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Old 06-07-2012, 10:13 PM   #1
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Default The importance of skeletal structure, musculature and general physiology...

... When rating, judging or just admiring the greats of the past and present.

This is an aspect of 'talking on forums about boxing' that I feel is overlooked.

I'll start by giving an example of what I mean. I thought of this when reading another thread titled Max Baer versus Samuel Peter:

If two men of equal ability but unequal weight fight each other, the one with a significant weight advantage is usually going to win, however, this isn't always the case. Knowing what I know now, I can see that it's mostly the skeletal frame that is the pivotal point and not muscle or fat. A fighter with a small skeletal structure and lots of muscle can (note: not always) struggle with stamina - perhaps his chest cavity, lungs and heart are not big enough naturally to supply his large muscles with blood and oxygen efficiently - but he might also be very fast, especially if his hands and lower forearms are disproportionate to his shoulders or core. Small bones propelled by powerful muscles*.
In contrast to this, a fighter may have a large skeletal structure yet retain a low fat percentage and a smaller yet more sustainable musculature. Said fighter may possess more stamina, agility and therefore longer lasting technique throughout rounds, without suffering too much of a size deficit, or at least not one that would see him overpowered. There is a balance. In the case of Baer versus Peter, I would expect a naturally durable, hard hitting and proportioned Baer to start beating on a comparatively stocky looking Peter in the late rounds due to a difference in stamina, and not much of one in power. That said, for boxing in general, I would favour a more lightly muscled fighter over a bulkier fighter if they had a similarly sized skeletal structure.

*This, of course, also largely depends on an amalgamation of other factors including muscle fibre type and quality, their internal structure or density, which methods of training were used and any injuries that may be lurking. This is to say that you cannot positively look at a fighter and tell how well he will perform - never mind the mental aspect - but his general observable structure can sometimes give a good indication as to why said fighter was so durable, or so strong, or so quick...


Here is a post I made the other day when SuzieQ49 posed the question, roughly, of why Marciano was such a terror at 190lbs or below:

Quote:
Because he was massively strong and powerful for his weight, owing to what I think was a naturally brilliant physical structure. Though short of height and reach, Marciano was a human tank with thick, short bones that lent themselves well to absorbing and supporting big forces. As evidenced by his post-career weight gain, Marciano was naturally more than just a bit portly - and his fighting body was trimmed of nearly all fat - but he still looked stocky. Also characteristic of this robust build are mechanically advantaged tendon insertion points and long, thick, if not very defined, muscles. Rocky could have been a power lifter.

When you add huge amounts of stamina you end up with a physical monster. If that physical monster will not back down for shit, then it doesn't need skill to be good. As it turns out, once honed, Marciano was cagey enough to maintain a good hit ratio with anyone, and he, if nobody else, fought fighters who were easily capable of re-teaching him some old textbook stuff - Moore, Charles and Walcott.
When questioned, I added:

Quote:
There was no lesson, just some observations. Everything I wrote rang true with Marciano; he had a combination of attributes that made him a real physical force for his weight. Not everyone built a certain way will display the expected characteristics, otherwise Carlos Monzon would have been stopped a few times, but if you somehow had a natural, neural ability to soak up punishment more than the average man and on top of that you were blessed with a thick skull and neck, you will probably possess some kind of durability. Muscularly, Marciano might have been strong anyway, but with short, thick bones and full muscles this would only have been enhanced (thinner, longer bones with shorter muscles and smaller joints generally do not lift as much). There is no way to prove this now, but from witness and fighter accounts we can gather he was high on the scale for strength, stamina and durability and conversion to punching power. I say it owes a lot to his physique and mentality. Marciano was a natural athlete.
And:

Quote:
You don't think physical structure gives an indication as to how strong someone is?

Maybe among the general public you would have a harder time predicting how strong someone is by looking at them due to variables such as some people leading sedentary lives, some not, and some sitting in the middle, however when talking about athletes at the top of their game, aside from an obvious and highly variable mental aspect, the only other differentiating factors are observable ones due to the structure of their physique.
Quote:
But how?

