What makes a masterful boxer? Is it the athletic ability or technical intelligence? Contrary, to what most people think, skillful boxers are the ones who possess the technical intelligence in abundance and are able to make up for a slight lack of athleticism. However, it never works the other way around.
The ability to think in the ring, make the crucial decisions pertaining to the timing and distance is what separates the ordinary from the extraordinary. If a boxer possesses the skill to understand the ring, use it effectively for cutting distance, he is sure to become a good boxer.
What’s your best weapon? A left hook? A left jab? A right cross? An uppercut? Nope. It’s boxing in its entirety. It’s brains over brawn. Doesn’t matter how much ability you possess as a fighter. If you can’t think and make quick decisions in the ring, you’re another bum in the park. These words by Legendary trainer, Ray Arcel can never be forgotten.
The psychological mind game is everything it boils down to when it comes to distance deception. Distance Deception is a technique used by top boxers and is in practice for a long time. It’s through this technique that boxers are successfully able to create an illusion of being near or away from an opponent. Distance Deception is what allows Mayweather to execute a successful pull counter. It’s exactly the same tool which allows, Terrence Crawford, to launch spectacular offence with which he is able to catch his opponent off-guard.
When we talk about the sweet science of boxing, finding the range is an important element in it. You often hear people talking about how a particular boxer with the same height has a great range or perhaps fighters of similar stature still have a vast difference in range. You must have seen that. Well, the only reason for the difference is because one fighter knows how to get in and out of the range, i.e. changing position, switching the stance, which enables him to control the fight.
So, what does finding a range really mean?
Finding or controlling a range doesn’t boil down to any single aspect. It’s a multitude of practices which enable the fighter to gain an edge over his opponent. It is a combination of great footwork, excellent body movement, reading our opponent’s game, and so much more. Controlling the range can help control the pace of a match. It’s more than having endurance and footwork than speed alone.
When it comes to finding or controlling the range, you have to look no further than Floyd Mayweather. In our Floyd Mayweather Boxing Strategies analysis, we have seen how he uses his lead hand to measure his opponent. He uses the same hand to create distance deception, i.e. appearing too close or far from an opponent, although he isn’t. An important part of finding or controlling the range and actively using it in distance deception is learning about rhythm.
Importance of Rhythm in Distance Deception
Rhythm is heavily linked with range. It’s practically the other side of the coin. The science behind the range is simple, and it stems from your and the opponent’s rhythm. For instance, the closer you are to the opponent, the more energy you’ll spend. Similarly, the farther you are, likely the chances are both of you circling around each other.
If you’re 3-4 feet away from your opponent, the footwork regarding inside and outside movement is going to be tense. Now step a little closer to a 1-foot mark, things can get really hostile with wild exchanges – moving inside and outside of your opponent.
See the key in rhythm is once you establish yours and understand your opponent’s, you can work towards breaking it down. That’s what great boxers do. They understand and read their opponent in the initial rounds, we’ve already learned that in our Floyd Mayweather and Terrence Crawford case studies.
How both fighters initially struggle but take their time to read their opponent, and once they have it figured; they minimize their opponent’s offence by targeting their weak side. One strategy which great boxers extremely excel at is using distance as an attacking and a defensive tool, as and when required.
Establishing range strategies
If we were to divide the range into four parts, we could say there’s long-range, just outside the range, in range and close range. If we break this down point wise, it’ll help us understand how we can establish range strategies and use it effectively.
Long-range boxing strategies
A long-range is outside of the range, nowhere near your opponent. A long-range is effective when you are fighting against the powerful guys. Distance will provide you with the safety and the time to measure them up. Herein, you’re using distance as a defensive tool. A long-range is effective when you’re fighting with tall guys. Again, it helps you maintain the distance and preserve the energy when you move into your opponent’s range.
Finally, a long-range works well when you’re against an aggressive fighter. Staying away will preserve your energy and prevent you from getting into a flurry of exchanges. It’s a great technique to wear down your opponent, and once they are gassed out, you can run riots on the inside.
