A comprehensive list of answers for the most common questions I get every day from readers.
Some of my answers weren’t exactly sweet or polite but somebody’s gotta say it. At the end of the day, boxing is a tough sport. And it’s common for people to feel lost, defeated, and without a sense of purpose.
I hope my answers, as brazen as they are, help you find clarity in your journey inside the ring.
1. How do I get better at fighting?
Keep practicing until you get better. If you stop before you get good at it, don’t complain that it’s not good enough. The only way to improve is to learn more and train more.
2. What’s the most important thing to learn?
Learn everything. Every technique, every style, every tactic, EVERYTHING. Even the tactics you don’t use, you still have to know…because you might face them one day. Only when you learn every aspect of boxing, will you then be able to see what methods are most important TO YOU!
Knowledge is knowing techniques.
Wisdom is knowing when to use the techniques.
The greatest fighters rely on ALL their skills. Someone might say Ali was a great champion just because of his jab. But then you have to realize that he had great defense, footwork, reflexes, conditioning, and skills…to help him maximize that jab. Well now, Ali didn’t just win using ONLY his jab, right? He had a solid left hook and right hand as well. Generally, great fighters are good at everything—it’s just that not everything stands out.
Everybody can show you the right way to do everything, but you still have to learn all the wrong ways in order to take advantage of your opponent’s mistakes. but you will never understand the weakness of every move until you do it yourself. You need experience to be great, there are no shortcuts.
3. How do I improve when my skills are stuck at a plateau?
A plateau usually means you’re either doing the same things, still committing the same mistakes, or judging yourself too harshly. The first step would be to stop hating on yourself. Keep calm and pay attention to your coaches and other fighters. Look for areas of improvement or anything you can do differently.
Try something different. Don’t judge it, don’t over-analyze—just try something different. See what happens. If you don’t want to be the same, you have to do something different. Chances are, what you’re doing now is not the best technique possible or not the best strategy possible. Or you’re doing something incorrectly that you’re not aware of.
It helps to see footage OF YOURSELF. It’s amazing how many fighters think their hands are up until they watch their own sparring video and see their hands down by their waist and NOWHERE close to the chin!
4. How much should I train?
Train until your body gets tired (or needs a rest). Then LET IT REST until it heals to 100%. With time, you will be able to train for longer periods before needing rest. Competing boxers typically exercise 3-5 hours, 5 times a week.
If you’re getting injured, feeling tired, or getting sick of boxing… you’re over-training (whether mentally or physically).
5. I don’t have access to gym/trainer/running track/etc…is there any substitute?
Yes, there are substitutes for almost everything in life. Generally, the substitutes are never as good as the original thing. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be called “substitutes”. But sure…if you have no choice, then do what you gotta do.
6. How can I get good fast?
By doing everything properly. Use the right technique, do the right training. Get a good coach and start training alongside good fighters. There are no shortcuts, there is only the way. Using good technique IS the shortcut.
If anything…all the serious boxers are already working their ass off hustling and grinding in the gym everyday and dedicating their mind and body to the sport to improve themselves in every way possible. So for you to do that…only makes you “average” at best. An extremely hardworking individual is not the exception in boxing, it is the norm.
7. How long does it take to become a good boxer?
What do you mean “good”?
- Good enough to spar without getting beat up?
- Good enough to win amateur competitions?
- Good enough to win pro competitions?
At least 5-10 years. To be world class, you can expect 15-20. If you have good BOXING coordination and a good trainer, that time can decrease. Even if you learned every boxing skill, it would still take years to develop the natural reflexes and coordination. Even if your technique is perfect, you still have to fight for years to build the experience to deal with different styles of opponents.
Most people don’t have what it takes to become a champion. Many people will train forever and never get there. Many people will get beat up for nothing. Some are born with talent, some are not. Even many of the ones with natural talent will still never get there. For many of them, the reward was in the attempt, not the actual goal itself.
