Puzzled By Henry Armstrong’s Fighting Style

Discussion in 'Classic Boxing Forum' started by JLP1978, Jun 30, 2020.


  1. JLP1978

    JLP1978 Member Full Member

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    We all know his record and accomplishments which are extremely impressive to say the least.

    With that said I can’t figure out Henry Armstrong’s style and why it was so effective. One of his nicknames was Hurricane Hank. I would expect a fighter with that nickname to blitz his opponent from the bell and throw nonstop combinations like Aaron Pryor did against Arguello. However, what I see is a fighter who comes out behind his shoulder something like an aggressive Mayweather and wades in bobbing an weaving like Joe Frazier.

    A couple more things that I cannot figure out. He must have the chin of chins because he never jabs to get timing or counterpunches. He simply cuts the ring immediately and pressures his opponent to the ropes and starts Hammering.

    How does he cut the ring so well? It seems like no matter what, guys cannot get away. How does he generate so much power. All I see him doing is throwing short hooks on the inside that he doesn’t seem to be getting much leverage on.

    Anyone, game to check out some film with me for critical analysis and feedback?

    BTW, he is in my 10.
     
  2. 70sFan865

    70sFan865 Ii6 Full Member

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    Armstrong was the best ever at using his body to smother opponent's attacks. Watch how he used his shoulders and elbows, he gave no oppenings. His head movement was also unreal, it was impossible to time him while trying to deal with constant pressure. He had also extremely strong legs, so it wasn't easy to push him off. On top of that, he had amazing chin - basically unbreakable.

    Offensively, he didn't focus on outboxing opponents. He tried to overwhelm them with amazing workrate. He attacked the body a lot and there was no defense against that.

    I'm not the most knowledgeable poster here and I'm sure better ones will give you more detailed breakdown. Personally, I view Armstrong at his best weight almost unbeatable.
     
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  3. young griffo

    young griffo Boxing Addict Full Member

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    Great post and not much to add to it.

    I will say that I’ve not seen a pressure fighter that was harder to move off an opponents chest. It might be the strong legs but he also was a master at using his shoulder to unbalance his opponent to prevent them from getting any leverage on him. He was a genius in the trenches and better at fighting his style of fight against all opposition than almost anyone you could name.

    An amazing fighter.
     
  4. DrederickTatum

    DrederickTatum We really outchere. Full Member

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    Good post, I'll add something I think I noticed though:
    His head positioning when he gets the inside, alternating from having his head tight to the guys chest when digging to the body, to the opposite shoulder to the side he punches, he'd hold onto the elbow to stop you punching or pushing on the side he had his head on, obviously only effective because of the old style gloves.
    He'll step on your shoes on the inside to, doing everything he can to keep you where you are.

    It's a different kind of pressure that is difficult to pull off with a modern ruleset IMO.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2020
  5. JLP1978

    JLP1978 Member Full Member

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    Amazing analysis! Thank you.

    I will be looking for the things you guys pointed out. The way you describe them, they seem very subtle, like infighting mastery. Perhaps that is why I can figure it, because it is level or 10 beyond what I am used to seeing
     
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  6. Saintpat

    Saintpat Boxing Junkie Full Member

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    All of the above adds up to an incredible ring IQ ... he’s not some ‘face fighter’ who wades in taking two to land three. He knows how to get where he wants to get, what to do when he gets there and, most importantly, how to stay there so the opponent can’t get away.
     
  7. klompton2

    klompton2 Boxing Junkie Full Member

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    Joe Frazier was a giant version of him.
     
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  8. KasimirKid

    KasimirKid Active Member Full Member

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    For my two cents on Armstrong I am copying a post which I wrote in a previous thread:

    What I find unique in my experience is Armstrong's use of the "shoulder bump" (my term unless it's already in use -- I'm not up-to-date enough to know). He swarms and bumps his opponent with both of his shoulders to keep him off balance so he can't leverage a meaningful punch. While doing this, he establishes a cadence to his actions which sets its own rhythm while at the same time upsetting that of his opponent. Other "swarmers" I admire like Henry Hank, Joe Frazier, and Mike Tyson don't carry the art to this level
     
  9. KasimirKid

    KasimirKid Active Member Full Member

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    Yeah, he stuck to his opponent like glue!
     
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  10. Mendoza

    Mendoza Hrgovic = Next Heavyweight champion of the world. Full Member

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    Armstrong isn't too hard to figure out. Picture a skilled guy who's on his man with an iron body, a big gas tank to go at 100% for a full 15 rounds, with good defense. He was a medical freak as well.

    The historians speak:

    Historian Tracy Callis, who saw Armstrong fight, said that he was, “A relentless, aggressive, attacking fighter, Armstrong had several nicknames - "Perpetual Motion," "Homicide Hank," the "Human Buzzsaw," and "Hurricane Henry." He carried a stiff punch, took a good blow, applied constant pressure, and had incredible stamina. From 1937 to late 1940, he lost only one fight - to Lou Ambers - for the Lightweight title (in 1939). His record (against topflight competition) during this time was 59-1-1 with 51 knockouts. He scored 27 straight knockouts during 1937-1938.”

    Armstrong who merited his colorful nicknames for his non-stop windmill attacking style, was one of boxing’s greatest pound for pound fighters. Pressuring his opponents from the gong of the first bell his plan of attack was designed to force his opponents into mistakes while he banged away with both hands to the head and body with a torrent of blows. Veteran boxing observer, Tony Kelly, Ring, Feb 1938, said that Armstrong “sets the most killing pace I’ve ever seen.”

