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In Defense of the Brawlers

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By Eric Coronado: This past weekend, Amanda Serrano earned a comfortable, yet hard-fought decision over Erika Cruz to unify the women’s featherweight division.

The fight was a high-action affair, but Serrano (44-2-1, 30 kos) was able to dictate the range and pace for much of it following the scrappy opening rounds. Cruz (15-2-0, 3 KOs), to her credit, kept Serrano’s hands full with her high punch volume and landed plenty of clean punches on Serrano.

Ultimately, Serrano was too experienced, well-conditioned, and determined for Cruz to pull it off. But the contrasting styles between Serrano’s methodical and poised approach versus Cruz’s brawling style has led to some differing opinions on Cruz’s performance overall.

To put it bluntly, the armchair experts are at it again. This time, they claim that Cruz lacks skill due to the optics of her fighting style. These are similar sentiments of those people who claimed the same about Marcos Maidana following his destruction of Adrien Broner and the subsequent fight with Floyd Mayweather.

These are the same folks who do not believe that George Foreman possessed a high level of skill and who conflate counterpunching and potshotting with skill. Not you, dear reader, who certainly understands that doing anything successfully in a boxing ring requires skill.

No, this article is for people making statements like, “she just ducked her head and threw haymakers,” or, “that was no different from any woman in a fight on the street.”

We all have our preferences, but to assert that a professional fighter who fights a full championship bout with an elite-level fighter like Mayweather or Serrano and who lands multiple clean punches on them over the course of the bout has no skills is absurd.

Landing a clean punch on even a high-level amateur boxer is not easy. Landing clean punches on Floyd Mayweather was perhaps the toughest task in boxing’s recent history. Combine this with mixing up the velocity of your punches to set up your power shots without gassing out, throwing a high volume of punches without setting yourself up for a disastrous counterpunch, and pacing yourself so that you’re not defenseless before the fight is over are all skills that must be developed.

Preparing for certain shots and studying your opponent to devise a game plan is a skill. Implementing your game plan is a skill. Sticking to your game plan is a skill. When people berate fighters and claim that they possess no skill, my immediate thoughts are that they have never had to defend themselves in a boxing ring or are a massive fan of the opposite fighter. But here’s the thing, dear reader.

It is an insult to their favorite fighter to state that their opponent had no skill if said opponent took them the distance and was even moderately successful in mounting an offense against them. This is why most fighters will give credit where credit is due. This is why you don’t see a fighter go the distance, win, and then claim that their opponent was a garbage fighter with no skills (with a few exceptions).

As stated previously, people tend to conflate counter-punching and potshotting with skill. Make no mistake, these are skills. They’re just not the only skills. It takes a great deal of skill to be a good in-fighter, to be a pressure fighter, and even to be a brawler if you can do these things at a high level.

Conditioning will only take you so far, and any crossover athlete will tell you that you can be as fit as possible and still gas out if you don’t have the skills to put it all together. What I am suggesting is that there aren’t certain skill levels associated with certain styles; there are simply some fighters who are more skilled than others.

Additionally, skill is just a piece of the puzzle that creates a complete fighter. Does anyone really think that Sadam Ali was more skilled than Miguel Cotto, after all? To return to some of the earlier statements about Erika Cruz, perhaps she did lack skill, but only so far as in comparison to the skills of Amanda Serrano. She is obviously not devoid of skill; otherwise, how could she have gone the distance with a human wrecking ball like Serrano? How could she have hit her cleanly? Does that mean that any woman can walk into Serrano’s gym and lay heavy leather on her? Not likely.

My point is we need to do better as fight fans and appreciate this simple fact. If you can’t walk in off the street and do what they did, it requires skill.

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