Putting Butter on the Grits

By Ted Sares on July 23, 2013
Putting Butter on the Grits
Doing the walk-in does not require anything more than being focused on the job ahead.

Avoid attempting to impress with feigned swagger. Fans see through the pretentious stuff faster than you can say “Adrien.” You either have it or you don’t…

Back in my Mississippi days in the early 1960s, Brookhaven and McComb to be precise, I learned how to serve grits by using butter, just a tad of black pepper, and sometimes red-eye gravy. I strived to get them just right—perfect if you will—because legend has it that a man full of grits is a man of peace—-and peace was what I was all about back then. Now transitioning that thought to boxing is admittedly a reach, but striving for perfection is the link, the common denominator.

In Boxing, like in most sports and even in most other endeavors, going into competition with a fine-tuned sharpness can often provide an ever-so-slight edge over the opposition. But how does a fighter go about honing that edge? Some do it the wrong way by using PEDs (aka performance enhancing drugs). However, there is any number of legitimate ways to get an edge. Some are tangible; others are not.

Getting the Edge

“While they sleep we get ready we train twice every day, six days day a week.”—Ann Wolfe

Avoid trash talk unless you are the recipient of same and then pick your spots carefully. The fans will appreciate this as was the case in the Golovkin vs. Macklin bout at Foxwoods in which both men acted like men. Ali could pull it off; James Toney cannot and never could.

The same goes for the weigh-in which feigned pushing and shoving is getting as old as Frans Botha. And while the occasional kiss ala Del Boy Chisora is bizarre enough to fall into the category of high camp, it too should be avoided at all costs. Danny Garcia’s dad, Angel, is funny, but his act is wearing thin because that’s just what it is, an act.

Another “it-goes-without-saying” tip is warming up, but this one is often taken for granted with disastrous results. Chad Dawson looked dry coming into his fight with Adonis Stevenson. Tim Witherspoon paid the price and lost his championship when James “Bonecrusher” Smith ambushed him in the first round in 1986, and so did Iran Barkley in 1990 when Nigel Benn came out of the chute fast and settled the dry Blade’s hash in one round. David Tua was especially adept at taking advantage of his opponents’ failure to properly warm up. A dry John Ruiz found this out in 19 seconds while and equally dry Michael Moorer had to wait and additional 11 seconds for his frightening sedation. Getting a sweat going in the locker room should be a must.

Wearing heavy neck chains into the ring and even a face mask are as nonsensical as long hair. None of this helps. Conversely, it can hinder. The edge comes by simply avoiding it and following the practice that comfort beats show just about every time unless, of course, your name is Bernard Hopkins.

And speaking of comfort, there is absolutely no need for long and fancy trunks that can hinder ventilation and movement. Oscar De La Hoya and Mike Tyson both wore short trunks during an era when many others did not. Sharmba Mitchell and the late Hector “Macho” Camacho wore trunks that while super comfortable, bordered on the obscene. Thankfully, the trend has moved back in a more sensible direction.

Stay focused; above all don’t watch any other fights on the card, particularly if you have a friend or fellow-stablemate fighting. Jerry Quarry watched his brother get knocked foot-twitchingly unconscious by Bob Foster before going in against Ali. That can’t help.

Doing the walk-in does not require anything more than being focused on the job ahead. Larry Holmes and the late Edwin Valero did this better than most and Tyson did it in a no-nonsense, Old School way as well. Dancing to some rap might serve to get one warmed up, but it can detract from what’s ahead. Moreover, it’s not as fan-friendly as one might suspect, as an important part of getting the edge is to avoid angering the fans, something Adrien Broner failed to do at the Barclay Center recently. Anthony Hembrick did an imbecilic walk-in against Booker T. Word in 1990 and even managed to turn off his fellow Army mates at Fort Bragg after which he was malefically mugged in one quick round.

A boxer has enough pressure before a fight. Why add more by dedicating the bout to someone or to some cause? Danny O’Connor dedicated a recent fight to Boston Strong and ended up failing to impress. So did Thomas Oosthuizen and Willie Nelson who dedicated their respective fights to Nelson Mandela and the three women kidnap victims in Cleveland. Both ended up in less-than-compelling efforts with controversial endings.

