T Nation

Question from an Ignorant Fan


The Boxing Thread III made me think of this but I didn't want to get it off topic.

What physiological attributes grant a fighter a good chin/resistance. Alot of people say it is the strength and thickness of the neck muscles that keep the head from snapping back, and there are plenty examples that come to mind like George Chuvalo or David Tua who fit this description and of course were tough as nails.

As a counterexample though other fighters with good chins aren't built that way. Antonio Tarver, for example, has a pretty solid chin but has a relatively slender physique. Margarito also is not exceptionally muscular but of course his resistance is superhuman. Then you have Wladimir Klitschko who is very strongly built but is notorious for having a vulnerable chin.

I was thinking the thickness of the bones in the skull and jaw might be a factor, or possibly the configuration of a person's nerve endings in their jaw.

I'd be interested in what some of the experienced fighters here think. Just read the title, I'm no expert, lol


look into what causes knockouts and you can find what makes people resistant to them (which will basically be the opposite of the cause)

basically interruption of brain signals, rarely is it a once time thing it took several interruptions to cause a short circuit/reboot (aka a knockout)

imo it has to do with

1- Balance. Someone with good proprioreception that can recover their inner ear balance quickly (the shaking of liquid in their cochlea, iirc) will be more KO resistant. It's pretty easy to tell... have them stand on one foot and close their eyes most people just fall the fuck over.

In wrestling we did more specific drills like blind fold you make you hold your breath, spin you around 30x then take off your blind fold and make you wrestle opponents back 2 back till you recovered your senses. I'm sure everyone's born with a certain affinity for it but i think it can be developed to a point.

2- the ability to absorb force. musculature, vertebrae health, perhaps thickness of bones, maybe the space between their brain and skull (when you get hit your brain knocks against the skull which causes bruising/concussions).

3- Technique. Learning to "roll" with punches rather than bracing and attempting to absorb force in an inefficient manner.

4- The immaterial... most knockouts really aren't from getting hit SUPER hard. You'd have to generate a tremendous amount of force to do that against someone expecting a stike... it's possible but more unlikely than people assume. Most knockouts are from the strike you didn't see coming. Or at least you weren't prepared to receive. Which is why SUPER basic things like Jab-Low kick work so well.

It's just natural that ifyou're worried about the top your bottom relaxes, receives a strike you weren't prepared for and it seems more vicious than it would have been if you were ready for it.

this is completely made up by me but...

5- nerve signals. imo, if you're constantly slowing your nerve signals down via drinking, drug use, etc. then you potentially are cutting off your ability to 'reboot' if you do get hit you can't recover as fast because your brain signals aren't used to their recovery pathways. It's like numbing yourself to brain signals. Things like reading, strategy games, etc all would enhance your ability to have neurons firing right.


You're born with it. Can't fix it, can't help it.


Very interesting. Thanks for the info.


Leben has been in to get a cat-scan, I guess a certain part of his skull was like an inch thicker than normal. He also says that even though he does take a bunch of shots, they typically are hitting on his forehead or the side of his head rather than directly to his chin which helps (except for Anderson Silva who connected repeatedly with his chin.)

I've got a pretty weak ass chin, I've been flash ko'd with sixteens (I was sparring with a pretty heavy hitter, but still, any game plan of mine begins and ends with getting the fight to the ground...four ounce mitts=game over slimjim)


by the way, not ignorant at all it's a really really good question. I don't know if anyone has a definitive answer.

and slimjims pic of alicia sacramone warms my heart everytime i see it.


can play a big part. and somehow the folk lore of being more susceptible to the same kind of KO or injury


I'm in the camp that it can not be trained. What can be trained, however, is proper head movement and defense that makes those big shots look deceiving. Mark Hunt is acclaimed for his monster chin, but one thing that he is exceptional at is always tucking chin and absorbing shots around his periphery and not taking full on jaw melters.


LOL. Funny as hell.

I've taken some heavy shots before... never been close to KO'd. I've got a thick neck for someone my size though, so maybe that has something to do with it.

