What is the "thing" that makes elite fighters what they are?

bballchump11

The Gifted One
May 17, 2013
31,782
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What are some of the myths about how great athletes achieve their extraordinary level of performance?

@Cableaddict


One of the big surprises for me was that pro athletes, particularly in baseball, don’t have faster reflexes on average than normal people do. I tested faster than Albert Pujols on a visual reaction test. He only finished in the 66thpercentile compared to a bunch of college students.

This question came up when I first saw [Olympic softball champion] Jennie Finch striking out Major League Baseball players. The pitches had the same transit time, and the ball was bigger, so why couldn’t these players come close to hitting her pitches? If they reacted fast enough, why couldn’t they do it? It turns out it’s not the reaction time that’s so important but learned perceptual skills that the MLB players don’t know they learned. Through practice, by picking up on body cues they can predict where the projectile is going, and when it will get there, long before it does. When they are stripped of these cues with a softball pitcher who has a different wind up, they become like you and I.

So this points to the fact that using things like pitching machines are good for warming up, but they are irrelevant for the skills that batters need to develop anticipatory skills. It’s not something I thought would have been a learned component, so it surprised me. I would have thought that all these guys tested off the charts for [fast] reflexes.
I like where you're getting at here and I agree with it. When I first started boxing, I felt like my reflexes weren't great. When a punch came, I'd be thinking about what's the correct way to defend. Then I'd have to think about which punch to counter with. It's almost like Goku's ultra instinct. That time it takes you to think about how to react slows you down.

These fighters will drill for hours on how to counter a punch. When Mayweather sees a jab, his body naturally knows how to defend and counter it because he's done it thousands of times in training. Then your body has to actually be fast enough to respond even if you have quick reaction time.
 
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Bogotazo

King of the Beige
May 17, 2013
32,549
4,291
New York
I like where you're getting at here and I agree with it. When I first started boxing, I felt like my reflexes weren't great. When a punch came, I'd be thinking about what's the correct way to defend. Then I'd have to think about which punch to counter with. It's almost like Goku's ultra instinct. That time it takes you to think about how to react slows you down.

These fighters will drill for hours on how to counter a punch. When Mayweather sees a jab, his body naturally knows how to defend and counter it because he's done it thousands of times in training. Then your body has to actually be fast enough to respond even if you have quick reaction time.
Yeah you have to be a few steps ahead and drill a lot of it as instinct. Anticipation is so key too. The elite know what a fighter will throw before the opponent does just by their posture or subconscious tells.

It's also interesting when you have time to see something coming but don't have time to react. So your mind works faster than your body does.

I also realized that the better your timing, the more seconds within the seconds you can perceive. I remember sparring my coach, and I was waiting to throw my jab, and I was like okay, NOW-and before I even extended it 10 percent, he threw a left hook and caught me with a low rear hand. I was like wow, my perception "now", my shortest measure of time, can fit multiples of his. The opposite is true sparring a newb. Hopefully you get what I'm saying.
 
Jun 6, 2013
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It's a great topic for discussion, and I don't agree with anything so far said, except one thing:

David Epstein is simply wrong when he wrote: "One of the big surprises for me was that pro athletes, particularly in baseball, don’t have faster reflexes on average than normal people do."

Just plain wrong. Research has been done on this ad nauseum, for the last 40 years, and there's really no argument to be made.

Epstein is not a scientist, nor researcher. Maybe he misinterpreted data, knowigly or unknowingly, to come up with a "new and fascinating" conclusion. (It happens all the time.) Or maybe he was just winging it, I don't know. But he's wrong.

5 Minutes of research will show this to anyone who's interested.
-----------------------

But again, all his other points, and the stuff you guys are kicking around, are important and would warrant more discussion as it relates specifically to boxing.
 
Jun 6, 2013
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On a different tack, something I was thinking about today:

Do you think Lomachenko's early dance training gives him amy special edge in the ring? I know some commentators & fans just sort of take that as a fact, but does it REALLY?

