl Lomachenko to create angles right in front of their opponents and hit them from all sides.
Some of the most technical boxers throughout history
- Floyd Mayweather : Floyd used an adapted version of the “Philly-shell” or the “Shoulder-roll” along with techniques like the pull-counter to land quick shots before moving out of range and staying elusive. This was a highly defensive strategy that suited Floyd in the latter stage of his career because of his hand injuries. His technical prowess is undeniable and in my opinion he is the most technically sound fighter we’ve ever seen.
- Vasyl Lomachenko: Another highly technical and effective style we’ve recently seen is by Ukrainian boxer, Vasyl Lomachenko. Loma has produced some of the most sensational highlight reels of recent times. His fast footwork, impeccable defensive, and elusive pressure have solidified him as one of the most technical fighters ever.
- Roberto Duran: While most people remmember Duran for his insane brawls, he was actually an incredibly calculated front-footed boxer. Especially in the later stages of his career, he would pick his shots with incredible intuition and accuracy while keeping pressure on his opponents at all times. Essentially his offense was so great, it acted as his defense as well.
- Bernard Hopkins: Hopkins was one of the best technical fighters ever. He used his IQ to outclass nearly all his opponents for the better part of 30 years. Even at the age of 50, Hopkins was able to compete and become a world champion because of his technical finnesse and durability.
- Andre Ward: This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Andre Ward. He was sensational during his campaign of the ring with 32 wins and no losses. Ward was an incredibly well-rounded fighter and he absorbed very little punishment thanks to his defense and boxing IQ. He’s predominantly a counter-punching and his style has often beeing compared to Mayweather’s.
Advantages of technical boxing
There are a plethora of advantages to mastering the “sweet science” of boxing. The main advantage is longevity. See, most fighters tend to absorb lots of punishment which often causes their careers to grind to an unexpected halt. However, technical fighters generally take less damage throughout their careers which leads to them being able to perform for a longer amount of time. For instance, Mayweather and Bernard Hopkins were both competing in their 40’s. At this age, most fighters are completely spent and well into retirement.Embed from Getty Images
Another advantage is your well-being. Boxing is a combat sport so there are always certain inherent risks but there is no need to take on unnecessary risks from brawling with your opponents. Especially if you can comfortably outbox them. Holistically speaking, fighters who box technically absorb fewer punches as they tend to have stronger defenses.
Disadvantages to technical boxing
The only real disadvantage I can think of for technical boxing is that some of the wider, casual boxing fans may not enjoy the strategic finesse that technical boxers often bring. Boxing is harder to appreciate the more complicated it is because it can become quite difficult to follow. If you have boxed yourself then watching technical masterclasses will be quite enjoyable. However, many fans haven’t tried out boxing for themselves and want to see massive brawls as they saw in movies like Rocky.
The only other argument you can make is that technical fighters have a slight proclivity to struggle against high-pressure fighters. Fighters like Manny Pacquiao have given some technical boxers trouble due to their immense pressure. Technical boxers usually like to move around the ring to set up their attacks. This means if a highly skilled brawler was able to cut off the ring and get inside their jab, they would likely be able to do damage because this is where technical fighters are usually uncomfortable.
Technical boxing is an excellent style of boxing that really emphasizes the meaning of the sport. However, it is only one of many styles and it may not suit everyone. While I think its important to be technically sound, its equally as important to acknowledge that it won’t be a successful style for some people. Certain fighters will be excellent brawlers, pressure fighters, or sluggers, and you should focus on utilizing whatever style suits you best.