It's all physics. Bone, tendon and muscle all vary in length, width and density (density being less obvious but still roughly measurable without equipment) and every measurement factors into whether someone is strong, weak, durable, endurable, whatever. Sometimes, more so with athletes, we can estimate what their performance is going to be like based on looks. You will often find people with barrel-shaped chests have a lot of endurance because they have a large heart and lungs to support their activity, although to clarify, this is not always the case as various health differences can exist with regards to arteries, function of the heart and lungs, central nervous system function and so on... Rocky Marciano was likely in perfect health, with good CNS function, and that optimally shaped body, with a powerful set of lungs to match his metaphorical fighting heart.
More examples of these kinds of physical observables can be seen throughout boxing history. A good example may be Henry Armstrong, who supposedly had a heart one third larger than most humans - an indispensable and wholly natural tool he used to his advantage, clearly. Normally I wouldn't think twice but upon examination I realised that despite being 140lbs at 5ft 5in, Armstrong's arms and legs were fairly thin branches sprouting from a strong, barrel-like trunk of a core that housed a generous set of organs.

"So in light of the Baer-Peter reasoning, surely you must pick Marciano over Tyson?"

Not necessarily, as although the two fighters seem similar in build at first, one more muscular than the other, they were in fact quite different. Firstly, with access to the figures, you can tell Tyson had a broader back - a three inch difference in wingspan overall (on such stocky fighters and covering a large muscle group, that three inches yields great potential for extra muscle development) - as well as wider fists and thicker ankles and wrists and therefore more potential area for muscle attachment. Whereas before it might be easy to assume Tyson had a bigger chest because of muscle only, by looking at 'base stats' such as wrists, fists, ankles and wingspan we can gauge true skeletal size and differences. Those measurements are notoriously difficult to increase in size and are an accurate reflection; the wrists, for instance, consist of little muscle and mostly tendons.

Exceptions to the rule? There are plenty. Half of boxing is in the mind for a start, and sometimes you just get a physical freak of nature. Panama Al Brown is my all-time favourite surprise nominee for 'most durable fighter ever' - his skull was small, his neck was thin and though a polished boxer, he was not unhittable over one hundred and seventy bouts. He was never stopped though.

I suppose my final word should be a disclaimer saying: I'm not any kind of authority on biology, nor claim to be, the point of the post being to share a different perspective that I have discovered over the last few months. Apologies for the long-windedness and any difficulties understanding what the **** I'm on about...
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Old 06-07-2012, 10:31 PM   #2
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Default Re: The importance of skeletal structure, musculature and general physiology...

It's important but, in the case of things like muscle density, tendon strength, lung capacity and so on, almost impossible to accurately evaluate. The best you can do is form a general image of the fighter from images and statistics, and then proceed to gauge how well that image correlates with the available footage of the fighter in action, re-evaluating as you see fit until you have a reasonably accurate representation of that fighter's internal makeup.
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Old 06-07-2012, 10:40 PM   #3
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Default Re: The importance of skeletal structure, musculature and general physiology...

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Originally Posted by Absolutely! View Post
It's important but, in the case of things like muscle density, tendon strength, lung capacity and so on, almost impossible to accurately evaluate. The best you can do is form a general image of the fighter from images and statistics, and then proceed to gauge how well that image correlates with the available footage of the fighter in action, re-evaluating as you see fit until you have a reasonably accurate representation of that fighter's internal makeup.
And record to a more limited extent, I agree
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Old 06-07-2012, 10:42 PM   #4
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Default Re: The importance of skeletal structure, musculature and general physiology...

Interesting thread......I canīt say nothing because I think that my knowledge on this subject is small..
But looking forward to this thread and the posts
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Old 06-07-2012, 10:46 PM   #5
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Default Re: The importance of skeletal structure, musculature and general physiology...

Yes, very interesting thread.
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Old 06-07-2012, 11:09 PM   #6
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Default Re: The importance of skeletal structure, musculature and general physiology...

Utter bollocks. In boxing, so much is an estimation based on results that you can confer these suppositions upon boxers with limited veracity. But let's try to apply this same "science" to another, more rigidly measured endeavor, track sprinting.

Please to evaluate the following athletes...