I'm not so sure. You can learn balance, lateral movement, etc just from training as a boxer. What would actually dancing teach you, that would be different yet relevant?
 

bballchump11

The Gifted One
May 17, 2013
31,782
4,258
Yeah you have to be a few steps ahead and drill a lot of it as instinct. Anticipation is so key too. The elite know what a fighter will throw before the opponent does just by their posture or subconscious tells.

It's also interesting when you have time to see something coming but don't have time to react. So your mind works faster than your body does.

I also realized that the better your timing, the more seconds within the seconds you can perceive. I remember sparring my coach, and I was waiting to throw my jab, and I was like okay, NOW-and before I even extended it 10 percent, he threw a left hook and caught me with a low rear hand. I was like wow, my perception "now", my shortest measure of time, can fit multiples of his. The opposite is true sparring a newb. Hopefully you get what I'm saying.
I sorta know what you mean. I'm about to get very geeky here :yep

Like Einstein theorized, everybody perceives time at different speeds. It'll take you 0.5 seconds to react in the ring. That half second feels much slower to your trainer however. One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet was relaxation which will slow time down for you and keep a fighter calm.

I might need @V-2 's opinion on that.

On a different tack, something I was thinking about today:

Do you think Lomachenko's early dance training gives him amy special edge in the ring? I know some commentators & fans just sort of take that as a fact, but does it REALLY?

I'm not so sure. You can learn balance, lateral movement, etc just from training as a boxer. What would actually dancing teach you, that would be different yet relevant?
I think him doing gymnastics probably helped more.
 
Dec 21, 2017
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You either have to be very good at everything or if you are going to have slight weaknesses and excel in one area, you better be outrageous at it.

But if you look back through the proper p4p toppers (according to Ring anyway) there are a fair mix of attributes.

Tyson
JCC
Whittaker
RJJ
ODLH
Hopkins
Mosley
Mayweather
Pacquiao
Ward
GGG
*Loma/Crawford probably the succesor to the crown

In there you have all rounders, physical beasts (whether that be power, speed, athleticism or toughness), master boxers and defensive geniuses, offensive monsters

In there you have a couple of questionable chins, couple of guys that lack power, some that were not the best boxer in their era but made up in a physical area.
Guys who could adapt either in a ring in any given situation or over the years as age set in
but others that ran out of ideas when plan A didn't work for them or their best attribute faded

Basically if you are going to be p4p top 3 at any time you just need to be shit how
 
Jun 3, 2013
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804
London
Same with a prime Golovkin: Not the fastest guy in the ring, by a long shot, but make one little mistake against him, and it's all over. His ability to stand in the pocket & trade, and almost never get hit flush, is amazing.
Erm, excuse me?? GGG gets hit a LOT. His face regularly gets roughed up in fights. Luckily for him though, he has a chin made of titanium.
 
Jun 24, 2013
910
216
You either have to be very good at everything or if you are going to have slight weaknesses and excel in one area, you better be outrageous at it.

But if you look back through the proper p4p toppers (according to Ring anyway) there are a fair mix of attributes.

Tyson
JCC
Whittaker
RJJ
ODLH
Hopkins
Mosley
Mayweather
Pacquiao
Ward
GGG
*Loma/Crawford probably the succesor to the crown

In there you have all rounders, physical beasts (whether that be power, speed, athleticism or toughness), master boxers and defensive geniuses, offensive monsters

In there you have a couple of questionable chins, couple of guys that lack power, some that were not the best boxer in their era but made up in a physical area.
Guys who could adapt either in a ring in any given situation or over the years as age set in
but others that ran out of ideas when plan A didn't work for them or their best attribute faded

Basically if you are going to be p4p top 3 at any time you just need to be shit how
There is another thing all those dudes had in common, mental strength. It doesn't how talented you are, if you start crumbling when your opponent starts landing you won't ever be a successful boxer.
 
