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Old 09-19-2009, 03:04 PM   #1
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Default Food for Thought: Classic Boxing and Kickboxing

In another thread, I drew some comparisons between Thai kickboxing and 1920's-1950's boxing. I'd like to expand on that a little bit. Bear in mind that this is all speculation.

Thailand consistently produces the best competitors in the lower weight divisions for most of the "tougher" rulesets in kickboxing ("Muay Thai", the punches-kicks-elbows-knees variety of kickboxing, being foremost among these). This is interesting because Thailand is a third world country--its training methods are quite primitive by our standards, nutrition is poor, the average height is pretty short, and the total population is roughly comparable to the United States in 1890.

A few years ago, a 170 pound Thai named Kaoklai Kaennorsong won the K-1 Superheavyweight title--the most prestigious in worldwide kickboxing. In the final, he defeated a 6'5", 260 pound opponent with over seventy fights and a reputation as one of the best technicians in the game. Kaoklai's opponent was coming off a victory in the K-1 Grand Prix the year before. Kaoklai, incidentally, was probably not the best that Thailand could offer. From time to time, other Thai fighters fly out of Thailand and fight against physically superior local champions who've been trained Western-style (20-40 fights, amateur pedigree, modern exercise programs, pretty records, and lots of money invested in their training). They usually win in overwhelming fashion.

Many times, the way they win seems rather similar to watching a fighter like Carlos Monzon (He of the 100 Fights). You can't quite pinpoint exactly why they're beating their opponent without studying the film closely. It's not like Foreman-Frazier where the reasons for the demolition are obvious. It's a lot of subtle stuff--the reasons that they're superior to their opponents aren't flashy enough to be readily apparent. "Cagey veteran" is an overused term, but I think it describes this phenomenon pretty well.

There really is something to be said for the toughness and experience that come from the rough conditions and 100+ fights of yesteryear. People like Greb, Archie Moore, Ezzard Charles, and Ray Robinson were certainly inferior athletes to their successors. I would have no hesitation in claiming that. But I often wonder whether a "time machine" fight would end with a one-sided beatdown of the modern fighter with the entire PPV audience shaking their heads and saying "Huh? How did THAT happen?!"
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Old 09-19-2009, 07:39 PM   #2
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Default Re: Food for Thought: Classic Boxing and Kickboxing

There is no doubt in my mind that fighters of yesteryear were physically and especially mentally tougher than today's athletes.
In general, the world was simply a tougher place in the 1930's or 1950's than it is now. Much tougher. You had kids, 14, 15, 16 years old working 12 hour shifts doing hard manual labour.

I think it goes without saying that a fighter with 100+ fights on his ledger in the 1930's would be one tough cookie. Fighter were significantly less protected then and losing an unbeaten record wasn't such a catatrophe. The best guys also fought each other, sometimes often, and sometimes in pretty poor conditions.
Because a lot of them were so active, they didn't get out of shape between fights. Their level of general fitness probably exceeded that of your average pro today who fights anywhere from 3-6 times a year.
Fair enough, perhaps they didn't reach such a peak level of fitness for a fight sometimes, but in general I'd say they were in better shape overall.

I think it also goes without saying that fighting good opposition often simply made them better at their craft, provided they were good learners. A lot of the lessons learned came from actual ring experience, as opposed to learning in the gym. There is simply no substitute for the real thing. Training teaches you only so much...can you imagine the vast wealth of experience a fighter like Greb or Moore must have had?

You get the odd throwback today, guys like Hopkins or Toney spring to mind.
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Old 09-19-2009, 08:03 PM   #3
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Default Re: Food for Thought: Classic Boxing and Kickboxing

Quote:
Originally Posted by cross_trainer View Post
In another thread, I drew some comparisons between Thai kickboxing and 1920's-1950's boxing. I'd like to expand on that a little bit. Bear in mind that this is all speculation.