In the Ring

Once into the ring, it’s always prudent to give the referee a respectful—if not warm—greeting, but never an opponent. Also, testing the tightness of the ropes by leaning back against them Old School style leaves the impression that you know what you are about., not to mention that it’s a good idea.

Avoid attempting to impress with feigned swagger. Fans see through the pretentious stuff faster than you can say “Adrien.” You either have it or you don’t.; in this regard, it’s an intangible. Greg Haugen and Mike Tyson had it; Chris Byrd didn’t. Andre Ward doesn’t have it (and doesn’t need it); Paulie Malignaggi does and so do Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado. For them it comes naturally.

Chewing gum might relieve tension and exercise jaw muscles but it can also use up energy. The only thing that belongs in the mouth is some water and the mouthpiece.

During the instructions, don’t engage in a Tyson or Barkley-like staredown unless you know you can pull it off. Find a spot on your opponent’s forehead and focus on it with deadpanned eyes. Then, when the referee has completed his instructions, tap the other fighters gloves while simultaneously turning your back on him and dispense with any niceties. George Foreman wrote the book on how to do this. Seth Mitchell and Johnathon Banks followed suit in their recent match though their feigned antipathy sadly failed to transition into the fight itself.

When the bell rings signaling the end of a round, there is no need for a love tap such as what Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley strangely did before and after every round in their May 2011 bout. Save the love and hugs for after the fight.

After every close round, go back to your corner with confidence and even raise your hand or thump your heart to indicate that you are on top of things. Maybe it won’t impress the judges, but then again, maybe it will. Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado go back smiling. What’s not to like?

At the end of a close fight, assume you have won by immediately raising your hand and celebrating with your corner.

None of the aforementioned offers any guarantee, but if each and every one is followed, it’s a bit like writing—if all the “t’s” are crossed and the “i’s” are dotted, the “send” key can be pressed with some degree of confidence.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. Ted 05:39am, 08/05/2013

    Thanks Krush.

  2. The Krusher 04:53pm, 08/04/2013

    Happy birthday, Bull. Hope you have 76 more.

  3. Ted 06:52am, 08/04/2013

    Thanks Tex, old buddy. I had a great birthday in Quebec and am now heading for the links.

  4. Tex Hassler 07:12pm, 08/03/2013

    Happy birthday Mr. Sares. My horse is mucho tired so I cannot ride him from Texas to New Hampshire to see you. Besides hay is very high priced right now.  My horse said Happy Birthday Dr. Sares.

  5. Ted 05:38pm, 08/03/2013

    Why thank you. Kid.

  6. kid vegas 12:13pm, 08/03/2013

    Happy 76th birthday Ted the Bull. I hope you had a great time at Auberge Ripplecove, because God knows you have earned it.

  7. Ted 05:42pm, 07/25/2013

    Tex, that’s exactly why I was down there in Mississippi working to help with the voting rights issue as part of an internship (voluntary) in grad school at Loyola University Chicago. It was the scariest thing I have ever experienced and I have experienced some very scary things in my lifetime. I also had a football scholarship to Ole Miss back in the mid-50’s which I passed on but to this day, I wonder if I did the right thing by not taking it. Long story short, I came to love those grits, eggs, red eye gravy, biscuits, sausage, and peach cobbler with ice cream topped off by ice cold lemonade..

  8. Tex Hassler 05:27pm, 07/25/2013

    RACE - When I was a welder in South Louisiana I tried to teach an African American man to weld. This was in the 1960’s and some older, larger men threatened me and the African American. I wanted to help him get better pay but they did not want him to learn any thing. I had to back off, even though backing down is not something I usually do because I saw if I continued it would just get me and the African American hurt or killed. In college as a 19 year old I made a speech on the need for Civil Rights or if you want to give it another title, Equal Rights for every race. This college was in the South when something like that speech I made could get you in deeper trouble than you can ever imagine. I was a champion for Civil Rights when this was not only unpopular it was also dangerous. When I boxed for a time I trained in a gym where I was the only white man there. I never had a cross word with any one there.

  9. Ted 03:20pm, 07/24/2013

    GTC, That has become a part of Mexican boxing lore.

  10. George Thomas Clark 12:29pm, 07/24/2013

    Greg Haugen was, and no doubt still is, a bad ass.  But what I remember most is his deference when, after being stopped by Julio Cesar Chavez , Haugen was reminded by Chavez that most of his opponents weren’t just “Tijuana Taxi Drivers,” which Haugen had claimed.

