“Coach Mike, how do you train fighters to get ready for their events?  Are there just a whole bunch of “basics” that must be done regardless of who you’re fighting? Or do you try to really coordinate your training time to match the opponent’s certain weaknesses and habits?  Do you spend 50% of the time on basics and 50% of time on fight “specifics”, or how does this work exactly?  What if you don’t have much information on the opponent?  Or conversely, maybe you simply know your strengths and you try to capitalize on them, and you know your weaknesses, and you try to work on them?”

Coach Mike with Carlos Newton

COACH MIKE WITH CARLOS NEWTON

“Training Fighters to get ready for their events?

 1. Many coaches train their fighters differently to help get them ready for their events, and I think it’s very different for amateurs VS Professionals. If you are a big time professional fighter than you probably have a whole team to help you get ready ala (Floyd Mayweather) or someone like that. Personally when I’m coaching or helping a guy get ready for his or hers event there are certain routinely things that we continue to do. Basic conditioning, mitt work, speed bag work, heavy bag work, double end bag work, sparring and the things we do to stay sharp and focused. These are the basic things boxers do on a regular daily basis. I also don’t want my fighter to go away from his or hers strength and worry too much about what the other guy does, we do what we do and stay within ourselves and stick to what we do. That’s not to say that we are not going to make adjustments and not be prepared for what the other guy does or want’s to do.
You cannot train exactly the same way all the time for every opponent because different fighters do different things and have different strengths and weaknesses. (Example) Fighting a Southpaw, you train differently to fight a Southpaw then you would normally getting ready to fight another right hander, because the Southpaw will move differently and punches differently as well. Plus the fact that you must do specific things and know how to do specific things to fight the Southpaw. Everything we do in the gym is going to be geared towards  fighting the Southpaw for this particular fight, from working the bags, focus mitts, sparring, shadowboxing, moving around the ring, everything is geared to fighting the Southpaw. Even the sparring partners will be Southpaws and if you don’t have any Southpaws in the gym to practice with, you take the orthodox fighters and make them go Southpaw to get your guy some practice.
As far as what percentage we work on this or what percentage we work on that? I don’t worry about but I will say about a 1/3 of the fight you are probably going to be on the defensive end, so it makes sense to spend about a 1/3 of the time training and working on defense. The way I teach and coach is that everyone I work with they learn how to fight different styles of fighters because it’s just how I teach and coach boxing. Everyone I train and work with will learn how to fight a Southpaw, a slugger, a fighter and a runner plus what you call effective Olympic style amateur boxing which is get in and get out quickly before getting hit. So my guys learn almost from day one that these are the style of fighters that you will and must learn how to fight and deal with in the ring, so they already have a good idea because we train for them. By training this way there are no big surprises whenever we do have to fight one of these different style of fighters but we then tailor our training for which ever guy we are getting ready to fight.
We will also watch film and videos of our opponents previous fights if they are available especially I will do this and just to see what this guy does and what he doesn’t do. As a coach my job is to give my guy every advantage that I possibly can to win the fight. The big fighters who are making big money like I said can have a whole team to help them get ready. They often have a number of different coaches and trainers such, as a strength and conditioning coach, a dietary coach and the main coach who trains and works directly with the fighter and who will be the boss in the corner when fight time comes. But for the smaller guys out there you have do the best you can with what you have until you reach that next level of success and financial stability. I believe that a fighter getting and staying in shape is his or hers personal responsibility. Being in shape and staying in condition is a personal responsibility and is about personal pride and being professional. A boxer shouldn’t have to depend on a personal trainer or someone else to get him into shape to fight. A fighter should never fail to make weight or come in out of shape for a fight, unless he got injured and didn’t have enough time to rehab his injury or a guy takes a fight on a very short notice. And if you suffered an injury and are out of shape because of it then you shouldn’t take the fight.
If you are serious about your craft as a boxer then you should never leave your conditioning in the hands of someone else and depend on someone else to get you in shape. Guys should be training all the time as if you are getting ready to fight because you never know when the phone is going to ring for your big opportunity. And you better be ready in case that big opportunity presents it’s self.  Remember this you boxers and fighter out there, “IF YOU STAY  IN SHAPE YOU DON’T HAVE GET IN SHAPE”
I’ve been experimenting a lot with the right cross.  I was told by many teachers to pivot on the rear foot and more or less push off of that foot for the cross.  Then many other teachers say “Step with every punch!”, including the cross.  I’ve been experimenting stepping fwd on the cross and believe it or not, it actually feels more powerful that way.  Stepping fwd with a rear shovel hook also seems to make it more powerful, much to my surprise.
2 questions:  What is your opinion on “stepping with every punch”?  They say it puts you in position for the next punch, and the next, and so on.  But on left hooks, for example, it seems more awkward.
Also, how would you describe the basic technique for the right cross?  What mistakes do you do see people making with it?
Coach Mike at his new gym

