In this corner we have the sweet science…the pugilistic profession. In the other corner we have the brutish bashing in of brains…the plebian pummeling of physiques. A clash for the ages, that’s right, boxing vs. brawling. To some they’re the same difference while others would disagree quite a bit. Even if there are disparities, do they really matter? Isn’t the basic goal in either case to beat up the other guy and leave the ring as the winner? Who cares how you won, as long as it was legal and you were victorious. If a brawler manages that and gives the fans a rip-roaring show then didn’t he box effectively?
Boxing is referred to as the ‘sweet science’ for good reason. What makes it ‘scientific’ is what goes into attacking your foe and also controlling as much as possible what’s being sent back to you, or at least the effect of what’s coming back to you. Doesn’t brawling essentially operate the same way? Punch the other guy as hard as you can, as often as you can and where it hurts the most. If you hurt him enough then your opponent won’t be able to cause any damage, well eventually at least. As mentioned above, the goal is the same but when a fighter brawls they limit their weapons of combat. A brawler basically relies on aggression, strength and resilience, with speed most likely being a weapon too. Okay, great. What happens when you face someone as aggressive, stronger, maybe even more resilient and able to handle speed? If they don’t make any mistakes, then you’re on your way to a loss. To give yourself a fighting chance (pun intended) there’s no reason to be limited to the simple stuff.
Brawling can be/is an element of boxing, but boxing is the whole enchilada. Being thoroughly prepared, making adjustments, honing in on a weakness, understanding your own weaknesses, knowing when to go in for the kill, ensuring you don’t run out of steam but also not giving your opponent a chance to recuperate. Measurements, timing, punch selection, footwork, balance, movement, psychological warfare and the list goes on. The ability to successfully do these things in the face of aggression and pressure isn’t an easy task. Too often I read nonsense about how participants in a brawl are somehow better than proper boxers. Before judging the abilities of a calculated boxer, as they say, try to walk a mile in his shoes. It isn’t hard to brawl.
Anyone that has been in a fight with a worthy foe understands that winning doesn’t always rest on brute physical attributes alone. Don’t get me wrong, being stronger and bigger is undoubtedly an advantage. That alone won’t carry the day against someone with even slightly comparable physical ability (strength, resilience, speed) and superior all around boxing skills who has successfully executed their strategy. Stating the obvious, if it were all about brawling then quality trainers wouldn’t be held in the high regard that they are.
The inherent nature of the sport will rightfully never allow brawlers to be the best in the ring (…well without the benefit of ‘shrewd’ matchmaking and other fine print). Outside of the ring, where perception is shaped by words, agendas, obfuscation and too often a lack of understanding, brawlers are sometimes given too much credit and boxers aren’t given enough.
For the sport to continue to be the type of sport that, to me, reflects the moments of capitalising on life’s opportunities and rolling with the punches of its challenges, true boxers and their craft should be respected and appreciated.
Long live boxing. Long live the sweet science.
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