Thailand consistently produces the best competitors in the lower weight divisions for most of the "tougher" rulesets in kickboxing ("Muay Thai", the punches-kicks-elbows-knees variety of kickboxing, being foremost among these). This is interesting because Thailand is a third world country--its training methods are quite primitive by our standards, nutrition is poor, the average height is pretty short, and the total population is roughly comparable to the United States in 1890.

A few years ago, a 170 pound Thai named Kaoklai Kaennorsong won the K-1 Superheavyweight title--the most prestigious in worldwide kickboxing. In the final, he defeated a 6'5", 260 pound opponent with over seventy fights and a reputation as one of the best technicians in the game. Kaoklai's opponent was coming off a victory in the K-1 Grand Prix the year before. Kaoklai, incidentally, was probably not the best that Thailand could offer. From time to time, other Thai fighters fly out of Thailand and fight against physically superior local champions who've been trained Western-style (20-40 fights, amateur pedigree, modern exercise programs, pretty records, and lots of money invested in their training). They usually win in overwhelming fashion.

Many times, the way they win seems rather similar to watching a fighter like Carlos Monzon (He of the 100 Fights). You can't quite pinpoint exactly why they're beating their opponent without studying the film closely. It's not like Foreman-Frazier where the reasons for the demolition are obvious. It's a lot of subtle stuff--the reasons that they're superior to their opponents aren't flashy enough to be readily apparent. "Cagey veteran" is an overused term, but I think it describes this phenomenon pretty well.

There really is something to be said for the toughness and experience that come from the rough conditions and 100+ fights of yesteryear. People like Greb, Archie Moore, Ezzard Charles, and Ray Robinson were certainly inferior athletes to their successors. I would have no hesitation in claiming that. But I often wonder whether a "time machine" fight would end with a one-sided beatdown of the modern fighter with the entire PPV audience shaking their heads and saying "Huh? How did THAT happen?!"
Interesting observations. I'm not entirely sure what we should take from them though. It's true that many modern fighters are superior due to the use of supplements and specially designed training routines. But when talking about Greb, Moore, Charles, or Robinson, we really aren't getting a sense of how the two training styles would compare. Instead, we'd see how very uncommon skill would match with modern training and good skills. I don't think that would tell us as much about the effectiveness of the two styles of training. Maybe the group you mentioned were just good enough to overcome the drawbacks of the older, tough training style. I also think we should distinguish between lots of experience and training methods.
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Old 09-19-2009, 08:40 PM   #4
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Default Re: Food for Thought: Classic Boxing and Kickboxing

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Interesting observations. I'm not entirely sure what we should take from them though. It's true that many modern fighters are superior due to the use of supplements and specially designed training routines. But when talking about Greb, Moore, Charles, or Robinson, we really aren't getting a sense of how the two training styles would compare. Instead, we'd see how very uncommon skill would match with modern training and good skills. I don't think that would tell us as much about the effectiveness of the two styles of training. Maybe the group you mentioned were just good enough to overcome the drawbacks of the older, tough training style. I also think we should distinguish between lots of experience and training methods.
Re: Robinson and company--I meant matching them against their nearest weight-equivalents today. Thus: Greb vs. Hopkins (or Calzaghe), Charles vs. Dawson/Johnson, Robinson vs. Floyd, etc.

On your other points: Quite so. I'm simply referring to the sheer volume of incredibly tough experience that these guys would have had. Once they got to the top level of the professional game (and their craft had more or less reached its zenith), they would have benefited enormously from modern conditioning. Heck, they certainly would have before that. But the fact that a comparatively large number of fighters from that period had 100+ fights and a ton of sparring would surely mean something. And that "something" would be difficult to evaluate objectively.

Speed is easy to observe. Power and chin also are. Basic skills are likewise pretty easy to see. "Experience"--accumulated ring instincts--is a squishy, hard-to-quantify quality that isn't as evident when trying to distinguish a 15-20 fight prospect from an experienced contender. Usually, you can't "see" it at all when viewing their respective footage (unless one of them makes a terrible tactical mistake, like Wlad's attempt to fight rather than clinch when hurt). It's often only possible to observe when you see the two in the ring together--and even then you can't always pinpoint the specific flaw(s) that get the novice clobbered. Often, they don't have any specific flaws--it's just that the other guy has accumulated a knack for figuring opponents out over the years.