COACH MIKE AT HIS NEW GYM

1. Stepping with every punch is a really old school boxing technique taught by really old school boxing coaches, the primary reason for stepping with every punch is for weight transfer. Transferring weight from the back foot to the front foot like for stepping with the jab. To get power on the jab you must step to push out of your back foot getting your body weight behind your jab and get your body weight moving forward. Stepping on punches also helps you close the distance to deliver your punch so you are not reaching for your opponent. Use your footwork to close the distance and don’t reach to throw punches because by reaching you take your head out over your knees and feet and easily pull yourself off balance. This is especially dangerous in MMA fighting because you can get pulled into a deadly knee strike that could end the fight very quickly. Stepping while trying to throw a left hook is not really a great idea because you are already moving and not planted with your feet and don’t have the power needing to really turn and get your feet, body and hip into the punch, and more times than not you will end up swinging the punch and you don’t want to be a swinger with your punches becoming an arm puncher. In stepping with the hook I would only step to close the distance to be able to put myself in a position so that I could throw my left hook. Watch old school boxer Bernard Hopkins shadow boxing and watch him step almost on every punch. Great old school technique and old school fundamentals.

2. The right cross is called the right cross, not because you throw it across your body at your opponent but because when your opponents jabs your right hand crosses his or hers jab. You throw your right hand across your opponents jab to hit em. Bet you didn’t know this? According to old school boxing coaches the right hand is thrown off your right heel and right foot, weather you are stepping with it or not. The time to throw the right hand is not when your opponent is moving to your left or trying to throw it across your body, but throwing it when your opponent is moving to your right and when he or she is over your right foot. By throwing it this way off your right heel and right foot, your opponent will move right into the punch.. Again stepping with the right hand will close the distance and get your body weight moving forward making the punch much stronger and harder when it lands.
3. Every punch you throw should be setting up the next punch and if you can’t do this it means you may have bad fundamentals and bad footwork. Getting in position to always be in a position to punch requires good footwork and good body mechanics, meaning footwork, range and distance are all important. Being able to turn your heels out on all power punches and being able to turn your shoulders when you punch is the key to putting yourself in position for the next punch. And by turning your shoulders when you punch allows you also to punch with more power by shifting your body weight. By not turning your heels out for power punching you are just punching with your arms becoming an arm puncher and you will not get maximum leverage on your punches. The only punch in boxing that you don’t have to turn your heels out on is the jab, every other punch in boxing requires you to turn your heels out on the punch. That’s old school boxing and old school teaching.
4. Mistakes people make when throwing the right hand/right cross. People don’t turn on their back, turn their heel out as if they are putting a cigarette out or squashing a bug. This is old school boxing terminology and reference. People also drop, pull back and telegraph their right hand before they throw it, it’s almost like sending you an email letting you know here it comes. Too late. People throw it at the wrong time, wrong distance and throw it at the wrong angle trying to punch across their own body. You lose power trying to throw punches across your body and even more so if you are trying to punch standing straight up and have no bend in your knees. Don’t punch standing straight up and flat footed, if you get hit this way you will absorb all the energy of the punch and could get hurt and rocked very easily. Plus if you are punching down at a guy while you are standing straight up and the other guy is below you with his knees bent punching up at you, you will be losing leverage and he will be gaining leverage because he has his knees bent and the use of his legs. Old school boxing is new school and old school boxing means being fundamentally and technically correct. Learn to master the basics fundamentals of boxing and also you can never go wrong with old school boxing.
Question for Coach Mike:

“A lot of gyms have more than one coach and each may teach techniques differently.  How should both coaches, and fighters, handle this?  What should a fighter do when he receives conflicting information from one or more coaches?  For example, in my last gym, one coach would teach the left hook by turning on the front foot.  The Muay Thai coach didn’t like it because he said you’re setting yourself up for a kick to the back of the leg. Then of course there were different opinions on whether the fist should be “palm down” or “palm facing you”.  And this was just on ONE punch!  What are your thoughts and guidelines on this?”