  11. Ted 05:10am, 07/24/2013

    Irish, here is a true story about Greg:

    Before one of his fights with Vinny Paz, they were all in the publicity room with the commentators, etc. Vinny’s bodyguard, a big monster bodybuilder type was in there as well. Greg looked up at him without batting an eye and said, “who is the steroid monkey?” The guy went bonkers and had to be held back, while Greg just sat there and smiled and said “come on monkey,  bring it on.” As the guy was hustled out of the room, Greg quietly said, “don’t go freak, I’m not going anywhere. Come on, let’s do it.” He did this with a cold calmness that even impressed Vinny Paz. Greg defined swagger. Bad to the bone is right.

    The other thing is when I lived in Seoul, I remember Moon Song Kil coming into a restaurant. He too had a natural swagger that bespoke of what and who he was all about.

  12. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 06:53pm, 07/23/2013

    Ted Sares-I don’t know if I would call it swagger…..but I do know this…...Greg Haugen was bad to the bone….no pretense….none….. before, during, or after the fight.

  13. Ted 05:25pm, 07/23/2013

    Krusher, thanks for sharing ugh, but you are right, Broner’s walk-in was puke provoking. The kid is a moron.surrounded by morons and obviously advised by morons.

  14. Ted 05:23pm, 07/23/2013

    FightClubWriter , how very kind of you to say that. Thanks.

    EZ, Cotto would never stoop to that kind of garbage.

    Tex, yes, I felt it too. You sure didn’t need anything else to add to the pressure. It’s a very lonely and vulnerable feeling. Scary really.

  15. Ted 05:20pm, 07/23/2013

    Charlie. the same thing happened when Richie The Bull Melito faced Bert Cooper. Richie looked down at his feet and right there and then, we knew what was coming.

  16. EZ E 04:55pm, 07/23/2013

    UNCLE TEDDY, the guys have just about said it all, another great piece! I kind’a know a bit about the pre-fight/dessing room/behind the scenes goings on. I had the opportunity of being involved before and after, when the scenes of the fight game was pretty different, those of today. There was definitely more respect & less trash talk, no “extravagant/riduculous” ring walks resembling those of Broner/Cory Spinks. But these days it’s what promotes and what fans feed on, which in turn makes CENT$, like it or not. I remember a conversation with Evangelista Cotto, Miguel’s uncle and still trainer at the time. He told me that before the weigh-in of the Cotto vs Muhammad Abdullaev fight an HBO official asked him to try to convince his nephew to be more vocal, call out opponents and trash talk just a little bit. I’ve heard the same about the networks from other managers/trainers. We ‘old school’ folks like a bit a charisma too but still proudly respect the generally quiet ‘get right down to business’ fighters, always have &... ALWAYS WILL!!

  17. Tex Hassler 03:40pm, 07/23/2013

    The pressure in the dressing room before a fight is enough to totally destroy the confidence of some folks and the pressure is brutal. If you have not been there you do not know what I am talking about. The pressure before the fight is usually worse than the fight itself, at least that is my opinion. Fine article by a man who knows what he is talking about.

  18. FightClubWriter 01:54pm, 07/23/2013

    The opening paragraph is a thing of beauty. This is the kind of writing real boxing writers should strive for. Great job Ted, providing meaningful blueprints for fighters and writers to follow.

  19. The Krusher 01:51pm, 07/23/2013

    That Broner walk-in against Reese made me puke out yesterday’s Mexican dinner. Yaaaaaaaaaaaapppp!

  20. CharlieN 12:44pm, 07/23/2013

    Speaking with someone who was in Bruce Seldon’s camp for his fight VS. Mike Tyson. Bruce was psyched up. Fought in Prison and one of boxing’s big fisted men. During camp he said he was going to explode on Tyson. At the weigh-in, after the intros, they turned to face each other. Tyson simply said with that glaring look, “I am going to punish you.” Seldon said nothing in return. He looked down at his shoes. His cornermen and team all knew that he was a beaten man from that moment on. He was urged to say something back, but never did. Walking out of room, he went back to his room in hotel to be alone. Everyone knew the fight was already over for Seldon before it even started.

