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Ron_Ocata
3/21/2015 11:46pm,
Hi, Everyone!

I'm Ron, I'm new, and I'm a noob.

I read in this forum for some time now, and since there are many pros, enthusiasts and instructors/trainers on this forum, I hope you can share some of your knowledge.

I enjoy scrambling through internet sources about martial arts and biomechanics. And my most recent topic of interest are the beginnings of modern boxing, namely bare-knuckle boxing and the development after the introduction of gloves.

I'm posting here to get facts straight that I might have misread, misinterpreted or were I'm simply misinformed. So please rip apart what I write!

First off, it is more than obvious that boxing gloves changed the game completely. In the beginning meant to protect the hands (broken hands were common in bare-knuckle fights) and therefore to emphasize heavy blows, including more blows to the head (many hands were broken on thick skulls).

And indeed, the fights became shorter and more spectacular. And from simple leather mittens gloves were developed into todays heavy combat pillows. But their weight and volume has such a strong influence on the techniques it has to be considered a weapon system.

The influence of the gloves on the stance is more than obvious, but has several reasons. Having boney hands right on your cheeks when a strike hits your arm is a bad idea, therefore pugilists tried to block strikes far from their face, hence, the forward stretched hand position vs. Peek-A-Boo-Boxing styles. The blocking techniques in self-defense systems often use forward stretched hands in a similar matter to old-time pugilists.

Also, in times before mouthpieces and where a dentist would rip out teeth at best, a pugilist would try to protect his face by leaning back. This would slow the reactions of a modern boxer and make him vulnerable to body shots.

The gloves also influenced the punches, especially the hand rotation. While a vertical jab or straight might pass through the guard of a pugilists, your pillow will not pass through the two unfriendly pillows. Therefore, the added force of rolling the shoulder with the punch is welcome to increase impact and wear down the guard instead of passing through. Also, since the thumb is more protected, hand position changed because protecting the thumb is no longer an issue. This made other, more powerful techniques useful.

The footwork changed a lot, but less likely because of the gloves but more evasiveness was found to be a great deal. I think all boxers agree that moving in and out of punching distance is vital. It probably wasn't when a fight would last 75 rounds (I **** you not, that's what many sources claim to be the round count for the last legal bare-knuckle fight).

All this brings me to the next question: While a boxer definitely is a fearsome foe in a streetfight, would a pugilist of equal skill have the edge? Or is the training of a modern boxer so superior to bare-knuckle training that it would give the boxer the edge?

I didn't find any good examples, because boxers met illegal bare-knuckle fighters only on the boxer's terms, and frankly, with the few bare-knuckle fighters out there vs. the many boxers, it's no miracle that there are more talented boxers than pugilists.

Please give me your insight!

Greetz,
Ron

DdlR
3/25/2015 1:37pm,
I think those are all good and accurate observations.

It's also worth noting that rule changes were largely in response to social concerns and law changes - BKB was eventually outlawed due to the prevailing "culture" of gambling, brawling etc. that came to surround it during the mid-1800s, and the modern professional and amateur boxing styles are developments of the more "gentlemanly", "scientific fisticuffs" style that evolved as a response to those social concerns.

The Queensberry rules made a huge difference as they outlawed throwing from the clinch, which had been a very significant part of the earlier BKB style, and ultimately paved the way for timed rounds rather than rounds ending when either fighter hit the ground, which had been the custom under the London Prize Ring rules. Incidentally, that's why some early fights lasted a seemingly crazy number of rounds.

Regarding your question about a hypothetical streetfight between a modern boxer and an old-school pugilist; IMO they'd be about equal at long range, the modern fighter would have the edge at in-fighting and the pugilist would almost certainly clean up whenever they clinched.

Permalost
3/25/2015 2:05pm,
First off, it is more than obvious that boxing gloves changed the game completely. In the beginning meant to protect the hands (broken hands were common in bare-knuckle fights) and therefore to emphasize heavy blows, including more blows to the head (many hands were broken on thick skulls).
I think the "changed the game completely" part is overexaggerated.
-"modern boxing" is used effectively in modern MMA, where only light gloves are worn
-Irish bareknuckle boxers (in the vids I've seen) use a square, hands up modern boxing stance, not a fencing stance with John L Sullivan mulling hands.


And indeed, the fights became shorter and more spectacular. And from simple leather mittens gloves were developed into todays heavy combat pillows. But their weight and volume has such a strong influence on the techniques it has to be considered a weapon system.
Are you saying that modern boxing has to be considered the art of using heavy gloves as weapons? I'd disagree.



The gloves also influenced the punches, especially the hand rotation. While a vertical jab or straight might pass through the guard of a pugilists, your pillow will not pass through the two unfriendly pillows. Therefore, the added force of rolling the shoulder with the punch is welcome to increase impact and wear down the guard instead of passing through. Also, since the thumb is more protected, hand position changed because protecting the thumb is no longer an issue. This made other, more powerful techniques useful.
I don't think this "passing through the pillows" part is the main obstacle to landing a jab, then or now.


