Learning From Famous Boxers of Any Era and Understanding Knockout Power

by Fran on December 26, 2013


I have always been fascinated by the sharp thinking of the most famous boxers in the history of the sport. Their innate ability to spot a single flaw in an opponent just once, and then dispatch the unfortunate adversary in a brief and brutal delivery of knockout power. The mix of a sharp mind coupled with superbly honed technical skills is the key to success in the ring and the top fighters, regardless of era, always demonstrate this.

In this article I am going to point out a wonderful demonstration of opponent analysis, followed by opponent incapacitation, by one of the most famous boxers of them all. At the same time I hope to give you some inspiration to enhance your boxing training session and ‘think’ your way to better boxing skills and potentially more knockout power.

Famous Boxers as the Inspiration

The inspiration for me to produce this article came from a couple of recent posts on the site. First was the article Greatest Boxers – New Kids Versus the Old Guard. In particular were some of the brilliantly articulated observations by both the primary author (Wee Den Broon) and those who posted subsequent comments. This article prompted me to take the time to revisit some of the videos of famous boxers ‘from back in the day’ and my eyes were really opened to what we could learn.

Having watch a few old fight videos, I realised that a recent video I produced could really help in allowing you to ‘see into’ a boxer’s style. This video was the unimaginatively titled How to Land More Punches. Despite the less-than-original title, this video is really important in enabling you to really understand and get the most out this article. It is really important that you watch and understand the concepts that I present in this video. If you don’t take time to watch (and it’s less than 10 minutes long), then what follows in this article will of course be interesting, but I want it to be both enlightening and inspirational.

The 5-Step Sequence

The key messages from this video are the concepts of feinting for deception and channel shift. When these techniques are used, underpinned by the ability to spot patterns in what the opponent is doing, then you can pretty much guarantee success.

To take a structured view we can consider a simple 5-step sequence; initiate, observe, learn, apply, DESTROY!

  1. Initiate the engagement with the opponent, make things happen don’t wait for them to happen. Punch or feint, just don’t wait!
  2. Observe the reactions of your opponent to your actions.
  3. Learn and learn quick, spot the patterns.
  4. Apply your learning.
  5. Destroy the opponent. I know this sounds a bit dramatic, but when you throw punches you do so with one thing in mind, destruction via knockout power.

There were few better at this 5-step sequence than the incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson, arguably the most famous boxer of them all. I’m going to show you one fight involving the great man, and in particular I am interested in the final exchange of this relatively short but brutal encounter.

The Fight

In May 1957, Sugar Ray faced off against Gene Fullmer for the World middleweight title. Fullmer, the rugged and teak tough champion, had defeated Sugar Ray 4 months earlier on a points decision. Ray was looking to avenge that defeat and did so in emphatic fashion.

This is a real ‘Beauty and the Beast’ encounter. Robinson had a wonderfully balanced and rhythmic style, a superb appreciation of range and a boxing combination punching capability that was as fast as it was concussive.

Fullmer on the other hand fought like the opponent was about to evict him and his family from their home. His footwork was rudimentary to say the least and served only to get him into range so that he could launch his heart and soul into every single shot he threw. He was wild in short and vicious bursts and ultimately was very effective as a top fighter of his era.

The whole fight is well worth watching. It’s exciting and full-blooded. However, I am going to focus you on one specific passage which starts at 18:45 and results in Gene being counted out no more than a seconds later.

Art in Action the Sugar Ray Way

OK, so Ray Robinson sticks a short left hook on Fullmer’s jaw and separates him from his senses, big deal, right? Well, not really. There’s plenty going on in the lead up to the shot that is actually the real headline grabber for me. The hook is just the icing on the cake really.

So, here’s what happens:

  1. Sugar Ray initiates the engagement with a smashing right hook to the body. Gene responds instantly with a right hook of his own. What follows tells me that Ray observes the reaction of Gene to the Robinson hook.
  2. Ray then repeats the action. He again fires a booming right hook to the body of Fullmer and again Gene stays true to form and responds by instantly firing back his own. The thing is, Gene drops the right and launches it from waist height. Robinson has spotted this, of that I am positive. He has learned and learned quickly!
  3. Now, here’s the ‘art in action’. Ray shows the most delicate of feints with the right hook to the body. It happens at 18:50 and is ever so subtle, but he sells it in such a way that Gene is absolutely convinced that the right hook is on it’s way and goes to respond with his own. It is no more than a slight drop of the lead knee and right shoulder but it’s enough to trigger Gene to respond. Ray is applying his learning.
  4. Immediately following the feint Sugar Ray unleashes a short left hook that explodes onto Gene’s jaw with such massive power that people all the way back in the bleachers grimaced I’m sure. Fullmer simply does not see the shot coming because he’s bee totally deceived and is expecting a ‘manageable’ right hook to the body. To be honest, Gene is fortunate not to be absolutely unconscious as opposed to dazed and confused. You guessed it, that’s Ray being destructive!

