I’ve written several guides on developing your fighting endurance. But I never spoke about the opposite end, which is how to wear out your opponent’s endurance.
Yes, it’s possible. With a few crafty tactics and carefully implemented strategies, you can learn how to wear down even the most athletic, skilled, and bold-hearted opponents. Endurance is one of those traits that determines exactly how long you can be effective.
Take the fastest, most powerful, intelligent fighter you can think of…now take away his endurance…and you’ll have before you an easily-beaten man.
The psychological endurance battle
There are always certain objectives in every fight. The rules, the goals which we already know of: such as landing more punches, doing more damage, scoring more points, controlling the fight. And then there are the uncertain or rather, the unspoken objectives in every fight…such as the psychological battle. Where you both try to establish a mental dominance over each other. This can mean trying to establish that you can hit him harder, or that you can hit him at will, or that you are more aggressive, or that you are more elusive. It’s up to you what you want to communicate.
But the focus of this article, is on a “psychological endurance battle” that happens during a fight. Whether you are conscious of it or not, whether you are actively engaging in it or not, there is a psychological battle that is being waged. It has a great impact on the outcome of the fight.
And this endurance battle can feel like two fighters trying to deplete each other’s energy reserves without depleting their own. If you’re aware and conscious of your opponent’s energy tank as well as your own, you will be careful not to fight in a way that exhausts yours faster than his.
The big danger is that once you’re behind in endurance, and you have less energy than him…it’s really hard to catch up. Because it’s not possible to get more energy in the middle of the fight, you can only hope that at some moment he wastes energy his while your conserve yours. And we already know that endurance greatly affects your speed and power. And so if he has more energy, it will be EASIER for him to have more power and speed than you. Which means you will have to use more energy than him in order to equal his speed and power. But then if you use more energy, you will have less energy and even LESS speed and LESS power. It’s a vicious cycle and very hard to beat.
So the takeaway message is to keep an eye on your own energy tank and don’t let your energy tank fall behind your opponent’s so early in the fight. To accomplish this, I think it’s important that you fight that first round intelligently. I have witnessed many ways (in others as well as in myself) over the years in which the first round was fought poorly even when I had won the round.
Common endurance mistakes in the first round
The first mistake is to waste a lot of energy winning the first round. Sure, you’ve landed some shots and got the crowd to cheer but you’ve wasted energy jumping and unloaded all your tricks when your opponent just laid back and stayed calm. Next thing you know, he comes out hard in the second round while you’re trying to calm yourself down and now you don’t have any tricks left to keep him off you.
The second mistake is to try and save energy in the first round by not doing anything. The problem this time around is that he jumps all over you and batters you and establishes a comfortable fighting rhythm because you’re giving him the space to figure you out. After the first bell rings, you’re not only a beaten man but also a bit tired and demoralized.
The third mistake is to get sucked into a war of attrition. Unless you’re the one with bottomless energy, this is always a dangerous move. Sure you’ll land some great counters against what seems like a reckless opponent. And you’ll win that first round handily. But now you’re fighting his fight and you don’t realize how much it’s taken out of you. Do not engage unless you want to. If you’re going to fight, do so on YOUR TERMS. Fight and trade when you’re good and ready.
The fourth mistake is to get frustrated by a clever trickster. There are a lot of guys who will go out there and move around and do funny things to make you exert yourself. They’ll not only try to get you to commit but they also try to get into your head. It’s a dangerous game. And unfortunately, you have to be a bit clever yourself if you want to win this one.
At the end of the day…it has a lot to do with your confidence and the dominance that you display in the ring.
Endurance Tactics for the second round
Only one thing matters here…WIN THE SECOND ROUND. Winning the second round is most important because it either puts you in the fight or secures your dominance in the fight. Here’s why: let’s say you won the first round already, then winning the second round would put you that far ahead as the established winner. But in case you lost the first round, then winning the second round would now even in the fight and perhaps swing the momentum of the fight over to your favor. Either way, you look at it, it’s important to win the second round.
The only scenario where I wouldn’t care to win the second round is if the guy is so crazily aggressive and wasting his energy AND you already won the first round handily. In that case, let him burn out and then you take advantage of him in the 3rd. Keep this in mind, that you still want to fight back enough to trigger him to unload all his energy. Because if you hold back too much, then he might hold back, too.
The worst case scenario is that you lose both the first and second round and now feel like you have to come from behind and get a knockout to win. Except only you might be too tired and beaten up to do that. It’s even harder to do if he’s feeling really confident and you’re not.
Endurance tactics for the third round
Throw hard shots, lean on him, smother him. Or throw hard shots, back away. If you got good inside fighting skills and know how to wrestle, keep pushing him around the ring while you unload shots on him. Even throwing little flurries can exhaust a tired opponent. And if you choose not to get close, then the other option is to use your legs. Throw some shots, back-step or pivot around. Some hard shots, take a step in any direction.
The worst case scenario is to let your opponent lay on you. That’ll wear you out and can also make him appear to be more aggressive and in control of the fight. Don’t carry his body weight and don’t let him smother you. Don’t bend over or allow him to get on top of you. Don’t wait on the ropes. Keep moving, throw some punches.
