Controlling Distance and Minimalism: Analyzing Wladimir Klitschko and Guillermo Rigondeaux
By: Sean Kim
Both Wladimir Klitschko and Guillermo Rigondeaux possess an incredible calm in the ring which manifest in the form of a patient chess match with each fight. The two give the impression to viewers that rather than conform to impulsive and instinctive contests of strengths, these two understand that objective calculation is what distinguishes good boxers from the greatest. The two calm warriors employ a similar style in the ring, not just in the form of their tactical nature, but also in the form of their stances and minimalist punch output.
Such a fighting style is what has permitted them to dominate their matches with great ease and simplicity, all the while greatly reducing any damage to themselves.
In the matchup between Wladimir Klitschko v.s. David Haye, what we were presented with was a boxing clinic by arguably one of the most patient Heavyweight Champions in boxing history. Klitschko’s neutralization of David Haye’s ferocity was not merely due to his great weight advantage (though no doubt, this was a huge factor in Klitschko’s dominance.) Klitschko’s ability to master his own emotional status throughout the incredibly long duration of 12 consecutive rounds showcased Klitschko to be an individual of great self-restraint, objectivity and cool-headed calculation.
Klitschko was able to control distance with his far reach by leaving his lead hand out to gauge distance, while simultaneously allowing his lead hand to serve as a defense against Haye’s attacks from his left as Klitschko simply moved back. Such a simple backwards maneuver yet perhaps such subtle movement is perceived as nothing special, yet one might say that the most subtle and minimal of techniques utilized by boxers are perhaps the most impressive feats accomplished in the ring.
After all, it’s easy to get caught up in overthinking one’s own strategy in the heat of the moment. This is especially since the impending danger of getting smashed in the face could disrupt one’s own thinking process! When a fighter loses his focus, he can throw wild swings despite his habitual discipline in restraining such punches, or begin to throw lazy jabs as he loses his spirits and self-awareness. However, because Klitschko was able to maintain absolute dominance and mastery of the distance between himself and Haye- all with a high level of serenity and objective analysis- Klitschko knew exactly what to do in answer to many of Haye’s offensive attempts:
Step back and keep the lead hand where it is.
This is extremely simple and because it is so, this revealed Klitschko’s highly disciplined tactical nature.
This also permited Klitschko’s lead hand to serve multiple purposes simultaneousy: fluster Haye’s concentration, establish domination of distance, gauge distance and- while keeping the lead hand where it is- serve as defense as he steps back.
This is such a simple feat to physically accomplish just by leaving the lead hand out, yet the tactical benefits are tremendous.
Unfortunately for David Haye, his greatest accomplishments within the ring were in throwing a series of jabs to the stomach and to the head of Wladimir Klitschko, all the while finding a majority of his offense being blocked or countered as he is unable to attack comfortably at an uncomfortable distance. Instead of attacking with timing and calmness, Haye lunged in with an overexertion of excitement!
Haye was clearly over anxious throughout the entirety of the fight, and one might say that Klitschko just had the huge weight advantage, yet Klitschko clearly was able to force a chess match onto the arena, while Haye was forced to simply come forward.
A come-forward style just simply does not work against the likes of Klitschko who has absolutely mastered the art of minimalism and simplicity.
Such a style permits a long-lasting bout of consistent cerebral command, while simultaneously reducing significant damage to the body and chin of the stylist in question.
Such minimalism and objective calculation pitted against a come forward style was also evident in the matchup between Guillermo Rigondaeux and Nonito Donaire.
Interestingly enough, both Klitschko and Rigondeaux keep their lead hand in front of the opponent’s face for gauging distance, mastering distance throughout the fight, controlling the rhythm and pace of the match, comfortably throwing in a rare combination here and there experimentally, and to perhaps even subconsciously distract the opponent’s strategic thinking as he concentrates on the lead hand until…
A POWERFUL CROSS IS THROWN IN HIS FACE!
Donaire in that fight was also forced into a come forward style against Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Rigondeaux himself was phenomenal in his calm demeanor, constantly moving laterally.
Straight left crosses by Rigondeaux to Donaire’s stomach were very common as were right hooks to the head. Fascinating how Donaire- despite his boxing IQ- could not adjust to Rigondeaux’s minimal yet repetitious array of punching angles.
It goes to show that even though Donaire may have the boxing acumen to theoretically adjust to certain attacks, Rigondeaux’s power and timing must have been the deciding factor in keeping Donaire at bay. After all, Rigondeaux is known for his subtle yet profound punching power. He even TKOd Jazza Dickens with a single straight left to the chin!
This is to show that such a minimalist style as employed by Rigondeaux can be enjoyed by those who have such great power, patience and acumen simultaneously. Timing has so much to add to his power, otherwise if Rigondeaux were to use his punches in high quantity flurries, like Amir Khan or Sugar Ray Leonard, his power would not be as effective.
Therefore, from both a mental and physical angle simultaneously, each singular punch is that much more of an exclamation point in Donaire’s experience, both physically and perhaps more importantly, strategically. This must have thrown off Donaire’s sense of self-confidence and trust in his own acumen, reflexes, predictions and counters as he tried to figure out just what the hell to do with this pure boxing grandmaster standing right in front of him.
How else did Rigondeaux throw the same types of punches to Donaire with such high confidence, dominating with a minimal array of punching angles?
Whenever Donaire lost his cool and threw a flurry of punches from time to time, the boxing match’s patient momentum and pattern is still maintained when Rigondeaux can just slip and slide such flurries effortlessly. So even if Donaire was able to act with aggressive alternatives to break up the monotony, Rigondeaux was prepared always.
Rigondeaux is able to control the geometrical spatial nature of the match with both his perfectly timed power as well as his footwork’s angles. His footwork is extremely fluid and he is able to flow at will with the impulse of the moment, whereas on the other hand, all Donaire was able to do in his frustration- despite his boxing IQ- was to come forward. After all, with Rigondeaux, how could you possibly try to outbox the grandmaster of pure boxing? Therefore, Donaire by default, coming into the matchup, by way of a style matchup, could only come forward really.
But then Donaire is set off out of his comfortability at that point. He himself is a versatile boxer who can box as well as swarm. However, such a style would cause for a thinking match either way, and in a thinking match, Rigondeaux would come out on top. So for Donaire to be- by default- compelled to simply come forward, would also make for an absolute win-in-advance in favor of Rigondeaux, who has- even before the match had begun- neutralized Donaire’s best asset: his thinking process.
Such a result occurs when two fighters of completely different plateaus of skill step into the ring.
Wladimir Klitschko and Guillermo Rigondeaux both give off a presence in the ring where calm and calculation take centerfold into the arena, as opposed to a brutal contest of who is the stronger man. For two individuals to dominate their weight divisions the way they have in such calm fashion attests to the cerebral grandeur which these two possess. They are simply two of the greatest active boxers in contemporary times as well two of the most intelligent ones.
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