Hobson displays the footwork of a prizefighter
Even before the Jets hired Teddy Atlas as a "Special Assistant/Boxing" and long before the esteemed trainer was asked to speak with the team, linebacker Victor Hobson was boxing.
"I boxed in a place in Glen Cove called Panza kickboxing," Hobson said. "Boxing just always has been a sport that I loved, and I have always felt like it helped with my quickness and especially my conditioning when it comes to football. Just the opportunity to work with Teddy has made it that much better."
Atlas, asked by head coach Eric Mangini to work with the players during the team's off-season strength and conditioning program, used drills to improve hand speed, foot speed, endurance and mental awareness.
"I think it helped a lot of people," Hobson said. "It helped a lot of people's footwork, it helped coordination, hand-eye coordination and just quickness in general. When you're boxing, it's one-on-one. You don't have anyone to blame when you win or lose but yourself. You have to be mentally strong. And that's why I have always loved it, because it's a gladiator sport."
Without any prodding, the 6'0", 252-pound 'backer went to Panza by himself a few years back. He learned techniques, acquired skills and even sparred. That experience got him hooked but those first couple of rounds in the ring were eye-openers.
"When you're watching television, it's easy to say keep you hands up. But the first time I was in the ring and I got tired and I couldn't lift my arms and I couldn't move, you were just in position where you felt helpless," he said. "You just have to dig deep because it's a hard position to be in, but conditioning-wise it teaches you to relax under pressure. How many guys do you know who can relax when somebody is throwing a punch at them instead of tensing up? That is why I love the sport."
Hobson excelled under Atlas' direction in the spring. When reporters were allowed to a session, you could see that Hobson's years of training had paid off. His combinations were smooth and quick and powerful, and he moved well. A long-time aficionado, he sought out Atlas just to talk.
"He was saying that I look good here and there doing different things," Hobson said. "But I approached him, really, and brought up conversations about boxing. It was just general conversation at first, but he noticed I was a fast learner and somewhat experienced in the game. But when you're working with a guy like Teddy, he is a perfectionist, so anything I did he wanted to make sure was perfect and I liked it."
Familiar with Atlas' role as commentator on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights," Hobson inquired about participating in one of his "Fight Plan" segments. In the short videos taped before the card's main event, Atlas talks about strategies the fighters should use.
"That was something I approached him about, doing the prefight thing," he said. "I think he was surprised I knew that, but like I said, I was a big fan so I knew. He said he would definitely take me up on that offer and I was happy about that."
So Hobson and offensive tackle Anthony Clement taped a segment that aired prior to a main event at the St. George Theater on Staten Island featuring Emmanuel Nwodo vs. Darnell Wilson in a 10-round cruiserweight bout.
Wilson delivered a crushing finishing blow to Nwodo that evening, but Hobson wasn't able to make the event. He does regularly attend the big fights, including a number of "Pretty Boy" Floyd Mayweather's recent matchups.
"I wouldn't say he is my favorite, but I like what he does. He has basically almost perfected the sport, which is hard to do," he said. "Basically I just watch good boxers. I like Bernard Hopkins for what he's done to the sport, Mayweather. I'm real good friends with Judah."
Zab Judah, a welterweight from Brooklyn, and Hobson, a heavyweight from Mt. Laurel, N.J., formed a mutual respect for each other.
"He's from New York and I'm a Jersey guy. We saw each other out and about and ran into each other at different events, so we just struck up a friendship from there," Hobson said.
They call it "the sweet science," and Hobson won't be one to disagree with that moniker. He truly loves boxing but says he gets hit enough on the football field to ever consider a fight in the ring. Just following the sport as a fan, learning under Atlas and sparring will suffice.
"It's like playing chess." he said. "Setting up punches, being able to move and counter, just knowing what to block and what punch to throw or just how to throw a punch and move out of the way, if you need to tie a guy up. A lot of people think it's just going out there and throwing punches and seeing who knocks out who first, but it's a chess match."