[Only registered and activated users can see links. ]
5-11 160 lbs 9.92 seconds

[Only registered and activated users can see links. ]
6-3 180 9.86 seconds

[Only registered and activated users can see links. ]
6-0 185. 9.85 seconds

[Only registered and activated users can see links. ]
6-5 175 9.86 seconds


All varied physiques and muscalature, all 100 meter champions and/or world record holders with roughly analogous times given conditions and track surfaces over the years. All capable of roughly the same performance. And I know you are talking more about just height and weight (length of levers, compactness of muscles). However, these athletes do give a wide representation of other attributes within the context of being the very elite world class in their field... i.e. there are no 280 lb couch potatoes represented.
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Old 06-07-2012, 11:36 PM   #7
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Default Re: The importance of skeletal structure, musculature and general physiology...

How you can come in here and say it's utter bollocks is beyond me, especially when you then compare boxing to sprinting which is, like you said, a much more rigid competition. There are less factors to consider, such as long term stamina, weight with regard to balance is not as important, neither is changing direction, absorption of force nor muscular endurance. You say these sprinters gave similar times but if you look at their physical structure more closely you will likely find a pattern regarding stride length and leverage from bone and muscle length, to a limited extent. It's always to a limited extent and is very much an afterward observation. Looking at Usain Bolt we could assume that he has a superb set of muscle fibres and central nervous system efficiency, better than any other tall runner in history perhaps, and that it is his stride length that is his advantage.
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Old 06-08-2012, 02:45 AM   #8
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Default Re: The importance of skeletal structure, musculature and general physiology...

It's an interesting thread. I don't think Seamus cynicism is unreasonable. The problem I imagine is that it's sometimes hard to tell the physiology of a fighter by his appearance. Surely, more obvious examples like Tyson, Marciano, and Pacquaio can be discerned more physiologically based. How often, though, are the physical performances of a fighter used to reinforce physiology based ideas in regards to fighters. In other words, it seems kind of circular. Basic things like seeing Chuvalo built like a tank can show how physical features matter in boxing. A short thick neck and strong base (Back, legs) will obviously help you take a punch. The same runs true for Tyson and Tua's stature in regards to punch resistance. At the same token, Bute is obviously a fighter with a long thin neck. His not built to endure punishment.

Pac explodes with punches. His form, technique, and general punch execution often looks amateurish. Instead of sitting down on his shots and garnering leverage and punching through a target he explodes at a target. Often times you see Pac's feet off the ground or all over the place. I imagine Pac gets away with this because of his physiology. His quads are massive for most fighters, even fighters at higher weights. His calves are huge. He clearly has great fast twitch muscle fibers. The conjunction of all this allows him to explode off the canvas to gain such tremendous speed and power. Does it look like Pac is really punching with such great power? Beyond obvious superficial physical explanations, how can one tell? How does one tell a fighter has a small skeletal structure, particularly when he's well built and rather muscular (Yes, muscles generally reduce cardiovascular potential on a general notion). Did George Foreman have bad stamina because he big muscles on top of a small skeletal structure? I don't think so. At the same time, what you say is true. It was said Hagler's skull was thicker than the average men which allowed for him to take greater punishment. Maybe something like that can help explain why certain fighters can take tons of punishment and end up fine while others tend to become more affected later on. Often it's difficult to discern or imagine in regards to internal physiology, though.

Great thread. Sorry if my post was a little wordy and in-concise.
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Old 06-08-2012, 06:59 AM   #9
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Default Re: The importance of skeletal structure, musculature and general physiology...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Manassa View Post
... When rating, judging or just admiring the greats of the past and present.

This is an aspect of 'talking on forums about boxing' that I feel is overlooked.

I'll start by giving an example of what I mean. I thought of this when reading another thread titled Max Baer versus Samuel Peter:

If two men of equal ability but unequal weight fight each other, the one with a significant weight advantage is usually going to win, however, this isn't always the case. Knowing what I know now, I can see that it's mostly the skeletal frame that is the pivotal point and not muscle or fat. A fighter with a small skeletal structure and lots of muscle can (note: not always) struggle with stamina - perhaps his chest cavity, lungs and heart are not big enough naturally to supply his large muscles with blood and oxygen efficiently - but he might also be very fast, especially if his hands and lower forearms are disproportionate to his shoulders or core. Small bones propelled by powerful muscles*.
In contrast to this, a fighter may have a large skeletal structure yet retain a low fat percentage and a smaller yet more sustainable musculature. Said fighter may possess more stamina, agility and therefore longer lasting technique throughout rounds, without suffering too much of a size deficit, or at least not one that would see him overpowered. There is a balance. In the case of Baer versus Peter, I would expect a naturally durable, hard hitting and proportioned Baer to start beating on a comparatively stocky looking Peter in the late rounds due to a difference in stamina, and not much of one in power. That said, for boxing in general, I would favour a more lightly muscled fighter over a bulkier fighter if they had a similarly sized skeletal structure.

