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Why Is Boxing Called The Sweet Science?

Boxing is one of the oldest and most popular fighting styles globally. At first, seeing two people beating each other in the ring may look brutal and even simple in the eyes of ordinary people. But we can all throw a punch in the end, right? Still, boxing is much more, and there is a reason why it is often called “Sweet Science”.

Analysts, coaches, and fighters use the term “Sweet Science” to describe how complex boxing is. Even though fighters use “just” their hands to fight, knowing how to box properly requires more. Boxers must be tactical, think three steps in advance, and be very technical during the fight. From the way they train, eat, move, punch, and read the opponent, all about the scientific approach in boxing.

Outsiders usually see boxing as a sport that involves two people beating the crap out of each other, but to fans, we know that it is much more than that. It requires the fighters to analyse their opponent, to watch for sure “tells” that show when their opponent is making a move. Then, the fighters use the “sweet science” to take them down and ultimately win.

But why is boxing called the sweet science? It is called the sweet science because it requires the fighters to be fierce, tactical, and have a certain amount of anticipation for their opponents’ next move. It takes logic and science to create an environment where it’s all possible.

One has to spend many years training or following the sport to understand what is happening inside the ring truly. It is more than two people beating and trying to knock each other with punches.

When a person experiences a strong enough impact to cause traumatic brain injury (TBI), such as a concussion, their arms often go into an unnatural position. This position — forearms extended or flexed, usually in the air — follows the impact and is known as the fencing response position.

Gyaku-zuki (reverse punch) is one of the basic punches. It is more powerful than Oi-zuki since the backhand is used to punch rather than the lead hand. ... Ensure the leading hand is in front and on the same side as the leading leg. Also, check that your punching hand is nested against your hip.


Gravity and Air Resistance are just some of the forces acting upon a punch. When a Punch is Thrown, it has to be strong enough to overcome air resistance and gravity. But without gravity, when the boxer throws a punch, the hitman would never stop moving.


Which event packs a higher G-force punch — a sneeze or a shuttle launch? Surprisingly, they ring around the same, at about three gravities (Gs). However, at the other end of the spectrum is the football tackle, which ranges from about 20 to 180 Gs.


Ngannou holds the record for the hardest punch ever landed at 129,161 units, with Dana White putting that figure into real-life situations. “His punches are equivalent to 96 horsepower.


Where Did The Term “Sweet Science” Come From?

The origins of the term “Sweet Science” go back to the 19th century. Back in those days, the sport of boxing started to evolve and change at a high rate, with fighters coming to be more technical and strategic inside the ring.

Being violent and super aggressive wasn’t a thing any longer, and a man who spotted this change was the sports journalist Pierce Egan. He used the term “science” to describe boxing as a sport where fighters use tactics and strategies to win a match.

This may sound wrong because, when you think about 19th-century boxing, most people think about bare-knuckle slugfests and beating each other to death. Yet, this couldn’t be further from the truth because, at the time, boxing was already advanced.

Fighters used techniques like footwork, dodging and slipping punches, and various other techniques and skills present in modern-day boxing.

Daniel Mendoza’s legend was one of the first boxers who showed the world how tactical wins fights. In the late 1700s, Mendoza was a fighter with a unique set of skills.

He used footwork to create angles and dodge strikes to deliver precise counters and was often two steps ahead of his opponents. In some way, he set an outline for what would later become known as the “Sweet Science” of boxing.

Best Examples Of The Sweet Science In Modern Boxing

The term “sweet science” is more than present in modern boxing. In this day and age, just about every boxer has to be strategic and use tactics inside the ring. So it doesn’t even matter if they are the most violent brawlers; they need a bit of science in their game to succeed.

You can’t survive or expect to go far in boxing without being strategic, no matter how gifted you are. So here are some fighters whose fighting style is an excellent example of sweet science.

Muhammad Ali — often seen as the greatest boxer of all time and perhaps the ideal example of the sweet science. First, he would use mental tactics to bully his opponents and make them angry. Then, he would utilise footwork and head movement to perfection on fight night to avoid shots and deliver fast and precise counters. Finally, in most cases, he would drag his opponents into the deep waters, tire them out, and finish with precise combos.

