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Build-A-Boxer

Never mind those fuzzy, fluffy, snuggly things - today we're building a fighter! But how do we prioritize its composition? Let's rank the attributes.

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Wil Esco is an assistant editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2014.

To take a page from straight outta sci-fi folklore, we're going to engineer us the optimal boxer. And much like any great engineering feat, we have to prioritize functionality above all. So instead of looking at specs such as the perfect height, weight, or...eye color...let's just focus on boxing attributes, something that can translate across any weight class.

I'm going to compose a list of the top 10 categories that I view as significant qualities of a fighter - and list them from least to most important. Because I'm confining it to just 10 qualities, certain aspects I'm kind of just squeezing together. People can certainly come up with their own list of attributes or organize the categories differently - but hey - I'm writing this so I'm going to do it my way. The fun thing about this exercise is the fact that everybody can tweak or alter this list and not necessarily be wrong, so it makes for good discussion. Here's how I'd rank 'em...

10) Power. It may shock some of you that I'd rate this so low, but really, power can be much more of a commodity than a necessity. How many world class fighters can we name that arguably can't punch worth a damn? Floyd Mayweather. Tim Bradley. Paulie Malignaggi. Evgeny Gradovich. Mauricio Herrera. Miguel Vazquez. I could go on and on...Boxing isn't a sport where brute force will just do it for you, but if you have it, it's certainly plenty helpful.

9) Technical Proficiency. Let's face it, they teach you fundamentals for a reason - because they work. But a fighter doesn't necessarily have to adopt a textbook approach to boxing to have success in this line of work. Roy Jones Jr. broke a lot of fundamental rules. He also had other sublime gifts to make up for that and do things others couldn't. I've never seen a trainer teach a fighter to throw a windmill overhand right à la Deontay Wilder or Marcos Maidana, but clearly it can be effective in its unorthodoxy. Provodnikov and Rios essentially have no jab to even speak of, but they've also been able to make it to the highest levels of the sport. Point being, one can still be a very good fighter who doesn't necessarily do things by the book.

8) Chin. This is boxing - your fighter is going to eventually get hit at some point. If your fighter can't take the punch, well, it simply won't end in pretty fashion. Fortunately, there are other attributes that can mask the vulnerabilities of a "glass jaw." A number of fighters like Amir Khan, Wladimir Klitschko, and even Peter Quillin have been accused of being chinny, yet have overcome that reputation to still be top-tier boxers. Each of them also protect against this apparent deficiency by leveraging their other strengths, which is why "chin" ranks eighth.

7) Defense. Defense is important if you want your fighter to have any kind of longevity in this sport. The only reason I'm ranking defense seventh is because there are other mitigating factors that could allow one to have some success in lieu of some defensive deficiencies. If you have a great defense, you can clearly mitigate the risk of your chin getting tapped. But we've also seen great fighters, who haven't necessarily been great defensively, become highly successful. Manny Pacquiao immediately springs to mind. Sure, he probably isn't as porous defensively as some may make it seem, but I'd doubt if anyone truly considers him to be exceptionally proficient in this area. Sometimes a great offense can eclipse a weak defense - but it can also work conversely in that sometimes a great defense can set up one's offense. Defense is surely an important quality, but on a relative scale I'm putting it at number seven.

6) Speed. Speed kills. You hear it all the time as it relates to boxing and it surely is a great asset. Much more handy than power if you ask me. In this category, I'm pretty much lumping both hand and foot speed under one umbrella for the purposes of confining the list to 10 attributes. You may have often heard something to the effect of, "power doesn't mean much if you can't land it," and that's absolutely true. But having speed can surely increase your fighter's chances of landing a punch, with or without much power. It can be almost alarming to watch good fighters get completely overwhelmed by pure speed, and that's why this comes in at number six here.

5) Footwork. This one could easily be thrown into the technical proficiency category (which would have in turn raised the importance of that on this list), but I'm isolating this one here for a good reason. I think a lot of the time people just watch what goes on from the waist up, ignoring the importance and usefulness of good footwork. In a number of ways I think it's actually more important than how you throw your punches or how much speed/power you have. This is precisely because proper footwork increases one's mobility, balance, speed, power, and defense. Your fighter can use it to either close or maintain distance from your opponent, and more to the point, your fighter can't even get into proper position to inflict any damage on an opponent without it. A pure boxer will use footwork to maintain distance and circle the ring, while a brawler/puncher can effectively use footwork to cut off exit routes for opponents, keeping them in position to land their power. Additionally, we've all seen any number of knockdowns which resulted from poor positioning/balance. Proper footwork is really the unsung hero of fighting and why it's worthy of it's own category.

4) Accuracy. Because, well, if your fighter can't land on the target, what do any of these preceding things matter?! To take an idiom from trainer Naazim Richardson, "a bullet that misses you by an inch is no longer dangerous." Simple and intuitive enough...

3) IQ. Intelligence in a boxer can mask so many other deficiencies that it's really a critical attribute. For the purposes of clarity, I'm also including things such as timing and discipline into IQ. Being able to see, recognize, defend, adapt, and execute in split second circumstances are critical functions of any good fighter. Boxing really is high speed chess. I can't name the number of people who've questioned me in either my professional life, academic life, or personal life as to why I would essentially moonlight as a boxer (mostly just for fun) and put myself in harms way. Picture me as Fight Club but without showing up to work with nearly as much facial damage because I'm actually much better (and much less crazy) than Tyler Durden - Haha. But I always gave everyone the same simple answer that they seemingly couldn't reconcile - aside from being a great physical activity, I actually find boxing to be intellectually stimulating. Breaking down an opponent and knowing how and when to use your tools is an example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. If one doesn't know how to apply whatever tools they have, then their utility greatly diminishes. I find that it's not all that different from doing competitive/strategic analyses and execution in business school, or perhaps reading and applying the teachings of Sun Tzu in live action. Maybe I'm bias in that way, but I personally rate IQ very highly in an ideal boxer.

2) Stamina. This is an easy one. No matter how good you are, how smart you are, or how much skill you have, if you're not in shape you ain't doing' sh*t - not in the professional ranks, nor even as a decent amateur. It's a foundational aspect of pretty much any combat sport. So often it's the fighter who can outlast the other that manages to win fights. And even the most talented fighters you can think of will tell you they still had to put in all the miles of roadwork, training, etc. Your fighter just has to get it shape - and in not just any shape, but fighting shape, which demands a whole new level of torturous training. I'm building my boxer to be a throwback, 15-round thoroughbred.

Drumroll please...

1) Heart. I know, I know, kind of cliché but it's true. Your fighter just has to have some heart to be willing to voluntarily step into combat. It's not an easy thing to do. And frankly speaking, a lot of people who criticize fighters for lacking heart would never have the fortitude to step between the ropes themselves. That's why I have at least have a minimal amount of respect for anyone who's ever done it. As a fighter, if you don't have enough heart to will you through the tough moments, you simply won't survive (particularly when faced with higher levels of competition). So certainly the optimal boxer I'd want to create would have to have this first and foremost.

Feel free to have at it and build your own prioritized list below.

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