Tag Archives: Muhammad Ali

Further Thoughts on Western Boxing vs Muay Thai (Thai boxing)

After getting over 176,000 views on my You Tube Video Muay Thai boxing vs Boxing I’ve stirred up a lot of controversy with 170 respondents reporting they dislike my video and only 36 stating they like it. But an overwhelming majority of all respondents have totally missed one key point I made in particular in my Looking Glass Magazine article. This key point conclusively demonstrates that traditional boxing is far superior to Muay Thai when it comes to getting one’s opponent out of combat. Many respondents remarked that the fights in the video were unfair as the Western fighters were far heavier than their Thai opponents. Had these people read my article in the first place they would have read that I had already duly noted the large weight discrepancy and that this fact has absolutely nothing to do with what the videos had proven. Weight discrepancies had absolutely nothing to do with what these videos demonstrated, and for that matter the fact that Thais were fighting falang was another irrelevancy. What mattered was that in each and every case, the knockout blow was delivered with the hands and not once by a kick. What the video proved is whether the fighter was Thai or Falang, in the end he had no faith in his kicking ability to deliver a knock out blow to his opponent.

Think about it. A good boxer with decent punching ability can routinely deliver a knockout punch  with his fists just 18 inches away from an opponent’s head. How much extra distance does a kick boxer need to deliver a blow to an opponent’s head and which is going to arrive faster, the blow with the hand or the kick? How much time does a boxer need to be able to react to a blow to his head versus one delivered by a foot? There is simply no comparison. This is a matter of pure physics and not even worth arguing about. The only fly in the ointment is if the boxer who relies only on his hands lacks the punching power to get the job done.

In the video at least one of the “boxers” lacks such punching power. He’s tentative. His punches lack authority. For me he’s really not a boxer, he’s merely someone who claims to be one because his style of fighting is the traditional Western style of boxing. Just because a man puts his hands in front of his face and says, “I’m a boxer” doesn’t mean he’s the real deal. To be a real Western style boxer, one first has to be born with the requisite speed that gives him the ability to win. But speed alone is not enough. He also needs to be stronger than his fellows. And even then he has to have the killer instinct. And finally he needs to train correctly while having the right equipment at his disposal. A lot of men who never had what it takes in the first place go through martial arts schools as a substitute for speed or the power they never were blessed with. And even those who were born with the speed and power to win are still stuck with the same martial arts schools because the old boxing gyms the old timers used to train in have become a thing of the past.

When I was 19 I was operated on for a deviated septum. In those days I had trouble breathing through my nose. And I was very susceptible to colds and runny noses which oftentimes took weeks to get rid of. The surgery left me feeling as weak as a kitten, and for several weeks afterwards I was unable to exercise. I felt very vulnerable and this sense of vulnerability reached its zenith when I took a very pretty girl to a St. Louis Cardinal baseball game. We were both Freshmen in college and Susan was simply too good looking to be true. I had to park four or five blocks from the stadium and we had to walk through a bad area of town to get to the stadium and back. While walking that four or five blocks I started to almost feel like the guy who’s about to have sand kicked in his face by the bully. No one messed with us, it’s just that for the first time in my life I felt that there was nothing I could do if someone did. From that moment on, I resolved to never allow myself to get into a situation again where I’d feel so helpless.

That was during the summer between my Freshman and Sophomore years of college. I was looking forward to my second year on the university cross country running team when I’d end up getting my varsity letter. I was also looking forward to spending one month in the Wind River Mountains in the National Outdoor Leadership School, which amounted to an almost non stop expedition across Wyoming’s highest mountains in which we had to carry all our food and other supplies on our backs. We’d wind up getting re-supplied just once, and that was after the first eight days of the course, which would leave us on our own for the remaining 22 days. When you figure an intake of 2 pounds of food per day times that 22 days you can imagine what our packs must have weighed right after getting re-supplied upon completing the first eight days of the course. So looking towards all that strenuous mountaineering I’d be doing as well as a two workout a day schedule to kick off my Varsity Cross Country Running career, a summer long exercise program that would test me to the max was would be critical.

I chose a combination of boxing and cross country running, which amounted to a full hour each day hitting the punching bags along with some weight training in my step grandfather’s gym along with another hour of running. Now my step grandfather’s gym as well as his outlook on training was quite a bit different from just about everyone else I ever got to know before I met him or since. He was old school having grown up in at a time when boxing was the only game in town. Back then there was a profusion of gyms devoted to training boxers. In those days professional boxers would often come to small towns to do boxing exhibitions in which any man who could stay one round with them would wind up winning a tidy little sum. And while my grandfather always considered himself to be an amateur fighter he used to tell me that he’d often spar with one of his friends for ten rounds or so and then they’d complete their workouts by running18 miles. My step grandfather had set up his basement as a gym in which he kept a heavy bag and a speed bag platform. He also had a set of barbells along with a chin up bar and several rather odd but very simple exercise gadgets. For example he had cut off a broomstick handle into which I drilled a hole and then he had inserted a rope into his new handle and tied the free end onto a ten or twenty pound weight. The whole idea of the thing was for a man to extend the handle straight out in front of his chest with the weight hanging approximately thirty inches below the handle. He’d then wind the rope slowly onto the handle until the weight had nearly reached it. It was a great exercise for building up one’s forearms.

