How to Watch a Fight - By Jack Dempsey
How to Watch a Fight
By Jack Dempsey
Boxing is the perfect spectator sport. It's easier for anyone to watch and understand a fight than to appreciate what's occurring in any other type of sports contest. That's true whether one witnesses a bout at a fight club or on television.
Only two men participate in a fight. All the action occurs under bright lights in a space about twenty feet square. Generally, one need have no knowledge of boxing to determine which scrapper appears to be winning.
Nevertheless, if Y-O-U wish to get complete entertainment from a fight, you should do more than sit down "cold turkey" and watch it.
Despite its primitive simplicity, a fight is similar in at least one respect to most other kinds of sports contests: the more you know about the rivals, the more you'll enjoy the competition.
If you plan to witness a professional bout-at a fight club or on television-learn in advance as much as you can about the two fighters. Read the sports pages of your newspapers; you'll probably find advance stories about the show.
Pre-fight stories usually provide sufficient information not only to stimulate your interest but also to make you favor one of the leather-tossers. You'll work up a rooting interest in the engagement.
While reading the stories, note first the betting price. When you read, for example, that Johnny Brown is favored at 8 to 5 to beat Billy Green, you get a "quick picture" of the bout in advance. The price shows that more money is being wagered on Brown than on Green and that betting men, at least, consider Brown superior to Green.
Note next the reasons why Brown is favored. Did these two fight before? Did Brown win? Has Brown an advantage in age or in weight? Is he a mature and experienced performer of twenty-five or twenty-six facing a comparatively green youngster? Or, is he a chap still possessing the sparkle and stamina of youth, pitted against a veteran of thirty or thirty-one who is on the "toboggan"?
Perhaps Brown is favored because of his more explosive punch or because of his superior speed and cleverness. Perhaps Brown's record shows he has been meeting and beating a better grade of opposition than Green has been facing.
Do the boxing writers pick Brown? They do not always agree with the betting price, for they know that its "quick picture" is often as false as it is quick. I have no statistics on upsets, but it's my belief that the underdog in betting wins about one of every three important fights.
Is each of the contestants a local boxer, or is one from a distant city or from a foreign country? Has he been in your area long enough to be accustomed to the climate? What do the stories say about the private lives of the contestants? Is either a playboy who prefers taverns and nightclubs to gymnasiums for his training? Remember that successful fighting requires nearly perfect condition. Ring history shows that a few playboys-Mickey Walker, Stanley Ketchel, Maxie Baer, Maxie Rosenbloom, Ken Overlin, etc.-were able to get to the top; but they were exceptions. Is there anything about the personal appearance of either fighter that makes you favor him? Usually the papers carry pictures of the principals before a bout.
Before you sit down to watch the fight, decide which boxer should win or which one you hope will win. That should help to give you a rooting interest.
However, do not let that rooting interest cause you to make a mistake that is common to most fans and many officials. Because of their interest in one of the fighters, they watch the scrap only from H-I-S angle.
They watch the punches he lands or receives. Their eyes unconsciously see the action as follows: "Brown landed two left jabs to the mouth. Brown was hit by a left hook to the body. Brown landed a right to the cheek. Brown ducked under a left hook, etc."
Instead, they should be seeing the action like this: "Brown landed two left jabs to the mouth. Green landed a left hook to the body. Brown landed a right to the cheek. Green missed with a left hook to the head."
The big secret of correct fight-watching is this: keep your eyes and your attention focused on both men-not on just one.
If you watch from the angle of one fighter, it's almost certain that you'll overestimate his performance without realizing it. You'll unconsciously emphasize the punches he lands and minimize the number and effectiveness of his opponent's blows.
Watch both men, even though you strongly favor one of them.
When the action starts, when the gong sends them out of their corners-note the physical appearance of each. Does the appearance of your favorite bear out his pre-fight descriptions, or does his opponent seem more formidable?
Note immediately their fighting styles. Are their styles similar or do they contrast sharply? Are both upright boxers, or does either use the semi-crouch or the low bob-weave?
Which one is pressing forward-forcing the fight? That's important; for in a close contest the aggressor usually is the winner. However, if the aggressor fails to land his punches and is hit with counterblows, his forcing them is a handicap instead of an advantage.