IF YOU CAN, throw a jab or so and step back or lean out of the way of his hard counter. This looks really good when you make an already tired opponent swing and miss wildly in the later rounds. Make sure you land that counter and you’ll get a lot of credit for that.
Tips for Exhausting Your Opponent
1. Inside fighting
I love this tactic. Put your body on him. Get close and make him work. Push him, turn him, grab, pull. It’s basically wrestling. There’s a lot to inside-fighting skills and I’ll have an article out on this soon enough. A bigger guy or stronger guy, or guy with better balance can easily wear out his opponents with inside fighting tactics.
Inside fighting is especially effective when it’s against a guy who isn’t strong on the inside and always wants to make space. The closer you are, the more uncomfortable he gets, and the more tired he becomes. A guy who isn’t adept at fighting on the inside will also burn a lot of energy trying to push you off him and even if he punches, he ends up smothering his own punches.
2. Make him miss
Easier said than done, of course. My advice is this… let him swing the big shots and move your head and body out of the way. This can be done with good head movement or in and out footwork. Even more clever is if you block his jabs and then wait until he throws the big punches, and then you slip those. If you slip his jabs, he might never throw the big punches.
3. Make him use his legs
Some guys do not have good legs. So if you move around a lot and make him chase you, he’ll wear down faster physically (and possibly even psychologically). I notice that fighters who bend their knees a lot or often stand in a wide stance will wear their legs out faster than fighters that don’t. Try to take advantage of that by moving around more often on these guys.
The key thing is not to use your legs more when you try to wear out his legs. It doesn’t do you any good if you’re the one moving in-and-out for no reason. Instead try to use more angles and pivots on your footwork. Learn to cut around him and turn him, THIS is the clever way to wear out your opponent’s legs. Inside fighting can also be used to wear out an opponent’s legs.
4. Hurt his body
Beat his stomach, his ribs (intercostals), his chest. There’s something about beating another man’s vital organs and core muscles that makes it harder for him to breathe, to move, and to fight back. His whole body will ache and ache more when it attempts to function. Not only will it hurt for him to move, it will also take more energy out of him. For this reason, many fighters have a strategy of going to the body early in order to slow their opponent’s down in the later rounds.
5. Make him think
I imagine for many fighters, this would be interpreted as, “do something weird and surprise him with a hard shot”. I would probably redefine it to something more like “make him cautious of you”. And honestly, I’m not even sure how I can explain it beyond that. Here’s the general idea: a fighter that is cautious of your movements is going to burn more energy because he’s nervous and anxious about your counters. So like I said, give him something to think about. Don’t let him get comfortable.
What to do if you’re already tired
1) Look confident.
Maintain your dominance. It’s a frame of mind. Don’t let him eat up your ground. Don’t let him control you psychologically. Be tall, be big, be proud. It’s ok to be out of breath, don’t be out of heart. I know it’s easier to say than to do but at least you can practice this when you’re in the gym.
2) Stall cleverly.
You’ll have to stall without looking inactive. You have to keep moving, stay busy. Keep him thinking, keep him guessing. You can’t literally just lay there on the ropes and hide behind a high guard. You have to do something. Keep moving, take some shots. Stifle his attacks and smother him when you get the chance. Whatever you do, don’t look like the desperate guy trying to stall the fight.
3) Go autopilot.
Can you fight without thinking? I’m not saying to make unintelligently. I’m just saying you should have some smart automatic combinations and movement patterns that you can execute with minimal thought. Waiting until your dead-tired is the not the time to be thinking. If anything, nobody thinks straight when they’re tired. Hopefully you have some great offensive and defensive drills ingrained in you to allow you to fight without having to think.
There’s a lot more to it than what I just shared and luckily, I’ve already written a guide for this:
Taking Endurance out of the Equation
So far, from my previous guides and from this guide, we know this about endurance strategy:
- How to improve your own fighting endurance (technique, training, strategy).
- How to wear out your opponents’ endurance (strategy, tactics).
Now the only thing left to talk about is how to REMOVE the endurance factor from your fighting situation. There are 2 ways to do this:
1) Superior technique.
This is easy. If your technique and boxing skill is so superior to your opponent’s, it will feel like you can beat him without spending any energy. It’s like you’re 10 times more efficient and the harder the fights, the harder he gets beaten. In this case, you’re so relaxed and at ease that fighting your opponent is a total cakewalk and can be fun even if it lasted 10 hours.
2) Forcing a mindfight.
This last strategy alone honestly could override the entire article. It’s complex and I’m not even sure how to explain the way that I do this. “Forcing a mindfight” means to force the fight into a boxing match, rather than a brawling match. This can be easily accomplished when you have 2 long-range not-so-aggressive boxers. It’s much harder when one of the fighters in the ring is incredibly aggressive and out to hunt down his opponents.
So how do you do it?