8. How do I deal with losing?
Losing is not something you “deal” with. It’s a part of the learning process. A part of improving. Assuming you’re training with people more experienced than you, you will be a loser long before you become a winner.
If you don’t like losing, get out of the ring. Quit boxing and play checkers. No matter what you do in life, failure will always be a part of it. If you can’t handle that fact, then stick to things you’re already good at, or things that don’t hurt when you lose.
Everybody loses. Sometimes it’s in sparring, other times in competition. Inevitably, EVERYONE loses. Losing is the norm, not the exception. Comparing yourself to one of the all-time greats who’ve seemingly never lost is probably one of the worst ways to develop a poor self-esteem. Think of all the average-looking women comparing themselves to the picture-perfect photo-shopped girls on magazine covers. That’s what you’re doing to yourself.
If you want to be successful, work on winning, and train your best to win. With 100% focus on WINNING and doing things that help you win (like training, eating right, meditating, POSITIVE self-coaching…), you won’t have any focus left to worry about losing. there’s no time to be worried about losing when you’re so busy focused on winning.
If you’re not giving 100% focus to winning,
don’t cry when you lose.
9. What can I do if I don’t have natural talent?
What if I don’t have natural power, speed, stamina, skills, etc. — how can I overcome my weakness?
Questions like that sound like a giant excuse and also offends the successful boxers that worked hard to achieve what they did (and overcome many of the same challenges you face).
- I guess you don’t like boxing enough if you’re going to make that excuse.
- You make it sound like everybody else was born with natural fighting skills, like they didn’t start out just like you. Anyway…if you really DO have a disadvantage in one area, then you’ll just have to train harder to make up for it. Crying about it will not help you.
You develop fighting attributes the exact same way everybody else does it. If you want speed, you train for speed. If you want power, you train for power. Everything is part technique, part physical conditioning, and part muscle memory/coordination.
You can sit there and complain about why you don’t have natural hand speed, or you can learn how other boxers developed their hand speed. If you’re a beginner, there’s a good chance you’re not yet truly aware of your strengths and weaknesses. And until you’re properly trained, you have no right to say what hidden talents you have or don’t have.
10. Am I too old to be a great boxer?
It depends. Are you too old to be athletic and learn something new everyday? You’re the one with something to prove. So it’s up to you to answer that question yourself. Some people take 20 years to become champion, others do it in 10 or 15. Find a gym full of other boxers and see how you compare to them.
It is possible to be a “great boxer” without being a “great champion”. If you can embody all the makings of being a great boxer and live to it within your heart, you will be a great boxer regardless of whether or not others say you are or if you have a title belt. If you’re going to judge yourself by other people’s standards, you’ll never please them and probably not even yourself.
11. How good can I be?
That’s a question for YOU to answer, not me. Your advantages and disadvantages are what you start with. Your dedication and training is what you end with. Until you give it 100%, you will never know what you’re truly capable of…
Instead of wondering how good you can be, how about asking yourself, “What can I do now to improve my learning? Where are my weaknesses? What could I be doing differently?”
12. Will weights hurt your boxing training?
It depends on how you do it. I’ve written several guides on this subject. The bottom line is…if it helps you, do it. If it doesn’t, then don’t. And if you don’t know for sure…then you’ll have to try it and see for yourself.
13. Can I be a switch-stance fighter?
That’s usually a waste of time in my opinion. Most people who ask this question are doing it to be more versatile. Chances are, if your opponent is beating you up from your normal stance (your BEST stance), you switching it around to your inferior stance isn’t going to help either. If anything, I would say you are most versatile from your best position.
So if you want to do something new, it’s better for you to work on NEW things from your normal stance, than to try and do the same things from your switch stance. Because once you switch your stance, you have to spend time figuring out how to be comfortable before you can start doing new things with it.
There are professional fighters who can switch comfortably (Marvin Hagler comes to mind) but we’re talking about guys who spent their whole life in boxing. They might have spent more years in their switch stance than you have in your whole boxing career.
