When exploring the qualities that define a good—or even, great—boxer, certain key characteristics stand out.
I’ve pulled these together from my own experience to tell you what I think are the key traits to focus on developing.
A good boxer has naturally gifted abilities, great timing, solid hand-eye coordination, well-developed reflexes, devotion, consistency, rhythm, and, of course, determination to succeed above the many obstacles that come with fight training.
Let’s look into every trait, quality, and characteristic in more detail to find out how you can apply them to your own training.
Table of Contents
1. Natural Ability
I think it’s worth calling out that what makes a good Boxer and fighter is often a natural ability to apply themselves physically and mentally to the sport.
After practicing martial arts and notably Boxing over the last few years and improving my ability over time, I have noticed how some people can walk into the gym and “get it” right away.
Whether they are learning simple combinations, defensive maneuvering with footwork, or understanding how to stay light on their feet, some Boxing enthusiasts have something natural that comes to them to pick up the fundamentals fast.
A Boxer who can pick up the fundamentals fast can shortcut their way into perfecting their skills and have a chance at fighting professionally.
It may be that some people have been watching Boxing for a long time and have a visual learning style that empowers them to visualize what they see as if they were doing it themselves in their head. So when it comes time to enact the movements of Boxing, it’s like they’ve already done it before!
Timing can take someone from being a good boxer into a great one.
It’s also true that timing is what makes boxers any good in the first place, particularly when applying their skills to boxing sparring and actual fights.
Having near-perfect timing can lead to early or easier knockouts in a fight and present incredible new opportunities for a Boxer way earlier than it would have before.
Knockouts are exciting to watch, and Boxing as a sport is more than just about being able to go toe-to-toe with an opponent but also about how much noise you can make and bring attention to fight promotions. After all, Boxing is a business that grows on tickets being sold.
But, of course, timing isn’t just about selling tickets. Timing is the unique ability to use foresight and predict the direction of movement from their opponent and their intentions to time that perfect counter strike.
The timing ability could be naturally gifted, but it can also be trained and improved with a perfectionist attitude to technique.
3. Hand-Eye Coordination
You know those people who, when a ball is thrown to them, it hits them in the face? Well, that isn’t good hand-eye coordination.
A good Boxer has excellent hand-eye coordination, which allows them to identify targets with their eyes and deliver their hands in a nice package in the form of a punch. It’s also part of their defensive capabilities to see with your eyes and react with your hands in alignment with movement and footwork.
Many professionals and amateurs develop this skill by using a boxing ball. The boxing ball is a strap around your forehead with an elastic wire extending to a ball on end.
The boxing ball helps fighters develop this connection between seeing with their eyes and reacting with their fists.
There are other types of boxing balls and hand-eye coordination tools, such as ones attached to other objects instead and even machines that emulate strikes coming towards you to practice parry and counter.
This one hits on natural ability again, but it can certainly be trained and improved as having the reactions to avoid strikes and technique in slips and counters is part of what makes a good Boxer.
Reflexes aren’t just about avoiding punches to the face, either. A Boxer needs to move their feet quickly and react to whatever movements their opponent is making. Good reflexes can allow a Boxer to move in short reaction time with the second-to-second changes in a Boxing match.
Developing your reflexes is an essential ingredient of becoming a great Boxer. Otherwise, you’re just another Boxer who has their hands up in high guard as your primary defensive strategy.
The very best Boxers, such as Floyd Mayweather, have lightning reflexes that allow them to slip, weave, counter and predict better than their opponents.
Devotion melds three critical components to becoming a good Boxer; passion, commitment, and motivation.
To become a good Boxer, you need to be devoted to the sport. That means being finding and remaining connected to your passion for Boxing. What is it that brought you to it? Why are you pursuing it and continuing to keep coming back for more? Answering these questions for yourself allows you to keep that burning passion alive and helps with the following two key components.
You must be committed to learning as much as you can and improving each day, even if a little bit at a time. Use your passion to fuel that commitment and find reasons to keep at it, even pushing through the complex parts like injuries, fatigue, and stalling progression.
It also means finding the motivation to keep coming back to Boxing. Passion (and devotion) is developed over a long time, and commitment comes from repetition, but motivation is what gets you off the ground in the first place.
By circling these three components into devotion and purposefully finding opportunities to connect with this purpose, it could help you remain inspired for the long haul to become good, if not great.
While devotion covers aspects of commitment, consistency is much more related to the actual challenges and implementation of showing up regularly.
Boxing is an incredible sport steeped in history and has millions of fans worldwide to share your passion with. But it is with consistency; you will be able to fuel that passion into progress.
A good Boxer shows up almost every day to train and practice even the most mundane aspects of the sport, like repeating the same jab several hundred times until your arm aches and feels like it’s going to fall off.
Sometimes you will have to force consistency by setting alarms, waking up extra early, or removing any negative choices even as a possibility, such as skipping a training day because you don’t feel like it or picking up the burger on the way home.
You need to be consistent over long and sometimes very trying periods to fuel progression. This is how the best become the best and how you can become one of them if that’s what you want!
Rythym is something that most people in the sporting community rarely acknowledge. For me, rhythm is an ability to pick up the movements and footwork of Boxing more easily.
When I was first learning Boxing, I felt a certain level of ease because I had a natural background in dancing and rhythm. But like with learning to dance, the rhythm element sometimes comes easier for some people than others, but beginners can learn rhythm.
Many other sports have elements of rhythm and fluidity. I’ve seen professionals in other sports like soccer, football, and basketball be able to use their athletic ability, coordination, and rhythm and apply it to Boxing.
There are new movement patterns to learn in Boxing that isn’t applicable in many other sports, but the understanding rhythm and applying it can help massively make a good Boxer.
Finally, determination covers everything from unwavering desire to the grit you’ll need to keep going even when the chips are down.
By having a strong sense of determination – to succeed and grow – and grit, you will be able to overcome the guaranteed barriers that will be a part of your journey.
Every single Boxer has experienced setbacks during their rise. Sometimes a Boxer can get hit down (metaphorically) so hard that they don’t get back up. But doing something great is accepting that you will get hit down, and you have to keep going despite it.
Becoming a good Boxer will involve bruises, cuts, injuries, and doubters all along the way. On top of that, the physical and financial demands of using your time to pursue Boxing as far as you can will all add pressure to your life.
As Rocky Balboa brilliantly puts it:
“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”Rocky Balboa, 2006
So keep going forward anyway. If you love Boxing, it will love you back in the end.
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