*This, of course, also largely depends on an amalgamation of other factors including muscle fibre type and quality, their internal structure or density, which methods of training were used and any injuries that may be lurking. This is to say that you cannot positively look at a fighter and tell how well he will perform - never mind the mental aspect - but his general observable structure can sometimes give a good indication as to why said fighter was so durable, or so strong, or so quick...


Here is a post I made the other day when SuzieQ49 posed the question, roughly, of why Marciano was such a terror at 190lbs or below:



When questioned, I added:



And:





More examples of these kinds of physical observables can be seen throughout boxing history. A good example may be Henry Armstrong, who supposedly had a heart one third larger than most humans - an indispensable and wholly natural tool he used to his advantage, clearly. Normally I wouldn't think twice but upon examination I realised that despite being 140lbs at 5ft 5in, Armstrong's arms and legs were fairly thin branches sprouting from a strong, barrel-like trunk of a core that housed a generous set of organs.

"So in light of the Baer-Peter reasoning, surely you must pick Marciano over Tyson?"

Not necessarily, as although the two fighters seem similar in build at first, one more muscular than the other, they were in fact quite different. Firstly, with access to the figures, you can tell Tyson had a broader back - a three inch difference in wingspan overall (on such stocky fighters and covering a large muscle group, that three inches yields great potential for extra muscle development) - as well as wider fists and thicker ankles and wrists and therefore more potential area for muscle attachment. Whereas before it might be easy to assume Tyson had a bigger chest because of muscle only, by looking at 'base stats' such as wrists, fists, ankles and wingspan we can gauge true skeletal size and differences. Those measurements are notoriously difficult to increase in size and are an accurate reflection; the wrists, for instance, consist of little muscle and mostly tendons.

Exceptions to the rule? There are plenty. Half of boxing is in the mind for a start, and sometimes you just get a physical freak of nature. Panama Al Brown is my all-time favourite surprise nominee for 'most durable fighter ever' - his skull was small, his neck was thin and though a polished boxer, he was not unhittable over one hundred and seventy bouts. He was never stopped though.

I suppose my final word should be a disclaimer saying: I'm not any kind of authority on biology, nor claim to be, the point of the post being to share a different perspective that I have discovered over the last few months. Apologies for the long-windedness and any difficulties understanding what the **** I'm on about...
I had a bigger chest than Marciano when I left school. Tyson has thin calves but big thighs.Marciano had big legs period, but his chest, biceps and neck were nothing exceptional,where did he get his tremendous power from ?
I don't think you can pin it down .Some people with pronounced bone structure around the eyebrows ect , tend to cut easily, Cooper, Antuofermo, eg ,others do not. Why did Frazier s face swell up , yet he rarely cut ? I have a cousin 6'2" rangy, and thin, he is tremendously strong, big hands thick wrists but small biceps probably 2-3" smaller than mine, yet he can lift, and carry weights that would be far beyond me. It's a mystery ,well to me at least. But, good luck with your quest.
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Old 06-08-2012, 10:28 AM   #10
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Default Re: The importance of skeletal structure, musculature and general physiology...

There are simply way too many variables to even guess at whether someone will make a good fighter or not let alone what kind of style and tactics will be best suited for him.

Just in muscle composition regarding punching power alone, which is invisible to the naked eye, you have fiber type, firing rate, firing speed, recruitment of fibers, length of fibers, elasticity of tendons, synapses thickness, insertion points, cp levels, just to name a few...

For stamina, you have heart size, pumping strength, lung capacity, lung oxygen absorption rate, red blood cell oxygen capacity, capillary density in muscles, lactic acid removal rate, just to name a few...

Some are innate, some can be trained to world class levels.

There is way too much stuff going on to be able to take even a close look at someone, and have an inkling of an idea of that person's abilities.
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Old 06-08-2012, 12:08 PM   #11
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Default Re: The importance of skeletal structure, musculature and general physiology...