You have to get a feel for how to control your opponent. To learn what makes him react, to learn where his ego is at. For some guys, I can make them box by hitting them very hard. For other guys, I can make them box by NOT hitting them as hard. Every fighter is different, right?
Maybe throw lots of jabs. Or maybe try to keep it cute by slipping a lot. Maybe it’s lots of footwork. Maybe it’s not throwing long combos. Try to make it a potshot fight by only throwing 1 or 2 shots at a time rather than sitting in for long exchanges. Or maybe you have to mix your shots and try many weird angles.
Sometimes it has to do with your defense. If you move block too much or move too much, it can make him more aggressive. Maybe don’t block all his jabs so cleanly. Maybe don’t use so much speed. It’s a weird piece of advice, I know, but try not to awaken the beast in him. Keep his emotions under your control, and then CONTROL HIM.
By forcing a mind-fight, you can turn any match into a chess-match rather than a brawl. For whatever reason, he’s more tempted to fight you piece by piece instead of trying to run you over. The more you watch pro boxing, the more you can see the highest level fighters trying to turn the fight into a boxing match rather than an all-out brawl. Endurance at the end of the day is a trait of physical brutality, like power, like speed.
Use your mind to fight and you can negate
having to deal with physical disadvantages.
Read my other guides on fighting endurance:
Some gold dust advice there! I’ve been boxing for under half a year but once I start learning more ring craft I’ll be sure to re-read this many times, like I do with many of your posts. Great work Johnny. All the best!
Hey Johnny, welcome back. I truly love the work and was wondering if you can do a video or an article or even both on how to throw whipping punches. What is the technique to throw your Jab, right cross, hook and uppercut Etc… All of the basic punches overhand right, shovelhook like a whip. Such beautiful and Powerful transition that are thrown without effort from the greats such as Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson.
Read my guide on “How to Throw Snapping Punches”. I think that’s what you’re looking for. 🙂
Great job, Johnny. You should make some film studies on your youtube channel. It’s a good way to show techniques being used by pros.
I’d definitely like to do that. There are some great examples of concepts that I teach. I’m looking up copyright information to see if that’s possible and how to do it in a way that doesn’t get me into legal trouble.
Johnny, what would you say to someone who says that boxing is a life-dangerous sport and that it shouldn’t even be allowed?
Everyone has a right to their opinion. I personally don’t see boxing as a problem. A bunch of voluntary athletes who risk a little bit of health and safety to have fun and make themselves a better person, maybe even get paid. Nothing wrong with that. There are plenty of dangerous recreational activities out there. Plenty of dangerous toxic unhealthy foods out there, even.
At what point does one person have the right to tell another person what to do when their individual lives don’t affect one another? Even more so, what validity does a person’s opinion have on a subject when it’s something they haven’t even tried themselves?
completely agree, those who want to ban boxing should ban fast food chains, all sports and gaming.
Gaming: is bad for eyesight and can make you more likely to die of sudden death. LOl guess we should ban that.
fast food: Fast food is unhealthy and significantly raises risk of cancer, heart disease and Atherosclerosis. BAN IT
Sports; EVERY sport has a risk of injury. BAN IT
When do we draw the line? simply saying “combat sports” is ridiculous. We all know the kind of shit the NFL go through
This reminds me of when I spar with someone with inferior conditioning, and still gas out before them. As soon as I lose the psychological battle, I forget to calm down and slow my breathing
Thank you for all the great information! I’m deployed to Kuwait right now, and started to get into boxing. I’ve been reading, and watching all your videos. Recently, I got lucky and found a boxing instructor got here. He said I’m lightyears ahead of where I should be without any boxing experience. I have to give you credit from all the great material you’ve posted.
Hahaha, you’re cheating! That is awesome.
When will you write up some new southpaw articles ?!
I’m a good southpaw boxer but i always want to improve and an expert like you will get the job done 🙂
They are on the way and I have new videos for southpaw on the way as well. They are already shot but I haven’t made the time to edit them yet.
Okay I’m waiting thank you.
Anyway i wanted to ask you how to respond to aggressive feints? When someone charges you forward with feints should i throw punches and evade or prepare to block ?
Great article Johnny. You’ve probably been asked this question before, but who are your favourite top ten fighters of all time?
Tough to answer on the spot. I watch and appreciate everybody. I like Duran, Toney, Pacquiao, Leonard, De La Hoya, Naseem, Jones Jr, Tyson, Gatti, Mayweather, Canelo, way too many to list.
Could boxing with no rest or break period in between rounds be a substitute for running?
So instead of running for 3 or 4 miles you just box for an hour or two with no rest of break period would that be enough to make you conditioned to fight?
Cardio is cardio, sure you could substitute roadwork with boxing but you’re missing out on the leg workout.
a very good and tough way to train endurance is in kyokushin karate the 100 man kumite.a person have to fight without break few ours round and round with fresh opponents from hes gym.often is it only for higher ranking senzeis in kyokushin,but its possible to make 30 man kumite and 10 and so on.thats a very hard and good way to learn endurance.may you take a look here
this here is long,but you can scroll to diffrend states of hes fights