Hit and Don’t Get Hit

By Boxing News - 02/09/2022 - Comments

By Eric Coronado Jr.: “Hit and don’t get hit,” or “hit without getting hit.” Perhaps the most fundamental and essential mantra in boxing. It’s the duty of a boxer to punish their opponent while avoiding return fire, and indeed, it is rare for a boxer to achieve worldwide notoriety without a solid understanding of the second half. “Don’t get hit.”

Even fighters who’ve traditionally been thought of as offensive masters like Manny Pacquiao, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, and Gennady Golovkin, who are there to be hit and prefer to stay in the pocket, have utilized subtle and unique techniques to avoid punches landing flush while refusing to give ground.

Pacquiao used explosive footwork and head movement to close gaps and bolt in and out to deliver his shots. Chocolatito uses a brilliant combination of blocking and parries to avoid the brunt of his opponent’s offensive efforts, and Golovkin uses an effective jab and moderate head movement to offset his opponent’s attack.

Although these fighters are not as defense-oriented as fighters like Floyd Mayweather Jr., Canelo Alvarez, or Andre Ward, they are still operating under the same sacred mantra.

And here’s the point. Floyd Mayweather, like Pacquiao and Golovkin, put the “hit” first. Mayweather’s success ushered in a generation of what some call “Mayweather clones.” That is, boxers who utilize the shoulder roll, pot shot technique, and focus on countering, though never as well.

Every great fighter will influence the generation of fighters after them. However, it is essential to understand the building blocks and the process behind the greatness. It has been said and said again, but it still holds true. Everybody wants to be Money Mayweather without putting in the Pretty Boy work.

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Mayweather was able to achieve great success through a combination of meaningful experience, hard work, and mettle that is simply yet to be matched by someone attempting to emulate his style. Although he wasn’t the most thrilling fighter to watch, he wasn’t single-mindedly defensive either. His fights with Miguel Cotto and Marcos Maidana (though a solid case can be made for a Maidana victory in the first) are evidence that although he preferred to play it safe, slow things down, use his shoulder roll, and counter effectively when he was unable to effectively “not get hit,” he could bite down on his mouthguard and get gritty.

Perhaps the first fighter to achieve great notoriety as an almost direct clone of Mayweather was Adrien “The Problem” Broner. Although Broner utilized a pretty effective shoulder roll, blistering hand speed, and had plenty of pop in his punches, he simply lacked the work ethic and ability to return fire when facing a swarming opponent that allowed Mayweather to excel. This was made clear in his victory against Paulie Malignaggi and was capitalized upon by Marcos Maidana.

Last Saturday saw Raymond Ford (11-0-1, 6 KOs) walk away with a victory that most viewers, including Ford’s own promoter, Eddie Hearn, believe was wrongfully awarded over his opponent, Edward Vazquez (11-1-0, 3 KOs). In this fight, it was clear that, like Adrien Broner, who has difficulty adjusting to solid, consistent pressure, Ford was unable to make an adjustment when the second half of the mantra is unachievable.

What do you do when “don’t get hit” isn’t really an option? Ford backpedaled, unsuccessfully tried to get in his shell, and landed fewer punches than his opponent.

In similar situations, the prototype, Mayweather, has upped his punch output, held a high guard, or returned fire with his back to the ropes. He has utilized the meaningful experience that he gained during the “Pretty Boy” years of fighting like a more traditional or textbook boxer who employed the Philly Shell defense in between bursts of offense.

Modern Mayweather clones have attempted to manifest Mayweather’s ability by building their style around the Philly Shell, around the pot shotting, and around the braggadocio, but without putting the “hit” first. So perhaps a more fitting and modern mantra would be, “hit and don’t get hit, unless you have to get hit, in which case, hit and get hit less.” Definitely doesn’t roll off as smoothly, but you get the point.

Image: Hit and Don’t Get Hit

Lastly, perhaps we don’t need to wait on Mayweather 2.0. Maybe we’re witnessing something more in the refined style of Canelo Alvarez, who became much more defense-oriented following his fight with Mayweather, and who has furthered the effectiveness of his style by blending the traditional Mexican pressure-fighter with elite defensive prowess.

This has created a fan-friendly style that is very much still centered around hitting without getting hit. Whatever the case, hopefully, more fighters hoping to achieve a Mayweather-like level of skill will focus on his well-roundedness and ability to show his teeth in the trenches rather than the shell, the highlights, and the money.