I am often asked why I focus so much attention towards boxers from previous generations. My response to such inquiries is almost always the same. In short, there is no better way to learn than by studying the greats who came before us. Thus, while boxing has experienced somewhat of a comeback in recent years, the present era still pales in comparison to what was common many decades ago.
Unfortunately, when I discuss past legends who are no longer alive (ex. Henry Armstrong), many young readers fail to relate to their stories. With that in mind, I believe it will be useful to share a film of four living legends. The Fabulous Four documentary chronicles the epic battles between Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, and Ray Leonard.
The Fabulous Four
The complete 83 minute documentary can be seen below:
As you study the film, it will not take long to recognize the elite talent of these Hall of Fame fighters. Hagler, Hearns, Duran, and Leonard were all supremely skilled and tremendously conditioned. In their prime, each of these boxers could compete in any era, past or present. Yet, while boxing aficionados know this to be true, there are young fans who have been mislead to believe that yesteryear’s fighters trained with antiquated methods. It’s these individuals who need to look back in time to study the greats. Contrary to what some believe, boxers from 30+ years ago were as well conditioned as any fighter today.
In a recent entry to my fitness website (see here), I highlighted the Hagler vs. Hearns war that took place thirty years ago. Can you imagine the social media buzz that a bout of that magnitude would have attracted today? Twitter would have needed extra bandwidth to handle the excitement. Yet, as you watch the documentary above, you will see that Hagler vs. Hearns was just one of many epic bouts from the 1980’s. It was actually thirty-five years ago when Leonard and Duran fought for the first time. Upon watching those early bouts, you will immediately recognize the world class talent from both sides. It is impossible to deny.
Therefore, while science and technology may have evolved in the past thirty-five years, it should be clear that boxers for the most part have not. The methods that proved to be effective during the Fabulous Four era remain just as effective today. As for what those methods entailed, past fighters spent more time boxing. They did not get distracted by the endless list of supplemental workouts that have become so common today. Instead, the bulk of their time and energy went towards boxing. The hardest work always took place at the boxing gym. Everything else was secondary.
Regardless of what is invented in the years to come, there will never be a better way to become a better boxer than by lacing up the gloves. Boxers learn by doing, so never stray too far from the sport itself. As I have said countless times before, the most important training for a boxer takes place with the gloves on. Shadow boxing, bag work, mitt work, and sparring will never go out of style. These simplistic activities will always be effective for skill development and endurance.
No one will ever outgrow the basics. The sooner young fighters figure this out the better off they will be. Hagler, Hearns, Duran, and Leonard all prove this fact beyond any reasonable doubt. To ignore their example would be to turn your back on some of the finest moments in the history of the sport.