    Armstrong was a marvel of the ring. He worked at a fast pace, had quick hands and unlike most fighters seemed to pick up speed as the rounds went on. He was also a strong puncher and defensively his bob and weave style kept him from receiving the full impact of his opponent’s blows. The truth of Henry Armstrong is that he had much better boxing skills than some give him credit for.

    Medical freak: Upon his death it was discovered that Armstrong’s heart was a third larger than that of the average person. This allowed him to fight at a ferocious pace for 15 rounds without loss of breath. It seems certain that he could have done the same thing in a 20 round bout.

    Gilbert Odd penned (1974, p 117), “Armstrong was a fistic phenomena. He had an abnormally slow heartbeat and had to warm up in the dressing room with ten rounds of fast shadow boxing before going into the ring to fight a torrid 15 round battle. He tossed punches incessantly and they came from all angles. He fought so furiously it was impossible to count the blows he struck.”

    Nat Fleischer wrote (Aug 1938 Ring) that, “Henry is able to avoid severe punishment by his continuous rushing tactics in which he gives an opponent little opportunity to think of anything but to protect himself against the murderous assault.”

    McCallum scribed (1974, p 212), “They called Armstrong’s most chilling punch “blackout” – a peculiar looping right which was neither hook nor jab nor swing but a high flickering fast blow to the chin. “It moved about 10 inches,” Henry said, “a terrible thing to do to anybody. Most of them never saw it coming.”

    “Dumb” Dan Morgan, an old time fight manager, said, “You know there’s a funny thing about this lad Armstrong. He’s hard to hit solid, but when he is tagged he takes it well. The harder he is hit the more punches he throws. I can’t see a straight up fighter beating him, it will have to be a guy who can sock.” Morgan added that he didn’t think Jim Driscoll could have beaten Armstrong. “I had a fellow Pal Moore, win a newspaper decision over Driscoll by staying on top of him and I think Armstrong would have driven the Englishmen before him like St. Paddy drove the snakes out of Ireland.”

    Harry Lenny, an old time lightweight accurately predicted, “If I had Armstrong I would shoot for Ross. That’s how good I think this fellow is.” He added, “Outside of McGovern I don’t think any of them guys could have beaten Armstrong.”

    Tony Kelly was of the opinion that “Terry McGovern would have to flatten Henry right away to win. That would have been his only chance.”

    Professor Billy McCarney, an old time boxing instructor, chimed in that “McGovern was a head on fighter, with no defense to speak of, while Armstrong is really a hard fellow to get a good crack at because of his ability to slip blows that seem to be nailing him.” Going further McCarney believes that Armstrong would have won because McGovern might have punched himself out in an early round drive and then had nothing left if Armstrong withstood his opening blasts.

    Joe Woodman, who handled the all time great Sam Langford, declared that, “Armstrong is the greatest fighter in many years. Henry doesn’t knock these guys out he paralyzes them. He beats them into submission. He would have beaten Johnny Dundee without any trouble. Kid Kaplan would have been trouble for Henry but I give him a good chance against Ross or any (current) welterweight.”
     
  11. George Crowcroft

    George Crowcroft The Cobra Will Always Bite Back... Full Member

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    Yeah, lotta great posts in here already. Armstrong's style relies heavily upon physical gifts and attributes, such as his granite chin, endless stamina and mong strength. That's not to say it's wasn't skilled, though. Armstrong fought with a low centre of gravity making his strength more accessible and having securer balance.

    Armstrong's smothering skills are what I find most impressive. Like Duran, he always seemed to have a nack for finding the spot which was best to throw from, but was too close to get hit clean from. Whilst Duran (who is Armstrong's only superior when it comes to infighting) was an innate freak when it came to feeling where his opponent was and a master grappler, Armstrong was used brute force to keep his opponents squirming, on the inside.

    I think Armstrong's best ability is how he bobbed and weaved his way into putting his opponents into poor positions. Positions which he consistently took advantage of with the rest of his strengths.

    For a fighter who looks quite so 'crude' as I've seen him called, there's a limitless amount of stuff to analyse. I don't find him near-invincible like some do, but he is absolutely outstanding.
     
  12. Mendoza

    Mendoza Hrgovic = Next Heavyweight champion of the world. Full Member

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    Armstrong was only stopped twice in 183 fights ( Stopped in his first fight ) , and could out work anyone. At feather and lightweight he was tough to beat.

    Being short, he would be vulnerable to a very good boxer move, or a puncher boxer type who could rally hit at range above featherweight, and certainly at welter.

    Armstrong record in his first 5 fights? just 1-4.

    Like many swarming attacker types, he was not a top fighter in older age. Form 1937-1939, he was unbeaten. I have him and Sugar Ray Robinson boxing in the same ring, its very disappointing as Armstrong's fire had long gone out by that time.
     
  13. Pat M

    Pat M Active Member Full Member

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    Henry Armstrong's last fight was in February, 1945. Tracy Callis was born in February, 1939 according to Fast People Search. If Callis saw him fight, it's hard to believe he would have remembered much about the fight.
     
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  14. Mendoza

    Mendoza Hrgovic = Next Heavyweight champion of the world. Full Member

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    Callis probably saw him in an exhibition match of charity event
     
  15. George Crowcroft

    George Crowcroft The Cobra Will Always Bite Back... Full Member

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    I assume this is meant as hyperbole, not literally. If it is literal, I actually am inclined to disagree. Guys like Fenech, Pyror and Dorsey have noticeably higher workrates IMO. It's nit-picking I know, but I have seen it meant literally, and it's been almost heralded as blasphemy to dare say someone has a higher volume.
     
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