Which one appears to have the superior left jab? Is he using it merely to "paint" with, or is he jabbing solidly enough to snap back his opponent's head and knock him off balance? Is his opponent blocking or slipping those jabs, and is the opponent countering them with jabs, right crosses, or body smashes?
Which has the superior left hook? How is he using it? Is he keeping it short enough to be explosive? Is it accurate, or is his opponent bobbing beneath it or stepping inside it?
If neither principal is a knockout specialist, the one who is more effective with the left jab and left hook probably will win.
Has each enough confidence in his own punching ability and ruggedness to engage the other in toe-to-toe exchanges? Or, does the lighter puncher shrewdly avoid exchanges by left-jabbing or by footwork or by covering up when the slugger is bombarding him? It's folly for a comparatively light puncher to permit himself to be lured into exchanges with an explosive hitter. However, when the slugger's barrage has ceased, the lighter puncher must begin an immediate attack upon the slugger-before the latter can get set for another bombardment
If both scrappers are willing to fight it out in exchanges, the bout should be thrilling. Watch the early exchanges closely; for what happens in them may indicate the ultimate winner.
Does one appear to be hitting with more speed, accuracy and power in the exchanges than the other? Is he "rocking" his opponent, knocking him sideways or back onto his heels?
Is he hurting his opponent not only "upstairs" but also in the body?
Has either begun to bleed from the brow, cheek or mouth? Often an old face-gash will be re-opened in an early exchange. Remember that if the opponent makes a target of a cut and hammers it until it bleeds profusely, the referee may stop the bout (usually with the agreement of a boxing commission physician at the ringside) and give victory to the opponent on a technical knockout. Less important is a bloody nose. Rarely is a bout stopped because of a bleeding nose: not unless the blood flows so freely that a nose hemorrhage is indicated.
Note carefully when either man is hit hard enough to be staggered. There's a big difference between being "rocked" and being "staggered."
When a fighter is rocked, he is knocked violently off balance-backward or sideways; but he still has complete mental and physical control when he recovers his balance. When he's staggered, he loses temporary mental and physical control-in varying degrees. Usually his knees sag and he becomes "rubber-legged" as he lurches about the ring. Sometimes a big black blob seems to gush up before his eyes, and he can't see for a second or two. And sometimes his arms are semi-paralyzed, and he can't lift them to protect himself from follow-up blows. Sometimes he is completely groggy.
If a fighter is staggered, watch closely to see how badly he is hurt. Can he raise his arms for protection? Can he see his opponent and try to fall into a clinch with him, to give the groggy mind a chance to clear?
Make up your mind about the staggered man's condition in a split-second; for his opponent will be after him quickly for "the kill"-for the knockout. Often one solid shot to the chin will floor a staggered fighter for the full count of ten. However, rugged scrappers of the Tony Zale type can take a terrific head battering, even when reeling helplessly from rope to rope, without going down. Others can quickly shake off the effects of a staggering punch, and can regain control soon enough to defend themselves before being nailed again.
Usually a fighter is staggered before he is knocked down, but that's not always the case. He can be floored suddenly while exchanging or while leading with left or right. Or, when off balance, he can be dropped with a comparatively light punch. But when a staggered fighter is floored, he is more liable to be counted out than the victim of a single punch.
An experienced boxer will remain down for the count of eight or nine, so that his head will have time to clear before he rises to face his confident opponent. In most states that are members of the U. S. National Boxing Association, floored scrappers ARE REQUIRED to take a count of eight before resuming battle. The referee will not permit continuance until he (and the knockdown timekeeper) has counted eight, whether the floored fighter remains on the canvas or regains his feet during the count.
If the floored man fails to regain his feet before the count of ten, he loses the bout on a knockout. Or, if he has been knocked through the ring ropes and he fails to re-enter the ring before the count of ten, he also loses on a kayo.
If a staggered and helpless fighter is being battered mercilessly by his opponent, the referee has complete authority to intervene and stop the bout in order to save the groggy man from injury, even though he still is on his feet. The groggy man loses on a technical knockout.
During the fight, watch closely whether either contestant is using rough tactics-thumbing in the eye, heeling an opponent's face with the glove laces on the palm of his hand, butting with the head, or hitting below the belt. Each of those "tricks" is a foul.
