View Full Version : The Art of War in boxing


BigStereotype
06-10-2011, 05:50 PM
How many of you have read the famous text by Sun Tzu? And if so, have you tried to apply it to boxing? Specifically, there's a part at the end of the first chapter where he outlines how to predict a battle and I think that that stuff is REALLY good for picking apart a fight. Obviously you take your own experience into account too, but here's a breakdown I did for my new website (http://idontbelievewhatijustsaw.weebly.com). What do you think of the method?


Sun Tzu, Chinese general and philosopher and author of the celebrated text The Art of War outlines a way of predicting the victor of a battle or war. By applying these principals to a fight, one can get a rough blueprint of the outcome. These are not perfect calculations, but serve as a starting ground.

1. “Which of the sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law?” Sun Tzu’s concept of the moral law is one of familiarity and harmony in the camps. This is easily translated to boxing: what is the environment like in training camp and what is the relationship between trainer and fighter? Well both fighters have long, close and even familial relationships with their trainers, Nacho Beristain for Marquez and Freddie Roach for Pacquiao. Advantage: Draw

2. “Which of the two generals has the most ability?” This could be interpreted in several ways, but I read it as their tactical acumen of the fighters, or in Pacquiao’s case, Freddie Roach. Roach has a reputation as a premiere strategist and is intimately familiar with Pacquiao’s capabilities. But Juan Manuel Marquez has been repeatedly and correctly referred to as the smartest fighter in boxing and has proved his ability to make adjustments on the fly again and again and again. In a fight with Juan Diaz where he was being outworked and outhustled by the younger, more energetic fighter, Marquez found the way to slow down Diaz’s left hook (something of a bette noire for Marquez) and land his uppercut until he found the KO in the ninth round. And then he has another premiere strategist in his corner and this is a clear win for Marquez. Advantage: Marquez

3. “With whom lie the advantages derived from heaven and earth?” This is a much more abstract category than the others. Sun Tzu means weather and seasons by heaven and indoor arenas have eliminated that factor. But Earth, “distances great and small, danger and security, open ground and narrow passes,” could easily be interpreted as the ability to control the ring. And the mobility advantage goes clearly to Pacquiao. One of his most overlooked strengths is his ability to keep the fight at the exact range he wants. His infighting is mediocre at best, often clinching and waiting for the referee to break the two up and his jab is not consistent enough to be used as a tactical weapon on the outside. But such is Pacquiao’s footspeed that he stays right in between the two ranges and it is there that he can best utilize his speed, power and aggression. Marquez is an able mover, but allows himself to be pressured and can be made to look unsettled, if not uncomfortable. Advantage: Pacquiao

4. “On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?” This is a straight forward conversion. Simply put, which side has the better training camp? In any other case, this one be an easy win for Marquez. Historically, fighters from Mexico City have had some of the best conditioning in the world. For a view of the sadistic training which Beristain puts his fighters through, including wind sprints and marathons in the huge mountains where the air is so thin, one only needs to watch the episode of Discovery Channel’s Fight Quest in which Beristain is featured and Marquez makes a guest appearance. But I know the name of Pacquiao’s conditioning trainer. That never happens. Alex Ariza is one of the best in the world and his training routine is so efficient that fighters who train with him are inevitably faced with unbased steroid concerns. Between Mexico’s mountains and Alex Ariza, both sides have it even here. Advantage: Draw

5. “Which army is stronger?” Simply put, which fighter has more natural ability? If Marquez and Pacquiao went punch for punch until one of them droped, Marquez wouldn’t make it out of the first round. He has proven this, almost not making it out of the first round of the first fight. Pacquiao is a special kind of talent, with explosive speed and power and an iron chin. Marquez, for all of his skills and combination punching, doesn’t have eye-catching speed or power, and has a tendency to be knocked down. Pacquiao has the clear edge in the exchanges. The trick is to avoid them. Advantage: Pacquiao