The footwork changed a lot, but less likely because of the gloves but more evasiveness was found to be a great deal. I think all boxers agree that moving in and out of punching distance is vital. It probably wasn't when a fight would last 75 rounds (I **** you not, that's what many sources claim to be the round count for the last legal bare-knuckle fight).
It was influenced by the rules of its day- I'd say standup grappling probably affected the stance more than the gloves part- getting hit is no fun even if you're both wearing gloves. Its kinda strange to me that they'd use such a sideways long stance when grappling is allowed, because that's not a good stance to grapple from.


All this brings me to the next question: While a boxer definitely is a fearsome foe in a streetfight, would a pugilist of equal skill have the edge? Or is the training of a modern boxer so superior to bare-knuckle training that it would give the boxer the edge?
In the modern day, I'd bet on the modern boxer cause there's a good chance the pugilist is a guy who doesn't spar often and likes reading books about pugilism, while the boxer trains to be hit every session. If its a mythical fight across time, I'd give the edge to the modern boxer due to many advances in training, nutrition, etc.


Also, in times before mouthpieces and where a dentist would rip out teeth at best, a pugilist would try to protect his face by leaning back. This would slow the reactions of a modern boxer and make him vulnerable to body shots.
Leaning back is often considered amateurish in modern boxing, since slipping offers better followup options and leaning away from every punch makes you very vulnerable to a followup. I don't think leaning back would throw off a modern boxer much.

DdlR
3/25/2015 2:24pm,
Its kinda strange to me that they'd use such a sideways long stance when grappling is allowed, because that's not a good stance to grapple from.

The stereotypical long pugilism guard stance (and there was considerable variation between individuals, based on physique, tactical preferences, etc.) was only intended to be used at long range, reflecting the opening tactic of standing off and throwing bombs. The left lead (a long, lunging version of the jab) was the standard opening volley. They shortened stances for infighting and the standing grappling stance was essentially identical to any other standing grapple style.

It may also be worth bearing in mind that the long, fencing based stance - with the slight backward lean and the extended milling guard - was not intended to counter leg pick-ups, which were not part of the London Prize Ring style.

Eddie Hardon
3/25/2015 4:33pm,
BKB v Boxer.

Just look up Joe Savage against a pro. He got flattened in R1 and had allegedly never been beaten. The top pros are at the top for a reason. BKB can't compete with a trained quality boxer.

DdlR
3/25/2015 4:46pm,
I think the OP was asking about a hypothetical streetfight between two evenly-matched fighters from the style POV, one trained in the historical pugilism style (from the 1800s as opposed to modern BKB) and one trained in the modern style.

jspeedy
3/25/2015 7:41pm,
I've wondered the same. With the advent of sponsored modern competitors it seems nearly all top athletes of today would blow away the competition from days past in any sport. I think combat sports are one of the areas where there is more room for debate. Would a modern sport fencer be able to hang with or beat a fencer of days past? How about kendo?

As for the change in boxing Daniel Mendoza (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Mendoza)may be credited with the rise of the more modern evasive style of boxing. It's not uncommon within the Filipino Martial Arts community for FMA stylists to think the Filipino arts made modern boxing what it is. If it's true there's certainly no documentation to back up the claim. The change in approach in boxing seems to largely be a function of a refinement and change in the ruleset.

DdlR
3/25/2015 11:57pm,
As for the change in boxing Daniel Mendoza (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Mendoza)may be credited with the rise of the more modern evasive style of boxing. It's not uncommon within the Filipino Martial Arts community for FMA stylists to think the Filipino arts made modern boxing what it is. If it's true there's certainly no documentation to back up the claim. The change in approach in boxing seems to largely be a function of a refinement and change in the ruleset.

I remember an article in an '80s vintage Black Belt or Inside Kung Fu magazine that made the same suggestion re. FMA influence. There was another article that made a semi-plausible case for old-school BKB having influenced Wing Chun. Interesting hypotheses, but yeah, probably unprovable either way.

Fuzzy
3/26/2015 4:18am,
I've also heard the "evasion comes from FMA" story a number of times.

Tangenitally, here's the first in a series of videos from last year's Noble Science camp. I understand this guy teaches a fair bit of Mendoza's material:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1OnRWdRnzc

mike321
3/26/2015 1:43pm,
Op,
I think the edge goes to the modern stylist even if other factors between them could be accounted for. I think the edge comes from safer training. I once had a kickboxing instructor opine on gloves and proper taping just for bag work. He believed your hands would start to fail before you had completed enough bag work to be proficient. I dont know if this is true but safer training methods do seem to increase the intensity of training and sparring. This is a massive edge.

