How Far Can I Get Learning Boxing Online

Klitschko and Tyson. Three legends of boxing–Iron Mike and the Gypsy King.

Learning any skill offline can be difficult, especially when that skill is just an introduction to a larger career. For me, it’s a bit of a challenge to master chess and make any moves at all without a dictionary and a voice out of the corner of my mouth telling me how to do it. And even if I manage to get that figured out, I still have to do it with my eyes closed for at least 20 minutes to be able to make any progress.

Except in boxing.

If you had asked me a year ago whether or not I’d ever be learning boxing, I’d have said absolutely not. It was simply my understanding, as a boxing fan, that ‘boxing’ was somewhat of a bastardized expression for fighting over a period of many years to obtain some small degree of immortality in the minds of both the judges and fans.

But in a matter of a few months, I discovered that it’s possible to learn boxing, essentially, from home, and the learning process may have made my opinion of boxing change.

Before I explain how it works, a few sentences to explain the notion of muscle memory. If you’ve ever seen something repeated to you over and over again, the feeling of following through on instructions feels almost like training. If you’ve ever punched something and it never feels the same way you ever did, you’re pretty sure that muscle memory is what that feeling of hitting something new feels like. The ability to do something repetitive without having to consciously think about doing it is clearly a beneficial trait.

The same principle applies to boxing. I always wondered how it was possible for people to physically train for many years, fight their way into a title, then come out the other side and retire. Often, though, these fighters can’t, or at least don’t want to. In the case of Mia St. John, Joe Frazier, Roberto Duran, Mike Tyson, and Evander Holyfield, the weight of their legacy, the demands of the sport, and their private deaths prevented them from moving on to larger challenges after their last championship round.

If you’ve ever seen the film ‘Cinderella Man’, you know that if your long reach or quick hands weren’t enough to win championships, somehow you had to do it with incredible hustle, sheer grit, and a six pack that would knock the stuffing out of anyone. That is, if you made it to the ring at all. In the span of a few hours, you’d have to convince the judges that you could simply ‘punch your way through’ the opponent’s best strike, or just how much of a little train to the outside you might be, as well as prove to everybody that not only could you box, but that you could also look good in a fight while doing it. And whatever you thought the worth of each of those skills were, there was still the whole matter of training harder than any of your peers in the gym to bring them all together into a particular body of work.

And that’s really the difference. Most people would never be able to do that. There’s no training specifically designed to make you like boxing, and frankly, there’s really not a lot to love about it. There’s some skill sets that make you better and some that don’t. That is really all boxing does. Yet, I found myself, before even trying to analyze the whole thing, wondering why more people don’t do it. Why is it that when we talk about sports like bowling, we can’t help but feel like we really know what it’s like to be there? And why are there tournaments, among millions of people, where people can learn and share a very particular set of skills (no, not throwing a ball), that are otherwise reserved for one man, or at most one group of men? That’s all boxing does.

One man, of course, is Muhammad Ali. It’s a great fight to watch. Except when you’re actually in the ring with him, as I found out a couple years ago. But the amount of training required to be half the fighter he was when he walked into the ring was enough to make it clear that his athletic ability was half what it was at the start of his career. Only he seemed to have grown even faster than he did before. Even when he sat out a few years with a bad shoulder, he was still in the running. Was it because he had just learned to box again, or because he had all the experience he could ever want in that arena? Who can be sure?

Maybe it was all the years of training. Perhaps it was some combination of both. I guess we’ll never know.

However it happened, once I had laid eyes on Ali and realized that what he could do with his hands and his feet – or not do with his hands and feet – I was hooked. And not even a stint in the

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