6. “On which side are officers and men more highly trained?” The other half of the fighter, this is the technical ability of both fighters. Let me tell you something: the reports of Pacquiao’s technical improvements are vastly exaggerated. Yes, he has added some defensive wrinkles and a new array of punches, including his patented “Manila Ice,” a deadly right hook that sneaks in over the orthodox fighter’s guard. But Pacquiao showed me something in the Mosley fight. He is still the fighter that Marquez and Erik Morales gave trouble at heart. When Mosley wasn’t available to be hit, Pacquiao grew more and more frustrated, even regressing to the point of throwing a running double-straight left that I haven’t seen in years. It’s visually impressive but leaves his defense completely full of holes. And if there is a fighter to take advantage, it is Juan Manuel Marquez. He is the most skilled offensive fighter in the world, throwing combinations that bring the boxing purist to tears of joy. He throws graceful, accurate and shocking combinations. While he isn’t naturally strong or quick, the accuracy and timing with which he throws his shots almost simulate those abilities. There are “buttons” on the face where a fighter can land and just put the lights out and Marquez could land a counter-uppercut on the chin in his sleep. And when faced with a superior speedster, the way to counteract that is by throwing at just the right moment to land when there are holes in the defense, then get back and defend yourself. Marquez has shown complete mastery of both skills. Advantage: Marquez

This pre-fight report couldn’t be more even. It came up with two advantages for Pacquiao, two for Marquez and two even. And it makes sense. Both fights have been deadlocked affairs with much controversy about scoring. There are a few external factors, though, that tip the scales ever so slightly in Pacquiao’s favor. I make absolutely nothing of the weight, although some Pacquiao-detractors have pointed out that Pacquiao has been in a higher weight division for years and that he is bringing Marquez up to a weight where he looked poor in his only other fight. But if one looks at the actual numbers, they would see that Pacquiao has remained the same size while climbing weight classes. The day-before weigh in allowed him to cut from his natural weight of about 150 pounds all the way down to 130. In every instance since the second Marquez fight, he has weighed between 145 and 148 pounds in the ring. He isn’t any bigger. But Marquez is 37, and while he has shown resistance to age, nobody can avoid it forever and smaller fighters like him tend to fade long before he has. Because of the 4 year age advantage for Pacquiao, I have to give him a slight nod, but this is by all-means a pick ‘em fight. Hopefully, it lives up to their first two fights, which were torrid affairs, and we can all put the Mosley fight behind us.

The Smash
06-10-2011, 06:04 PM
I read it as recently as last month. I'll be honest and say I don't think it's wholly applicable in boxing, but that being said, that was a very enjoyable read.

BigStereotype
06-10-2011, 06:11 PM
Well there is some stuff that you have to sift through. It's obviously not a 1/1 comparison, as ancient Chinese warfare is not the same as boxing. But there's some abstract concepts that can be applied I think. You read that book with the name Floyd Mayweather as a blueprint and it will blow your mind how smart Sun Tzu was.

GrandpaBernard
06-10-2011, 11:19 PM
Well there is some stuff that you have to sift through. It's obviously not a 1/1 comparison, as ancient Chinese warfare is not the same as boxing. But there's some abstract concepts that can be applied I think. You read that book with the name Floyd Mayweather as a blueprint and it will blow your mind how smart Sun Tzu was.Are you trying to say Floyd naturally uses these concepts to his advantage?

BigStereotype
06-11-2011, 12:33 AM
Are you trying to say Floyd naturally uses these concepts to his advantage?

Not naturally. He might not have read Sun Tzu, but they are effective tactical concepts and he is an extremely tactically sound boxer.

GrandpaBernard
06-11-2011, 12:53 AM
Not naturally. He might not have read Sun Tzu, but they are effective tactical concepts and he is an extremely tactically sound boxer.

hey what are your thoughts on mind games in boxing? Does anything in The Art of War involve psychological warfare that's done in boxing?

BigStereotype
06-11-2011, 03:24 AM
hey what are your thoughts on mind games in boxing? Does anything in The Art of War involve psychological warfare that's done in boxing?

He certainly does. Just skimming my copy now, I found several direct analogs for the mind games played by the Alis and Mayweathers of the world.