Permalost
3/26/2015 2:44pm,
It's not uncommon within the Filipino Martial Arts community for FMA stylists to think the Filipino arts made modern boxing what it is. If it's true there's certainly no documentation to back up the claim. The change in approach in boxing seems to largely be a function of a refinement and change in the ruleset.
According to Marc Denny in Kali Tudo 1, the "FMA changed Western Boxing" can be traced to Ceferino Garcia, a Filipino boxing champ in 1939. Among the claims are that he invented the "bolo punch" from a brush-hacking bolo cut motion. They also show some black and white clips of his fights, and you can hear the announcer pronounce his last name as "Garsha", and note that he's from Puerto Rico. With ignorant things like that being said by the official color commentary, it lends some credence to FMA influence early in modern boxing, while also showing a culture that may have been minimizing the influence of Filipinos. I don't buy that modern boxing technique is majorly influenced by FMA (I'm not even sure Ceferino even did any FMA, just that he was Filipino and knew how to use a bolo) but I think there's something to the story and it may be hard to document.

DdlR
3/26/2015 4:14pm,
It may be worth noting that there was a bit of a trend during the early 20th century towards identifying "unique punches"- there's a good 1914-vintage article on that subject at http://library.la84.org/SportsLibrary/BBM/1914/bbm126q.pdf. Some of them, like Bob Fitzsimmons' "solar plexus punch", gained a lot of press - though in that case, it was really just a normal body shot that landed right under the s.p. and KOd Fitz's opponent, which was then puffed up by the media.

IMO a lot of this stuff is similarly pushed as a PR angle by promoters and boxing journalists - in the '40s there was a fighter named Lou Nova who claimed to have developed a "cosmic yoga punch", but he still got annihilated by Joe Louis in round 6. That said, obviously, boxers really do sometimes train and even pull off unusual blows in the ring.

Mr. Machette
3/26/2015 7:49pm,
I've also heard the "evasion comes from FMA" story a number of times.

FMA did not invent the feint, the parry or the dodge. FMA whishes they did. FMA loves to say they did.

But come on. In the history of fighting. No body else has ever stepped out of the way?

jspeedy
3/26/2015 8:08pm,
According to Marc Denny in Kali Tudo 1, the "FMA changed Western Boxing" can be traced to Ceferino Garcia, a Filipino boxing champ in 1939. Among the claims are that he invented the "bolo punch" from a brush-hacking bolo cut motion. They also show some black and white clips of his fights, and you can hear the announcer pronounce his last name as "Garsha", and note that he's from Puerto Rico. With ignorant things like that being said by the official color commentary, it lends some credence to FMA influence early in modern boxing, while also showing a culture that may have been minimizing the influence of Filipinos. I don't buy that modern boxing technique is majorly influenced by FMA (I'm not even sure Ceferino even did any FMA, just that he was Filipino and knew how to use a bolo) but I think there's something to the story and it may be hard to document.

I've seen the footage and heard the story of Garcia, I think Ddlr nailed it. It was a bit of sensationalism and probably a point of national pride for Filipinos and perhaps rightfully so. I just don't know that FMA had anything to do with the development of modern boxing as a fighting style. The bolo punch is the one specific incidence that i've seen documented but I can't really find anything further. As much as I'm a fan of FMA and a dedicated FMAer, we have to make sure not to embellish its role in boxing and other non related culture. You can do a retrospective analysis of sorts and see the similarities and I do think boxing may have directly influenced some modern FMA but I don't think the reverse is true.

I do think it could be argued that the golden age of Filipino boxing contributed a lot to the sport of boxing as a whole and produced some great fighters. Thus Filipino culture and their fondness for the sport deserve some credit for contributing to the pool of boxing greats. But FMA making boxing what it is today? Nope, not until I see more evidence. This topic was recently discussed on the FMAtalklive podcast, and the hosts reached the same conclusion I had previously reached.

Arkansan
3/27/2015 9:13pm,
I've never given any weight to the claims that FMA had significant influence on modern Boxing. To me it seems to be a fairly clear evolution of the style in response to the Queensbury rule set. I think the change in the nature of infighting was likely the most significant factor, without clinch striking and grappling the ability to box in the pocket had to develop. But most of the seeds of modern Boxing can be seen in the manuals produced at the end of the BKB and early gloved era.

Ron_Ocata
3/30/2015 9:20am,
Few days without free time and suddenly - replies! :D

I might overrate the importance of the gloves, though they have had their influence.

Permalost: I think the gloves are so heavy and add such a volume to the fist that it indeed influences the techniques more than just having a well-protected hand. So, I indeed think of the gloves as a kind of "weapon", in a similar fashion that a judo gi influences judo techniques, of which some can't be used without gi (at least not without minor to major modifications).

I didn't think about the influence of the Queensbury clinch rules. I didn't stumble about these assumptions yet, but I will look into it.

Since I never did any FMA I can't talk much about this part, but in IMHO any martial art that includes striking was looked upon by a boxer at one time or another. I wouldn't be surprised if FMAs actually did change boxing. After all, boxing also changed other MAs (especially their competitive spin-offs).