Been a while since I posted here but Examining Joe Louis went down so well that I thought I'd bring this one over. Finish of the Week is just something that I introduced to talk about my favourite knockouts, and I'm really enjoying writing it. This piece is kind of tied into the upcoming MMA bout between Dan Henderson and Jon Jones, but if you're not an MMA fan I basically only mention it twice so the article should still hold up (I hope!) =)
Hope you don't mind clicking the link and sharing some love with BE. As always all feedback is very much welcomed!
This week's finish of the week comes from the great Sugar Ray Robinson and is enormously relevant to the upcoming bout between Jon Jones and Dan Henderson. There is a rare type of striker / boxer who stands side on and relies on stepping into his right hand as if he is swinging a baseball bat. These men always have enormous power but they are exceptionally rare at the highest levels of combat sports due to their one note offense. Last week we looked at Rocky Marciano, a man whose style when outside of the pocket is almost identical to Henderson's. In that article I hinted at several ways that Jones - or anyone fighting this sort of one punch right hander - can evade and counter these tactics. This week I will be publishing a piece called "Defusing the H-Bomb" which will summarize this information with direct reference to the particular querks of Dan Henderson. Today, however, we will look at another great finish - this time courtesy of Sugar Ray Robinson.
Something that many casual fans don't know about Sugar Ray Robinson is that very little of his welterweight career is captured on film. The many famous flurries and knockouts that you will have seen in highlight videos came after what sports writers and fans consider Robinson's prime, once he had moved to middleweight. Gene Fullmer had defeated Robinson to win the middleweight title, dropping the iron jawed Robinson in the process and causing great doubt over Robinson's future. Fullmer had an iron jaw and a phenomenal right hand - which has proven enough to give any striker in the world problems. Robinson's answer for Fullmer was simply sublime.
This clip, while not the whole fight, summarizes Robinson's strategy to counter his adversary's great right hand. You will notice that Fullmer fights similarly to Rocky Marciano and Dan Henderson - in that he takes punches on his elbows and shoulders, all in hopes of landing his right hand on an opponent as they are recovering. Fullmer is not a slick fighter like Robinson, but rather a rough house brawler with one punch knockout power.
I highly recommend reading Sugar Ray by Ray Robinson himself to get some insight on Robinson's own thoughts during his training camp. His autobiography also provides numerous hilarious asides, such as the argument that erupted before the contract was signed over which fighter could wear their trademark white trunks; TV executives argued that if they both wore white no-one would be able to tell the difference between the two. In Sugar Ray, Robinson recounts how he believed that to counter Fullmer's enormous right hands he would have to spend the entire camp working on his left hook. Calling the specific set up and training regime "Operation Left Hook" - Robinson set about perfecting a hook that could sneak inside of Fullmer's arcing right hand. Robinson already had an excellent left hook, but to knock out Fullmer, who had never been stopped, would take incredible timing.
At 0:40 of the video Robinson engages with a long right hook to the body then skips out away from Fullmer's right hand. This means that Fullmer can't catch him as he circles out. Robinson immediately does the same thing again and moves straight back, Fullmer manages to graze him with a right hand to the body this time. As Robinson fakes to do it a third time, Fullmer begins to step in for his right hand and Robinson immediately moves his weight back and lands the left hook. A short, slapping left hook that lands inside of Fullmer's attempted right hand - from certain angles it even appears as though Robinson is moving backwards. It is quite clear why many would consider this the greatest punch of all time.
The tactic of landing one's right hand and convincing the opponent that you want to trade is one that we discussed last week as Jersey Joe Walcott convinced Rocky Marciano that he was in for a flat footed brawl before pulling the rug out from under him with a beautiful fake into the left hook.