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Muhammad Ali and Bret Favre Used Similar Technique

by Ron Kurtus (revised 3 April 2012)

All-time great boxer Muhammad Ali would usually hit his opponents while falling away to prevent a counter-punch. Likewise, all-time great Green Bay Packer football quarterback Bret Favre would pass the ball while falling away, as opposed to stepping into the onrushing defenders.

In both cases, this technique helped to defend against defensive blows by their opponents and could be credited to enhancing the longevity of their respective careers. Some great basketball players also used a similar technique to avoid having their shots blocked.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Muhammad Ali

When Muhammad Ali was in his boxing prime, he fought with the unusual technique of continually dancing and flicking out blows at his opponent, while leaning backwards. When the other boxer tried to hit Ali in the face, he would lean even further back to diminish the impact.

For a large number of his early fights—even as champion—he never was cut or received a serious blow to the face. He said he was "too pretty" to allow someone to hit him in the face. Needless to say, it was difficult to hurt him.

One good example was how he used the "rope-a-dope" technique of leaning way back on the ropes to avoid being hurt in the championship fight with George Foreman. But this technique did not work well with a body-blow fighter like Joe Frazier.

Later in his career, Ali started to go toe-to-toe with opponents. And he also started to receive punishment to his face. That may have contributed to the brain damage he later suffered

Bret Favre

Bret Favre holds the record for consecutive starts for a professional football quarterback. He has never been injured to the point that he could not play in the next game. One reason for his ability to avoid injury is the unusual way Favre throws the ball. He often throws the ball off his back foot, such that he is falling away from the throw and the onrushing defensive players.

Most quarterbacks step into the throw to gain more velocity. This forward motion increases the force of an impact when hit by a defensive player, thus increasing the chances of injury. Favre has such a powerful throwing arm, that he is able to pass the ball without stepping into the throw.

Other examples

Both Ali and Favre were unique athletes who were somewhat unorthodox in their techniques. Certainly, moving away from an incoming blow lessens the shock and can reduce injuries. But not many athletes in those sports can duplicate the method effectively.

Basketball great, Larry Bird used the fall-away jumper to avoid the defensive player. All-time great Michael Jordan perfected the fade-away shot in his later years as a player.


Boxing great Muhammad Ali would often lean back when hitting opponents, thus reducing potential damage from counter-punches. Professional football great Bret Favre would often fall backwards when throwing a pass, reducing the impact from onrushing defensive players.

Professional basketball greats Larry Bird and Michael Jordan used a fall-away jump shot to prevent defensive players from blocking the shots. All of these players used the fall-away technique to enhance and lengthen their careers.

Lean away from the defender

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