I, for one, often have trouble doing making these distinctions. Probably because I haven't had several hundred fights.
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Old 09-20-2009, 07:57 AM   #5
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Default Re: Food for Thought: Classic Boxing and Kickboxing

Most villages in Thailand have a ring. Kickboxing is a tougher sport than modern boxing, and probably was almost as tough as old time classic boxing.

The old time classic boxers fought in the tough conditions. Non air-conditioned smoke filled rooms, or in the afternoon sun. The gloves did not protect the hands all that well. In fact the gloves got scuffed up rather easily which is why cuts happened more often in the those days. If you had a cut or swelling back then, you were pretty much on your own. There was not anti-coagulant glue for cuts, or enswell for bad swelling. There were not mouth pieces either, so the taste of blood in one's mouth was a common occurrence. The old time metal cups did more harm than good, and restricted some movement. The boxing shoes were light years behind modern boxing shoes. And the ring floor wasn't always soft. Old time boxers had it tough.
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Old 09-20-2009, 08:27 AM   #6
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Default Re: Food for Thought: Classic Boxing and Kickboxing

Sorry to be a stickler cross...I know its not your point at all..but did Kaennorsong actually win the world title?

I dont remember him actually pulling it off...Just going really, really far against a host of excellent fighters.
I thought he made the semis and pushed either Musashi or Bonjaskey really hard but ultimately lost.
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Old 09-20-2009, 09:23 AM   #7
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Default Re: Food for Thought: Classic Boxing and Kickboxing

I dont think Circumstances and 'toughness' are the main points here.

In the classic days top guys were fighting monthly and possibly even more. This helps them learn boxing better. Because they are keeping sharp and practising there skills often. In more modern times guys are having less fights and we regard them as not as 'tough', i would use the word effective.

They have practised teh sport and technique and all that but they arnt trying it out enough in competition the more they fought the more there styles would develop and they would adapt there styles to counter a broader range of styles.

Just my thoughts
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Old 09-21-2009, 04:04 PM   #8
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Default Re: Food for Thought: Classic Boxing and Kickboxing

You have to assume ,though, that Kaennorsong has been receiving a high level of instruction from an early age and has been sparring and fighting calibre opponents for many years.

Does a muay thai match last longer than a K-1 match?
One would think,over a longer contest,that the heavier weight and durability of a bigger opponent may begin to tell.

edit:
Five 3 miniute rounds for Muay Thai with 2 minute rest in between.

Three 3 minute rounds for K1 with 1 miinute rest in between.

Last edited by Arka; 09-21-2009 at 04:23 PM.
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Old 09-21-2009, 04:45 PM   #9
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Default Re: Food for Thought: Classic Boxing and Kickboxing

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In the west, kickboxing is basically the low-rent cousin of real boxing. It's not very popular, and thus doesn't pay very well. Hence anyone with true world-class fighting ability is likely to get into (or jump over to) standard boxing in order to make more money. But in Thailand, kickboxing is afforded great respect and popularity. Over there it CAN attract the very best fighters.

So when you hear about a Thai kickboxer beating the **** out of some kickboxer from the west, basically what you're hearing about is a truly elite fighter (who happens to be from Thailand and kickbox) taking out some dude who'd be fighting as a regular boxer for a much larger paycheck if he were any good.

There have been Thai kickboxers who have transitioned to standard boxing and done very well for themselves, and why shouldn't they? But they were hardly rendered invincible by their hardcore "like they used to do in the old days" training or lifestyle.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that MT-level kickboxing is quite popular in Holland and Japan.
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Old 09-21-2009, 05:16 PM   #10
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Default Re: Food for Thought: Classic Boxing and Kickboxing

you made a mistake. thailand doesn't produce the best kickboxers as you said. the best kickboxers come from the netherlands.. most titles and so on. same as K1 who won that the most ?? yes indeed. the dutch did
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