Not to come off all defensive but I think I acknowledged most rebuttals already at various points in my post. I did specifically state in an attempt to defend myself in advance that you cannot predict how a fighter will perform based on his observable traits alone. My stance is that you can, with hindsight (a career's worth of performances) use physical observations to reason how a fighter was so strong, or what contributed to him being fragile, and so on.

I think you could tell more, you have to really know the human body.

I'm going to leave this now because it could get really complicated and I wish I never started it!

P.S. - McVey, I don't think you quite grasped the subject this time.
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Old 06-08-2012, 12:16 PM   #12
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Default Re: The importance of skeletal structure, musculature and general physiology...

Sprinting and boxing just are not comparable IMO.
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Old 06-08-2012, 07:17 PM   #13
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Default Re: The importance of skeletal structure, musculature and general physiology...

Had an interesting talk with my pops which was sort of relevant to the topic. We were talking about genetics and I mentioned epigenetics which I saw about on a science show. My father talked about his cousin who ingested proteins and eggs and got into working out very early. His siblings were all smaller and not as big in bone structure. My dad basically believes that his cousin built himself to be at that level from what did at an earlier age. Basically, he could never touch a weight again (Which he hasn't as far as I know) and he will always be big. I am bigger than him and my brother and he believes this happened with me to an extent as well. I am not so sure, but it's an interesting nevertheless.

It got me thinking about Marciano. He was a fitness freak always looking to get stronger as a kid. He took advice from kids and always tried things out and tried eating well. Maybe this sort of thing helped Marciano in some way grow into his structure or be stronger from life onwards. This is taking the concept of epigenetics and narrowing it down even further. More understanding of science and biology is very limited though.

There are obvious counterexamples. Tyson was always a freak. About 200 pound all muscle at 16 years old. The first time he went to bench press he pushed up 275 or 315 pounds. A good figure by most average fellows goals. So obviously genetics play a crucial factor. A very important one. But you have some choice and way to perhaps enhance what you may have already. At least this is shown to be true through generations with epigenetics in terms of obesity, and something as simple as a pregnant mother altering her child simply due to being in a stressful situation during pregnancy.
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Old 06-08-2012, 08:46 PM   #14
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Default Re: The importance of skeletal structure, musculature and general physiology...

Quote:
Originally Posted by PetethePrince View Post
Had an interesting talk with my pops which was sort of relevant to the topic. We were talking about genetics and I mentioned epigenetics which I saw about on a science show. My father talked about his cousin who ingested proteins and eggs and got into working out very early. His siblings were all smaller and not as big in bone structure. My dad basically believes that his cousin built himself to be at that level from what did at an earlier age. Basically, he could never touch a weight again (Which he hasn't as far as I know) and he will always be big. I am bigger than him and my brother and he believes this happened with me to an extent as well. I am not so sure, but it's an interesting nevertheless.

It got me thinking about Marciano. He was a fitness freak always looking to get stronger as a kid. He took advice from kids and always tried things out and tried eating well. Maybe this sort of thing helped Marciano in some way grow into his structure or be stronger from life onwards. This is taking the concept of epigenetics and narrowing it down even further. More understanding of science and biology is very limited though.

There are obvious counterexamples. Tyson was always a freak. About 200 pound all muscle at 16 years old. The first time he went to bench press he pushed up 275 or 315 pounds. A good figure by most average fellows goals. So obviously genetics play a crucial factor. A very important one. But you have some choice and way to perhaps enhance what you may have already. At least this is shown to be true through generations with epigenetics in terms of obesity, and something as simple as a pregnant mother altering her child simply due to being in a stressful situation during pregnancy.
As far as I know, bones will reinforce themselves when subjected to progressive minor stress (such as weight lifting) even as an adult, so I presume on a growing child it will have a much bigger influence and could mean the difference between someone being built big or small. Others are naturally heavy set.
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Old 06-08-2012, 09:01 PM   #15
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Default Re: The importance of skeletal structure, musculature and general physiology...

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Sprinting and boxing just are not comparable IMO.
There is not a correlation being drawn between the two sports but a challenge to this "eye test" mentality that asserts it can by physiogamy draw conclusions on an athlete's performance.

I say, total bollocks.
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