Chicken Training 101, With Pro Boxer Danny Garcia

Danny Garcia, 28, the undefeated former junior welterweight champ, is still months away from his March showdown against welterweight kingpin Keith Thurman. But in the meantime, he has a tune-up fight against Samuel Vargas on Saturday, November 12 — the headlining bout of a Premier Boxing Champions card airing on Spike at 9 p.m. ET.

When it comes to his training, Garcia knows an inalienable truth about himself: The guy just isn’t fast. So rather than work on trying to attain a velocity his genes may never permit, he works constantly on countering.

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“Timing beats speed every day in the sport of boxing,” he says. “I understand who I am in the sport of boxing. A lot of fighters don’t understand who they are.”

That doesn’t mean Garcia doesn’t work on quickening his reflexes. Sure, he spars against fighters who might mimic the style of his next opponent. But his real secret exercise weapon? Catching a chicken in the ring a la Rocky Balboa. No matter how hard Garcia works during his 10:30 a.m. roadwork or his 5 p.m. work on the heavy bag and with sparring partners, his prep isn’t complete until he’s gone chicken-hunting.

Garcia picked up the fowl habit in the summer of 2015 as he prepped to face ever-fleet Paulie Malignaggi, who relies on his footwork to keep opponents off balance and off his chin. There isn't much to the practice: Someone places a chicken inside the boxing ring with Garcia and then an untimed round commences, ending only when Garcia snags the pecker. Garcia usually goes three or four rounds with his feathered opponent before calling it a day.

"Everybody that I fight wants to run from me when we're in the ring," he says. "So I chase the chickens to get better and craftier at cutting off the ring."

How to train like Garcia: If you have access to chickens, congratulations on what's probably an awesome life. If you don't, think about what the chicken really does. Stalking a future McNugget around the ring ramps up your timing and foresight and bolsters your hand-eye coordination. Another way to train for that? Hit a highly taut double-end bag suspended between the ceiling and floor. Try to land the jab, cross, and hook.

But to really simulate the action of catching something with such erratic movements, buy a reaction ball. Within a small, enclosed space — like a third of a racquetball court — work on tossing the ball off walls and the floor and catching it after a certain number of bounces. If you're really advanced, see if you can get it on a half-bounce, like an infielder who scoops a groundball off the dirt. It can't truly replace the real thing. But at least you won't get charged for hen-swiping.

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