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Bogotazo

King of the Beige
May 17, 2013
32,549
4,291
New York
It's a great topic for discussion, and I don't agree with anything so far said, except one thing:

David Epstein is simply wrong when he wrote: "One of the big surprises for me was that pro athletes, particularly in baseball, don’t have faster reflexes on average than normal people do."

Just plain wrong. Research has been done on this ad nauseum, for the last 40 years, and there's really no argument to be made.

Epstein is not a scientist, nor researcher. Maybe he misinterpreted data, knowigly or unknowingly, to come up with a "new and fascinating" conclusion. (It happens all the time.) Or maybe he was just winging it, I don't know. But he's wrong.

5 Minutes of research will show this to anyone who's interested.
-----------------------

But again, all his other points, and the stuff you guys are kicking around, are important and would warrant more discussion as it relates specifically to boxing.
Got any links?
 
Jun 6, 2013
12,732
1,623
Like Einstein theorized, everybody perceives time at different speeds. It'll take you 0.5 seconds to react in the ring. That half second feels much slower to your trainer however. One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet was relaxation which will slow time down for you and keep a fighter calm.
.
That's a really good point.


the other great thing about staying relaxed, of course, is that it conserves energy. Always a good thing.
 
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bballchump11

The Gifted One
May 17, 2013
31,782
4,258
That's a really good point.


the other great thing about staying relaxed, of course, is that it conserves energy. Always a good thing.
Yeah that may be one of the first things that I should have mentioned. GGG, Mayweather, Lomachenko, Crawford, etc. These guys are so relaxed in the ring.
 
Jun 6, 2013
12,732
1,623
Another important factor for being elite, which (like everything else, I guess) can be improved with training but still has a genetic ceiling, is STAMINA.

We didn't study this with boxers, back in the day, but we studied cyclists all the time. Vo2 capacity, and the ability to process that oxygen (uptake it into the hemoglobin & then utilize it at the cellular level) is mostly genetic. If you weren't born with exceptional lungs & conversion capabilities, you have absolutely ZERO chance of being an elite cyclist.

Obviously, this translates well to boxing.
---------------

Also having dense bones: Denser hands makes your punches harder (Golovkin) and a denser / thicker skull can make you less susceptible to concussions (Chavez Sr.)
 

bballchump11

The Gifted One
May 17, 2013
31,782
4,258
One thing I've noticed with p4p level fighters is their work ethic. I've often heard sparring partners and other fighters compliment Errol Spence, Mayweather, GGG, etc on how hard they work in the gym. The 2012 Olympic team said that Errol Spence was the hardest worker on the team.
 
Jun 11, 2013
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En route to The White Lodge
Is It Genes, or the Gym, That Makes Great Athletes? Q&A With Author of “The Sports Gene”


http://keepingscore.blogs.time.com/2013/08/14/is-it-genes-or-the-gym-that-makes-great-athletes-qa-with-author-of-the-sports-gene/

Usain Bolt’s speed. Michael Phelps’ dominance. Serena Williams’ court savvy. What drives these athletes to rise above their competitors, to push the limits of human ability and achieve what no one before them has ever accomplished? Is it their endless hours of training, or are the endowed with a special recipe of DNA that destines them to greatness?

David Epstein, a former senior writer at Sports Illustrated who was just hired as an investigative reporter at Pro Publica, asked these questions of elite and non-elite athletes, leading sports scientists and psychologists, among others. And what he found, as described in his new book The Sports Gene, is both encouraging and eye-opening.

So is there a sports gene?

There is absolutely no such thing as single sports gene. I think it’s a metaphorical concept.

But there are cases where genes, depending on sport, are not sufficient for elite performance, but necessary. One obvious example is height for the NBA. And less obvious is the gene that tells you that you absolutely are not going be in the 100m final in the [Olympic Games in] Rio in 2016. The ACTN 3 gene, the so-called sprint gene, explains a small amount variation at very high levels of performance. So if you don’t have the correct copies [of this gene] for sprinting, you’re not going to be in the 100m final.

What genetic science is showing us is that the more important part of talent — and certainly of endurance – is the ability to respond to training, the biological setup that makes you train better than your peers. If you’re not set up that way, you can put up a heck of a lot of work, but it might be impossible to reach elite levels.

