The Ups and Downs of Fight Film

By Derek Bonnett: Professional prizefighters prepare for their opponents using myriad approaches. One might argue that each fighter or trainer brings something a little different to training camp, but, overall, the end objectives are quite similar. Thus, a great number of characteristics from each training regimen resemble one another.

Almost universally, boxers incorporate cardiovascular exercises such as "roadwork" to shed pounds and improve stamina. Somewhat differently, Ray "Sucra" Oliveira utilized swimming for the very same purpose due to a knee injury outside of the ring. His career as a perennial junior welterweight contender was not hindered in the slightest as Oliveira broke numerous punch stat records throughout his career. His stamina was not impaired for lack of roadwork.

Also, inside of the gym, fighters spend innumerable hours working various bags (heavy bag, speed bag, double-end bag, etc.) to practice combination throwing, to build speed, and to hone their precision along with the obvious cardiovascular benefits. Trainers frequently use punch mitts to incorporate all of these aspects of the sport into a single exercise.

Sparring, of course, is another key element to the process of building an elite caliber fighter, but not all embraced this method of preparation. Highly regarded former world champion, Nigel Benn, for one, often admitted he did little sparring in training camp and removed another common element from his training camp. In his autobiography he explained, "We restricted sparring because there was little point in getting battered before a fight, and we also got rid of the old-style punch bag which used to injure quite a few fighters, even breaking their hands." Yet, Benn ranks among the most accomplished super middleweights in the division’s history and he competed with the best of his era.

One focal point of a boxer’s training camp, which likely varies in importance just as the rest, is the viewing of fight footage. There once was a time when fight footage simply did not exist. Once it did, it was often difficult to obtain. This is still true for many opponents in today’s game, but with the genesis of YouTube, and a multitude of boxing specific websites, fighters and trainers cannot only obtain footage of their opponents competing in the prize ring, but they can even find video of their opponents sparring.

Just how important is it to study an opponent and scrutinize the nuances of their game through film? Is it something all fighters should do or is it merely the duty of a trainer? Like other training practices, it often depends on the preferences of the team itself.

Here are eight boxing experts who shared their opinions with Secondsout. They are boxers and trainers, who know their way around a training camp, some from both perspectives.

Ala Villamor, Strawweight World Title Challenger and Trainer
"Yes, you must watch the opponent’s video tape. You must know the weakness of your opponent, style of fighting how he fights, his favorite punch, what’s his strong punch, and favorite punch."

Kendall Holt, Junior Welterweight Champion
"Watching film is important to come up with a game plan so you can exploit a fighter’s weaknesses and figure out what their strengths are. I don’t watch film that often because it makes me nervous, but I expect my trainer to bring back a master plan. Then, I’ll compare it to what I saw and we’ll move forward from there. [Based on what I see], watching film will either make me slack off a little or pick it up."

John "Iceman" Scully, Light Heavyweight World Title Challenger and Trainer
"When I was active as a fighter, I hardly ever watched films of my opponents because I used to feel that every fight was different and what my opponent did against someone else wasn’t exactly what he would do against me. Before I fought Michael Nunn, I watched one of his fights for about two minutes and I turned it off. I actually got bored with trying to look at it really closely and find something. People say, ’Well, he drops his left when he throws his right’, but I felt like everyone dropped their left when they threw their rights.

After I became a trainer, I had more opportunities to watch video and I can definitely think of instances when it was extremely beneficial. The main instance was when I had Jose Rivera fighting "Terra" Garcia for the WBA title at 154. Watching the tapes, we noticed one specific thing that Garcia did on a constant basis and we definitely took advantage of that and it was a major reason why we won his title.
So, I would say that if you have the time and the patience and they eye to really watch and pick things out then it can definitely add a major positive element to the situation. Knowing what I know now, I certainly look back and wish when I was a fighter that I watched films of my upcoming opponents."

Jeff Mayweather , Lightweight Contender and Trainer
"I think it’s important more for the coach than for the fighter because the coach will be able to detect habits from fight to fight and that’s when the trust issue between a fighter and trainer come into play. A fighter can watch tapes also, but the difference is that usually when a fighter watches another fighter fight they watch the fighters strengths so it’s better for a coach to watch.
A trainer and a fighter relationship is like that of a marriage; there has to be a great level of trust and there has to be a very strong bond in order for there to be great chemistry because the relationship goes beyond the realm of the gym. As a trainer, you have to wear many different hats. Sometimes you have to be a friend, sometimes you have to be a psychiatrist, a confidant and a teacher; at times, even a father. It’s a very privileged position to have because a fighter puts his life in your hands and you want what’s best for that fighter as you would for your own child."

John David Jackson , Junior Middleweight / Middleweight Champion and Trainer
"It is always a plus for a boxer and his trainer to watch film of a boxer that they might boxing against next. I myself always watched a tape of the boxer that I would be boxing against next. I would look at tapes of fights where a boxer gave him the most trouble. Even if a boxer that I am training does not look at tapes, I always make it a point to study the boxer myself. I think that some guys don’t like to look at their opponents because they may see more than they really want to, but they should always look at their opponent. It never hurts and if a trainer doesn’t study the opponent then he is just a straight-up asshole."

Paul Cichon, Trainer of Featherweight Matt Remillard
"Sometimes looking at films helps; some fighters feel comfortable doing it, but a lot of times the fighter you’re looking at may not fight you the same way. If I look at a tape, I look for habits the fighter has more than how he fights. For instance, a fighter may move a certain way after throwing a punch, or he may do a certain something before throwing a certain shot. This way you can react to his moves."

Randall Bailey, Junior Welterweight Champion
"Me, I take a little look, but I leave the game plan up to my trainer. He studies and watches my opponent and then he gets me ready to apply that game plan in the fight."

Greg Haugen, Lightweight / Junior Welterweight Champion
"Watching too much tape isn’t good because what you are seeing might not happen when you fight him. You can get a idea of the way he fights, but there is a chance he might not fight the same way as on the tape."

August 5, 2010
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