The ultimate answer is for you to try it out and see for yourself. Do it, and then get in the ring with a skilled opponent and see how much it helps you.
14. How do I become a fighter if I have no money?
You don’t need money to be a boxer. The entire history of boxing was built on poverty. If anything, it’s almost like you shouldn’t have money if you want to be a good boxer. On the flip side, I’d have to say you probably won’t make any money being a boxer, either. If money is what you really want, I’d suggest starting a business. Or doing something that actually pays you right away (like getting a job).
15. How does [Mike Tyson/Floyd Mayweather/insert any name] do this cool move?
It’s probably more important to focus on how YOU are doing the move. What matters most is unerstanding how YOU box….not how others box. Raise your self-awareness before you try to understand others. Better yet, try watching some footage of yourself instead of always watching others. You might learn something [about yourself] from watching your own fighting videos.
What matters is how YOU do the move. How many ways do you know how to perform that move? What technique are you using? Why do you prefer that technique over others? Have you considered the benefits of other technique? Have you ever been at a disadvantage for over-relying on your technique? How would you improve your technique?
Once you understand how to do the same move in many ways, you will easily understand which method matches the pros. And not only will you be able to copy the move but you will understand WHY they do it that way…and that is the very piece of knowledge that makes it valuable. Knowing the technique alone is nothing if you don’t understand the timing and strategy that goes with it.
16. What do most fighters lack?
They don’t have a role model to look up to. They only know and see what they see on TV, on the internet, what they read in books, hearsay type of stuff.
When you see how a champion trains right in front of you, it will inspire you to work hard. You stop asking questions and you just start doing what he’s doing. You copy the champion and find happiness in doing hard work. The reward for hard work becomes not because somebody gives you a pat on the back but because you can see that you’re truly following in the footsteps of someone you admire.
This article really makes me think on what kind of boxer I am and what I have to do to achieve what I wish to achieve. Number 16 is really great; it’s true when you see a champion train you don’t want anything more than to be like them and you’ll train your hardest and be happy not because people are watching or giving you a pat on the back- but because you’re giving it your absolute all.
Damn great article man, no shortcut, no easy path, it’s all dedication and hard work to become a boxer.
“There’s no time to be worried about losing when you’re so busy focused on winning.” Brilliant! And great article as well!
wow, id just like to say thanks for all your information e.t.c since you’ve created this sight, you’ve definitely helped me thats for sure, upon my first time seeing this sight i stayed up for ages practicing my technique making sure everything was perfect-and its helped, so thanks :).
First i want to thank you for helping me have a good start in becoming a boxer. Your articles and videos has helped me have a better understanding of the of the sport.
My question is in #4 you said that competing boxers train about 3-5 hours a day 5 times a week. Are the 3-5 hours a day include roadwork (running, push ups, sit ups, etc) outside of the boxing gym?
Does the 3-5 hours training include amateur boxers?
Yes…the 3-5 hours includes everything.
“Your advantages and disadvantages are what you start with. Your dedication and training is what you end with.” Oh hell yeah. Paint it on the wall where you can see it every day!
First thing my (awesome) coach told me? I wasn’t born knowing how to stop someone hitting me in the head, I learned it, so shut up and concentrate!
Your coach was a wise man. 🙂
Hey Johnny, long time follower of your work. I’m a professional fighter and trainer. I just wanted to say that I greatly enjoy work. Alot of your articles such as this one and the mindset of a champion apply not only to boxing but almost any aspect of life. I share your articles with my students all the time. Keep up the good work.
Thank you, DeMarkus. It means a lot to hear that from a professional fighter & trainer.
Want to ask you about something that has been bothering me, i am diagnosed with asthma, but i rarely feel it when training e.t.c…. will i be aloud to fight on a competitive level?
Yeah it’s fine. There’s a lad at my club who competes with asthma. Just don’t let your opponent see you with your inhaler!