The object of the heavy bag was to develop terrific punching power. But what very few people would never know was how we used the speed bag platform to magnify what the speed bag was already accomplishing. For one thing the speed bag platforms Grandpa had in his basement and which he had built for me just like it in my parent’s house were rectangular in shape.They were of good quality narrow boards which he had then sanded down to form a smooth surface. After hanging them from ceilings of both basements he then weighed them down with sandbags. The result was a platform that was far superior to the cheap factory made setups one could buy in a sporting goods store. But that was just for starters. Grandpa had three different sizes of platform bags. One was a small bag that he called a peanut bag. It didn’t require much power to keep it going and when it did it became a rapidly moving blur. This bag was good at developing great hand speed and coordination, but the action was all in the wrists and hands. Next up was a medium sized bag. With this bag one could actually develop a fair amount of arm strength. All around it was much better than the peanut bag which didn’t do much for developing a man’s punching power. Last was Grandpa’s heavy platform bag. It took a fair amount of power to keep it going, although one could still use just his elbows to keep it moving. This bag along with the heavy bag developed power as well as hand speed and hand and eye coordination. But we weren’t done yet. Grandpa had made a leather loop which he could insert into the leather loop that was already fastening the punching bag to the swivel that was mounted in the lower center portion of the platform. By using this second leather loop to augment the first the position of the bag hanging from the bottom of the platform would be lowered about 2 inches. It also lengthened the length of the pendulum or arc the bag would travel each time it was struck. By traveling a significantly longer arc the punching bag would of course travel much more slowly. However, it would take a significant amount of power to keep the punching bag moving. No longer was it a question of just whipping one’s hands and wrists around. When I’d be hitting this new extended heavy platform bag I’d have to bring each hand in turn behind my shoulders to develop enough punching power to keep spinning the bag.

The end result of all that exercise including my hitting the heavy bag and four different versions of the speed bag with each one taking progressively even greater strength was that I ended up feeling as if I had the power of a baseball bat in each arm while I simultaneously felt I could deliver my punches on whatever portion of an opponent’s face I wanted. For example….it wasn’t enough to just be able to hit a man on the chin or on his nose. It’d be more like I’ll nail him on the exact top left corner of his nose while the next punch with my other hand will be connecting with his left eye. When you really think about it being able to deliver the power of a baseball bat to whatever portion of your opponent’s anatomy you wish is really something. The next time I went to a baseball game I was deliberately looking for dark alleys to walk through.

Of course everything’s relative. I certainly wasn’t the only one using my grandpa’s boxing gym. It seemed like every tough kid in my hometown was using it, but for some reason two of the toughest kids never ran into me in that gym so I never wound up going up against them with the boxing gloves on. And of course, we sparred also, but I always won. My grandfather told me, “You haven’t met Myron Spencer yet. He’d kill anyone from around here and he’d do very well in the Chicago Golden Gloves. Much later on I’d wind up meeting Myron when we were both close to sixty. I never knew him when he was a young man in his prime, but the Myron I wound up meeting looked a lot younger than sixty and he didn’t have an ounce of fat on him. But back when I was nineteen I weighed between 160 and 165 whereas Myron must have been between 180 and 190. I’m sure he would have killed me in the ring.

Back at the High School class reunion when I wound up meeting Myron I heard a story about how he and Another young man I knew had gotten into a fight with three guys from another town. Myron wound up chasing down his three opponents all of whom he knocked out. Meanwhile Larry had never made a move to support his friend, and by the time Myron returned to where Larry was waiting for him, Larry suddenly blurted out, “Let’s go get them, Myron.” But that’s typical of all the stories I heard about Myron whether it was from my grandpa or someone else. Although he never was a trouble maker, he was the sort of guy who’s make short work out of two or three opponents at a time. Now that’s what I call a real boxer.

My step grandfather told me a lot of stories such as the time he had a couple of young guys working out in his gym and a top professional fighter had come over to his house. The professional had a baby he was taking care of. The two young men working out in my grandpa’s gym were pretty good with their fists, but when the professional boxer coaxed them into trying to hit him while he was holding the baby, neither of them could even come close. The professional simply started moving his head back or to one side or the other which caused the young men to miss every time while still holding onto the baby.