Floyd Mayweather — is, without a doubt, the best defensive boxer of all times. Each step he makes and punches he throws is well calculated inside the ring. He would spend the opening rounds being patient and like a computer, gathering data and analysing his opponents. Then, once he sees all the holes, tendencies, and weaknesses, he would start attacking from all angles, mixing his punches high and low all the time.

The Physics Of Boxing

Boxing has a recipe for success, and the ingredients include technique, timing and accuracy. With the right technique and timing, you can maximise the force you transfer to your opponent. And you can do the most damage with a powerful punch to the right location and buy yourself extra precious seconds while your opponent recovers.


The power behind a punch depends more on proper technique than muscle strength. It boils down to how much force you can build and how fast you can apply it. You want to add angular and linear momentum to your throws to maximise force.

Keep the legs bent

Another boxing technique is utilising your legs. Bending your legs keeps your centre of mass low to the ground, making it easier for you to keep your balance when giving and receiving blows. You can also extend your legs as you punch up at an opponent, adding momentum to your explosive delivery. Or you can bend your legs as you punch down toward an opponent, increasing momentum in your fist’s direction of motion.

This last point relates to the important tip of using gravity to your advantage whenever possible. Earth’s gravitational force is always pushing you down, so let it help you push your opponent down in the ring. Either deliver your punches at a downward angle, or if punching up, follow a u-shaped path with your fist, swooping downward first to add speed behind your blow, always remembering to keep your legs slightly bent and rotate with the swing.

Now, it would be nice if your opponent just stood there like a mindless scarecrow, but he’ll probably prance around. So, therefore, timing is everything! If possible, let your opponent help you deliver him a more powerful punch by waiting until he’s moving toward you. If, for example, you’re going for his face, the overall velocity and subsequent force that the face feels is greater if it’s moving toward your fist as you make contact than if it’s stationary or moving away from you.

Punching and Getting Punched

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 Even in boxing, physics can be seen in all aspects of the game. First, however, we will be looking at how physics can help a boxer throw a punch and take a hit to the face!

Starting the Punch

When the fighter has his hands in their initial “ready” positions, his fists have potential energy from muscles and various bodily functions. As soon as the boxer moves his shoulders, arms, and eventually fists, their potential energy is converted into kinetic energy. 

Contact with the Face and Aftermath

The fist has its maximum velocity when it hits something. This collision causes the fist to slow down, and eventually, when the fighter begins applying a force to retract his arm, the fist stops and returns to the fighter. 

During contact, the boxer taking the hit would experience the same impulse whether their head moves towards the punch or away from it. It is important to understand that this doesn’t mean that the boxer would feel the same impulse if they moved towards the punch before the fist made contact with their face. It must be after contact is made. Even though the impulse, or change in momentum, the experience would be the same for both cases. Moving the head away from the punch increases the time interval in which the “damage” occurs, meaning the force experienced from taking the punch will be reduced. Since it only takes a boxer a fraction of a second to throw a punch, a small reduction in the time interval can produce large results. 

            As you can see, the simple basic punching in boxing involves many physics concepts. By knowing these concepts, the boxers can know what aspects of their offence and defensive abilities need training, and we can have a more scientific approach to the sport.

Types Of Power Punches

Many times people use common words to describe punching power in boxing: Things like “explosive”, “heavy hands”, “sharp”, and so on. Physics can explain all those. There are two kinds of striking power.

The Sharp Punch

Force is Mass times Acceleration (F=ma). Force is measured in “Newton” units. You can test and put values on different objects. For example, this is how much force something can take before it breaks, as in the case of boards or bones. 

This is shattering, explosive power, to speak figuratively. It causes pain and brings incapacitation through tissue irritation damage. This is typically the fast hand speed type of impact. Like a whip, it strikes out and lashes quickly. Max force can last only one-millionth of a second, for example, and it is the peak of the curve which brings out to the next aspect...

