A BROAD OVERVIEW

Styles make fights. That’s what they say. I would agree. Styles make fights, but what are the styles that make the fights? Generally speaking, it seems to me that there are 3 primary styles in boxing. Some have said there are just 2 styles. But, I’ve seen 3 with some variations or combinations.

To me the 3 primary styles in fighting are: 1) boxing, 2) pressure-fighting, and 3) slugging (or power punching). Other variant styles would be boxer-punchers, counter-puncher, southpaw, in-fighter, swarmer, brawler, and others that I’m probably leaving out.

In addition the styles of fighting, I think that range is important also in trying to game plan or analyze a fight. The ranges I perceive are: outside (or long range–in some older books–they call this out-boxing), mid-range, inside, head to head, shoulder to shoulder, and out of range. I think most people would consider outside and mid-range to be “boxing” range. To me, these are all boxing ranges. In strategy, range can be a factor. For example there might be a fighter that likes to bring pressure, but they are mid-range pressure fighters. Mid-range is typically straight punching. Inside is hooking range. Outside, they gotta step with their punches.

However, in communicating with a fighter, indeed, if I were to say “box,” I would mean outside and mid-range. If I said to “fight,” I would mean mid-range with forward advancing, or get inside (which includes inside, head to head, and shoulder to shoulder). Boxing, therefore, in this context means to stay outside or out of range. Fighting means to go forward, bring pressure (soft or hard), and throw a volume punches.

Beginning fighters tend to only fight with one style and with one range. As fighters improve they can fight with different styles and different ranges. Examples of fighters capable of this–Andre Ward or Floyd Mayweather or Sugar Ray Robinson.

The reason that they say styles make fights is that a style match up can determine who has the strategic advantage in a fight, and thus can determine the fight. Roughly speaking, if boxing were like the game rock/paper/scissors, the styles of boxing/pressure-fighting/slugging would correspond. All things being equal: boxing beats slugging, pressure beats boxing, and slugging beats pressure.

These stylistic match ups and their outcomes, is how I would figure if a fighter is a great boxer, pressure fighter, or slugger. If a boxer can beat a pressure fighter, they are a great boxer. If a pressure fighter can beat a slugger, they are a great pressure fighter. If a slugger can be a boxer, they are a great slugger. In reality, as fighters get more experienced, they can often execute more than one style.

In the amateurs, pressure fighting is the style you will see the most in the novice and sub-novice classes. Novice being under 10 fights. Sub-novice being under 5. There is some attempts at boxing in these classes, but usually fighters are not experienced enough to move away from the pressure. As you reach the open or elite class, boxing abilities have emerged and fighters can now neutralize the pressure fighters. There are sluggers in the amateurs but boxers and pressure fighters are more common.

In the early pros, boxers start to become boxer-punchers, pressure fighters get better at being pressure fighters, and there are more sluggers around. More counter-punchers start to emerge also.

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So when I look at a fighter, I will try to determine what their primary style is. If I were to coach against that fighter, I would start to consider what style would work best and if my fighter can execute that strategy because a strategy that cannot be executed is a bad strategy. If I have more time, I would start to look at the idiosyncrasies of the athlete and see if there are any obvious weaknesses to attack.

Ultimately, strategy in competition is to take away your opponent’s strength and also attack their weakness. If you are much better, you don’t really need strategy; you just need to execute your offense and defense. A challenging environment requires strategic thinking.

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