Every now and then you’ll come across this guy: he’s less skilled than you, doesn’t believe in defense, has no patterns or combinations–he just comes straight ahead with rapid fire machine gun style punching. I’m not talking about rapid fire high volume punchers like Pacquiao or P. Williams, these guys have style and slick head movement and footwork to compliment their onslaught. I’m talking about the ignoramus who just comes straight ahead. The trouble is that he probably has a decent amount of endurance and speed, and if you are not sure how to handle this guy you might have to wait until the third round to really get his number, if you are having an off day then even that might not happen. These guys make can make you look bad as they unleash a fury upon you, and all the more so if they brought their girlfriend along to impress.
There are three ways I’ve handled these guys, not all will work the same depending on the speed of your oppenent and your current level of fitness. These are fight strategies, general strategies that you’ll find work especially well against machine gun fighters of lesser skill.
1) Tighten up your defense and crowd him. The rapid fire puncher usually has no clue how to move backwards, let alone fight moving backwards, they expect you to follow the game plan that if he is going to come ahead you will either move back or stay where you are. This is perfect for him as he can gauge distance (the way he does on the bag) and use momentum to chase you down as you retreat. The other thing he loves is a brawl, it brings you down to his level and negates the finer points of your game. So this is what I recommend, adopt a Winky Wright style defense, hands high, elbows tight to your ribs, forearms like pillars. Make sure your hands are slightly open and the heel of palms are turned a bit inwards to prevent uppercuts from easily finding their way (see image below, I’ve left one glove off so you can see the position of the hand).
Once you’ve adopted this posture move towards your opponent, walk into his punching range, and when he starts firing take another step closer. It helps if you can twist your body left and right to time and absorb the blows but it’s not necessary, try to make him feel uncomfortably close, if he tries to adjust the distance then get closer. Most often he will step back to gain space or catch his breath, and this is when you go on the attack. It’s very rare that I recommend leading with a straight right hand, but this is one of those times, the moment he steps back you step in and unload the straight right hand and left hook, if you connect then throw a few more shots and reset. I recommend staying close but walking to the right or left, don’t give him space, create angles. Most of all stay relaxed, and keep your eyes on his upper chest or neck, don’t let his onslaught throw off your vision.
2) Go on the run. If your opponent has poor footwork and has trouble chasing down a mobile opponent then use your lateral motion and quick in and outs to go on the run. Let him know that he is going to have to take risks to catch you, he’s going to have time you perfectly, and get you up against the ropes or in the corner to have a chance. I have most often used this strategy in the first round of a fight when my opponent thinks he is going to intimidate me with a barrage of offense and grunting. Don’t let it fool you, your skill and ability to weather this storm is the mark of a true boxer, stay calm and go on the run with tight defense, and don’t forget to return the favour a minute into the round. The beauty of knowing that you can outrun your opponent is that you can most likely catch him when you decide to go on the offense.
3) Punch when he is punching. This is a bit of Jeet Kune Do theory here, and boxing already has it built in. For the rapid fire puncher I would avoid throwing if he is in the middle of his attack, the best time to throw is when he starts.
Stay light on your feet and gauge the distance and keep moving side to side, when he gets within range and is about to fire then YOU fire. There are a few rules for this though:
Keep your head off the centre line when you throw, this means slip and jab and follow up with more shots, or slip while throwing the right hand, or drop lower and throw to the body. Don’t come in straight with your head up the middle, that is where he will be firing
Do NOT stand still when you throw, either step in with your shot and intercept him, or step back and throw the left hook while stepping back. Don’t be a sitting duck.
This applies all the time but be especially conscious of your chin and the non-punching hand. If you are going to walk into a fire of punching then stay tight, this is not a time to be loose and slick.