 

“First of all I’m going to confine my answers and comments regarding having more than on boxing coach in the same gym because I have experienced this first hand and seeing myself as a head boxing coach I can speak on what I have seen and what I know to be true on this subject. First let me tell you what the experts say and think about this subject of having more than one boxing coach in the same gym and these experts are guys who have been in business and have operated gyms for a long time. Having more than one boxing coach in the gym is a bad idea and is not recommended by the guys who really know the business. A boxing coach coming from another program may have a very different approach to the sport than you do. This can lead to confusion in your boxers and may add a great deal of stress to you as the head coach and to others in the gym. By having only one boxing coach in the gym this way your boxers learn only one system-yours. I want my guys doing the things I want them to do and I don’t want other coaches, parents or fighters trying to correct my guys when I’m working with them.

They need to hear one voice and be getting just one message and avoid getting any mixed messages, the same thing applies when I’m cornering a guy who is fighting. you may have three different people in the corner but there is and should be only one guy talking to that fighter in that corner-me. I trained him and got him ready for this fight and I need to make sure he is doing what we worked on and is doing the things I want him to do. Even when he’s fighting and there are a lot of other voices coming from the crowd and often instructions coming from the opponents corner my guy needs to be dialed in on my voice from the corner while he’s out there. If you are going to have an assistant boxing coach working with you it should be someone who has the same philosophy or possibly a former boxer or fighter that came up in your system and know’s your style. Former fighters you have worked with and trained often make good assistant coaches and therefore your other guys are still getting the same messages and doing things the way you want done.   Boxing training with female client
Amateur boxing coaches many times pick and choose an assistant coach who absolutely knows nothing about boxing and many times they will pick a parent or someone else from the community who wants to get involved with your boxing program. By doing this you don’t get someone coming from a different boxing program chiming in confusing your boxers and going against your system because they don’t know enough to cause you stress and grief. A lot of fighters go to different gyms to spar and train with other guys while trying to get themselves ready for a fight and I see this quite a bit with MMA fighters. I know MMA guys who jump around from gym to gym to gym and some of these guys live in Las Vegas where all the big MMA gyms are located. You can have different coaches teaching different disciplines in the same gym but there should be only one boxing coach in that gym. A question came up on throwing the left hook with the thumb down or the thumb rolled up on top of the fist. Throwing the left hook with the thumb down is thrown usually on the inside which I call a short left hook thrown from the elbow in. The farther you get from your opponent you have to throw the left hook with the thumb rolled up otherwise if you try to throw a long left hook with your thumb down it just turns into a jab.
A lot of people think the left hook has to be thrown short, inside and close to your opponent but that’s not true. There is such a thing as a long left hook as long as you still throw the punch with your chin behind your shoulder. Throwing the short left hook inside with the thumb down is an old school technique because back in the day they threw it this way and if they missed you with the hook they tried to split you open with the elbow. I only know of one old school great boxing trainer and coach that taught all of his fighters to throw the long left hook and that was the late great Emanuel Steward of the Famous Kronk Gym in Detroit.”

“Coach Mike, a lot of people think there is a difference between straight boxing/Western Style boxing, and “Boxing for MMA”.  Is there much, if any, difference?  And if so, in what way?  Does boxing need to be modified at all for MMA, like modifying the stance (because of takedowns), modifying the guard (because of kicks), or modifying the strikes themselves?”

This question and argument comes up a lot between people in MMA and people in boxing including MMA and Boxing trainers and coaches. Keep in mind this is only my opinion based on my coaching, my experience and what I have seen and continue to see in the sport. Boxing is boxing and the fundamentals are the fundamentals which haven’t changed for 120 years or since boxing was invented. I beg to differ with those that say boxing for MMA is completely different from regular boxing. Bull Shit. If you have solid fundamentals and are fundamentally sound and technically correct in your boxing skills it doesn’t matter if you are competing in MMA or regular boxing. I don’t think there needs to be much if any modifications for regular boxing and boxing for MMA. One of the biggest problems I have seen in a great deal of MMA gyms is sometimes one coach who is trying to teach everything, Boxing, grappling, wrestling, muay Thai and one person cannot teach everything. Then you have MMA gyms that have Striking coaches that are usually either Kickboxing or Muay Thai guys who are trying to also Coach and teach boxing and that doesn’t work either because of a difference in basic stance which has a big effect on punching style and technique.

