Great Fighter, Great Combination!

by Fran on July 4, 2014


Having recently produced the video on Simple Boxing Combinations That Work, I wanted to provide you with an example of a genuine ring great hammering home a stunning 4-punch combination at long range. This clip will help you see the positives of the dynamic punching angle changes that set apart fantastic fighters from the rest.

The fighter in question is the one and only “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler and his 1986 smash-up against John “The Beast” Mugabi. The latter shocked most observers with his fiery approach to tackling Marvin, and certainly gave the champion plenty to think about for the first half of the fight.

This fight is one that I never tire of watching, it was such a major influence on me as a young boxer. So, I would heartily recommend you watch the whole fight when you get a chance. However, for the purposes of this article I need to point you to one specific point in the video.

The ‘special combination’ that I want you to look at smashes into the target at 25:44 of the video. I just love the flow of the combination. It has timing, power and authority and is beautifully simple. Here’s the sequence of shots that Marvin uses in his attack:

Here’s the video:

How fantastic is that! A stunning assault by any standards.

Just a small point about Marvin’s stance as he lands this combination. You’ll notice that as the shots land he’s quite square on. I would recommend that as you work this combination you aim to maintain your stance. Hagler was a consummate switch hitter, changing stance regularly. In this instance he’s just interested in landing the next shot on the opponent so he’s willing to be vulnerable to being knocked off balance. For us mere mortals I’d recommend maintaining that stance 🙂

Hope this provides some inspiration.



PS – In the interest of balance, check out Mugabi using the beautiful outside slip and right uppercut at 18:31. Text book!

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Graham August 1, 2014 at 7:53 am

That’s a top summary of a great fight Fran, well done.

If you could next do a post fight analysis of the war between Rocky Balboa and Clubber Lang (aka Mr T.) in Rocky III then that’d be really interesting. I’ll look forward to that.


Fran August 1, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Checked Graham. Couldn’t find a Balboa or a Lang. Not sure but I reckon that Lang might murder Balboa to death, in the words of a world famous fight trainer! 🙂


Graham August 2, 2014 at 11:05 am

Hi Fran, many thanks for the quick reply. I must say that I’m rather surprised that you haven’t seen this classic fight given that I know you’re a great student of the noble art. I’m fairly sure that the fight is still readily available on DVD. I’d highly recommend that you have a look.

My own personal opinion for what it’s worth is that Clubber Lang would have won the rematch and retained his title if he had used his jab more. His jab was truly excellent, almost Holmesesque in fact. But in this one he hardly used it at all preferring short range power shots which I believe ultimately led to him losing the fight because Rocky for all his obvious failings worked really well on the inside. It still baffles me to this very day why Clubber didn’t use the jab more to set up his sledgehammer right, maybe he injured his left hand in the run-up to the fight or something. I guess that we’ll never know for sure why Clubber fought Rocky’s fight and so ceded his World title. BTW the referee had a bit of a shocker if truth be told and let Rocky away with all sorts of rule infractions and foul play; it’s just a shame that Mills Lane wasn’t available for the fight as I’ve always highly rated him.

Fran, when you’ve seen the fight please let me know if you agree or disagree with my admittedly rather brief analysis. All the best, Graham


Fran August 7, 2014 at 8:07 pm


Your analysis is spot on. Can’t argue on any of it. Right, off to run backwards up a beach.


Graham August 9, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Thanks Fran. It’s most reassuring to learn that you’re in broad agreement with my analysis of that truly great fight as I do value most highly your opinion on boxing matters. As a sad postscript to this fight I must report that, after this crushing defeat at the hands of the Italian stallion, Clubber never fought again. Indeed last heard of he was working in a gas station somewhere in the Mid-West. It really is a rather sad end to the career of , according to many boxing historians, the 3rd hardest hitting heavyweight champion of all time, only bettered by Foreman and Tyson.

