Army Reserve Capt. Boyd Melson works out at Mendez Boxing in New York City. (Mike Morones / Staff)
For as long as good guys have been socking it to bad guys in the movies, who hasn't dreamed of landing a perfect knockout punch?
From "Rocky" and "Batman" to "Independence Day" and even "Groundhog Day" — we're looking at you, Ned Ryerson — perfect punches litter the big screen like so many torn tickets on a sticky cineplex floor.
But for as long as guys have been getting into actual fisticuffs — from boxing rings and hockey rinks to hand-to-hand in basic and bloody-knuckled bar fights on the first weekend pass — we've learned the hard way that it's not nearly as easy as Hollywood leads to us to believe.
Just ask Army Reserve Capt. Boyd Melson. The son of an Army first sergeant, Melson got into his share of scrapes growing up in Brooklyn. But he's been knocking out the best of them since he began boxing as a U.S. Military Academy cadet.
Now an intelligence officer with Fort Totten, N.Y.'s 1st Army Reserve Mobilization Support Group, Melson has gone on to become an undefeated pro boxer while — ironically — selling suture kits for Johnson & Johnson by day.
With countless knockouts through his amateur career and four KOs to his credit since turning pro about a year ago, he's a good person to ask about how to put someone's lights out.
"The best answer is to find the right opponent," laughs Melson, known in the ring as "The Rainmaker" since his West Point days. "A haymaker will do it in a bar fight, if it lands, but in the ring — or any real fight against someone who knows what they're doing — it's very hard."
The haymaker, which looks like someone swinging a scythe, is a whip-around punch that relies more on centrifugal force than muscle or skill, and it's all but impossible to control. It also leaves you open for a pounding long before it connects — and also after, when, more likely, it doesn't.
As a 154-pound, 5-foot-9-inch light middleweight, Melson can't rely on throwing his weight around, but that doesn't mean a knockout can't come quickly.
During bouts that have ended with his opponent literally mopping up the floor, the knockout has come as early as the third punch. Others have been grueling multiround slugathons.
In his latest fight Dec. 19, he unloaded a clean three-hit combination that sent Danny Lugo to the mat in the third round.
"The second punch is what knocked him out," Melson says. "I could feel his body going limp even before the third punch hit him."
Melson credits all of his KOs to "simple explosiveness."
"Shift your weight from the ground up with your hips being your focal point. It takes drills that build that explosive power to get there," Melson says. "You've got to be able to turn your hips. You can drill that all day long, but if you don't know how to keep your hands in sync with your hips, then it doesn't matter."
As for targeting, he says, "Go for the liver. If you catch it right, they're going down. A good shot to the liver isn't something you can overcome with mental toughness. Your body just shuts down."
If you can get a clean shot to the head, go for the temple. There's also a sweet spot midway up the jaw line that will often turn the lights out.
"If you draw a line straight down from the corner of your mouth to your jawbone and then go up half an inch, there's a hollow point where the trigeminal nerve is," he said.
And while movies may make it look all too easy, that doesn't mean you can't learn from some of the silver screen's best fighters.
"Look at Bruce Lee's one-inch punch," Melson says. "Everyone looks at his hand, but it's not just the hand. If you watch his legs in slow motion, they clinch almost in sync with his hand. I promise you, in that moment, he's digging his feet into the ground to start the power from the feet up and shifting his weight at his waist."
Of course, if you really want to learn how to deliver a solid clock-cleaner, you should find a good boxing coach, Melson says.
In the meantime, work on the drills on this page.
Army Reserve Capt. Boyd "The Rainmaker" Melson's favorite exercises to build explosive power and land a knockout punch:
Explosiveness comes from your core — from the quads, the glutes and the hips themselves. Box jumps are a great way to build that, Melson says. Here's how he knocks ‘em out:
Stand facing a sturdy box, park bench or low wall. Height depends on ability, "but it should be something that challenges you." Starting with legs shoulder-width apart, jump up on the box, hold for a brief pause and then jump down, doing 15 reps. "With each rep, spring right back up with your heels never touching the ground." Rest for one minute.
2. Do as many reps as you can in 30 seconds without stopping in the up position. Rest for one minute.
3. Do 15 reps with a pause in the up position. Rest one minute.
4. Another 30-second speed set. Rest one minute.
5. Do 12 reps with a pause in the up position. Rest one minute.
6. A 20-second speed set.
A favorite of Melson's conditioning coach Steve Feinberg, owner of Speedball Fitness, Melson says this exercise will help you get used to that all-important hip turn while building power for both your hook and a solid uppercut. Build up until you can do three sets on each side.
With your feet parallel in a wide stance, hold a pair of dumbells or a medicine ball in front of you.
2. In one fluid motion, keeping your face forward and right foot planted, turn your upper body 90 degrees to the right, pivoting on your left toes and bending your left knee about 90 degrees. Simultaneously extend your arms up and to the right, like you're reaching back for a seat belt with both hands.
3. Keeping your face forward, move the ball down and to your left (buckling the seat belt), now planting your left foot and pivoting on the right.
4. Do 25 reps on the same side, slowly, with special emphasis on pulling hard on the down part."It's the downward part that's the most important, because it's where you build the power in your hook," Melson says.
5. Do as many reps as you can in 30 seconds.
6. Do 20 slow reps.
7. Do as many as you can in 30 seconds.
8. Do 15 slow reps.
9. Do as many as you can for 30 seconds.
10. Repeat, but this time pulling diagonally from upper left to lower right.
Walking lunges with squat jumps
Load 30 to 40 pounds of weights into a backpack or hold an equal amount split between two dumbbells.
Complete 15 steps of walking lunges. "Step out as far as you can before you drop your knee down. Make sure your torso is perfectly erect. You don't want to be bending over at all."
2. Do 10 squat jumps. Start down on your tiptoes like a catcher, then explode up like a leapfrog, landing back in the same spot. "Some people do squats with their heels planted. That's not what you want when it comes to throwing a punch. This will be a different kind of burn. We want to work different muscles."
"You'll also want to stop when you land to gather yourself before squatting back down again. Don't. It's supposed to be continuous. You land, drop down, jump, land and keep going."
3. Repeat six times. Catch your breath between sets, but try to keep it going the best you can.
"By the third or fourth round of walking lunges, you can barely move your legs. You'll need a few moments. I know I'm in shape when I can do all six sets without a rest."
"This will build up both muscular endurance and muscular strength," Melson says. "It's like training with a heavier bat in baseball; you fly when you go back to the regular bat. Same thing here." Instead of a bat, you'll use a resistance band with a handle on each end secured behind you at shoulder height. Assume a basic fighting stance — feet about shoulder-width part, one foot forward — with each end of the band running under your armpits.
Tune the tension of the band by moving forward enough so that when you throw a full jab (punching with your leading hand, farthest from your face) and a full cross (inside hand, closest to your face) you feel resistance during the last 10 percent of the punch. "The key here is that you don't want so much resistance that you need to lean forward to fully extend the punch."
2. Do what Melson calls a "30-second burnout," alternating between jabs and crosses straight in front of you at eye level as fast as you can for 30 seconds.
3. Rest for one minute. "Over time, you'll want to work it down to punching for 30 seconds and then resting for 30 seconds and/or moving up to thicker bands."
4. Repeat two more times.
5. Rest 3-4 minutes.
6. Step farther out so that you feel resistance about halfway into your jab and cross. "This time, it's not about speed but power." Steadily throw single jabs for 30 seconds. Then do the same with your cross. Again, make sure you're not leaning forward to finish the extension.
7. Rest for 30 seconds.
8. Repeat two more times.