Mental preparedness, hydration, proper nutrition, and sufficient rest are all factors contributing to an athlete’s success, but are there physical characteristics that give one fighter an edge over another?
Beginning his career in 1970, Emanuel Steward has trained countless greats, ranging from Thomas Hearns, to Oscar De La Hoya, to Lennox Lewis to Wladimir Klitschko. Steward believes there is no one body type that makes a great champion.
“Hearns made his size to his advantage by boxing tall. I train my tall guys to fight tall,” says Steward. “Pernell Whitaker is another example. As short as he was, Pernell was an effective boxer. He had big shoulders and a natural balance. If a guy is successful with his body size in the amateurs, he can carry that through to the professionals. [Roberto] Duran was also small and compact. But, if you look at how [Miguel] Cotto lost against Pacquiao – he was bending down too low.”
Kenny Adams, a respected amateur and professional trainer, has his own preference. Adams notes, “I like a limber, thin-framed guy like Kennedy McKinney. Obviously, ability plays the greatest role, but Hearns’ thin frame still let him be a power guy. When I look for an amateur I can carry through to the pros, that is my preference.”
Strength and conditioning guru, Mackie Shilstone’s boxing successes include Michael Spinks, Riddick Bowe, Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins. Boxing fans were astounded when Shilstone helped Spinks become the first light heavyweight champion to topple a heavyweight king when he upset Larry Holmes in 1985.
Shilstone, who works with tennis player Serena Williams, used similar techniques with Jones, who beat John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight belt in 2003. Shilstone believes it is not about adding muscle; it is about increasing an athlete’s oxygenation (oxygen-carrying capacity in the blood) and diminishing lactic acid production.
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