The speed ball is one of the key tools used by boxers to prepare for a fight. The speed ball--also known as the speed bag--hangs on a swivel hook at a height slightly above eye level. A boxer uses the speed ball to improve hand-eye coordination, punching accuracy, quickness and confidence. It is a staple exercise for all boxers.
Boxers need sharp reflexes and well-developed hand-eye coordination. The instant you see an opening, you must be able to deliver a jab with speed and accuracy. The speed ball will help you do just that. When pounding the speed bag, the left jab is the primary punch you will use. In order to hit the speed bag correctly, pound out a rhythm with your left jab. You must concentrate on hitting the bottom center portion of the bag so it hits the supporting rim and bounces back to you.
Quickness comes into play when you add footwork to your training with the speed ball. Boxing is not a static sport and hitting the speed ball becomes an even more effective tool when adding footwork. If you are a right-handed boxer, you will usually circle your opponent to your left. Keep this pattern in mind as you practice on the speed ball, picking up the pace as you go along. Good boxers learn to keep the speed ball moving in a rhythmic pattern as they move.
Hitting the speed bag while mimicking a boxing match can help a boxer develop a high level of fitness. Hit the speed bag for three minutes at a time--the same amount of time in a boxing round--without resting. Take a one-minute break and then repeat this for three to six rounds. This helps you maintain form and strength longer than those who do not spend the time working on the speed bag.
Boxers have to learn how to hit the speed bag. It takes time, effort and concentration to do it well. New boxers are often frustrated when they start hitting the speed ball. However, when you start to get your rhythm and learn to hit the bag, you performance in the ring during sparring sessions will likely improve. As boxers improve their quickness, hand speed and hand-eye coordination, their confidence grows and that helps their performance in the ring.
Many video feature stories on boxers open with a champion boxer hitting the speed ball with an impressive rhythm. It is a shot that gets the viewer's attention and draws them into the story. However, this is not just a gimmick. This is one of the prime tools used to get a boxer ready for action in the ring. Sugar Ray Robinson, a Hall of Fame fighter who dominated the sport in the 1940s and '50s, used the speed bag to build his overall quickness and hand speed throughout his career. He could make the bag move so fast that it was said to "sing" when he hit it in full rhythm. Other boxers who could do the same included Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Kid Gavilan, Roberto Duran and Manny Pacquiao.