Thanks so much 😀 And haha i wouldn’t dare 🙂
I got a new piece of boxing equipment called the “reflex bag” and I was wondering if I should use it or not. I don’t know if it is a waste or a good training method, and I would trust your advice. Anyway, keep up your amazing articles. Thanks.
I don’t like that one. I prefer the double-end bag.
Thanks a lot!! you opened my eyes in many ways… GREAT ARTICLE!!!!!!!
I love the answer to question 14.
Johnny, Another excellent article. Thank you for all the effort you put into this.
Another great article Johnny. You hit the nail on the head when you wrote about being inspired. I find that quality lacking in many boxers today, young or old. To many people focusing on being glamorous and tough. Not enough people committing to learn good technique and really polish their skills. Again, great write up Johnny.
I really want to learn how to box, I can’t fight at all, but I have heart, I lose many fights because I don’t get mad or get fueled enough to do anything, its hard for me to, I’m broke, I’m looking to boxing to make money, I want to do it because it’s an inspiration, the only thing that makes me mad enough to fight is if I feel I’m in the right if I’m standing up for someone else, I want to know how to not only because it’s a great skill to know, but also I want to stand for myself and others, I’ve always been a push over people come up to me and be mean like knock me over and punch me, and I would never do anything, but if I saw them go hit someone else, I wouldn’t even know the person others would be laughing at the kid, I would drop my stuff and tackle the bully to the ground, and fight him with all I got, but I would still lose, but the kid that was being punch that I helped would be so grateful, I wish I could help people more, can you help me, train me, to be the best I can be, please
Good article. I love the line about how you never be a champion but you can be a great boxer.
As someone who came to boxing in my mid 30’s I know I will never be a champion or have a shelf full of belts and trophies. (Though I am aiming and hoping to do well at a masters level). But I CAN BE a great boxer – I can make my body the best it can be. I can get my techniques awesome. I can improve my footwork. I can develop stamina and endurance and all the other attributes of a great boxer. I don’t need fairy tale or champions belt to be a great boxer. I can also be a great boxer out of the ring with my discipline, diets, attitudes, courage, teach-ability etc.
One of the great things about starting boxing later in life is that life has already beaten me over. In life I have lost and also won. But it has taught me tenacity and perseverance – things I don’t see in some of the younger boxers yet, despite them being a lot better than me in other areas.
I will never be champion. But I can and will hold my head high knowing I have given my all and I am not in the same place I was when I started. The journey can be more vital than the destination. My love is boxing. Not a shiny belt.
Wow Flaken! What a great comment and one I can totally relate to. As a lifelong martial artist who turned to boxing aged 32 I know that I’ll never be headlining in Vegas. But that’s not the point. Having loved boxing all my life being finally able to participate in it and understand the skill, dedication and passion required to succeed is reward enough. Like you say, the younger boxers in my gym might be fitter, faster or stronger than me, but no man can hit me as hard as life already has (two failed marriages, drug and alcohol problems, bankruptcy). As in life, I just suck it up and keep going and I’ve gained the respect of the younger guys and the trainers with my willingness to work hard, listen and persevere. Best of luck in the masters man!!
My age is 20 so can i start boxing because i think i’am too late for this beautiful sports and it will also take 10 years to become a professional boxer then my age is 30, so please guide me.
Not too late to enjoy it. Try it and see for yourself.
great article! most people just bitch about things. sports in general, the great ones suck it up. there’s more sucking up to do when its combat sports. especially boxing where a lot of discipline is needed in and out the ring. truly appreciate this article and the countless ones you have put in this website. much respect mr johnny n
hajime no ippo
I can’t be shure about which post of yours to talk about that.
I see that many people ask everywhere “can I bee good by training myself?”
Johhny, you are the boss here to have the best answer but I feel that you won’t be annoyed for me to say something 🙂
“Can I be good by training myself?”