The closest I've ever been to being knocked out was not from boxing, but actually from football. The hardest hit I ever laid on a guy, and I was seeing double for a bit after. Even then, however, the lights never went out.


Very good answers, so far.

What protects against a KO?

-the ability of the upper trapecius and sternocleidomastoideus to absorb the blow
-to a very slight degree, the ability of the other muscles next in the hierarchy to withstand the blow (mainly back and core)
-the sheer size and mass of the head
-the bone density of the skull
-the mass of the upper body
-the CNS' ability to react against the shock and quickly "reboot" itself
-the "nerves" and tenacity to not be psychologically KOd at the same time. This is even more important for light KOs which mainly result in Knockdowns. The shock and fear you experience when you go down, the loss of control lets some guys freak out. This of course a vicious circle that leads to even more loss of stamina, coordination and courage.
-for the near KO: the ability to cope with the new situation fast. This is mainly tactical. Watch Fedor being rocked by Fujita. Fedor even still stumbled after being announced a winner, but he still won because he could cope with his shaken body.
-on top of that a whole lot of various skillsets that were already mentioned by Xen will help you (balance, anticipation, defense ...).

I feel that you could potentially do a lot to help your chin a little, but even that is hardly doable and often neglected.
Also, a weak chin can never be turned into one of steel.


During a college rugby game I went into a Ruck (trying to push the opposing team off the grounded ball so my side could get possession)and another player ran into me full speed in such a way that the top of his head smashed into my left temple. I remember getting knocked on my ass and being unable to see or hear anything (oddly though the entire time I was aware of what was going on). I'm not not sure how long I was down but when I got up the teams had moved 20 or so yards away, but I was able to finish the game.

The next day I looked like I had an orange growing out of the side of my head.


some random thoughts...

*supple muscle fascia in the neck region might absorb force better too so maybe lettin your chick rub your neck is a good thing

"hey baby you don't want to see me get knocked out do you?"

*Leg strength/coordination. A lot of times when you see someone get rocked, you can't notice in their legs WAY before you notice it anywhere else because it's a longer journey for your nerve signals (i know i'm butchering whatever scientific lingo describes this shit). So perhaps increased leg strength and coordination (agility drills/ladder drills?) would aid in this. Or maybe just more footwork drills specific to your sport so that even when you're body's trying to recoup the nervous pathways for the movements you're trying to recreate are easy...


Great questions, great responses!

There is an interesting notion of over all pliability. Meaning if the person has an overall elevated level of flexibility, his body may have a greater resiliency against succumbing to the shock that Xen mentioned earlier.

In all my years of training, I can count the number of times that I've gone out on one hand. Its not that I'm billy bad ass, or have a hard chin, I think that it has to be due to being able to absorb the shock. The worst knock out came as a result of a kali stick landing directly behind my right ear during a Dog Brother event, nothing you can do about that.


I think you're stretching it there amigo.

I've seen a lot of boxers get KO'd, and the first place you see it is in their legs. That's not voluntary, in the same way that seeing double or losing your hearing (that's happened to me) happens.

I don't know that any type of drill is going to stop your legs from folding up on you. Would it help in getting up after you get knocked down? Yes. See Pavlik-Taylor I in the second round.

But when you're KO'd? Don't think so.


Amir Khan searching for remedy after refusing to take defeat on the chin

boxer can do a hundred abdominal crunches, a thousand press-ups and dance with a skipping rope all day. He can learn the art of attack and defence. But one question, particularly pertinent to Amir Khan, continues to vex even the wisest boxing brains (and that is not an oxymoron) - can anything be done about a glass chin?

�??If we knew the answer, that would be like solving the biggest mystery in the history of all boxing,�?? Emanuel Steward, one of the sport's premier trainers, once said. Angelo Dundee, who guided the great Muhammad Ali, sees no great mystery. �??You can't train a chin,�?? he said, simply.