Interestingly I’m actually currently working on a post-fight analysis of the epic cold war encounter between Rocky Balboa and the Russian colossus that was Ivan Drago (Rocky IV). My preliminary thoughts are that the similarities between the boxing styles of Drago and the Klitschko brothers is rather striking. Drago’s very mechanical yet effiicient ramrod straight punching boxing style must have influenced the brothers greatly, maybe not that surprising given that all three hail from the old U.S.S.R. I guess Vitali and Wladimir must have spent many hours watching Drago in action and subconsciously if nothing else copied their hero’s very successful boxing style. Maybe they even attended a boxing workshop run by Drago when they were youngsters, who knows.

When I’ve completed my analysis I’ll be sure to post it on here – I’m sure you’ll look forward to that.
All the best to you Fran,
Graham, Manchester, England

guy laieta July 26, 2014 at 10:18 am

Hi Fran. Thanks for the memories. I remember the Hagler vs Mugabi war vividly. I wanted to let you know that my charge, Steed Woodall is now 4 @ 0 with 3 kos. His last 2 fights ended in the first round. My fingerprints are visible because not one blow from either opponent landed. I love your videos and I feel our boxing philosophies are extremely similar. When I started training Steed straight from the amateurs he was pure aggression, speed, and power. Now I’ve taught him defensive aggressiveness.Thanks for your help buddy. When we inevitably fight in England, I owe you a steak dinner…..Best wishes…….Guy Laieta


Fran July 30, 2014 at 8:34 pm

Hey Guy

I hope that you are keeping well. Great news about Steed. Learning his trade in the right way with the right guidance, congratulations to you both!

Look forward to catching up on Steeds progress. Take care Guy.


pug July 22, 2014 at 2:17 am

Hey Fran,

I’m a little late on this, been away, but your analysis is “spot on” haha, I love those English coloquialisms and the comments are great. I really liked the ‘ship’ analogy. It’s great to see these old fights again. I was a huge Hagler fan and still am. I’ll never forget the television ad that came on immediately after the Hagler-Hearns fight when he knocked Tommy out after chasing him around the ring with his hand raised like he was holding a hatchet! Anyway, here’s the ad, picture Marivin immaculately dressed in a dark blue pinstripe suit, sans jacket, just the vest and white shirt and tie with a high white collar fastened with tiny gold bar that was popular in the day. Marvin has a slice of pizza in his hand. I think it was an ad for Boston Pizza. Marvin takes a bite and says, “I wonder what the other guys’ doing?…..probably sippin’ soup” then he snickers. It still cracks me up everytime I think of it.
But speaking of great combinations what about the fight you just predicted coach? Groves vs. Froch II! Froch feints the left jab and continues the set-up with a ‘throw-away’ left hook that distracts Groves who lowers his left just in time for Froch to deliver his Midnight Special! Budda bing! That’s it. That’s all she wrote Geoge.


Fran July 30, 2014 at 7:10 pm

My apologies for the delay, I’m later than you!

Wonderful recollection of that night Rick. Maybe I look back through rose-tinted spectacles, or that we all have a glowing recollection of our youth, but those moments of recall from what I believe was the golden era of boxing are amazing. Love it.

On Froch/Groves, I wondered when someone would spot the wonderfully subtle feint that led to the knockout. Really was textbook and every young boxers should watch and learn from that one passage!. Great to hear from you Rick, hope you are keeping well.


Paul_S July 6, 2014 at 11:44 pm

Great fighters, but I wasn’t too aware of them during their prime as I had stopped being in love with boxing after seeing Muhammad Ali lose to Trevor Berbick. It wasn’t until Mike Tyson was cleaning up in the Heavyweight divisions that I became interested in boxing again, but even he soured me when he bit Holyfield’s ear off.

Oh well, I digress, but I have to ask Fran — What do you know of a Victorian era boxer named Jem Mace?

I’m reading a book on him now, titled ‘Master Of The Ring’ The Extraordinary Life of JEM MACE Father of Boxing and the First Worldwide Sports Star.

He was a fleet-footed bare knuckles boxer born in 1831 that became Champion of England in 1861 during the London Prize Ring and Pugilistic Benevolent Association era of what were illegal boxing matches at the time.

I’m only near the end of Part 1, but it is a fascinating read, imo.

Cheers Coach.
Paul Smith


Karl July 6, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Like everyone else I love this fight for the great display of boxing mechanics, but over and above that I love it for the lessons in tactics, heart and cornering.