Can’t be sure. It’s up to you at all. If you have never trained before, it will not happen. Because you won’t be able to be sure about what you’re doing. You can create unrealistic movements and bad habbits.
But if you have trained before, knowing the basics & theory; I think you have a chance.
Here is my experience, hope it helps:
I have a really tiring life. Working in a full time job, studying in lab for master of science degree after work, even in weekend. So i can’t go to the gym regularly, sometimes only two days in a month.
But boxing is the thing makes me happy, I don’t give up. So, trying to invent an efficient way for the type I call “loner boxer”.
I do the strength exercises but especially work on my legs and core muscles: By jumping rope & squats for legs, planks and russian twists (finally found my favourite oblique exercise).
In my opinion, wall drill is a good isometric training to punch harder and faster, and to study the body mechanics.
I do shadowboxing everyday at least 30 minutes, and study movements-techniques in front of the mirror; then test these in sparring when I have chance to go to the gym.
I think about buying a double end bag for my home, always loved to train with it. In my humble opinion, double end bag is the best tool for the loner boxer to train for accuracy, sliping, body&head movement.
Just don’t want to stop improving until I have more time, more energy and more chance to go to the gym more days in week.
Just found your website and you write some really great articles, thank you for that!
I have another more personal question that I kind find an answer to. I have my fifth match in about 2 weeks and I know I can win versus the guy I’m facing. And even though it has nothing to do with his skill, or mine, but I’m scared shitless. I’m so incredibly scared it just makes me tense all the freaking time and it impaires my health and fighting abilities.
How do I get over not being so scared? I’m not afraid of getting hurt and I’m confident in my skills, but I just can’t get rid off this nasty feeling of wanting to run away, cry and and move to a fetus position in the corner.
Being scared is normal. I’m not sure I can tell you how not to be normal. Perhaps, you can do it by sparring guys in the gym who are much scarier than him.
Hey Johnny how you doing.I seen great fighters say they got to were they are by training hard,i want to train very hard but im afraid of getting a Hernia.Im confused?
Love your site and all the articles on it. Been a fan for a while, first time commenting. I live out in NYC and I have to disagree with number 14. Most of the boxing gyms out here that are worth their leather cost an arm and a leg. Been trying to scope out a decent one, wondering if you (or anyone else) has any affordable gym recommendations in the 5 boroughs? (Preferably Manhattan or Queens)
I’m 29 and have a 7 month old baby. I have my first ever boxing training this Sunday which I am really looking forward to. I have noticed ( from the clubs facebook page) that most of the women are attending the midweek mixed sessions aswell which I will be unable to do, at lleast to start with anyway. I was wondering if there is anything you recommend I can concentrate on at home to help me keep up and progress the learning process on my own during the week. Also due to my age I am assuming that I will only be able to take boxing as far as having fun, losing weight, toning up and obviously learning all I can about boxing? I would like to take boxing further once I have some experience but understand if it’s too late for that really.
There’s a wonderful article on this website about how you are never too “old” to start boxing. (I put old in quotations because 29 is still young!) What helped me improve when I was away from the gym was shadowboxing in front of the mirror, jumping rope and watching pros or other skill boxers and stealing certain moves from their arsenal. I wish the best of luck and highly encourage you to continue the sweet science!
Hey there, great website!!!
I’m 23 years old and I want to get into boxing. I want to start by getting my self a boxing bag but I’m not sure what size is right for me.
I’m 6ft 3 and I weight about 14 stone. I want to get a hanging bag, but like I said, I’m not sure on what weight and size of bag I should get.
I hope to hear back from you.
