"Fight a boxer and box a fighter” (or “box a fighter and fight a boxer") is a boxing adage that means a boxing match should be a contrast of styles. The French boxer Georges Carpentier (1894-1975) was matched up against the heavy hitting Jack Dempsey (1895-1983) in July 1921. In October 1920, Carpentier said, “I fight a boxer and I box a fighter.” Dempsey won the fight.
A similar boxing adage is “Styles make fights.”
20 October 1920, The Ledger (Columbus, GA), pg. 10, col. 3:
“My fight always depends upon what the other fellow has or hasn’t. The best way is the effective way. I have no set scheme. I fight a boxer and I box a fighter.”
(Georges Carpentier, a French boxer—ed.)
21 October 1920, Evening World-Herald (Omaha, NE), “Sandy’s Dope,” pg. 17, col. 5:
SPEAKING of Carpentier’s chances against Jack Dempsey, Jack Curley says:
“Carpentier has twenty styles of fighting. He can fight a boxer and box a fighter.”
30 July 1922, Sunday Oregonian (Portland, OR), “Fans Says Leonard Is Losing Steam” by Sparrow McGann, sec. 2, pg. 3, col. 1:
Hammer says that his motto is “Box a fighter and fight a boxer.”
(Ever Hammer, a lightweight boxer—ed.)
27 May 1930, Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch, “Schmeling Is Changing Tactics To Crowding Style of Fighting” by Benny Leonard (Retired Undefeated Lightweight Champion of the World), pg. 15, col. 4:
The fundamental principle of the game is “fight a boxer and box a fighter.”
Google News Archive
28 May 1934, Saskatoon (Saskatchewan) Star-Phoenix, “Principals In Fight Issue Statements; Everyone Confident” (Canadian Press), pg. 14, col. 7:
Jimmy McLarnin: I am going out to fight from the start. I don’t intend to be outsmarted. The old saying, “fight a boxer, box a fighter,” is all right with me.
Google News Archive
18 March 1978, The Financial Post, “A sensational Canadian export” by Peter Brimelow, pg. 7, col. 1:
He follows the old pugilistic adage: fight a boxer, box a fighter.
28 April 1985, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Some Hither, Others Yon” by Blackie Sherrod:
Perhaps the oldest and truest boxfight axiom has always been: Fight a boxer and box a fighter. Epitome of this rule was Gene Tunney’s two masterful maneuvers past tough guy Jack Dempsey.
Box a fighter, fight a boxer
Posted on May 16, 2009
“Box a fighter, and fight a boxer.”
This old saying isn’t only limited to boxing – you can use the very same principle in grappling, jiu-jitsu and MMA. In a competition, or a ‘serious’ match you DON’T want to play the other guy’s game. His game is what he’s good at. Your goal, instead, should be to change the rules of the duel.