Mugabi had a great start and was throwing some bombs at Hagler, he was making him miss nicely and countering often with a fast jab over jab, he even saw a measure of respect in Hagler’s eyes after hitting squarely with a right near the end of round 2. Things seemed to be going as expected. Just look at his record! Twenty five wins and all of them by KO or TKO, no defeats. This is a man who is used to intimidating his opponents, he expects to see a lot of respect and caution in the other man’s eye. He’s one of those boxers who can make a man wilt by the force of his presence alone. Because of that history (which is probably a lot longer than his official record of 25 fights) you can be sure that his strategies are built upon taking the heart away from his opponents and that is exactly what his corner reiterates between round 2 and 3. Quote..”Don’t let him back you up, take his heart”.

Now, over-relying on a strength will turn it into a weakness pretty quickly and that is exactly what happens over the next 3 rounds, culminating in the brutal round 6.

I use to work among ships. It’s kind of amazing actually that a huge vessel can be moved a little bit here and there by the efforts of one man. The key is to apply steady pulling pressure on a rope, not jerking snaps. Start pulling steadily and wait, at first nothing will happen. You don’t need to increase your effort you just need a little patience. After about 10 seconds the ship will start to drift towards you in the water.

This was Hagler’s approach, and just as importantly the approach of his corner. Just listen to the calm and collected Petronelli giving instruction between rounds. Hagler is perfectly attentive, Petronelli is softly making generalized adjustments “try him in tight and see what he does”, “have a little patience”, “go with the 1-2, you know, mix it up a little”. Like he’s describing a walk in the park. Completely unflustered. The message is – just keep working, the ship will start to move your way. And that’s what he does. He boxes Mugabi strong but he backs off when it’s prudent, then goes right back to work. Over and over again. He doesn’t try to solve this “Beast” with one punch but instead applies steady pressure and waits for his chance. The chance is given to him in round 6 when Mugabi fully embraces the strategy of his corner and holds his ground – without moving at all at times – while absorbing immense punishment. This sequence only lasts about a minute (2:15-1:05 of round 6) but it’s the moment when Mugabi must have realized that his “take his heart away” strategy would not work. Hagler was not going to wilt. Hagler was not going to have internal doubts that he’d never be able to stop this beast in front of him. Sure enough, Mugabi breaks and Hagler punches him back to the ropes at 1:07 of round 6. Hagler’s confident stride forward at that moment tells the story. He’s won the battle of heart and at the same moment Mugabi has lost it. Listen to Mugabi’s corner from then on. They know it too. Their fighter has doubts. What he has always done didn’t work this time and he’s not sure where to go from there or what to try next.


Fran July 15, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Hey Karl

I hope that you’re well and sorry for the delayed reply.

Superb observations. Mugabi thought he could do what Thomas Hearns couldn’t, break Hagler. And you’re spot on about the Hagler approach. Steady, combative, accurate. I love at the end of the 10th when Hagler nonchalantly states to his corner “Just startin’ to put it together.” Incredible fighter. Mugabi rightly took plenty of credit for his efforts, but he was never going to “out-Marvin” Marvin.

Interesting about the advice of the corner of Mugabi. Mickey Duff was the promoter of the fight in which Marvin won his world title. Hagler sliced apart Britain’s Alan Minter with ruthless efficiency and the British ‘fans’ subsequently bottled him out of the ring. Point being, Alan Minter tried to do the same thing to Marvin rather than box him. Not sure why Mickey felt that strategy would work a second time when it so abjectly failed the first time.

Funny Old Game (to pinch a footballing term)

Thanks for the comment and hope the gym’s booming!


Ivan July 6, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Hi Fran,
Great fight indeed. These two hardcore boxing gladiators did not disappoint and should be an example for the modern show-biz con-artists posing as boxers.
The old hands looked different, they looked authentic and they looked like boxers down to the boot laces. I did not spot any inexplicable (chemically generated) muscle formations that have spread like fever among the boxing elite nowadays. Everyone of the top dogs today bears evidence of “medical history” – Floyd, the Klitschkos, Pacman, you name them.
Mugabi reminded me of the early Ali and it wasn’t just the white trunks, he is a similar prototype….only better. The African seemed better coordinated and better equipped technically.
I did not have to wait long for a great combo either – I liked the three counters Mugabi threw after Haggler missed with 20 seconds left in the first round. Great stuff throughout the fight while it lasted and truly textbook material from both – from the way they move to the way they throw without flinching or even looking at the target before they fluidly unload from all angles.
Thank you for bringing the fight to us and for the expert analysis too.


