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Monday, November 14, 2022

The Importance of Pad Work

*Pat-pat-pat-pat* Floyd Mayweather's Grant gloves land with a unique mixture of speed and grace on the carefully placed Everlast mitts of his uncle Roger. A generation of aspiring boxers watch as Floyd throws nine punches in less than two seconds on HBO's hit show 24/7.

Origins and Popularization
The origins of pad work are murky. All roads lead to an unsourced Wikipedia article, but there are some verifiable moments of significance. The martial arts legend and actor Bruce Lee designed a focus mitt that looked something like a baseball catcher's glove. Hall of Fame coach Emanuel Steward brought pad work into vogue by initially wearing boxing gloves backwards and catching his charge's punches on the padded backside of the gloves.

But Mayweather's extravagant combinations on 24/7, intricately coordinated with his uncle, popularized pad work. Nowadays, one can find countless social media videos mimicking Mayweather's moves.

Bruce Lee's focus mitts

Styles of Pad Work
Some older trainers disapprove of pad work. Former WBA junior middleweight world champion Yuri Foreman states, "Russian trainers told me, 'Don't embrace the pads,' when I was young." A native of the Soviet Union, Foreman immigrated to Israel before moving to Brooklyn. "It messes up distance. Your perception of distance is very important in boxing."

Adam Hadad, a coach based in Israel, explains why older trainers might be against the exercise. "They often see that Mayweather style and think it’s not real boxing, and they're right. But real pad work is highly valuable and a more modern form of training, so it makes sense that the old guard doesn’t like it."

Shawn Sarembock, an 8-0 fighter with 8 KOs, says, "We use zero hand pads, but not by choice." His dad and trainer, Neil, was a champion kickboxer whose career was cut short due to injury. "It's just me and my dad and I don't want to rip his arms off," Shawn says. "But if I did pad work, I wouldn't do it in the Mayweather style, because I don't fight like that."

Former pro boxer turned coach, Tony Milch says, "I did a lot of pad work with [coach] Ian Burbedge when I was a pro." But he notes, "We didn't do speed pads- Mayweather style- ever." 

"The problem with modern pad work stems from Mayweather’s pad work during open workouts before fights," explains Coach Hadad, who counts Israeli amateur standouts David Bazov and Tomer Benny among his fighters "In front of the cameras Floyd and his uncle did the Mayweather style of pad work: continuous, light combinations with lots of flashy movements. What the Mayweathers did in front of the cameras was just for show."

According to Hadad, a coach- the late James Ricky Coward, known as Coach Rick- started a program called Mittology which taught coaches to hold the pads like Roger Mayweather to produce flashy combinations. Hadad says the videos portrayed this style "as if it were real work rather than fancy stuff for the cameras."

"This style, being visually appealing, proliferated in boxing training because it’s highly Instagramable," Hadad concludes.
Floyd Mayweather works the pads with his uncle Roger

David Alaverdian (6-0-1, 5 KOs), who works with Floyd Mayweather Sr., notes that the fancy Mayweather style of pad work has it's place but can't be the only method. "You gotta do the old school and new pad work style together. You can't just do the new one.

"The biggest problem with the new one is they don't use a lot of footwork," Alaverdian says. "They stand in place, and it's a lot of combinations. So if your opponent is just in front of you, you're going to unload some crazy nice-looking combinations. But what happens when somebody has really good footwork running around the ring? You can't do nothing. You can't even land your jab on this guy."

Hadad agrees that there is something to the Mayweather style, "There is some value to it in terms of building instincts and flow." Specifically about Floyd and his uncle, he expounds, "What most people didn’t contextualize was that that pad work was built over two decades. The original combinations and sequences were sharp and explosive."

The Benefits of Pad Work
Pad work can be used for a variety of reasons. Junior middleweight Tony Milch used pads when he was an active boxer "for sharpness and angles as I was a tall boxer for the weight."

Yuri Foreman says, "I like doing the pads now because it challenges my stamina."

"I find that with beginners, working with the pads allows me to shape their punches and stance faster," Coach Adam Hadad explains. "With advanced fighters, it’s a great tool for tuning counter punches, reactions, and timing. It allows me to push the fighters to have a higher punch rate, more accurate punches, and better overall flow, especially for counter punching."

"That's an advantage that I have over a lot of boxers here in the States," David Alaverdian says of using the old school method of pad work. "Some coaches won't do the basic old school 1-2, jab, jab, jab 1-2 on the pads. They would just do these combination drills all the time. [In a fight against their boxers] I just started running around the ring and using a lot of footwork, and they just can't do anything."

Emanuel Steward works the pads with Thomas Hearns

Alaverdian says both old and new styles of pad work are useful together. "You gotta do both. Because there's a time your opponent's going to move and a time when your opponent's going to stand and trade with you."

Final Thoughts

"As a retired boxer and coach I believe pad work, of course, has its place," says Milch, "but it's not the most important. Overall you do need pad work to keep sharp, but it's not needed as much as boxers or people think nowadays."

"I would do pad work like Abel Sanchez and Triple G [Gennady Golovkin]," says Shawn Sarembock, who, like Milch, believes shadowboxing and sparring are more useful. "Like Robert Garcia does or like Manny Robles."  Sanchez, Garcia, and Robles are all top-level coaches who move around and call for punches that more closely simulate a fight than does the newer style of pad work. 

"It’s hard to maintain focus and motivation with bag work and shadowboxing," Hadad notes. "Pad work is highly engaging and responsive, so it makes training more fun and dynamic."

Though pad work can be quite useful for an expert coach like Hadad, Milch rightly observes, "A lot of people can look good on pads but cannot fight at all."

The opinions of boxers and coaches on pad work are quite nuanced . Those interviewed agree in some areas on the subject and disagree in others. The Mayweather style of pad work may or may not have some value but all agree it shouldn't be a fighter's primary training method. Some see more value in using the pads than others. "Everyone's different," Yuri Foreman puts it aptly. "There's not one approach."

1 comment:

  1. The earliest use of pads I've heard of is of Charley Goldman using them with Rocky Marciano.