Red Wings' Justin Abdelkader takes up boxing to become a better fighter on the ice
Published: Friday, July 30, 2010, 9:30 AM
DETROIT -- In between daily workouts at the gym and a pair of classes at Michigan State, Detroit Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader has found time to hit the boxing ring during a busy summer.
The 23-year-old Muskegon native is learning how to throw uppercuts and hooks while maintaining proper balance.
He's not trying to become a heavyweight, he just wants to be better prepared to fight in 2010-11, which will be his first full NHL season. Playing an abrasive style of hockey that can agitate opponents, Abdelkader will be challenged occasionally, especially on a team that lacks an enforcer and does not have many players who fight.
"It's a good upper-body workout and, at the same time, you're getting a few pointers," Abdelkader said. "You learn technique, how to throw proper punches, when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive.
"If you're going to fight, you've got to know how to fight. I'm not going to go around looking for it, but if it's going to happen, you've got to prepare yourself for it."
On the recommendation of former Red Wing and MSU alumnus Kevin Miller, Abdelkader is working out with longtime boxing guru Bob Every at Crown Boxing Club in Lansing two days a week.
"When I first saw him, not being a boxer, there was an incredible amount of stiffness in his approach," Every said. "But he's a fast learner and dedicated and he's ahead of the curve. He's a tough kid, very serious."
Every and Abdelkader studied video of some of his fights and saw he was too aggressive and opening up while looking for the knockout punch. He also didn't have proper positioning and balance.
"Obviously, boxing is different than fighting on skates, where rarely do fights go past 30 to 45 seconds," Every said. "We're trying to give him a better sense of balance and leverage when he's throwing punches. We're trying to incorporate punching techniques, the speed and explosiveness that goes into boxing. We're teaching him to punch at angles."
Boxing training is becoming increasingly popular among NHL players. The 6-foot-1, 212-pound Abdelkader had three fighting majors in 61 regular-season and playoff games with the Red Wings last season and six fights in 33 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Every said Abdelkader is working on the speed bag and the heavy bag and is doing some shadow boxing. He eventually will do some sparring, but they will be cautious.
"It's important to get into the ring and taste what it's like to get nipped in the jaw and see how he reacts to that," Every said.
Every has worked with several MSU hockey players, including Kelly and Kevin Miller, Jim Cummins, Bryan Smolinski and Danton Cole.
"The workouts are tough," Abdelkader said. "It's demanding, but good at the same time."
Fighting is only a small part of Abdelkader's game. The club's second-round pick in 2005 is projected to develop into a solid two-way center. He has some offensive skills to complement his physical style.
Abdelkader was pegged to spend last season in Grand Rapids, but the Red Wings' rash of injuries enabled him to stay in Detroit until late January. He returned for the start of the playoffs.
He hope to expand his role this season, when he will be in Detroit from start to finish.
"They mentioned I was going to get an opportunity on the penalty kill and help out more offensively," Abdelkader said.
He would like to be the third-line center, where he would have more offensive opportunities, possibly playing with Jiri Hudler and Dan Cleary. But that spot will go to Mike Modano -- if the future Hall of Famer signs with the Red Wings.
Modano's indecision -- he's not expected to decide on his future until he starts skating in early August -- is delaying new contracts for Abdelkader and fellow restricted free-agent center Darren Helm. The pair eventually will sign with Detroit, but Modano's decision will affect the terms of their contracts.
You're anxious and want to get a deal done as soon as you can," Abdelkader said. "But you've got to wait and see what's going to happen with Modano."
Abdelkader is taking two classes that run to mid-August. He will need nine more credit hours to graduate with a degree in business management, which he hopes to complete next summer.
"It's been important to me," Abdelkader said. "I promised my family and my mom when I left (MSU, to sign with the Red Wings in April 2008) that I would finish my degree.
"It's easier to finish now than later, when you have a family and kids."
Living in Lansing during the week, he returns to Muskegon on weekends and enjoys jet skiing.
"There's not a lot of down time, but it's good to stay busy," Abdelkader said.http://www.mlive.com/redwings/index.ssf ... er_ta.html