The Science of Mike Tyson and Elements of Peek-A-Boo: part VIII

pab-logo-centerline-theory-150px-jpgIntroduction to the centerline theory with examples from Mike Tyson’s fights.






1. Line | plane of fire ; 2. Centerline ; 3. What are they for? ; 4. Basic positioning analysis ; 5. Example: Holyfield beating Tyson ; 6. Example: In the corner



We introduce a geometrical framework that may help you understand relative positioning of boxers and its influence on the ability to hit the target. The discussion may be usefull for both peek-a-boo practitioners and orthodox fighters.

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Line | Plane of Fire

Without considering the mechanics of a straight right hand punch in details, simply imagine a fighter has already thrown somehow the straight right hand from the long or middle range. It landed with the follow through effect. Slightly after the impact, we freeze the frame.


The topic of our analysis: the straight right hand
punch slightly after the impact. CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.


Can we determine where the danger came from? The power of straight punches is transferred along a line, which we call the line-of-fire. It goes through the right (back) toe to the fist on impact.


The line-of-fire for the straight right hand punch. CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

If you have read our article on Jack Dempsey’s technique of straight punches, you may find some similarity between the powerline and the line-of-fire, at least, in the context of straight punches. We believe that these are different perspectives on the same thing, indeed. One day, we will try to bring these theories together.


In the example above, the final position of the fist can be different. It can be shifted vertically and horizontally, depending on where the opponent’s head is. Moreover, you can simply bend your knees for the body punch. We need a more general concept than the line-of-fire to account for these possibilities.


The plane-of-fire for the straight right hand punch. CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

For simplicity, we consider only vertical shifts of the final fist position, in other words, we introduce the plane-of-fire.

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Imagine you are tracking a moving target that is also (1) rotating and (2) changing its shape. Where would you aim? In real life (ex: duck hunting) or computer games (ex: gta, world of tanks), the experience would teach you to track the position of the biggest part quickly that stays more or less the same.


Centerline in the peek-a-boo stance stays always perpendicular to the floor regardless the upper body orientation. CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

In boxing, the opponent may move his head, body, arms, and feet. He can do all kind if things to confuse you. However, he cannot really hide the major part of this body (hips, pelvis, waist, and lower body). This is why it makes sense to track the virtual body center, which is some line in space or the centerline. This is a vertical line that goes through the centre of mass. The centerline stays always perpendicular to the floor regardless the upper body orientation. Some martial arts call it the “mother line” [1].

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What Are They For?

The plane-of-fire and the centerline are basic elements of a geometrical framework or theory that may help you understand relative positioning of boxers, its influence on the ability to hit the target and, alternatively, avoid the hit. This theory is one of the ways to analyze the tactics and strategy in the ring.


During the fight, it is important to zero in on your opponent with your punches as fast as possible. You may begin doing it by trying to align your plane-of-fire at the opponent’s centerline.


Without better options, aim at the opponent’s centerline by aligning your plane-of-fire at it. CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.


You can expect most of your opponents would aim at your centerline when attacking you from the long or mid ranges with straight punches. Most of advanced fighters would aim there too, at least, in first rounds to zero in. If you can somehow estimate the direction of your opponent’s plane-of-fire before his attack


Difference between hit and miss is a matter of the
relative position between the centerline and plane-of-fire. CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

, then your defence from straight punches at long or mid range comes down to the ability of properly re-positioning your centerline with respect to the opponent’s plane-of-fire.

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Basic Positioning Analysis

We postulate that you will avoid a great deal of troubles by facing the centerline, i.e. by aligning the lead foot, hip and shoulder in the direction of the opponent’s centerline [2].


Facing the centerline in practice:
align the lead foot, hip and shoulder in the direction of the opponent’s centerline. CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

By doing so, you are taking a posture which is very close to the classical orthodox stance. Previously, we introduced it somewhat statically in our old article. Now you can see some reasons behind what “avoid being squared up” means.


In the position I, Tyson is not facing the centerline of his opponent. The opponent’s his lead foot, hip and partly shoulder are aligned at Tyson’s centerline. In the peekaboo stance, Tyson’s attack from this position is limited, because the distance is too long for him. He must decrease the distance first. However, the opponent is secure to attack himself. This is why Tyson cannot attack along the straight line at the opponent.


Example of a positioning analysis (1/2 speed). CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

A hop-step puts Tyson in the position II. Now the situation is reversed in comparison to the position I. Tyson’s line-of-fire is pointing at the opponent’s centerline. The opponent is caught squared up. Tyson is able to land a straight right hand successfully.

This example supports (but does not prove) the above statement that when you are facing the centerline of a squared up opponent, you have a potential advantage over him. Alternatively, when an opponents facing your centerline and you are caught squared up, he has a potential advantage over you.

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Example: Holyfield Beating Tyson

Proper positioning was one of the key elements of the Holyfield’s victory over Tyson in 1996. It was all about avoiding being squared up and facing the centerline of Tyson [3,4].


In every round, there were at least couple of episodes when Holyfield was able to push Tyson backwards to the rope, thus gaining extra confidence. Nobody was able to do it consistently against Tyson before.


Example of Holyfield pushing Tyson backwards (1/2 speed). CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

The reason is that Holyfield was keeping his front foot between Tyson’s feet. In other words, Holyfield was facing Tyson’s centreline, while Tyson was squared up. He could only continue stepping and stepping backwards to restore his balance.

Knock down

Holyfield caught Tyson squaredup and knocked him down Tyson with a left (front) uppercut to the chest.


Holyfield knocks down Tyson (1/4 speed). CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

We are considering a power punch from the right (back) hand. For the sake of the analysis, it is convenient to flip horizontally the above image. In the position I, Holyfield’s plane-of-attack is not pointing at Tyson’s centerline. This is partly why Holyfield was not able to stop lunging in with the hook Tyson.


Analysis of positioning during the KD (1/4 speed). CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

Instead, Holyfield did a hop side-step. In the position II, his plane-of-fire is exactly pointing at Tyson’s centerline. Tyson is now squared up and off-balanced. He has no option but to fall on the canvas.

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Example: In The Corner

Interestingly, in earlier recordings, you can see young Tyson was capable of executing the same move and punch he got knocked down with by Holyfield [5].


Examples of Tyson in the corner (1/4 speed). CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

In the corner, regarding the stance you use, you may be forced to face your opponent squared up. The exact technique of the side step is currently not important. What is important is that you must position your line-of-fire properly to be out of danger and be able to land yourself. You can see Kevin Rooney teaching this to young Tyson in earlier recordings and to some amateur fighter recently [5, 6].

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1. The Centerline Theory in Jeet Kune Do Kali.

2. Facing the center line.

3. In appreciation of Holyfield beating Tyson in 1996.

4. Why did Mike loose? Tyson vs Holyfield: The Final Analysis. youtube

5. Mike Tyson Explodes on the Pads with Kevin Rooney. youtube

6. Cus D’Amato Gym RELOADED. youtube

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5 Responses to The Science of Mike Tyson and Elements of Peek-A-Boo: part VIII

  1. Liam Bacon says:

    Would It be okay to use your work on the science of the Peekaboo style for my school work (extended project qualification).


  2. Simon Traversy says:

    I’d like to do the same for a personal literary project of mine on boxing.

    Out of curiosity, do you have a background in physics, kinesiology or exercise science? (I’m asking because it’s not every day your read such thorough explanations)



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