View Full Version : Why did oldtime boxers stand so strangely?

11-18-2003, 11:51 AM
You know, like the fighting Irish mascot, with one arm way in front and the palms facing the fighter's face? I wonder why this was ever used in the first place since it seems like it would take forever to manage to rotate the fist for even a simple jab...

Why did they use this stance, and when did it go out of style? My best guess is this had something to do with the introduction of the Marquis of Queensbury rules?

11-18-2003, 12:05 PM
you WANT to rotate your fist when you punch!

if you just extend your arm from right side up all your doing is pushing from the elbow. you get nearly all the power in a punch from turning it over and useing your shoulder and the stronger muscles to extend it to that point... then the rest is just along for the ride. (most of the power is already there by the time the fist is turned over and moveing towards the person.)

11-18-2003, 12:20 PM
I understand that rotation adds power, but from that position the telegraphing would make subtlety impossible. Also, from practicing a couple punches, I really don't think that the added rotation really would add much power to the punch at all. If it's adding any power, it's definately not worth the extra wind-up time and telegraphing of your intentions.

Here's a picture of what I'm talking about: http://klitschko.com/pix_i/i008.jpg

I'm sure there are some better explanations of why this stance was once standard, and then fell out of vogue?

11-18-2003, 12:23 PM
By "I really don't think that the added rotation really would add much power to the punch at all. " I meant that the extreme rotation you do from the old fashioned stance as compared to a more modern stance where you rotate maybe %50 as much because the palms face closer to the end punching position.

11-18-2003, 12:29 PM
***** WAG *****

It could be because of a translation of fencing to hand-to-hand fighting. The stand seems very similar to a basic fencing stance except both hands are out front.

***** WAG *****

I took fencing a LONG time ago, so if my knowledge is rusty I apologize.

I know a couple of boxers, one is currently a student in my school. If he shows up tonight I'll ask him, otherwise I'll ask him next time I see him. I'll send an email to my other boxer buddy to see if he knows.

11-18-2003, 12:37 PM
WAG - could it have had more to do with using their ungloved hands and forearms to guard themselves from opponent's punches?
Footwork was not nearly as developed in early boxing as it is now.

11-18-2003, 01:16 PM
I like your WAG...however, a stance that would keep your fingers from being broken if you boxed, but also allows you to punch faster and with less telegraphing than the old time stance I am talking about exists. It's called the "Peekaboo" stance...which to me seems far superior than the one in the OP. You keep your fists close to your face (palm towards) and you are constantly weaving (in a figure 8 it's called a Dempsey roll). To me this stance would seem to be common sense in a bare knuckle fight (heck, it's still good in gloves!) and way superior to the goofy "Fighting Irish" stance that was so popular back in the day.

Maybe it's just a part of boxing's natural evolution, but I figured at least one bare knuckle fighter would've had a more modern stance, or at least have used a peekaboo style?

11-18-2003, 01:41 PM
The stance may have been more of a pose than a true stance. Looking at the first few pages of Boxing, an Illustrated History, the pose is mainly used in publicity stills. Most of the drawings of actual fights show the fighters with their arms closer to the body (actually, most of the pictures show the fighters in a clench....)

On the other hand, an exaggerated pose may have been the right thing to teach. Fights weren't limited by time, and a fighter that was trained to hold that stance was probably more likely to have his arms high and feet apart after eighteen rounds...

Then again, it could have been tradition. Boxers in Ancient Greece held a similar position when wearing caestus. The point of contact was on the back of the hand and that, along with the added weight, probably called for rounded jabs instead of the more direct style used today. Backing this up, one of the pictures shows Tom Cribb making contact with Tom Molineaux with the points of the first knuckles instead of with the flats of the first phalanges. The blow was obviously a straight elbow extension.

For what it's worth, there's a picture of Daniel Mendoza in a more-or-less modern stance, and James Figg himself is just standing there with fists at mid-torso.

11-18-2003, 03:34 PM
I have an answer from my friend how is a longtime boxer. Here it is word for word, minus the personal section.

"... You're in luck, I happen to know the answer to that Shihan. The reason why the used that stance is that under those rules it was the best stance available. Under the LPR rules there was a lot of moves that are illegal now, that aren't anymore. In particular you could throw your opponent to the ground. This made it much more important to keep your opponent at a distance. So, that's why they kept them much further out, to make a threat to closing in. When they removed the allowance to throw your opponent the guard came up to cover the face much like boxers today, although they still kept the hand palm in. I'm not entirely sure why they have the palm in. They fought with the palm face in, because they did a half rotating punch. So, they hit with a vertical fist rather than a horizontal fist unlike modern boxers who hit with a horizontal fist. They felt it was safer for bare handed fighting, to avoid breaking your hand or knuckles. Hope that answers the question for you..."

So there you go.

11-18-2003, 04:15 PM
The stance in the picture cited above is a fairly low "Mendozan" stance. A more erect stance was also used. Glitch is right about a lot of the reasons. Throwing your opponent was legal, as was "head in chancery", where you get your opponent in a head-lock and pound on the base of his skull. And bareknuckled fighting requires that one exercise much more care when punching. Modern gloves permit much harder blows to be thrown without breaking the hand, making the modern sport more dangerous than bareknuckle.

See also:


11-18-2003, 05:18 PM
Am I the only one reading this thread who could not supress the memory of Conan O'Brien as a prancing ol'timey Irish boxer in a Saturday Night Live skit?

Mr. Slant
11-18-2003, 05:22 PM
I swear I was imagining old-timey boxer shorts having an odd cut and an odd way of resting on their wearer when I first read this title.

Speaker for the Dead
11-18-2003, 05:51 PM
The first of Dogface's links says that there is in fact less chance of injuring yourself if you hit a punch with the last three knuckles when compared to hitting with the first two. In TKD I was taught to hit with the first 2 for the same reason - that that way I'd be less likely to hurt myself.

Which is true?

11-18-2003, 06:31 PM
Hmmm... that is interesting and seems wrong. Certainly, it is contrary to all of the training and teaching I've done. The only way you could strike with the last three knuckles is to not align your wrist with your arm, and that would greatly increase the odds of snapping your wrist at a minimum even if it didn't increase the chance of breaking your knuckles. I'll send the link to my boxing expert and see what he has to say.

Of course, the bottom line is, outside of a boxing match, you probably shouldn't be hitting the hard parts of the human body, like the skull, with your knuckles anyway.

11-18-2003, 06:37 PM
Originally posted by Glitch
I have an answer from my friend how is a longtime boxer.

::blinks, rubs eyes::

Glitch? Is that really you? Well, I never. Good to have you back.


11-18-2003, 10:59 PM
The only way you could strike with the last three knuckles is to not align your wrist with your arm, and that would greatly increase the odds of snapping your wrist at a minimum even if it didn't increase the chance of breaking your knuckles.

That would depend if you are punching with a horizontal fist or a vertical fist. With a vertical fist, impacting with the last 3 knuckles is the way to go. From the relevant portion of Dogface's first link, it is a little unclear if the author was referring to a horizontal or vertical fist.

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