"There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general: (1) Recklessness, which leads to destruction. (2) Cowardice, which leads to capture. (3) A hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults. (4) A delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame. (5) Over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble." - Sun Tzu

I can think of an example for each of those separate flaws, in either a fighter or a trainer, has derailed their chance of winning.
1. Recklessness: Marco Antonio Barrera was so arrogant and aggressive (i.e. reckless) against Junior Jones the first time around that he got pummeled and stopped early.
2. Cowardice: I don't really like calling fighters cowards when I'm actually being serious, but it's the word used. But there are some fighters whose lack of intestinal fortitude has let them down. Victor Ortiz quitting in the face of Maidana's blitzkrieg springs immediately to mind.
3. Temper: Duran taunting and clowning Sugar Ray Leonard before their first fight led Leonard to try and stand toe-to-toe with him, leading to a huge upset win for Duran.
4. Honor: Shane Mosley granting immediate rematches to Forrest and especially Wright (he really should have known better after the Forrest-affair) showed how pride and a desire to redeem himself can really set a fighter on a bad path.
5. Over-solicitude: In Jorge Arce's first fight with Hussy Hussein, he administered a fearsome beating (while taking one in return) to Hussein, winning via corner stoppage in the 11th round. In their second fight, Arce knocked Hussein down twice, once in the first and second round. Hussein was up by the count of three on the second knockdown, however, and it was really more like a slip. But even before then, trainer Jeff Fenech had thrown in the towel. His inability to watch his fighter take a beating led to a loss that needn't have ended so early (even though it appeared that Arce was probably on his way to a stoppage).

Barn
06-11-2011, 06:53 AM
He certainly does. Just skimming my copy now, I found several direct analogs for the mind games played by the Alis and Mayweathers of the world.

"There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general: (1) Recklessness, which leads to destruction. (2) Cowardice, which leads to capture. (3) A hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults. (4) A delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame. (5) Over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble." - Sun Tzu

I can think of an example for each of those separate flaws, in either a fighter or a trainer, has derailed their chance of winning.
1. Recklessness: Marco Antonio Barrera was so arrogant and aggressive (i.e. reckless) against Junior Jones the first time around that he got pummeled and stopped early.
2. Cowardice: I don't really like calling fighters cowards when I'm actually being serious, but it's the word used. But there are some fighters whose lack of intestinal fortitude has let them down. Victor Ortiz quitting in the face of Maidana's blitzkrieg springs immediately to mind.
3. Temper: Duran taunting and clowning Sugar Ray Leonard before their first fight led Leonard to try and stand toe-to-toe with him, leading to a huge upset win for Duran.
4. Honor: Shane Mosley granting immediate rematches to Forrest and especially Wright (he really should have known better after the Forrest-affair) showed how pride and a desire to redeem himself can really set a fighter on a bad path.
5. Over-solicitude: In Jorge Arce's first fight with Hussy Hussein, he administered a fearsome beating (while taking one in return) to Hussein, winning via corner stoppage in the 11th round. In their second fight, Arce knocked Hussein down twice, once in the first and second round. Hussein was up by the count of three on the second knockdown, however, and it was really more like a slip. But even before then, trainer Jeff Fenech had thrown in the towel. His inability to watch his fighter take a beating led to a loss that needn't have ended so early (even though it appeared that Arce was probably on his way to a stoppage).

4 is a mistake I make a lot in life.

I imagine if I was a cornerman, 5. would be troubling as well.
Imagine you're Steward your kid Thomas Hearns, who you've known since he was a teen and became a father figure to him. Was getting the crap beat out of him. I wouldn't be able to stand and watch that.

Although on the flipside if I was the person get the **** beat outta them I'd be angry if they stopped it and it was still salvagable.

BigStereotype
06-11-2011, 11:19 AM
4 is a mistake I make a lot in life.

I imagine if I was a cornerman, 5. would be troubling as well.
Imagine you're Steward your kid Thomas Hearns, who you've known since he was a teen and became a father figure to him. Was getting the crap beat out of him. I wouldn't be able to stand and watch that.

Although on the flipside if I was the person get the **** beat outta them I'd be angry if they stopped it and it was still salvagable.

I can imagine, but I feel like it's the sort of thing you have to get desensitized to. Me and my buddies did a little backyard boxing thing (yeah, we were dumb, whatever) and I cornered for one of my best friends and he really got the stuffing beat out of him. I didn't like watching it, but he would have been pissed it I stopped it.

But seriously, to anyone who hasn't read the Art of War, read it in a boxing context and you'll really be surprised at how applicable it is. Really, you just have to flip through and you'll find a gem at least once per page.

