Mike Gibbons was the older and smaller of the legendary Gibbons Brothers. Mike was mostly a middle and fought around the WWI years. How good was he? How about 110+ wins against a dozen losses and he was never knocked out. How good was the competition? Mike went 4-2 against HOFers including a win over a young Harry Greb. In other words Mike Gibbons was the real deal.
He published several books on training and boxing technique the following is taken from his How to Box published in 1925. The book is seventy five pages of instruction with extraordinary demonstration photos showing the Gibbons Brothers using model technique. The book covers every element of the sport and I am going to focus on his commentary on "Ring Generalship." As always the ideas are Gibbons with any comments I might have in parenthesis.
Size Up the Opponent
-Boxing generalship is planning your tactics and strategies.
-If the foe is a thinking fighter one should begin cautiously so not to be led into a trap.
-If he is merely a puncher, start fast and move to back him up.
Keep Him on the Defensive
-At the opening bell come out confidently and keep walking forward until the foe is in retreat. As you come forward feint and threaten and you can move him backwards without throwing a punch.
-Going backwards is far more difficult and tiring.
-Occasionally back off just to change things up and make the other man think.
-When you set the pace and have the initiative the fight being fought is your fight.
Don't Rush Wildly
-Aggression requires brains, not brawn. You can be aggressive without even punching.
-Try to take the lead at the beginning of each round and hold it throughout. But don't go overboard. Save the hardest punching for the second half of the round when the foe is tiring a little.
-If you've noticed little faults in the opponent don't move on them too early in the round. Wait until he's slowed a bit and is even more vulnerable. (This is pretty sophisticated stuff, I'd have taken a shot whenever I thought it would work).
-Judges, reporters and fans remember what happens at the end of the round (See Ray Leonard v Hagler)
Never Lead Blindly
-Never lead unless you know why you are taking a certain action. Otherwise you may walk into a trap.
-When you hurt your man do not rush. Punch deliberately and with purpose and do not forget to feint to open him up. Accuracy is more important than volume in finishing. (See Joe Louis)
Develop Easy Style
-A good style enables one to relax and conserve energy while leaving you in a position to be effective (Old Roberto Duran)
-Keeping feet, shoulders and hands always moving a little one prevents the strain that comes with being stationary (see Young Roberto Duran)
-Feinting is a key to generalship. This is how one gathers information on what the foe is tying to do and how he'll react to what you are doing. (Nobody better at this today than BHOP).
Change Your Tactics
-Change tactics frequently to keep the foe guessing. (Juan Manuel Marquez has really learned to do this).
-Never be in one spot for longer than a moment (If there is ONE lesson for young fighters to learn this is it).
-When you run into a fighter who is doing something hard to figure out? When he starts it? Launch an all out attack. This will discourage him from trying it. When he moves to doing something you are comfortable with. Keep him there by LOOKING worried until you find the openings you want (Mike Gibbons is a pretty smart guy huh?)
Box Your Own Style
-If a guy likes to stand and trade? Don't. If a guy likes to retreat? Make him stand and trade. (Versatility is a great advantage obviously).
-Encourage a guy who likes to retreat to lead and attack (See Tommy Hearns and Wilfredo Benitez)
-Encourage the punch you want to counter by making the foe miss his other punches but let that punch land lightly or graze you. Next time? He's going to throw it even harder and THAT is when you counter and counter hard (Meet Mr. Floyd Mayweather)
-Feint, feint, feint
Keep Cool When Hurt
-Keep expression constant when taking a big punch
-If not really hurt, attack and take the play away. Keep an eye out for the punch that hurt you.
-If hurt badly? Clinch, clinch, clinch until your head clears. Do anything to survive.
-If knocked down take whatever count you need to clear your head and no more. Then follow the guidelines above.
Keep Chin Protected
-Keep chin tucked and try to take blows, that cannot be avoided, on the head, not in the face. (Again see BHOP)
-Do NOT take a blow to land one. "The crowd at a boxing contest likes to see a fellow stand up and take it, but their applause is poor compensation for a tinned ear, broken nose or becoming mentally deranged from continuous blows on the jaws or temple." (AMEN)
-Don't try any blow or defensive move you can't employ properly. Experimenting should only be done in training.
Look Out For Traps
-Do not fall for a foes in-ring talk
-Always have an idea what you want to do, but never stay wedded to a plan that isn't working. Thinking in the ring is essential.