There were other things about these clinches. They gave an idea of Johnson's immense strength as well. Several times he lifted Ketchell playfully off his feet and strung him around. Once, when Ketchel's legs became tangled, when the men were grappling, Johnson picked up Ketchel with one arm and placed him squarely on his feet."
-- W. W. Naughton, in describing Jack Johnson vs. Stanley Ketchel, 1909
"Dundee seemed very tired in the last few seconds [of the 20th round], but he made no attempt to rest in the clinches, fighting like a demon."
-- Post-fight description of Johnny Dundee vs. Irish Patsy Cline, Times-Picayune, 1918
"Greb at 159 pounds was seven pounds heavier than the welterweight champion and he used the margin to advantage throughout the battle. The Pittsburgh fighter, a master at all the tricks of the game, was too clever for his challenger. He was on top of Walker in every clinch with a right which never tired and which flew in all directions."
-- AP post-fight description of Harry Greb vs. Mickey Walker, Dallas Morning News, 1925
"Billy Vidabeck, the other member of the sparring team was then sent in to do some inside fighting with the champion. He had little or no success. Tunney's left prevented him from crowding, and the bite of his rights caused him to take cover."
-- AP report of Gene Tunney's sparring sessions leading up to his final fight against Tom Heeney, Aberdeen Daily News, 1928
"Ambers, too, is good at sewing a man up in the clinches. He made Pedro Montanez, a powerful right hand puncher, look silly for 15 rounds last fall. Here again he will find Armstrong a problem, because it's next to impossible to clinch with the negro. In close he just keeps on jerking his head about, heaving with his shoulders and socking with his fists."
- AP reporter Gayle Talbot, in describing Henry Armstrong's clinch fighting ability ahead of his rematch with Lou Ambers, Heraldo de Brownsville, 1938
Clinching and in-fighting -- the subject of great debate in two recent matches -- are parts of boxing, and always have been. Get used to it, or implore trainers to teach their charges how to counter attempted clinches, if they're to be prevented.
I think not knowing what to do in a clinch is a sympton of a general lack of knowledge of inside fighting amongst modern fighters. Very rarely these days do you see two guys just put their foreheads together and stay locked like that throwing punches for rounds at a time.
@ham_napkin I think that's likely true; it's about half the reason Andre Ward eats so many fighters alive. And I love good inside fighting, so it's a shame it's such a rare art right now.
I strongly disagree, perhaps as i am still not a total veteran of the game. but if boxing has that much hugging. i will stop watching. its that simple.
I will never watch carlos molina, andre ward, devon alexander or richard abril again. unless any of them lands a major fight on a ppv attraction. its just fucking boring, straight up. i can't stand it. my cousin who is not a fan of sports in general says the part he can't stand is when they hug. he doesn't mind the stand offs. if a fighter has a history of holding i will not watch. and i will definitely not allow my friends who know how much i care about boxing watch. being into the sport as much as you guys, the media are, you should be able to ask for reform, for the sake of the sport. other sports do. 24 second shot clock in basketball, play clock in football. even nascar changed their scoring system to make the final races of the season worth watching. i understand holding can't be eliminated altogether but it should be more heavily penalized and when you watch these guys use it as offense when it clearly states in the rules you're not allowed to do it, thats the sort of thing that infuriates me. i don't see how russel mora got so hated on for not calling the low blows, but everyones... well most are ok with the ref not enforcing the clinching rule.
bottom line, its fucking boring to watch and the fun fighters are losing to boring clinchers.
@the legend known as the legend With all due respect, I don't think there's much to disagree about in this piece. Clinching is part of boxing, for better and worse. I'm not necessarily condoning it based on how the sport used to be, but Tim's response sums up my thoughts on the matter quite well.
If you're that disgusted with clinching, I think you need to exhibit the same disappointment in the fighters unwilling and/or unable to do anything about it. Or their trainers.
There are ways of countering just about anything in boxing. A guy jabbing your face to bits? Move your head more and try to make him miss to create openings. A guy moving too much on you? Use your jab, cut off the ring, go to the body, etc. A guy keeps reaching out to clinch you? Let him get comfortable with that distance, step back and throw a hook, or even just physically push him off in a way that makes the ref take notice that you're trying to fight while he's trying to hold. The list goes on.
It may not always work, but the point is more that the fighter is trying to create his own karma rather than wait for someone else to do something for them.
@the legend known as the legend Yeah, watching a clinchfest sucks , you're totally right. Also think you're right in saying that it scares off fans. Refs should be more willing to take points for excessive clinching. I don't think we'll ever see them taking points off Ward though, who know how to work in a clinch and never be completely tied up. I actually don't hate watching that, at least nowhere near as much as I dislike watching guys who completely stop the action and require a break from the ref.
It's also true that it's as much the fault of the fighters who don't know how to avoid being stymied by hugging. Clinching will always be part of the game, especially at heavier weights where you it's much more difficult to get in and out against guys with very long reaches.