Nowhere in the United States can one lose a fight on a single foul; however, in all states he can lose on "disqualification" for repeated fouling.
If the referee warns a fighter several times for fouling and the fighter fails to heed the warning, the referee can disqualify him.
Usually a single foul is penalized only by the loss of the round in which the foul was perpetrated or by the loss of most points to be shared in that round. However, in most European countries, a bout can be lost on a single foul. In the British Isles, for example, officials are particularly strict about low blows.
HOW IS THE WINNER OF A FIGHT DETERMINED IF THERE IS NO KNOCKOUT OR DISQUALIFICATION?
At most fights-in the United States and other countries -a number of ring officials supervise the contest. They include a boxing commissioner or his deputy; one, two, or more inspectors; the timekeeper; the knockdown timekeeper; the referee; and two judges. A few localities use three judges.
In most areas, the scoring officials are the referee and the two judges. However, where three judges are used, the referee has no vote.
Almost invariably the scoring is done by the referee, in the ring, and the two judges, seated opposite to each other in slightly elevated ringside chairs. Each of the three keeps a score card during the bout. At the end of the fight, each writes the name of his winner on his card. If the three cards agree on the winner-if they agree, for example, that Brown wins over Green-he wins a unanimous decision. If two officials vote for Brown, and the other for Green, Brown wins a split decision. If one calls the bout a "draw" (even), and the other two vote for Brown, he wins a majority decision. However, if the three disagree completely-one voting for Brown, one for a draw, and one for Green-the fight is then declared a draw, and neither wins.
How does each ring official determine the winner?
Most states belonging to the National Boxing Association use the "point system" of scoring. In Michigan, for example, two fighters can share 10 points in a round on each score card. In the first round, for example, Brown could have a slight advantage and win 6 points to Green's 4. Brown might win the second session by a large margin, 7-3, etc. At the end of the bout, each official totals the points for each fighter. The one receiving the most points is the winner on that particular score card. Only the total on each card counts; not the total of the three cards. Each official then writes down the name of his winner, and the three names decide the decision, as explained above.
A few N.B.A. states, like Pennsylvania, use the "round system" of scoring. Each official decides how many rounds, instead of points, each fighter wins. Pennsylvania officials credit a fighter with a "big" round if he wins a round by a wide margin, and with a "little" round if his margin is small. Those "big" and "little" designations usually prevent a fight from ending in a draw on any score sheet, even if an official credits each scrapper with the same number of rounds.
New York state uses a combination of the round system and the point system. If the bout is close in rounds on an official's sheet, he decides the winner on points.
Regardless of what scoring system is used, each ring official-in the United States, at least-considers the following factors in deciding which fighter wins a round:
(1) Who was forcing the fight? (2) Who was landing the most punches? (3) Was the one receiving the most punches offsetting that
disadvantage by landing a few blows that caused more damage than his opponent's many? (4) Who was missing with the most punches? (5) Who was winning in the exchanges? (6) Who was showing the worse effects of battle-face cuts, eye bruises, swollen ears, and fatigue?
Usually, if a fighter is knocked down he loses the round in which the knockdown occurs-but not necessarily. If he is merely caught off balance and knocked down, it discredits him but little. Moreover, a fighter can suffer a clean knockdown, but give his opponent such a battering during the rest of the session that he will take the round.
If a fighter slips to the floor when he misses a punch or when his fast-moving feet skid on a wet spot in one of the corners, the slip is not a knockdown, and it has no bearing on the scoring of the round.
You will add to your pleasure at a fight if you keep your own score sheet and compare it later with the tabulations of the officials. Use a simple round system, so that your scoring will be a pleasure and not a labor,
Do not try to write anything on your sheet during a round. Keep your eyes fixed on the fighters. That's important. If you glance away from the ring for an instant, you may miss the knockout punch.
Using any kind of blank paper, you can make your own score sheet like the one below. Describe only the highlights of each round in about three lines, written after the round is finished. Make an "X" at the inside edge of the round in which a fighter is floored, and a ")" at the inside edge of a round in which a fighter is cut. When the bout is finished, you'll have a "quick picture" that should be clear and accurate.
If you hear a voice within you saying that I am not a painter, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.