  21. Ted 12:28pm, 07/23/2013

    Thanks Pete. I didn’t see your post and appreciate the prop.

  22. dollarbond 09:54am, 07/23/2013

    I guess you like to golf, eh?

  23. Ted 09:50am, 07/23/2013

    Dollar, I am. I wrote this one a long time ago and didn’t think it would be posted. I was amazed when I saw it up here today so I’m going to nurse the thread a bit with the posters, if any.

    But I will be on a long vacation in Quebec and plan to golf, golf, golf, and then golf some more.

  24. Ted 09:45am, 07/23/2013

    Very scary indeed, Kid. But very rewarding in certain ways.

  25. kid vegas 09:28am, 07/23/2013

    Those were scary times, eh Bull? The Mississippi ones I mean.

  26. dollarbond 09:27am, 07/23/2013

    I thought you were taking a break from writing.

  27. Don from Prov 09:09am, 07/23/2013

    I’m glad that Mr. Torsney pointed out so many strengths in your piece—
    Especially glad that he mentioned the stare-down clip, which I had not looked at.  Well, now I have and I must say that Tyson’s, IMO, was far and away the most unnerving, and best, of the bunch.  Honorable mentions have to go to Rios whose every nuance simply says, “Let’s fight” (It could even be seen as a friendly suggestion as Rios obviously regards fighting as a basic interaction) and Hopkins who in the face of Jones Jr. jawing seems like he might yawn.

  28. Pete The Sneak 09:04am, 07/23/2013

    Great read Toro…Victor Ortiz should have taken such sage advice when he fought FMJ…Today it’s all about self promotion, though there have been a couple of recent fighters whose flash, overdone ring entrances and such have not affected their main focus before during and after fights, Prince Naseem is one that comes to mind. Heck, even Adrien (I eat $20.00 and crap out $10.00 bucks change) Broner will continue to overcook his Grits up to and after fights until someone knocks the shit out of him (no pun intended), which I think is not too far off…Youngsters and up and comers reading this article, take note…Peace.

  29. Ted 08:52am, 07/23/2013

    Thanks Rich. Coming from you, that means one helleva lot to me.

    And thanks to you Prov. I played with the title quite a bit and finally settled on a Blues tune sung by Big Bill Morganfield that’s hot right now. Big Bill is Muddy Watters’s son. The title is “My Grits Need some Butter.”

  30. Rich Torsney 08:46am, 07/23/2013

    Ted, this article is indicative of why I respect your boxing acumen so much. I think I know somethings about the fight game.  Actually, I’m confident I know somethings about it.  I don’t mean just rules and who’s where in the standings (Truthfully, I don’t know who’s where in the standings, too many orgs. to keep track of.) I mean the culture, subtleties and nuances of the sport. Not to act elitist but it’s embarrassing when speaking with most observers because they don’t know what the heck they’re talking about.  Every subtlety and nuance you mentioned in this article is spot on. The fact that I can relate to it builds my confidence that I know the sport. That fact that I could not have articulated it as you did keeps me humble in knowing there are plenty other guys out other that know much more than me. Bottom line is, today, after reading this, I’m more knowledgeable about the sport of boxing than I was yesterday. And that puts a smile on my face. Oh ya, the UFC-MMA-Boxing stare-down video is one of the most compelling two minute videos I’ve ever seen. Whew, my heart’s pumping.

  31. Don from Prov 08:39am, 07/23/2013

    P.S.  You even nailed the title on this one

  32. Ted 08:27am, 07/23/2013

    Thanks very much Prov. Yes, that one is very debatable. I totally agree.

  33. Don from Prov 08:19am, 07/23/2013

    I love this one.  “Cut out all the frills and silliness: The FIGHT is what’s supposed to sell.  I didn’t agree with the chest thumping at the end of rounds or the pre-decision celebration in a close fight—but the latter might be the result of seeing too many fights when one boxer did NOTHING to assert himself for ten or twelve rounds—has been completely out of the match—and then jumps into the arms of his joyous trainer for a stroll around the ring.  Great Tyson pic and I love the Ruiz close-up.




  34. Ted 08:00am, 07/23/2013

    Thanks Mike. Much appreciated.

  35. Mike Casey 05:28am, 07/23/2013

    Not just an excellent article, Ted, but a meaningful essay with substance. Good, sound advice for any pro.

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