Ever see Muhammad Ali winning back the heavyweight championship from George Foreman in Zaire? The other night I watched it again, only this time Jim Brown, the famous Cleveland Browns running back, and Joe Frazier were two of the commentators. This time I got an entirely different perspective of the fight. Every time I had seen it before it appeared that Muhammad Ali had been able to tire out the much younger Foreman and that he had then been able to knock him out in the eighth round. To all appearances it seemed that Foreman had been all over Ali with his superior punching ability, but through some miracle of supreme toughness and having perhaps the strongest chin in boxing, Ali had been able to weather the onslaught and finally win the fight.

Not this time, however. Even at the age of 32, Ali’s punches were so fast that I couldn’t really see them land. Yet the commentators kept saying….”That’s a good one two from Ali. Another good punch. He’s starting to hurt Foreman now. Foreman’s right eye is getting very puffy. There’s blood coming from it now.” And at the same time, the commentators were saying, “It looks like Foreman is getting to Ali, that he’s really punishing him, but very few of his punches are getting through. Ali’s slipping all of them with those little movements of his head.” And every now and then parts of the bout would be replayed in slow motion and I would be able to see what I had missed before.

For the first time I could clearly see that this much younger man, this man who had so devastatingly destroyed Joe Frazier for the Heavyweight crown simply did not belong in the same ring with Ali. Foreman didn’t have the speed to even come close to defeating Ali. And as for the two punches that eventually knocked Foreman out, one really had to see them in slow motion to really appreciate that Ali had really knocked Foreman out and that he had delivered both punches with authority and power.

And as that slow motion video was replayed I could hear the commentators saying over and over again, “This is no phantom punch. This is no phantom punch!” in obvious reference to the controversial 1st round knockout Sonny Liston suffered in his second world championship with Ali. They are still arguing that one. I suppose no one will ever know.

But my point is this. Even Muhammad Ali, who never was considered a real knockout one punch artist such as a Dempsey, a Joe Louis or a Rocky Marciano, could effectively knock anyone out he chose, and that certainly no one could touch him for speed. Even at 32, he could make a George Foreman look like a complete amateur. Although Foreman couldn’t touch Ali, I’d venture to say that during Foreman’s prime no kick boxer would ever be able to reach Foreman with a comparatively slow moving kick. I don’t think that even Bruce Lee could in spite of his wondrous athletic skills and tremendous training. And as for hurting Ali with a kick, there’s no way.

One could take isolated boxing events in which a Muay Thai or kick boxer bests a boxer who’s using traditional Western boxing techniques. But I might suggest that the “boxer” is a boxer in name only. He’s got the style but he doesn’t have the talent or the heart. Also, it’s one thing to watch a bout on television, but it’s another to see one in person. I’ve seen good Golden Gloves fighters go to war against each other in the ring, and remember one in particular. I could not see any kick boxer surviving a bout with either of the two young men. They wouldn’t even have a chance at even thinking about getting a kick in, because they’d be too busy trying to focus on merely surviving the blizzard of punches coming their way.

Although I had oftentimes boxed for fun with gloves on, I never enjoyed fighting in a street fight. But since turning 18 I’ve had several that I just couldn’t turn my back on. Although I was always aware of what I was doing while boxing with gloves on, I found real fights to be entirely different. I really can’t remember ever trying to jab an opponent in a real fight or even trying to defend myself. Instead I’d have a single thought in mind which was to utterly destroy the other guy, even after knocking him down. I’d simply go on automatic pilot, and then I’d see my adversary go down, and I’d think he had slipped because I’d have no recollection of actually punching him. If I had trained in martial arts other than Western boxing, I am sure I’d entirely forget everything that I had learned, so obviously for me in a real fight I was going by raw instinct while relying on my speed, accuracy and power.

Good boxers can easily deliver knockout punches from as little as 18 inches away with so much speed and precision that the Muay Thai trained martial artist who’s wondering what to do with his feet is helpless at stopping. So the next time anyone tells you that modern say martial arts are superior to old fashioned Western boxing and that they are much more scientific, keep in mind that all that scientific martial arts our Japanese opponents were using against American Marines didn’t help them during all that hand to hand combat of World War II.

Today about all you see are Martial Arts Schools and training courses that would have you believe they can accomplish miracles. The herd instinct takes over and when enough people start believing such nonsense all reason is cast aside. So when you hear about all that new and scientific stuff just think of Jack Dempsey, who had been heavy weight champion in the 1920’s. When Dempsey was up in his seventies two young men tried to rob him while he was stepping out of a taxi cab. Seconds later both men were on the ground. They remained there as Dempsey stood over them until the police arrived. The story goes that the pair didn’t dare get up, deciding that it was far better to wait for the police to protect them from the enraged Dempsey. Now that’s the stuff of martial arts legend. But Dempsey like my step grandfather came out of an era when Western boxing had a huge following. In recent years a lot has changed and where there had been boxing gyms there’s now a proliferation of martial arts schools thanks their becoming the darling of Hollywood and many years of the insidious corruption of organized crime in professional boxing. Nevertheless, Western boxing is still king.