My first boxing trainer had an “old school” sensibility that consisted of two things: impatience for “pitty-pat” and a dislike for using boxing pads. For the uninitiated, boxing pads are used by trainers to help their fighters practice fighting in a “mock” fight. The trainer calls out punches and the fighter responds. Once it gets going, the boxer throws punches wherever the pads are in the hopes that they’re thrown correctly, if not, it’s usually a swat and another “wake-up, girl,” moment.
For Johnny, however, pads were another form of pitty-pat. He wanted his fighters to hit and hit hard either at a bag or at another person, but not at pads. “What’s it giving you?” he’d extol. “I’ll tell you what, nothing, that ain’t how people fight.” He’d then shake his head and grabbing a long swaying heavy bag which he’d pummel with left hooks he’d say, “you gotta get in close like Joe Louis, and hit.”
I was new to boxing and figured that if Johnny wanted it that way, it was okay by me. Where it got difficult was in actually throwing those hard punches. Johnny would hold a giant heavy bag and have me throw nothing but lefts, or throw 6-, 8- or 10-punch combinations over and and over till I was so tired I’d want to drop – all the while cajoling me with his, “now I don’t want no pitty-pat, you hit hard.”
It got to be that I could actually throw 18-punch combinations complete with jabs, hooks, upper-cuts and body blows, my arms so tired I’d want to excise them – and none of them a “pitty-pat” throw.
Years later I moved on to a trainer who used pads, speed-bags, double-ended bags and whatever else he could think of in his arsenal. He also spent a lot of time teaching me good mechanics and fighting techniques, but those earlier crazy training sessions still came into play. I never could throw a pitty-pat punch and that desire to fully commit to each throw that had seemed so hard to the point of tears in my early days had given me something after all, the understanding that in boxing it really is about the commitment. There’s nothing half-baked about what you can do in the ring – or should do, ’cause otherwise it’s “you” fighting “you,” as you pick yourself up off the canvas.