Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Body Snatchers

Michael Nelson takes a look at the best in the business at working the body.

"Body shot!" screamed a gleeful Nate Campbell, immediately after catching Almazbek Raiymkulov with an uppercut to the solar plexus as Raiymkulov was lunging in.

Almazbek, otherwise known as Kid Diamond, draped his arms around Campbell. After referee Brian Garry separated the two combatants, Kid Diamond turned his back on Campbell as if looking for a way out the ring. Upon being told to turn around, the normally aggressive Raiymkulov was chased around the ring for several seconds before the HBO commentators started postulating on what was wrong with him.

Unnoticed by most of the observers watching the bout, the sneaky shot to the body in the 5th round silently turned a boxing clinic into a frightening beating. Kid Diamond was knocked down twice before the bell sounded to end the 5th, and was tormented throughout the remainder of the fight before it was finally stopped on another body shot with 45 seconds left in the final round.

It's a story familiar to the game's elite body punchers. To them, body punching isn't simply an investment for the later rounds that may or may not pay dividends. A well placed body punch can instantly change a fight, if not end it outright. Despite the numerous idioms, ('kill the body, the head will follow'), body punching is an understated art form, and describes one of the more difficult styles for an opponent to overcome.

In no particular order, here is a list of fighters who have mastered the ability to knock the air out of his challenger:

Nate Campbell (pictured left against Ali Funeka) – Among the most prolific body punchers in the game, Campbell's Valentine's Day bout against Funeka was slipping away from him going into the 10th round. The momentum was securely with Funeka and Nate looked as if he had nothing left in between rounds.

But, a rededicated body attack slowed down the surging Funeka enough to land a looping right hand to the temple in the 11th and drop him. Ultimately, Campbell's rally in the championship rounds saved him the fight, and perhaps his career.

Although a hook to the liver is generally the most effective body punch a fighter can possess, Campbell's slashing right hands to the left lumbar and right uppercuts to the sternum are just as jolting as his left hooks.

(photo © Scott Foster)

Antonio Margarito – Yes, there are those who believe speculation that Margarito has been loading his gloves throughout his career should preclude him from any 'best of' list. But until further evidence comes to light on what exactly was on those wraps, and what he used in previous bouts, I'm not subscribing to such theories. As it stands, Antonio is a phenomenal body puncher.

I've never seen a Margarito fight in which he wasn't consistent in his dedication towards breaking his opponent down to the body. That's something I can't say about any other fighter on this list. Expertly using his long arms to snap left hooks around his foe's elbows, he mixes in uppercuts to the middle of the abdomen to create a varied and devastating attack.

Miguel Cotto – Cotto has the most potent left hook to the liver in boxing today, bar none. The list of opponents he has effectively taken out with a single body shot is staggering. The amount he throws, however, has diminished as the level of his competition increased within the welterweight division. His neglect of body work proved to be a vital error in his TKO loss to Antonio Margarito last summer.

Shane Mosley – The vitriolic nature of Mosley's body work when he was a lightweight cannot be overstated. His bullheaded efforts towards destroying a man's midsection were notorious in both the ring and the gym. And he was powerful enough to not only end a fight with one punch, but hurt opponents with six inch punches to the ribs while inside a clinch.

Simply put, Mosley was the best body puncher I've ever seen.

But as he moved up in weight to fight bigger men, he became more easily discouraged from attacking the body. Before his bout with Ricardo Mayorga last year, many thought he would follow the blueprint that Felix Trinidad, who hurt Mayorga every time he went to the body, laid before him. Curiously, his body attack against Ricardo was nowhere to be found.

Mosley reinstated himself as perhaps the best in boxing with his 9 round destruction of Antonio Margarito last month. Using his quickness to sting Margarito with hard counter punches to the abdomen, and his strength to muscle Margarito to the ropes and blast him downstairs, Mosley showed that with a renewed confidence in his body attack, nobody his size should be a prohibitive favorite over him.

Ricky Hatton – Hatton's style is unique. Using underrated speed of foot, he darts in between his opponent's punches to get inside. He then grapples with him, using his strength to push him into a position that leaves his liver exposed for a left hook. Jose Luis Castillo caught wind of this maneuver the hard way, receiving a liver shot that put an end to his career as a six figure pugilist. Hatton remains the only person to put the iron-willed Castillo down for the ten count.

Hatton's thudding shots beneath the rib cage should make Manny Pacquiao nervous. It will be fascinating to see how Pacquiao deals with them.

Other body punch specialists include Israel Vasquez, Juan Urango, Juan Diaz, Alfredo Angulo, Chad Dawson, and Robert Guerrero.

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JRH said...

In my opinion, the left hook to the liver is the most devastating punch in boxing. It's also my favorite to watch. It's as if the offensive fighter is reaching into his opponent and ripping his soul out. It's that dramatic and cinematic.

Micky Ward was absent from your list, though. He had a great one. I remember he said something along the lines of wanting his left hand to protrude from his opponent's left armpit. That's just sick.

Juan Diaz is also a very good body puncher, though I hope Marquez wins the fight.

Great blog, great work.


Michael Nelson said...

Much appreciated.

The reason I didn't include Micky Ward is because he's retired. But he definitely had one of the best left hooks to the liver ever. Who can forget him losing every minute of every round to Alfonso Sanchez before taking him out with a single body shot?