Also, I'm going to shamelessly plug my own website here. I'm going to be writing a lot more boxing articles on there, some of them Sun Tzu inspired, some just my observations, but I'll do my best to keep abreast of all the news. I just got it up and running and I'd love for some more traffic/feedback from you guys. If this is spam, you can go ahead and delete it, JAB.

The Surgeon
06-11-2011, 12:08 PM
I can imagine, but I feel like it's the sort of thing you have to get desensitized to. Me and my buddies did a little backyard boxing thing (yeah, we were dumb, whatever) and I cornered for one of my best friends and he really got the stuffing beat out of him. I didn't like watching it, but he would have been pissed it I stopped it. But seriously, to anyone who hasn't read the Art of War, read it in a boxing context and you'll really be surprised at how applicable it is. Really, you just have to flip through and you'll find a gem at least once per page. Also, I'm going to shamelessly plug my own website here. I'm going to be writing a lot more boxing articles on there, some of them Sun Tzu inspired, some just my observations, but I'll do my best to keep abreast of all the news. I just got it up and running and I'd love for some more traffic/feedback from you guys. If this is spam, you can go ahead and delete it, JAB.
Its a book ive always had intentions of reading but never gotten around to, im gonna make the effort and get it soon.
Lol nice plug u shamless swine :fing02: I'll take a look as soon as i can im sure it will be top class as ur one of this sites best posters imo

NChristo
06-11-2011, 01:39 PM
3. Temper: Duran taunting and clowning Sugar Ray Leonard before their first fight led Leonard to try and stand toe-to-toe with him, leading to a huge upset win for Duran.



Disagree, sure Duran got to him but Leonard fought as he usually did / his normal style in the 1st fight, you seen him fight a lot more like that then what he did in the 2nd fight.

BigStereotype
06-11-2011, 01:43 PM
Disagree, sure Duran got to him but Leonard fought as he usually did / his normal style in the 1st fight, you seen him fight a lot more like that then what he did in the 2nd fight.

Maybe so, but I think that a less angry Leonard would have had the sense to adjust when it became evident that Duran was on such a furious warpath and just wasn't going to be outmanned that night.

NChristo
06-11-2011, 01:55 PM
Maybe so, but I think that a less angry Leonard would have had the sense to adjust when it became evident that Duran was on such a furious warpath and just wasn't going to be outmanned that night.

Duran forced him to keep fighting like that, Duran cut him off masterfully (even if it wasn't the prettiest of things at times) he was not giving Leonard the chance to adjust at all, it's not about him having the sense too it's about him having the chance too / being able too, with the ring IQ and composure of Leonard you don't think he tried too ?. Duran made him fight his fight.

The 2nd fight is a much much better example of temper, Leonard got to Duran with his taunting and Duran's game plan went out the window, in fact the 2nd fight could be used as an example for 1, 2, 3 and maybe 4 depending on how you look at it.

BigStereotype
06-11-2011, 02:01 PM
Duran forced him to keep fighting like that, Duran cut him off masterfully (even if it wasn't the prettiest of things at times) he was not giving Leonard the chance to adjust at all, it's not about him having the sense too it's about him having the chance too / being able too, with the ring IQ and composure of Leonard you don't think he tried too ?. Duran made him fight his fight.

The 2nd fight is a much much better example of temper, Leonard got to Duran with his taunting and Duran's game plan went out the window, in fact the 2nd fight could be used as an example for 1, 2, 3 and maybe 4 depending on how you look at it.

I was actually going to use it for any one of those but I decided that one Leonard-Duran example was enough. I felt like this was a pretty famous example. But my point is that I didn't really see him try to adjust. Duran's taunting affected his composure and ring IQ. I haven't seen the fight in a couple of months, so I'll rewatch it and see if I'm wrong. I very well could be.

GrandpaBernard
06-11-2011, 10:53 PM
He certainly does. Just skimming my copy now, I found several direct analogs for the mind games played by the Alis and Mayweathers of the world.

ooo, man

Let us know when you get there.

BigStereotype
06-12-2011, 12:51 PM
ooo, man

Let us know when you get there.

Haha that was it man. Here's a link to a hypertext version if you want to check it out. http://www.chinapage.com/sunzi-e.html