What does this mean for the 10,000 hours rule?

That’s the idea that 10,000 hours of effortful practice is both necessary and sufficient to achieve excellence in almost everything. It originated in 10 violinists who already were highly pre-screened [for their ability], so much of humanity was already screened out since it focused on high performing violinists at a world class academy. Among those performers, they accumulated more than 10,000 hours of practice by age 20, and were better than people who accumulated less practice.

But the part of the 10,000 hours idea that’s less talked about is the assumption that every person’s one hour of deliberate practice moves them forward in skill progression by the same amount, which is debunked by every genetic study done so far. Everybody’s genome is unique; even between siblings, they are so unique that no one has identical responses, other than sometimes identical twins, to the same type of training,

It’s become a catch phrase to mean that practice is important, which was never something that was controversial in the scientific literature. But the job of the scientist is to decide how important it is. The fact is there is no evidence whatsoever that 10,000 hours are necessary and sufficient for elite performance.

What are some of the myths about how great athletes achieve their extraordinary level of performance?

@Cableaddict

One of the big surprises for me was that pro athletes, particularly in baseball, don’t have faster reflexes on average than normal people do. I tested faster than Albert Pujols on a visual reaction test. He only finished in the 66thpercentile compared to a bunch of college students.

This question came up when I first saw [Olympic softball champion] Jennie Finch striking out Major League Baseball players. The pitches had the same transit time, and the ball was bigger, so why couldn’t these players come close to hitting her pitches? If they reacted fast enough, why couldn’t they do it? It turns out it’s not the reaction time that’s so important but learned perceptual skills that the MLB players don’t know they learned. Through practice, by picking up on body cues they can predict where the projectile is going, and when it will get there, long before it does. When they are stripped of these cues with a softball pitcher who has a different wind up, they become like you and I.

So this points to the fact that using things like pitching machines are good for warming up, but they are irrelevant for the skills that batters need to develop anticipatory skills. It’s not something I thought would have been a learned component, so it surprised me. I would have thought that all these guys tested off the charts for [fast] reflexes.


Since performance is not just about genes and not just about practice, is it about trainability?

Trainability is the ability to respond well to certain training. The best examples involve endurance training. Some people start with a high aerobic capacity, and the amount O2 [the body] uses is a powerful predictor of endurance. Some people start at a high baseline and don’t improve [their endurance] even after the same training as someone next to them. They might have to put in many, many more hours than the next man or woman [to reach the same endurance]. Or they might never get there.

What genetic science is telling us is that the range in talent is not pre-set, but based on our ability to respond to training. It sounds gloomy, that some people can train harder than others and still not achieve high performance, but I think it’s encouraging that if something is not working you, you should try something else. So you should pay attention to your training [and what it’s producing].

Did coaches you interviewed feel they could train anyone to become an elite athlete?

I came across a range of views on coaching, but I didn’t come across any elite coaches who felt they didn’t want to start with a population that was somewhat pre screened.

Some elite coaches would tout the 10,000 hours rule. So I asked them, if you believe that, you should just take the first 100 people who walk in the door and train them to be high performers. But none were willing to do that. All of them are using some type of prescreening system.

The best recent example of this was Great Britain, which increased its home team medal haul [at the last] Olympics with the Sporting Giants program. When it was awarded the Olympics, Sporting Giants officials went to schools to measure students, and used the height and limb lengths to predict which skills they would excel in. That’s how they found Helen Glover, who never rowed, and she became [the country’s] first Olympic gold medalist. So when the rubber hits the road, coaches know that they want their athletes prescreened.

Does that mean that China may have the ideal sports program – they pre-screen young children for certain sports, then train them in intensive programs.

It’s an ideal system if you have a massive population. They tend to be focused on certain skill sports. Yao Ming is the product of multiple generations of tall people. I’ve also seen videos of [how] Chinese divers are screened – rows of kids put their arms over their heads, and if their elbow joints aren’t above the top of their heads, they are sifted out. The thinking is that if the joints aren’t above the head, they would make too wide an imprint when they hit the water, and make too big a splash. So that’s it – you would be out.