Outside the range boxing strategies
When I say outside the range, it means that you’re only a little outside of your opponent’s range. As compared to long-range, this range is much closer. This range strategy works well when you’re fighting shorter guys and want to frustrate them with your reach. Outside the range is also a great strategy to fight slower guys wherein speed helps you win the exchanges.
It’s also effective against powerful guys, whom you can outbox and evade. Lastly, it’s great to fight an inexperienced boxer against whom you can use the distance to outbox and evade their offence easily.
In range boxing strategies
Now, this is the hostile part we were referring too. It’s explosive with you and your opponent involved in devastating punches, looking to drop each other down. When boxing from arms distance or in-range, you can land the most powerful shots, say the right cross, a straight or the left hook to the body.
It’s a great range to outmaneuver the slower opponent. It works great if you’re a pressure fighter and wants to wear your opponent down, making them reconsider everything. We’ve seen in our Lomachenko and James Toney case study, how in-range boxing techniques, seem to work wonders if applied correctly.
Training your range to improve Distance Deception
Range and rhythm are natural. You can’t develop them merely by watching other fighters. The more you try to copy the styles, the worse it’ll get in terms of implementation. YOU HAVE TO DEVELOP YOUR OWN RANGE. Once, you do that; your distance deception technique will be unique, something that you’ll trust and use in your fights.
Still, find it hard? Think about your running speed? You either run slow or fast or maybe your breathing technique? Or maybe your punching technique? There’s no way you’re imitating every aspect of someone’s game when it comes to these techniques. Thus, eventually, if you put in the work, you’ll develop your own range.
Personally, I’d suggest that the best way to develop range and rhythm is by constant sparring. Sparring with a partner will allow you to practice range and different paces. It’ll help you test the speed, i.e. slow and fast and movement, i.e. forward and backwards. Don’t just concentrate on getting hit or running out of energy, feel free to experiment and see what suits your style.
Trying new things will help you discover aspects of your style which you didn’t know earlier. All of this will help you develop your own boxing strategies, including that of distance deception, layer by layer.
Several ways to use Distance Deception
If you want to make your opponent feel that you’re far away from him. You try to keep your body and head out of range and keep parrying his punches with your hands further out from your face rather than right next to it. It’ll make him feel that he has to cover a certain distance, i.e. overcoming the obstacle before he gets to you.
If you want to make your opponent feel that you’re closer to him, you can make constant contact, similar to what Floyd does with his lead hand. Keep touching the arms, gloves or shoulders of your opponent. This signals that you’re in the range. And your opponent will take the bait most of the times.
If you want your opponent to feel that you’re an aggressive, pressure fighter, throw and feint more of left hooks and right hands. Even when he blocks, you can still damage his guard with force. We’ve seen boxers like James Toney and Gennady Golovkin do this in our case study before.
If you want your opponent to see you as a passive fighter, you simply move out of the range. Defend in a lazy way, till they start taking you for granted. We’ve seen Floyd Mayweather use this technique to a great effect.
If you want your opponent to see you’re a fighter with great speed, employ a lot of head movements and feints. By fidgeting a lot, you’ll be able to make things unpredictable for your opponent, and it’ll eventually slow them down.
Now fascinatingly, though we were discussing how you can mentally oust your opponent, we discovered the fundaments of distance deception. The techniques above are a clear demonstration of how you can appear to be distant, closer, aggressive, passive, fast or even a slower fighter – all of which is just a mere deception for your opponent. Now that we have these elements in the bag, let’s move towards the real-life case studies of how top boxers deploy distance deception in boxing.
How professional boxers use distance deception?
According to Wilson Kayden, distance deception is a concept, a skill, a technique of being able to use your fighting position or fighting stance in the ring to create the illusion of being closer or further away from your opponent.”
Distance Deception is a classic skill, however, isn’t used by many fighters today. Only a handful of top boxers including Mayweather, Hopkins and Rigondeaux use distance deception to a great effect.