Fran July 11, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Better than A young Ali eh Ivan, surprised that many haven’t jumped on that! Mugabi was a well schooled amateur who picked up a silver at the 1980 Olympics. He boxed out of his skin this night, although Ray Leonard was said to have used this fight as the signal that Marvin was ready for the taking.


Ivan July 13, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Technically/fundamentally better beyond any doubt. Mugabi lacked the conditioning and perhaps the mindset of a true champion, he lost to Haggler because he could not keep up his game after the 6th. The fight was over in the 6th round when Mugabi visibly got tired and his body language changed, he knew was toast. When he fell in the 11th, the astute commentator noted he wasn’t so much hurt but “dead tired” more than anything else. Haggler’s legendary conditioning paid off, he was in over his head and had no answer for the African until Mugabi did himself in and punched himself out.


Dave Waterman July 5, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Marvin switched seamlessly and brilliantly, as is proven here. I was in a gym a couple of weeks ago to speak to the head coach there and saw two of his boys (I say ‘boys’ but both were novice seniors) switch hitting in sparring. Both were doing it coming forward. I asked him why he didn’t correct them and he just shrugged. What’s your thoughts on this Fran? I’ve got no one in my gym yet exhibiting such a skill set that switching is something to consider.


Fran July 7, 2014 at 8:38 pm

Hello Dave

On a personal level I would certainly avoid coaching switch-hitting to novices. To more experienced boxers who were comfortable boxing out an opposite stance I would be more willing to explain an approach on switch hitting, otherwise it feels like a bit of a pointless exercise i.e. throwing a back hand on the attack and allowing the rear leg to follow through and become the lead leg without being able to continue the attack feels like a lot of risk for not much return. So it appears that we both agree on that mate. There’s a few switch hitting moves that can be done at close range that are a very effective and at the same time limit risks, so I am quite happy coaching them.

All this said, I think Brendan Ingle always liked to coach this type of stuff from the outset and he has certainly produced one or two decent kids 🙂


Fran August 13, 2014 at 10:14 pm

I will indeed look forward to that Graham. Drago was obviously playing the long game in terms of attaining global heavyweight boxing domination. I never twigged onto that when I watched the fight first time around. Not sure whether the variable quality of US heavyweights in recent years might have played into that a little. I say variable but I mean kack. Where’s Clubber Lang when you need him?

All the very best back to you.


Graham August 17, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Hi Fran, it’s great to hear back from you. It’s funny that you mention Clubber because I was in my local pub a few days ago with a few friends and who else but Clubber Lang’s name came up. We were debating dream boxing match-ups that never were. One good friend of mine, Frank, who is a great boxing fan, posed the question of who would have won a rumble between Mike Tyson and Clubber Lang. I’m guessing this one came up because of their very similar builds and boxing styles (incidentally only 3 years seperated the careers of the two, Clubber having retired in 1982 and Iron Mike’s pro career beginning in 1985). Very plausibly Frank reckoned that Clubber would have ko’d Iron Mike. He reasoned this on the basis that up until his defeat by Rocky and subsequent retirement in 1982 Clubber had ko’d every single one of his opponents, a truly frightening and exemplary KO ratio. And that his truly awesome power would just have been too much for Mike. I took all this on board but I argued that Mike’s superb lateral movement exhibited at the start of his career would have have meant that Clubber’s power shots in the main would have hit fresh air. And so I thought that Mike would have beat Clubber on points albeit very narrowly. We argued the toss for quite a while but neither of us could persuade the other to their point of view. And we still can’t. But we both highly value your boxing opinion Fran so have decided that you should be the arbiter. So Fran, who do you reckon would have won, Iron Mike or Clubber? There’s a few drinks resting on this so no pressure! All the best to you Fran,

Graham, Manchester, England


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