 Coach Mike with MMA fighter Mark Kerr
Most MMA guys take on a more open Kickboxing or Muay Thai stance to block and check kicks and are greatly concerned about the front leg out front getting low kicked or at risk of a single leg take down. By opening up your stance and shoulders this causes your punches to come out differently and plus you don’t get the full rotation of the leg and hips which effects your punching distance, unless you step off line to get the distance. MMA fighters are leery of bobbing and weaving under punches for fear of getting kicked or to bob and weave into a knee. They often slip a punch to the side rather than to slip in, towards and away from the punch to put yourself in a position to counter punch/punch back. Often when you slip a punch out and to the side you take yourself out of position to punch back because now you are too far away. Another big factor is footwork or the lack of, Muay Thai guys don’t move around or lot and have a tendency to bounce instead of moving and sliding around the ring or cage like a boxer. Boxers and guys with good fundamentals are taught that every punch you throw should always be setting up the next punch and you can only do this with good, fundamentals, technique, footwork, balance and a good coach.
Most boxers are taught basically the same way and often knows what punches are coming at him and can read another guys body and because of the other guys angle or body lean, he knows the guy can only throw one or two different punches. “Example” you know that when a guy throws a right hand/cross at you that there is a 95% chance there might be a left hook coming behind it because this is the way you are taught.That’s why “Big George Foreman” was able to come back at age 46/48 and beat much younger guys because he had seen everything before and there was nothing you could do or throw at George that he hadn’t already seen before. He knew what was coming before you even threw it. You have a few guys in the UFC that have figured out the importance of boxing and more and more guys are realizing that you can no longer be one dimensional if you want to be an elite fighter in the UFC. A lot of MMA fighters don’t even know how to handle or defend the jab, “Example look what GSP did to Jake Shields and Josh Koscheck with just the jab? He ate them up and at times both of them just stopped in the middle of the cage and put their hands up as if to say what the hell is this? Because they had no answer or defense for his jab.
That’s another reason why a lot of UFC fighters have poor boxing fundamentals and bad technique because they are always trying to knock somebody out because they are wearing 4 and 5 ounce gloves, and when you have your hands taped up wearing those little gloves it doesn’t take much to get knocked out. It’s like getting hit with a brick having your hands taped and wearing 4 or 5 ounce gloves. Boxing is boxing and in my opinion either you have good coaches who teach good fundamentals and technique or you don’t, either you have fighters who are fundamentally sound, technically correct or there not. To me it comes down to coaching/teaching and who is doing it and where is it coming from but you also have to have talent to work with. You can be the greatest coach in the world but if you don’t have talent to work with it doesn’t mean anything. “YOU CAN’T MAKE CHICKEN SALAD OUT OF CHICKEN SHIT” NOR CAN YOU POLISH A TERD AND MAKE IT SHINE”

My question for Coach Mike:

“You mentioned in your “12-Point Checklist for Fighters” that “punches are short, crisp, and tight”.  What did you mean by “short punches” exactly?  Does that mean that you’re not extending so far that you’re off balance?  Is there ever a time to “reach” with a punch, or should that all be done by footwork?  It seems that I see a lot of “reaching” in the UFC, with leaping hooks, overhand rights, etc.”
Coach Mike holding the pads

COACH MIKE HOLDING THE PADS

 

“Good question, my little 12 point check list is not limited to those points that I mentioned because there are more if I want to take time to list them but the ones I listed are just a few important basic ones. Re:Short punches, what I meant by that was keeping your punches short and mainly straight as apposed to throwing loose, wide and sloppy punches. Punches that leave you very open and susceptible to being countered. But really any time you throw a punch you run the risk of getting countered by something. Also long loopy punches that take you off balance when you throw them. I call these punches “NO,NO Punches because these types of punches get you hurt. “Remember this ” YOU ALWAYS PUNCH THROUGH THE TARGET AND NOT JUST TO THE TARGET” By punching through the target you get extension and follow through which also helps you get maximum power and maximum leverage. Like on the jab this is where you get the snap from and the snap doesn’t come from the elbow, never, ever throw your jab from the elbow because you can damage your elbow. The jab “comes from the shoulder”