Floyd’s Pull Counter is a fine specimen of distance deception. We have seen Floyd make this move over and over again. And the reason why his opponents find it so hard to figure it out is because of distance deception.
Floyd activates the deception by baiting his opponents to shoot the jab. Once, his opponents think that he is in range, they accept the bait only to be deceived by the distance which is followed by a counter.
As you can see in the image above, Floyd is up against Maidana. The red line indicates the position of the boxer’s head; the green line indicates the position of the gloves and the yellow is the position of the lead foot.
As you can clearly see from the image, Maidana’s head, gloves and lead foot are in a uniform position as compared to Floyd’s. His centreline is almost at a similar distance with his gloves and his lead foot. That is a modern traditional boxing stance, very uniform.
Now switch over to Floyd, and you can see that his head is in line with his gloves and the lead foot. You can see that the distance between the three points is almost negligible. This stance is what is Deception. How?
This stance enables Floyd to appear closer to Maidana than he actually is. Because the purple line you see is where Floyd’s head should be as per the traditional stance which Maidana is currently in. Thus, because of the forward head movement, Maidana feels that Floyd is quite close to him.
You can see Floyd’s curved back which shows that he is leaning in. You can also see that his gloves are level with his head. This creates a very deceptive image and thus is a bait from Floyd to attract Maidana’s jab. Once Maidana attacks, Floyd will move his head to the purple line and then catch Maidana after exposing him.
In the clip below, you can see how Maidana tries to land a jab misjudging the distance and then opens up room for Floyd to expose him and land a right cross.
We can understand distance deception from another example. This time, we consider Lara Vs Alvarez.
In the image above, the red line is the centre line position of the boxer’s head. Green is for gloves, and the yellow line is for food. Above, you saw Floyd appearing closer to Maidana to attract a jab. In this example, we’ll see exactly the opposite.
Herein, you can see Lara appearing further away from Alvarez. Notice the distance; look at the line on the left-hand side. Look at the red line and the yellow line and the gap between them. Also, the distance between the head and gloves is extremely less. He’s almost tucking his gloves near his head. Watch the disparity between the red and green line as compared to the yellow line, i.e. Lara’s lead foot positioning.
On the contrary, check out Canelo’s stance. Just like Maidana, he is in a uniform stance. The distance between the yellow, green and red line is almost the same. Which is even more traditional modern boxing stance as compared to Maidana above.
Now compare the lines, and you’ll see the difference in stance. Lara’s positioning makes Canelo feel that he is further away from Lara. Since Lara’s body is further away, Canelo doesn’t seem to worry too much. However, that’s not the truth as it’s a deception. Lara is just inches away from Canelo if you consider the lead foot placement.
Distance deception is the art of footwork and not just the head as we learned earlier. Many people mistakenly think that it’s the head position. No, it’s not. Lead foot position is the primary factor when it comes to distance deception. Canelo is right in front of Lara, but he doesn’t know because Lara’s pulling back his body. And Lara is going to use this distance deception technique to catch Canelo off-guard. These are the tricks and trade of a technically sound boxing fighter.
Overcome the psychological hurdle of Distance Deception
It’s paramount that you stop undermining your abilities based upon the range. Range as a subject is purely psychological. It’s never even between two fighters. As a shorter fighter, you’ll always feel that your opponent is too far and as a taller fighter, you’ll always feel you’re in range. The tired guy feels that he can’t find the space, whereas the slower guy feels he can’t find the opening. Range and Intensity are feelings, and these terms are a matter of comfort.
How you overcome this hurdle is by understanding your own strength. Your comfort zones. What works for you and what doesn’t. Once, you understand that you’ll be able to control your opponent the way you want. You can make him feel the way you want. You can appear too close, too distant, too slow or too fast, based upon how you play your cards. Thus, Distance Deception is all psychological. It’s about gaining that superior edge over your opponent and mentally outworking them.
I hope this blog about Distance Deception in Boxing helped you learn about this extremely effective technique. If you implement it correctly and spar a lot, within a period of time, you’ll effectively be able to use deception in your next fight.