step by step boxing advice
Tips from former BBBofC British Super-Middleweight & WBF World Middleweight Champion – Cornelius Carr
Making the most of your sparring sessions
Sparring is one of the most effective tools at your disposal to improve your boxing. During light sparring sessions, make sure you take the opportunity to try out new techniques, movements and approaches.
It’s very easy to get in the ring with your training partner, get a little hot under the collar and revert back to the way of fighting that works for you. But to make the most of the session, ignore the hits and concentrate on mastering something new.
For example, if you usually fight off of your back foot (defensively), try covering up and walking forward. Try stalking your opponent and see what happens. Determine where your weaknesses are and set about trying to fix them. Likewise, if you normally pressure fight, have a go at counter punching on the back foot.
When most people start sparring, head hunting always seems to be part of the main agenda. All the padwork and bag work, thumping away at body punches goes out of the window. A great thing to try here is see how many body shots you can get in, in one round. Use the jabs and high punches to get your opponents lifting there hands and start working the body – Not too hard though, remember this is just light sparring.
There are certain danger points in fights where you can feel uncomfortable – stuck in the corner, against the ropes, and each fighter will have a particular vulnerability at different stages. Decide where you find things awkward and recreate them in sparring. Let your partner corner you, so you can work ways out of it, learn to fight against the ropes and learn how to deal with multiple punches being thrown at you.
By putting this into action will help to make you a more rounded and solid fighter. It gives you more options at any given moment during a fight and stops you from becoming an “easy to read” one dimensional boxer.
During my professional career I tried to plan and analyse each sparring session – and gained a lot, particularly for those with similar styles.
At one point, whist boxing in the US, I worked as a sparring partner for Roy Jones Jnr, along with Iceman John Scully. We were in Reno, Nevada for 3 weeks sparring in preparation for the Art Serwano fight in 1992.
Roy Jones Jnr was very fast and you knew if you got caught with one shot, four or five more were coming quickly afterwards. He was also very hard to hit and obviously has proven these skills in the ring with a great career. He is probably the best fighter I’ve sparred with.
I also worked sparing with the likes of Chris Eubank (in training for the 2nd Nigel Benn title fight) and Chris Pyatt (former WBO middleweight champion).
These were tough sessions with good fighters, and I enjoyed being at the top of my game for the 3 or 4 rounds per day.
However, sometimes there is a danger of getting too relaxed, too complacent, especially against lesser opponents and it’s all to easy to get caught with silly punches. I was hard on myself if I didn’t perform well during sparring. But it’s impossible to be at your peak 100% of the time. Sparring is a learning experience, the closest you’ll get to a real fight scenario. Losing during a sparring session can be an equally valuable lesson.
Sparring tips for the beginner boxer
- If you are new to sparring – start the first few sessions with body punching only.
- Then progress to block and parry, jabs, crosses.
- Next is the technical sparring, one is chosen to jab and one can only counter, but both are allowed to go to the body.
- Once you are happy with your technique and power, you can start with open sparring, where any move can be used and the power is kept down.
Checklist for ‘Sparring in boxing’
- Always use a head protection and a mouth guard. Sparring is a good opportunity to get used to wearing a mouth guard.
- Sparring is about improving your reactions, perfecting techniques and ironing out weaknesses. No need for all out power shots.
- Sometimes it’s a good idea to agree beforehand with your sparring partner on a focus for the session – defensive moves, certain punch combinations.
- Try to keep a level head – this can be easier said than done – but trust me if you lose your temper in the ring, chances are you will get hit more. If you get caught, it’s better to cover up, reset yourself and get back to your boxing.
Practice the boxing sit down technique with a training partner and make sure you give this a go in sparring. The best thing about this technique is you are in a great close range position to start throwing counters. Try using straight punches to their stomach, or drive up with a right uppercut and follow with a left hook.
I love the smiles on the students faces after their first sparring session. Students can be quite nervous if they are sparring for the first time, but everyone I have ever taught absolutely loves it. I truly believe this is because I bring them up to speed gradually and ensure they can protect themselves before letting them go in the ring.
Only just the other day I had a great compliment from one of my students. His name is Carl and he said he has learnt more in 5 sessions with me than he did in 10 years of boxing in the army and his sparring has improved immensely. These comments are exactly why I love training people in boxing. It’s no easy feat entering the ring for the first time, but the sense of achievement you get is fantastic.
The key is to keep the power down. Remember what you have learnt on the punch bags and pads. Don’t forget these techniques when you enter the ring to spar.
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