I teach people not to to reach for punches because when you reach you are off balance, I teach people to never let your head go past your knee when you punch and never let your head go past your foot when you punch because you are not on balance and in MMA you can be pulled into a knee or taken down because your weight is now over your feet and you are basically just hanging out. Big trouble. Close the distance with your foot work to get there do not reach for punches. I teach people that you always have to be adjusting your footwork for distance even when you are throwing combinations because sometimes your opponent moves after you hit him and you have to adjust your feet to get him with the next punch because he’s no longer in the same spot. You have to do this a lot even when you are throwing the basic 123 combination./jab,cross hook. and if you don’t you may not hit him with the cross and certainly won’t hit him with the hook because he will be out of range if you don’t adjust your footwork for distance. not everyone stays in the same place when you land the jab for you to hit him with the 2 and finally the 3 for that particular combination. You might catch him if you have great hand speed and accuracy but don’t count on it.
UFC Fighters: Lets just face it, most fighters in the UFC do not have good boxing skills and a great deal of them come from a wrestling or grappling type background. Most of them have poor boxing technique and very bad fundamentals and probably not a lot of very good boxing coaches in some of the gyms that they come from. Some of these MMA gyms and schools have coaches that try and teach everything, meaning wrestling, boxing, submission, grappling some of these coaches try and teach everything. Some and probably most have some sort of striking coach teaching Muay Thai and incorporating punching and boxing combined. This doesn’t work because the punching and boxing they are doing is quite different from straight Western style boxing and a lot of this has to do with the Muay Thai stance which is a more open stance for kicking, blocking and checking kicks. Plus MMA fighters are worried about their left foot and leg being out front because of getting low kicked and being at risk for the single leg take down. A lot of UFC guys have bad footwork I watch them all the time cross their feet and run across the cage punching in a Karate type style and not having their feet set when throwing power punches. A great deal of these guys don’t turn on their punches and are arm punchers and what they call swingers.
They swing their punches which often pulls them off balance and leaves them at risk for being countered because they are off balance and out of position. Jumping off the canvas throwing punches, leaping off the canvas to throw wild ass hooks in my opinion are bad ideas and I would never teach my fighter or boxer to leave his feet because I want my guy to keep his feet as close to the canvas as possible. By leaving your feet and becoming momentarily air borne is a bad idea and bad things \can happen to you if you get caught in the air. Your feet are off the ground and you have no base what so ever and can’t do a damn thing until you come down and your feet are back on the ground. bad idea. Some guys do the flying knees and the Superman punches and a lot of guys get away with that depending on who they are fighting but I would never teach and want my guy to leave his feet. I want and teach my guy to always be in a position to punch, block a punch or make a punch miss him and by being off his feet for any length of time doesn’t allow him to do that.
If you are an elite UFC fighter you need to have a a coaching team because one coach cannot teach everything because one coach doesn’t know everything. You need to have position coaches just like a football team. In football you have a quarterback coach, you have a offensive line coach, you have a defensive line coach, you have a running back coach, you have defensive back coaches, you have a special teams coach. And if you are in the UFC? You need a boxing coach, not just a Muay Thai/striking coach but a real deal boxing coach who handles the boxing for the fighter and that’s all he does. He is a position coach and his job is to work with the fighter solely on his boxing skills and particularly that part of his stand up game. This way you don’t have wrestling, grappling, submission and Muay Thai coaches trying to teach and coach boxing. Leave that to boxing coaches and your fighter will improve his boxing skills.”

Dear Readers, here is our first question for Coach Mike to kick-start this new series on the website!

“The “Shoeshine Combination” is a flashy technique, great exercise, and is fun to do on the heavy bag. Its simply killer for the abs as you have to contract them so hard during the combo. I don’t see it used very often in MMA.  What are your thoughts on the Shoeshine combination, and if and how it can be applied to MMA and self-defense on the street?  Sometimes I wonder about its efficacy because my guard is down so long, but then again I’d only be using it where appropriate (the guy covering up upstairs completely and time to “go to the body”). In MMA of course, the opponent could send an elbow to your face in a flash, whereas in boxing you would probably only fear the hook as a counter from the opponent’s high guard.”

The response from Coach Mike:

With UFC Heavyweight Tim Sylvia

“The “shoeshine” is really what you call just throwing punches in bunches and can be effective if you got a guy hurt in the corner or against the ropes and he is just covering up especially if you have  great hand speed like “Sugar Ray Leonard” who had some of the fastest hands in boxing. Shoe shining a guy even if you have him hurt doesn’t always mean you are going to knock him out.  But you can also punch yourself out doing this and waste punches and burn a lot of energy and sometimes don’t have enough gas in the tank to finish off your opponent. I have seen guys get shoe shined and be on the brink of going down and all of a sudden come back and turn the tide against the guy who is doing all the punching because the guy has punched himself out. One of the reasons you don’t see a lot of shoeshine punching in MMA is because usually when a guy is taking that many punches he knows to clinch, grab, hold, and take the fight to the ground to get away from the the punching onslaught. In Boxing a lot of the time you get warned from the Referee for holding; you can also get a point deducted for continuous holding and finally get disqualified for holding after the referee has had enough.
The smart veteran  boxers know how to hold when they get hurt and  tie up a guy who is throwing a lot of punches which stops the other guy from punching and buys himself some time to clear his head and get a extra breath or two. Don’t try to be Muhammad Ali and “Rope a Dope” and get shoe shined. Grab, Hold, Tie the guy up and wait for the referee to come and separate the two of you but even before that happens. Don’t get yourself trapped in the corner or on the ropes in the first place. And make sure you know how to go to the ropes and to the corner and know what to do to get off the ropes and out of the corner before you step into the ring. “