@ALEXMAC ward is pretty interesting because he does it in a way thats not as obvious. its weird how he does it. in some of his fights i hated it. but against froch i thought he just did a great job. alexander was boring molina was boring. they used clinching as part of their plan. I think if guys used blocking and movement on the inside like corrales castillo or leonard duran or rios antillon, where they press right against each other and work. those kind of fights thrill us... alvorado vs herrera was amazing. i think fighters clinch because they don't know how to fight inside, they get scared when the big puncher gets close so they tie up. i don't feel that they are good inside fighters for knowing when to clinch.
what to do against it. well as patrick replied below, their are things i suppose. this is an odd subject for sure.
@the legend known as the legend @ALEXMAC I agree with both of you -- I think it turns off fans. As I've said of Bradley's head butting, ugly mauling-style, foul-filled fights are the only kinds of fights that truly turn off the part-time boxing fans who come over when I have PPV parties.
Reviewing some recent prominent hold cases, by my tastes: Molina and Alexander held too much and probably should've been discouraged from doing it so much by the referee, with point deductions. Abril, I thought, was borderline. Khan probably deserved the deduction he got early in the Peterson fight, although at the time I thought it was borderline; I didn't like the late deduction.
With the exception of Khan's opponent, it's noteworthy that all of the victimized opponents were flat-out cavemen, practically -- Kirkland, Rios, Maidana. I don't think that's a total coincidence, that they specifically couldn't figure out what to do it. I love me some brawlers with big power, but there's something to be said for skill actually making a fight MORE exciting, and this is one of those occasions, because if they had any iota of a bit of knowledge about how to break a clinch, all of those fights would've been better.
@the legend known as the legend ...guys like Ward, I meant to say.
@the legend known as the legend Don't misunderstand me, I don't like excessive holding; also, I don't think Patrick is endorsing it. I've advocated for guys to get docked points when I think they've been too much with it, case-by-case.
The rule doesn't forbid "holding." It forbids "excessive holding." That's a subjective call. I don't think Abril held so much as to be disgusted by it; Molina, I was. There's no magic number on when clinching is happening too much in any given fight, for me -- it's a matter of how much of it you can stand, I suppose. You should totally feel free to stand less of it than me, and if you don't want to watch someone like Abril, I ain't mad atcha. But I don't have any reforms to propose because I don't know what I would propose. Back in a 2007 blog entry, I also wrote about how refs need to enforce the rule more vigorously and how boxers can lobby beforehand to get refs to pay more attention to a vigorous clincher. I don't have much more than that.
The thing goes to Patrick's context at the end. You can get used to it, perhaps, or you can find other ways to address it BESIDES ranting and raving about how much you don't like some dude holding. One of them is to note that the boxers themselves who are being held can do something about it, because they had that skillset trained into them.
Every complaint in its right place, sir. That's all this is about.
@tstarks its crazy that clinching has been getting so much attention. i actually just rewatched rios abril. he didn't bug me as much as molina either. but there is a point when refs must enforce rules. I've taken several classes as well as been a regular part of gyms, and i don't think I've ever seen anyone teach how to defend against holding. is this because its a lost art, or because you really shouldn't have to.
i guess i just get upset when fighters are complimented for the holding tactic. this is such a weird topic because there is no clear line. if a dude gets hit in the balls... no questions asked, its wrong.
Good quotes, no doubt. The nature of the fight game does change over time (I can hardly imagine a modern referee who would have let Benny Paret die out there against Griffith, to pick a dramatic example), but holding will always be some part of the game.
@HitDog I think there are a few referees out there that suck badly enough to let that go or be as late stepping in, though your point is still very valid. Not sure how much video of Jack Johnson modern boxing fans have actually watched (despite the fact that so many have been trained to be fans of his), but what we call "holding" today, they called "damn near the entire fight" back then. Harry Greb is widely considered one of the greatest fighters ever, and stifling, clinching, grappling, etc., was a huge portion of his style. However, just like now, some refs, writers and fans did indeed call them on it. Guys were DQ'd, No Contests were declared...shit, in a few instances the police stepped in to stop it because the fight was becoming that frustrating. The more things change...
In any event, so many of the fundamentals are exactly the same. Lou Ambers is considered one of the greatest in-fighters by many "pundits" (for whatever that's worth), and he was known to take small steps back inside and fire uppercuts. If I didn't know better, I'd have thought Teddy cotdamned Atlas taught him that between vein-popping guilt-scream sessions.
That is SUCCINCT, brother. Just let the facts do the talking. Thank God the crowd currently on an anti-clinching jihad wasn't around to try and run Muhammad Ali out of the sport, huh?
Which is to say: People can, and should, complain about excessive clinching. But they also ought to keep in mind certain realities, history and what's at the root of the problem as it stands today -- and it's not just solely the problem of the people doing the clinches or the referees.
@tstarks Both "Muhammad" and "jihad" in your comment? Eesh. The feds should account for a few of the extra hits this month.
Clinching is a part of the game whether people want it to be or not, and many fighters of yore trained specifically for the clinch game. And just like now, sometimes the lack of an inside game was the difference between a good fighter and a great one. The nature of in-ring officiating and how that's evolved or changed is an interesting thought too, but there sure seem to be a number of high level fighters these days that rely more on referee intervention to help them inside rather than taking matters into their own hands, and within the rules.
Imagine Richard Abril trying to tie up Roberto Duran. That would've gotten straight up horror scene real quick. Though it might not have all been within the rules technically.