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  • Ian Streetz

Alternative Boxing Stances 7. The Crouching Crab, Crab and Philly Shell

First of all let me apologise for perpetuating what appears to be a massive error in naming. Also A MASSIVE thankyou to Luis "Sinister" Monda for his brilliant technical analysis pieces that helped shed light on this somewhat confusing issue.

Normally I don't get involved in the semantics of boxing. Having been fortunate enough to have trained in many gyms over the years with many fantastic coaches I have heard the same or similar techniques called by many different names. Usually I'd rather focus on the technique than the title, however I wanted to write this post

a) because the evidence was compelling

b) because it allows an interesting examination of styles

c) it pays tribute to some under recongnised names in boxing history

So without further ado let us examine some styles and debunk the myth that Mayweather does the Philly Style.

The Philly Shell

In our last post we examined the Cross Arm Guard and Archie Moore's "Lock". As it turns out legendary trainer Eddie Futch was very fond of Archie Moore. Futch's stable consisted of such Boxing legends as Joe Frazier, Montell Griffin and Ken Norton. What we notice if we examine the guards of each of these fighters is that they all of demonstrate a variation of Moore's cross arm defence. It is perhaps Futch's fondness of Moore which led to this modification of his style that became known as the "Philly Style" or "Philly Shell".

"Smokin" Joe Frazier uses his Philly Shell to block Muhammad Ali's attack

Ken Norton uses his Philly Shell to guard Muhammad Ali's Right

Montell Griffin & James Toney square up interestingly both using the Philly Shell

Fellow Philadelphia trainer Georgie Benton has been described by brilliant boxing technical analyst Luis Monda as the father of the modern interpretation of the Philly Shell. Benton trained such fighters as Benny Briscoe, Pernell Whitaker, Mike McCallum and Evander Holyfield. Again we see similarities in their guards.

Benny Briscoe

Mike Mccallum defends against Roy Jones Jr's right hand

Benny Briscoe and Joe Frazier demonstrate what can be considered the true Philly Shell in that they demonstrate:

1. A more frontal approach.

2. A more aggressively facilitated stance.

3. Heavily reliant on ducking, rolling and bending at the waist.

If we consider these aspects as integral parts of the Philly Style, one thing becomes clearly apparent; that is the defence exhibited by Floyd Mayweather Jr is not in fact the Philly shell at all. If Floyd Mayweather Jr himself who is widely considered the face of the Philly Style doesn't even do the Philly Style then what the hell does he do, I hear you ask.

To find the answer to that question let's look at the earlier versions of this style of defence that date back to the beginning of the 20th century.

The Crouching Crab

The "Crouching Crab" is a style of defence that is accredited former Welterweight and Middleweight champion Tommy Ryan. Ryan taught this crouched posture to Jim Jefferies (vanquisher of Gus Ruhlin who demonstrates the Cross Arm Guard in our previous post). Jefferies used this style all the way to his successful bid to win the World Heavyweight Title.

Tommy Ryan (1870 - 1948)

Jim Jeffries (1875 - 1953)

It should be noted that as mentioned in a previous post exploring the "Blackburn Crouch", this crouched position was not so much considered a crouch at the time but more a standard position of the era. However it does appear crouched by modern standards. Thus as the bend in the knees began to decrease in time it became known simply as "The Crab".

The Crab

Fast forward slightly and moving to another area of the US, a trainer in Michigan named Dale Williams trains a fighter who continues to call his style of defence "The Crab" to this day. This man will in turn and go on to pass this style on to his son who will continue to adapt it and become the face of modern day boxing. That mans name Floyd Mayweather Sr, and his son - the one and only Floyd Mayweather Jr.

How this style moved from Philadelphia to Michigan is somewhat of a mystery however this stance illustrates a few fundamental differences to the Philly Style as we can see below.

1. Rather than bending at the waist and rolling with punches, Mayweather prefers to move side to side and lean back to make room for his counters.

2. Rather than moving his upper body to make angles, Mayweather waits for the opponent to do this then picks them off

3. Mayweather's foot position is more angled almost like a snow boarder, rather than the more forward pointing feet of the Philly Style

4. Mayweather adopts a more sideways upper body position than the more frontally focused Philly Shell demonstrated by the likes of Joe Frazier

5. The defence of Mayweather is more focused on "catch and counter" rather than the more offensively focused Philly Style

6. Very generally speaking the Philly lends itself well to powerful left hook counters while the crab with its more side on approach lends itself to lean back to right hand counters.

In the top picture we see the more frontal Joe Frazier vs the more side on Floyd Mayweather

The top pic shows one of the most famous hooks in Boxing where Joe Frazier floored Muhammad Ali in their first meeting. The bottom pic shows Mayweathers guard being used to perfection in pulling back against the attacking Juan Manuel Marquez

What the Philly Shell and The Crab DO share in common is a lowered lead hand. However upon closer inspection we find that this is strictly speaking actually one of the few similarities that they share. So it would appear that the face of the Philly Shell doesn't actually do the Philly Shell at all.

While there is no harm in calling Mayweather's style the Philly Shell, it's fascinating to examine the evolution and the minor differences between them. It's certainly a shame that some of the people responsible for this evolution have been forgotten by the pages of boxing history.

In the next post we will be examining one of the roughest and readiest styles in Boxing the "Saddler Style".

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