In terms of increasing the medal haul, it’s a great system. It’s also what you see in Jamaica. Every kid is made to sprint, and they keep the ones who have the ability to win in the pros. If a country puts a huge number of people in the funnel, in terms of winning medals, I think it’s ideal. In terms of personal development in a sport, I don’t think it’s always ideal.

So if some athletes start out with genetic advantages, and are more trainable than others, where is the line between natural ability and ability that has been enhanced?

That’s such a tricky question. We’ve already shown how little sports governing bodies have thought about it, with the case of Caster Semenya, [the female South African runner whose gender was questioned when she tested with high testosterone levels], and cases in the past of female athletes with a natural condition in which they have elevation of testosterone or other traits that people consider more typical of males. It’s not their fault that biology doesn’t break down as cleanly as [sports governing bodies] would like.

There is clearly some philosophy behind having rules [against performance enhancement] – the idea that if it’s natural, then it’s okay and in the spirit of the sporting endeavor, but if you do something to synthetically enhance performance, it’s not. That speaks to our understanding that sports relies on agreed upon certain core values, and one of those is that you bring to the sport what you came in with, through natural talent and training.
Interesting read. Thanks for sharing. I've heard about that 10,000 practice thing before. Had a friend who was going to learn the drums that way.
 
Jun 11, 2013
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En route to The White Lodge
I like where you're getting at here and I agree with it. When I first started boxing, I felt like my reflexes weren't great. When a punch came, I'd be thinking about what's the correct way to defend. Then I'd have to think about which punch to counter with. It's almost like Goku's ultra instinct. That time it takes you to think about how to react slows you down.

These fighters will drill for hours on how to counter a punch. When Mayweather sees a jab, his body naturally knows how to defend and counter it because he's done it thousands of times in training. Then your body has to actually be fast enough to respond even if you have quick reaction time.
Not entirely related, and I've posted this before, but I like Berto's comments on what it's like to fight Mayweather. He makes some interesting observations on things Mayweather does (alertness, dictating pace, observant)

 
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May 25, 2013
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If I was to pick one attribute that separates the good from the elite and greats, it's mental strength and focus. You have to have that fire in you that makes you more driven than the next guy, that might manifest itself in a number of ways.

In fighters like Holyfield, Hagler, Hopkins, Pac, Mayweather etc it made them gym rats, they were always in shape, always ready to fight, you'd never see them fail physically in a fight, either by flagging physically or mentally.

In guys like Lewis, Benn or Duran, when their backs were to the wall and when they weren't expected to win and under the most pressure to do so, they were able to raise their game and dig deep inside themselves to achieve a level of performance they normally couldn't as some yanks would say they had that ability to perform in those clutch moments.

Then you have fighters who's mental strength allowed them to remain calm when things were not going their way. Froch is a good example of this, even when behind on the scorecards or struggling we've seen him overcome fighters like Groves and Taylor when needed to. A mentally weak fighter may have crumbled when realising they were losing the fight but those with mental strength won't allow that to effect their performance.

We've seen fighters have this mental focus and lose it and we see them decline because of it. Mike Tyson would be an example of this, with Cus and for a short period after he was driven like nobody else in the division and dominated but when his focus began to slip we saw his performances effected.

Then you have fighters that don't normally have that focus, but under certain circumstances found it like when Douglas beat Tyson. Tyson Fury is another fighter who showed this, we saw sloppy performances like the Cunningham fight but when he needed to focus and stick to a game plan against Chisora and Wlad we saw him at his best and most disciplined in the ring. That ability to raise their game when needed is what made the difference.
 

tommygun711

You don't have the capability for mayhem
Jun 4, 2013
13,466
4,773
Just in a general sense I would say adaptability, consistency, maintaining composure, and as others said having solid attributes across the board.

Also recuperative abilities.