One of the most beautiful aspects of Boxing is the inside game. A lot of fighters can bang outside. Hitting, and moving with grace while landing combo after combo. When we study the greats such a Sugar Ray Robinson, Sweet Pea Whitaker, Sugar Ray Leonard, Ali, and Bernard Hopkins we are wow’d by distance management through footwork, excellent defense, and a laser like jab. They appear untouchable, and we understand why Boxing is the sweet science. The angles, and timing all come together to create a puzzle the untrained can not solve before losing consciousness.
While a lot of folks can appreciate the easily observed aspects of Boxing, it would behoove us as multi-disciplinary athletes to spend quite a bit of time on developing the inside game. Most folks see boxer working in the clinch, and assume nothing is happening in there. Sometimes that might be the case although one strategy inside is to put weight on your opponent, simply leaning on them causes them to hold you up. This tactic makes them burn more energy while you rest. However, for our purposes we want to look at fighters that did damage inside. Shovel hooks, body shots, and other forms of mayhem that make the opponent wish they were anywhere but here. Let’s talk a little bit about the inside game in this post, and in a later post we’ll go through some drills we can work on to develop the inside game.
The fundamentals of the inside game are similar to other aspects of Boxing. Manage distance, work angles, make the opponent miss, and force them to play your game. One of the best at working inside was/is Roberto Duran. Duran trained, and coached at the same gym I trained at in Miami. It was an amazing experience to have someone with that much skill, knowledge, and experience walking amongst us. Here is a fairly recent clip of Duran sharing some knowledge on the inside game.
Note the congruencies with the other arts we use inside. Elbows in, maintaining head position, keeping our forehead at our opponent’s chin height so we win the hip level game. So many gems in a short clip.
In this clip we can see Duran show some more of his expertise inside. Obviously this is during Sugar Shane’s training camp, and it’s a sparring session so nobody is going to be throwing hard in this context. This gives us the benefit of being able to see what’s happening here. Digging to the body, angles to create openings, controlling the opponent’s arms, and putting together combos that force our opponent to run into the hit he doesn’t see coming. What is the one punch that’s always guaranteed to knock someone out? The one they don’t see coming. When we master the inside game we open up a world of opportunities to land the punch they never saw coming.
One of the greatest masters of working inside was Iron Mike Tyson. His height led him to develop a killer inside game as he was quite short for a heavyweight. He took the peek-a-boo style developed, (or at least codified), by Cus D’Amato to a higher level than most had ever witnessed or encountered. At 5’10” competing against opponents that were 6’3″ or taller, Tyson knew staying outside was a losing game. This is important for the multi-disciplinary athlete as we can’t pick, and choose our opponents. We should always assume we will be smaller, weaker, and fighting from a disadvantage. This understanding should motivate us to developing a lethal inside game. It can be dangerous in there but, for someone that’s taken the time to develop an inside game to a high degree inside is a great place to be.
Here is a short clip of Kevin Rooney, (who along with Teddy Atlas are the heirs to the Peek-A-Boo throne), working some of the core drills that allow a fighter to get inside and stay inside. Head movement, changing levels, pivoting, and creating angles. Always causing the opponent to miss so his body is left exposed so we can dig those bodyshots that drop people like bad habits, and make them feel it for weeks after. An old saying in Boxing is one body shot is worth three shots to the head, and if you’ve ever caught a solid body shot you might be inclined to agree.
That’s if for this post. I hope this motivated you to work on your inside game. There’s nothing to it but to do it, like everything else we do it’s as simple, and as complex as that. In the next post on developing the inside game I’ll share a few drills I’ve been trained to use to develop this aspect.