The Heavy Punch

Impulse is Force times Time (J=Ft). The unit for both Impulse and Momentum is “Newton Second” Force in real life. Its curve is especially related to punch: it flows and at the peak of the curve is the “Force”. It’s the total amount of force that flows, not just the tiny, instantaneous fraction of a second (the surface area under the integral curve). In essence, the more impulse the punch produces, the faster the object will be moved. The impulse causes a change of momentum. Momentum is Mass times Velocity (p=mv). 

The more momentum, the faster and farther the object will be moved. If connecting with the head, it can bring about a knockout because the brain shifts inside the skull when the head moves. It unbalances the object or opponent because of the movement incurred. Although it is not a push, this type can also be called a “push” strike. Literal push has a flat line on the force curve, but a punch that pushes back a torso or a head moves like a wave. A heavy punch is like being hit by a telephone pole: it does not flex, transmitting a huge wave of force. Stiff and slow perhaps, but packing a wallop.

What Happens When You’re Knocked Unconscious?

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You’ve seen it on television — a character on a show or a professional athlete on the field receives a sharp blow to the head and crumples on the ground, completely unconscious. A knockout blow is a traumatic brain injury or concussion, but not every concussion means a loss of consciousness.

So what causes a knockout? Concussions, and lots of them. While it often seems as though a single well-placed shot causes the effect, it is usually the result of many quick punches. Each punch creates a concussion (technically defined as any head injury that disrupts neurological function), and each concussion brings the boxer closer to a state of darkness.

Here’s how it happens: The body contains dissolved sodium, potassium and calcium, collectively known as electrolytes, responsible for conducting impulses along neurons. Every time a fighter receives a blow to a nerve, potassium leaves the cell, and calcium rushes in, destabilising the electrolyte balance, while the brain does all it can to keep these levels in balance. With each successive blow, this balance becomes harder and harder to maintain, and more and more energy must be spent in the process. Finally, when the body reaches the point where the damage outweighs the body’s ability to repair itself, the brain shuts down to conserve enough energy to fix the injured neurons at a later point.

“After a brain injury, the heart must supply sufficient blood flow for the brain to repair itself. If the demand outweighs the supply, the brain then shuts down and leads to an eventual loss of consciousness.”

Surprisingly, the boxer’s feet are often the first clear signal that he is on the verge of being knocked out. This is because when the neural networks that emanate from the cerebellum (the part of the brain responsible for coordinating motor activity) are disrupted by a concussion, a fighter loses his ability to coordinate foot movements.

“They become flat-footed, which is the inability to adjust. Boxers can’t move forward or backward quickly,” Alessi says. “As you watch their feet, you realise that the same lack of coordination is going on in their upper extremities in their hands. And eventually, they are unable to defend themselves.”

Once their feet start to go, they are often just a single punch away from a knockout.

What Is The Difference Between Being Knocked Out And Suffering A Concussion?

They’re related, but not the same. For example, people used to think that you didn’t have to worry about being concussed if you didn’t lose consciousness. However, thanks to further research into concussions, we now know that, in about 90 per cent of diagnosed concussions, there is no loss of consciousness.

During any severe blow to the head, the same thing happens. The brain twists, the circuits break, and the damage sends the brain into crisis. But different parts of the brain can be affected. For example, concussions typically cause vision problems, disorientation, memory loss, headaches, balance issues, and a host of other ailments as the circuits that undergird these functions go down. But as long as the part of the brain responsible for consciousness is minimally affected, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be knocked out.

What Are The Long Term Effects Of Being Knocked Unconscious?

It depends on the severity of the injury. For example, if you lose consciousness briefly and suffer a concussion, 75 to 90 per cent of people will fully recover in a few months. But severe damage to the brain can cause unconsciousness for days, weeks, or even longer. If there is internal bleeding or swelling in the brain, surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure on the brain. Severe injuries can also cause lasting effects that vary — including memory loss, paralysis, seizures, and lasting behavioural or cognitive changes — depending on the areas of the brain affected. But in those cases, unconsciousness is a symptom of the injury, not a cause of long term deficits.


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