I actually find this classic piece of Sugar Ray Robinson as beautiful as it is awe-inspiring. To my mind there are a few things to take away from a learning point of view:

  • The sequence described was pre-determined based upon tactical observations made of the opponent. That is, Ray performed the feint of the right hook knowing that he would immediately follow with that left hook. He recognised that Fullmer left a big opening on his right side when throwing that right hook and this opportunity was too good to pass up.
  • There is no waiting here. Sugar Ray triggers Gene to act. Boxing is a sport of action, if you want to wait then find a queue!
  • It is vital during training that you visualise the potential responses of your opponent. Even if you do not box or spar, visualisation is highly effective in building in dynamism to your gym routine. Visualise the opponent and visualise the responses.

Any comments or questions that you have will be gratefully received below. After making your comment, and if this this little piece of magic from Sugar Ray has struck a chord with you, then check out an article I published on counter punching in boxing. It’s definitely worth reading.

Also, click on this link to learn more about feinting in boxing.



PS – Little tip. If you want to watch the sequence in slow motion, hover your mouse over the video view then click on the YouTube emblem in the bottom right hand corner. This will take you through to YouTube. Once on YouTube, click the small cog in the bottom right of the video view and select the ‘Speed’ drop down list. Select 0.25 and away you go. Simples 🙂

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Mitchell November 2, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Hi, just got my Green Belt in Shukokai Karate. The Grading involved “Jiyu Kumite” or Free Sparring, and I did better than expected against a guy one grade higher with alot more fighting experience. Somebody said he was quite impressed by my style, though inevitably I came out as the underdog. I’ll be keeping up with your articles, because they’ll relate more to what I’m doing as time goes on.


Fran November 3, 2014 at 10:33 pm

Excellent. Well done Frank, hope the articles continue to assist.


Miguel Geronimo November 2, 2014 at 12:33 am

Great article and vid. You have helped me in training my MMA fighter’s in properly using boxing in the cage. I just wished you had vids on DVD. I hate downloads. Thank you very much for your insight on boxing. You are one of the best boxing coaches on the planet.


DanTheSandmanSmith June 24, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Excellent article here Fran!! You’re very on point and knowledgeable with your boxing analysis, and this really helped me understand the significance of feinting and being very observant every second you’re in the ring! Thanks again


Fran June 25, 2014 at 9:19 pm

Glad you like it Dan. Thanks for the feedback.


MickeyG December 28, 2013 at 8:06 pm

great article as usual Fran. I would not have picked up on this tactic without ur insight, and never saw the ever so subtle final feint. It was like sugar ray knew he had him and didn’t need to do much. The second right hook he throws was like a test – he easily avoided the counter punch from Fullmer. Pretty amazing example of learning your opponents moves.
thanks fran – happy holidays – mickey


Fran January 1, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Hey Mickey

Yes it’s a really interesting one from Robinson. It’s always great to see that stuff that goes on under the surface, he set Gene up beautifully on this occasion. Sheer class.

Best wishes for the New Year Mick and thanks for the comment


Juan Jimenez December 28, 2013 at 12:31 am

Very good Mr Fran.I have been ask you for sometimes to give your professional opinion about my eleven years old son.If you don’t mind Sir with all my respect to check him up on youtube.Just search for ” Humble Littler fighter” and you will see part of his training and competition.He competes in boxing , kickboxing , and karate.So please your opinion is very valuable for us, thanks .


Fran December 28, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Hi Juan

I managed to check out a spar your son had against a taller and heavier opponent. He did really well. He didn’t try to match the opponent for strength rather he used good movement and skilled shots to make his point. Against an opponent his age, size and weight I would expect him to be a little more aggressive. He has the makings of a very good little southpaw who uses his brain well.

Thanks for the view Juan. Happy New Year.


Juan Jiménez December 28, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Thanks very much Mr Fran.We always listen to you.We pay you a lot respect and admiration.Thanks again for you opinion and we wish a very happy new year(Feliz año nuevo), gracias amigo.


Fran January 1, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Gracias Juan. Best of luck for 2014


Paul Smith December 27, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Excellent article and coaching tips as per usual Fran.

SRR is a role model to me because he fought well into his 40s and was an extraordinary champion.

Thanks and Happy New Year!


Fran December 28, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Thanks Paul. Happy New Year to you as well.


Enrique December 27, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Fran, great insight and reccomendation. Thanks for the post and for taking the time and effort to put this up! I think it is useful for all of us!!


Fran December 27, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Thank you Enrique. Glad that you liked it.


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