Saturday night saw two local light-middleweight rivals, Sam Sheedy and Nav Mansouri, thrash out a thrilling battle to what might become the British boxing fight of the year.
The English title fight was absorbing and action packed from the very first round, contested at a very high tempo that was maintained until the final bell.
Delivering fast combinations, solid defence and forceful counter-punching, ‘Speedy’ seemed to be the dominant fighter for the majority of the fight. However, the majority of fans at the Magna Centre were shocked to hear the announcer reveal a split decision in favour of the defending champion Mansouri.
When inconclusive contests occur, the sport depends on the perceptions of the judges that sometimes will differ from other people’s opinions. This is the sport we work in, and credit to Sam who took the loss as a champion and vows to bounce back.
Fitter, Faster, Stronger
Here we will breakdown how sport science helped Sam to improved aerobic capacity, a 29% increase in force production and 2 kg increase in lean muscle mass.
Sam joined the program with a good base for aerobic fitness due to a large training history of boxing and running conditioning. He had to be fit to be able to fight for 8 to 10 rounds. However, we needed to improve his ability to sustain high intensity bouts of activity.
We achieved this through different modes of high intensity interval training, from long duration intervals (2-4 minutes) to intervals as short as 10-20 seconds. During the shorter work, the rest was dependant on the type of cardio-vascular adaptation, short rests (1:1 ratio) were for central (cardio, vascular, increase capillaries) and longer rests (1-4 minutes) peripheral adaptations (improve neuromuscular and oxidative enzyme function).
Although we instil the importance of HIIT in our boxers, we appreciate that sparring is the most important part of a boxers preparation for competition. This builds the physical, psychological, technical and tactical abilities needed prior to a fight, so we needed to ensure Sam was fresh to get the most out of his sparring.
Therefore, we integrated simulated altitude training using the power breath system at Sheffield Hallam University. The reduction in oxygen percentage increases the strain on the cardiovascular system, limiting the speeds that the athlete can perform at therefore external loads are reduced. The reduction in external loads helped Sam feel fresh for sparring whilst still reaping the benefits of a tough workout.
Results: Improved 1 level of 30-15 test, only 2 levels behind world level boxers. The 30-15 test is a treadmill protocol similar to the Yo-Yo test we use in field testing. Significantly lower heart rates (10 bpm) shows improved cardiac function which is related to aerobic capacity. The graph below shows this (pre-camp = blue line; post-camp = red line).
Impact: Increased ability to perform at high intensities and lower internal loads reduce cumulative fatigue.
Sheedy certainly shows his speed in the ring, we aim to improve this in the weight room too through explosive and dynamic exercises.
During testing before training camp, Sam’s squat jump matched his countermovement jump. This indicated that Sam was faster than he was strong, unable to control eccentric movements to convert into explosive actions.
First camp we developed the movement patterns for Sam, now it was time to start loading him to get stronger eccentrically, but this didn’t mean just weights. Our main lifts were Romanian deadlifts and front squats, but this was associated with DB loaded and altitude (falling from box) countermovement jumps. These jumps are designed to increase the load of the eccentric action and create a powerful pre-stretch, a little bit like a catapult.
Results: 23% and 29% improvements in squat jump and counter-movement jump height.
Impact: Increased dynamic strength of the lower body contributing to increased punch force.
On the Combat Conditioning program, we emphasise the importance of strength and effective mass. This is walking into the ring with the best body composition possible for your weight. This means relatively large fat free mass, skeletal muscle mass and lean mass of the trunk as these have positive effects on estimated punching force and acute weight loss strategies.
We focussed on building strength in the legs, and increase mass of the upper body and trunk. This meant slightly more repetitions and sets on exercises such as weighted pull ups, TRX row and pushing exercises. As the fight got closer, we reduced rep ranges and increased the intensity through external load.
Result: Sam improved relative lean core mass by 17%. This was also accompanied with a 8.1% reduction in body fat and 2 kg gained in lean body mass. Also improved upper body pulling and pushing strength by 30 and 40%, respectively.
Impact: Sam was able to safely reduce more water and glycogen stores as an acute pre-weigh in strategy so he was bigger at the weight. This also meant he was able to refuel more effectively.
Increased mass of the trunk plays a huge role in rotation during a punch and stiffening on impact, resulting in faster shots with more sting.
The hard work, commitment and emotion that Sam put into training was second to none, it paid off in the ring but unfortunately wasn’t rewarded with what he deserved.
I have thoroughly enjoyed training with Sam so far, and looking forward to future success, especially with his hard work, commitment and the great team around him with Glyn Rhodes MBE, SBC Unit and AJ Hobson.