Can a boxer anticipate the technique or moves of a familiar opponent?
March 29, 2021 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Curious if a boxer would have an advantage in boxing someone they've studied over a long period of time. Is it possible to learn what to expect from an opponent?
posted by Mystical Listicle to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure what the right term to search for is in boxing, but absolutely! You can certainly learn what to expect from an opponent in terms of their general preferences and weaknesses. It sounds like it would be more of an outlier not to watch tape.
posted by sagc at 10:50 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]

Yes. It dials into simple behaviorism. If the two are often matched, the skill will increase from live experience. It's a really cool thing to observe.
posted by firstdaffodils at 10:55 AM on March 29

This is a part of every sport's training, above a basic level. Even before video tape, athletes and training staff would go watch opponents (in disguise, if necessary) to study their moves. Boxers in particular will watch hours of fight footage and build their strategies around what they think they learn from it. But even parallel competitions like golf and bowling, studying your opponents is a common part of training and preparing, to figure out where you can manufacture an edge or take advantage of an environmental or circumstantial weakness in your opponent's strategy.

Even back in the early days of VHS, my high school football team sent spies with cams and tripods and giant battery packs to other schools' games to bring back footage to study. (Texas high school football is rather competitive.) It was basically impossible to tell them apart from the parents there with the same rigs filming their own kids, which they would do in parts so the teams could review their own footage after the game with the coaches.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:56 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]

Fighters and their coaching teams definitely routinely watch tape on opponents. During a training camp, it's also common practice for a fighter to spar against fighters with a similar style and body type as their opponent, so that they can work through strategies on their feet.
posted by merriment at 11:07 AM on March 29

Also note that it's possible the boxer being studied will be aware that his opponent is studying him and can adapt his strategy accordingly. In general, this is called "going against tendency". So like, if you watch film on a guy and he follows each right with an uppercut to the stomach, you'll start to defend your stomach as you duck his right. But he should know you'll do that, so the wise move is for him to throw a right and then follow it with a jab to your face. Pro and college football teams hire coaches specifically for this purpose, to scout their own teams for the purpose of determining whether they're too predictable.

This is pretty basic stuff that everyone who's ever played rock paper scissors knows. The difference between most people and elite boxers (or athletes of any sort) is that the elite boxer has the presence of mind to think through this as he's being punched in the face. That's what separates truly elite athletes from people who are merely physically gifted. Hence the famous Mike Tyson line, "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth".
posted by kevinbelt at 11:58 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]

I do karate, and the teachers will go as far as to point out people's tendencies (in both directions: "I notice that your hand always drops when you do that kick, try to practice keeping it up" or during sparring: "they always drop their hand, step in when they kick!") A good coach sees those things fast. Watching sparring between people who have sparred together for years is really fun to watch for this reason--I'm not good enough to process the fourth dimensional chess that's happening, but I can tell that it's there.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:52 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]

Back when I was a kid, I took martial arts classes. Sometimes my dad would throw the first four schoolyard punches at me (for practice). Apparently there's a sequence everyone always follows. I thought it was boring that he always did the same thing, but I'd block 'em.

Anyway, a friend once threw those same four punches at me and I blocked them all, easily. I don't remember why. Probably I had mentioned studying martial arts when I was a kid. I did not explain that it was my dad's training and not so much the martial arts training. I let my friend be impresssed.
posted by aniola at 2:05 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]

The best player on my high school football team could watch film, and see things and when we saw the play in action, he would completely drop his coached position training and go intercept option pitches. He played college football and is a high school coach now. I never got anything from watching film. I just played every play like normal and followed the coaching. Consequently, I usually didn't have highlight reel action like that.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:08 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]

The key is not to react to a punch once it is coming at you but to anticipate when the punch is going to be thrown before it starts. I have studied martial arts and sparring with the same people repeatedly you learn how those people fight. I would organize sparring nights with people from different schools, just so we would get to fight different people .
posted by tman99 at 9:07 AM on March 30

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