Yet that is what Khan, 21, will be attempting under the tutelage of Freddie Roach at his Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles when the young Briton heads west next week to rebuild his career. The trainer is devising a series of exercises, based on martial arts techniques, to �??deaden the nerves on the jaw�??, or at least try to condition them so that one big blow does not again leave Khan resembling a puppet cut loose from its strings. �??Is it sound? I'm not sure,�?? Roach said. �??But we've learnt some Thai techniques working with Manny Pacquiao [the Filipino world lightweight champion]. He was suffering with blows to his body, so, using martial arts, he got us to hit him with a stick.

�??I'm not saying we are going to be hitting Amir Khan with a stick, but there is a belief you can deaden the nerves using pressure, tension, wrestling exercises with the chin on the ground. We'll try and deaden, or toughen, those nerves on the tip of his jaw.�??

Most of the time will be spent trying to alter Khan's style so that he is not hit so often and does not suffer the sort of knockout blow that cost him a surprise 54-second defeat by Breidis Prescott in Manchester last month. It was his third knockdown in 19 professional bouts.

But the gym work on Khan's suspect jaw does raise, again, the question of whether a boxer can physically alter his ability to withstand a heavy blow or whether, for better or worse, he is stuck with his chin. �??Not every great boxer has a great chin,�?? Roach said. �??It is like a big puncher. They can be improved, but you generally get what you are born with.�??

That has not stopped Roach embracing those martial arts techniques, usually employed to toughen up shins and feet for kickboxing and similar disciplines. There have long been theories, their effectiveness unproven, about strengthening the jaw muscles or conditioning the neck.

According to Dr Barry Jordan, a neurologist who was once chief medical officer for the New York State Athletic Commission and has researched boxing's effects on the brain, there are several factors to consider when weighing up why some boxers collapse while others, from George Chuvalo to Antonio Margarito, seem capable of withstanding sledgehammer blows.

Jordan believes that anticipating the punch and possessing strong neck muscles assist a boxer. There is little doubt that Khan not only has a suspect chin but sticks it out, too. �??I think he's made mistakes looking for the big knockout because then you put yourself in harm's way,�?? Roach said. �??He started out knocking people down with one punch, but the higher you climb, you need to protect yourself.�??

Yet Jordan believes that, while training can make a boxer better able to roll with the punches, the glass chin is a weakness that is handed out at birth. �??We know that there is a gene that makes certain boxers liable to neurological impairment over the long term and, while no one has ever conducted detailed research on the effects of one punch, a good chin is about a fighter's genetic predisposition to tolerate punishment,�?? he said. �??In layman's terms, the blow, the sudden acceleration and rotation of the head, causes a disconnection. The ability to withstand that may alter during the career of a boxer.�??

But, as far as he can tell, a boxer's tolerance cannot be greatly affected in the gym. If Khan is stuck with this weakness, his best hope is to not get hit, which is why he is spending the next six weeks with Roach. �??They say Willie Pep didn't have a great chin, so he changed his style,�?? Roach said. �??And we are talking about one of the greatest boxers of all time. We will be talking to Amir about the way he stands, holds his hands, everything.�??

Khan will spar with Pacquiao, the world champion who faces Oscar De La Hoya in December, which should help him to become accustomed to heavy punches and please those who believe that a glass jaw is a matter of heart as much as chin.

No amount of work, though, may solve the abiding mystery of the porcelain jaw. �??After that sort of knockdown, some guys roll over and die,�?? Roach said. �??Some get better. Amir seems pretty positive to me, but I really won't know - no one will - until he's back in the ring.�??


Interesting post about Khan. Thanks for posting that. As some of the others have said, there are some ways you can try to strengthen your neck, etc., but the best way to deal with a suspect chin is to use a technique or style to minimize the odds of taking a clean shot.

I'm in the camp that some people just take shots better than others, whether it's having a thicker than normal skull, like JC Chavez or whatever

De la Hoya had what some called a suspect chin early in his career, but managed to overcome that tag.

But I agree that you can't make an iron chin out of a weak one.