I’m 39 and started boxing in September 2014. One of my friend started boxing over a year ago and dragged me along to the sport. Like many i thought little of boxing at first, but i got interested because it seemed easier to get into than most other fighting sports i know of, and far cheaper (we have a nice non-profit gym here). One thing i learned quite early is that while i lack talent and fitness for it, i’m way, way tougher than i was giving me credit for. I’m a slower learner than i wish i could be, my cardio takes forever to improve, but one thing i never needed is to not be scared to get hit. That was quite a discovery for me that i could take punches, even the harder (or more viscious) than intended ones from my sparring partners and not be hurt at all (my ribs are my only weakness, been hit there a few times already but nothing broke). I have a steel jaw and non existant solar plexus :P. I have to potential to be a hard hitting fellow (big bones, tight joints, muscles to spare), i just wish my sparring partners eventually complain about that :(. Not giving up for sure.
Oh yeah, great site, lots of cool informations here.
I haven’t fought in a while or been in a boxing gym but have competed amateurly. I am sparring with some green fighters with no experience. Do you think I can still get back to my old sharpness or no? I am doing other things like pylometrics, agility training, and strength and conditioning which I didn’t do before.
My cardio is insane compared to when I boxed so I can’t tell. These guys are green but I can do like almost 20 rounds with them. They aren’t too good but I try to limit myself, or stick stricly to touch sparring where as they go about 75%.
I STARTED LEARNING BOXING IN MY COLLEGE ,THERE I PRACTISED WITH HIGH GUARD FOR 6 MONTHS.NOW I H’VE JOINED A CLUB THERE THEY ARE TEACHING THE GUARD WHICH YOU TEACH BUT I FIND DIFFICULT AS I HAVE GOT HABIT TO USE MY PREVIOUS GUARD. WHICH GUARD SHOULD I USE ?
WHEN I SPAR I HAVE TENDENCY TO RUN FAR ,I M NOT SCARED BUT I JUST MOVE AWAY EVERY TIME
I have read many of your articles and I must say that in addition to being a great boxer, you are also a very wise man.
I have a fight in a few weeks overseas. I was wondering if anyone had advice on how to deal with coping with travel and time change to perform my best. We fly in just a few days before we fight, so very little time to adjust. I plan on changing my sleep schedule/circadian rhythms before I even leave to avoid the jet lag.
Thanks for the wisdom!
The best I know of is to start changing your sleep habits before you arrive (what you said). I have heard of some guys trying to overcome this by changing their workout times to coincide with their overseas fight time, but that still doesn’t work unless you change your sleeping habits to go with it. Good luck to you!
Im 15 but i weight 198 can i make it in the boxing world by training hard?
That’s up to you bro
Great info and no I am not going to ask you if I am too old to fight LOL…because I am a hard worker and will achieve what I put my mind too 🙂
I am a 39 year old female that has been training 4 months and progressing along quick expecting to fight amateur in another 6 months or so.
Question is I turn 40 in January so I have one year I can fight either division and then at 41 only Master at 35 you can fight either…should I just start in Masters division?
It’s all up to you, Manda. If you’re worried about the competition, try the easier route. You could also go watch fights and see which level is more of what you want to do. And remember, you never know your true potential until you try.
I hope you’re doing well. I’m Agnel from India. I’ve been boxing for about a year now. I have an excellent trainer and I work diligently on my fitness. But I still have no luck when it comes to the ring. Today during a rather embarrassing sparring session, my legs gradually got stiff and I couldn’t throw any punches. My trainer had to stop the fight. I’ve been reading your articles for a year. I work on the bag for about 8 minutes and also skip rope for about 5 minutes. I know you’ve heard this a lot but do you have any drill where I can increase my time spent in the ring. Also I’m proficient with all the fitness drills at my club and have no problem pushing myself with the fitness part. I would also like to add that while sparring, the first two rounds go fine then during the third my legs start stiffening up and its all down hill from there. Thank you.
Hi Agnel, you’re doing just fine. It takes a lot of time to get really comfortable in the ring. I would suggest for you to skip for longer, try to get to 15 minutes. And as for bagwork, try to hit the bag for 3-6 rounds and use lighter punches so that you can throw punches almost non-stop. You need to get your body used to the rhythm of constantly moving. Getting tired is natural! 🙂
Thank you so much for your advice Johnny. I will work on those areas.