What is the “52 blocks” style? The reaction of the professional boxing community

In the beginning of 2018 there was an “appearance” of the book by Douglas Century “Street Kingdom. Five Years Inside the Franklin Avenue Posse.” in a professional boxing environment. In fact, despite the fact that the book was published in 1999 in the US, the overwhelming majority of representatives of the boxing community in Eastern Europe and a number of Western European countries heard about the existence of this book in 2018 for the first time.

Many readers may say that it is a frequent happening. There are many books that people just do not pay attention to. In this case, why exactly this very book stirred a certain reaction in the professional boxing community after almost 20 years after its release?

The thing about is that it presents a certain perspective on one of the brightest phenomena of the XX century boxing world, namely, the triumph of Mike Tyson. Perhaps this book would have "laid on the shelves" for another 20 years, if at the end of 2017 there were no two other books devoted to the study of Cus D’Amato’s style: "Non-compromised pendulum" and "Lighting rod that strikes faster than lightning itself." It is worth noting that the first book was written by a scientist, candidate of psychological sciences Oleg Maltsev together with the student of Cus D'Amato, five-time state and “Golden Gloves” champion - Tom Patti. In the frameworks of writing these books, two online marathons were held with the participation of large number of people, including outstanding boxing trainers, world champions, sport experts and journalists. It was at this point, during the study that experts drew attention to the fact that there is another version of the reason standing behind the triumph of Mike Tyson, which is described in the book "Street Kingdom. Five years inside Franklin Avenue Posse." The book says that Mike Tyson integrated certain system of "52 blocks" in his technique which allowed him to be victorious on the ring. The author of the book tries to convince the readers that the secret of the championship of "Iron Mike" is in the technique of "52 blocks", which he allegedly learned in his criminal and hard childhood while growing up on the streets of Brooklyn in the United States. As for the role of Cus D'Amato in the triumph of Mike, the author implies that it was quite a conditional one.
Thus, what is the book in the essence? The first thing that catches one’s eye is an attempt of providing an alternative version of the history which is based on the author's view. In order to find out how reasonable this version of history is, it is enough to have a conversation with the author of this work. Douglas Century does not even hide that the fact that, he just thought that the 52 blocks style is similar to technique used by Mike Tyson on the ring.

For the time being, we are not going to consider in details the identity of the journalist Douglas Century likewise his motives. We are going just to make a note that, by a strange coincidence, he being a "white" Jew (not intended to discriminate but to demonstrate the context of the subject), wrote a book about the criminal tradition which is common among African Americans. Besides, the book does not have an official position or an interview with Mike Tyson himself. On the one hand, Douglas Century admits that the book is only a hypothesis, but after the publication of the work, for some reason, a number of articles appear in commonly accepted reliable sources with statements, instead of the hypothesis. Afterwards, there is an article in Wikipedia about "52 blocks", to be exact Jailhouse rock (fighting style). And, unfortunately, as it is known, most of the people trust almost everything that is written in Wikipedia without verifying information on their own.

So far, there will not be hasty conclusions about whether this project is a commercial one or not. Everyone is going to have an opportunity to get acquainted with a number of opinions of experts from the world of boxing, which was surprised by the existence of such a book and the very attempt to rewrite history, making the style of boxing "52 blocks" the cause of the triumph of Mike Tyson.

Four-time world champion in Thai boxing, multiple champion of international tournaments in "K-1", director of the "Chinook" fighting club Ivanovich Sergei from Belarus: "Complete nonsense! Like much in the West, it's just an attempt to attract attention. Promotional move. An attempt to misappropriate other people's merits."

World boxing champion, Olympic boxing champion, winner of many international tournaments and national championships, coach, promoter and ring referee from Italy Patrizio Oliva Bis: "What’s important on the ring is the power of the punches which is obtained from two elements - strength and speed. Tyson's triumph in my opinion was in the fact he was strong and fast. His punches “pierced through” his opponents. Today, people like the creators of this "52 blocks style" may speak and invent whatever. I repeat, if Tyson had not been so fast, he would not have become a champion. This was taught to him by Cus D'Amato."

Russian psychologist, General Director of the Abilities Development Academy "Harmony" Alexander Balykin: "I think that everyone has his own mission in this world, and therefore each of us achieves it in the best way for himself. Based on the above, Mike Tyson became the champion, and it has happened due to Cus D'Amato. As for the rest it is all about speculations."

Master of Sports of USSR, President of the Boxing Federation in Protvino, promoter of the Federation of Professional Boxing of Russia Pyotr Kvyatkovsky: "52 Blocks" style is a pathetic parody of boxing. This is not an African style, let alone the art! This parody bears a criminal shade! I'm sure that 95% of people did not hear anything about it."

Absolute kickboxing world champion, international class master of sports Semen Poskotin: "The more there are people, the more there will be opinions. I also can say that Tyson has exclusively Soviet technique. What he has received as a child is, perhaps, the self-defense, which helped him to survive in streets. All the merits, certainly thanks to D'Amato."

Journalist and boxing commentator on Eurosport Jorge Lera from Spain: “Never heard this before. I'm not familiar with this style, but I think that there cannot be even a doubt that the style that Mike Tyson used on the ring was taught him by Cus D'Amato."

To make a meanwhile conclusion, one may clearly identify several versions of the origin of this book. The first version is that this is a certain kind of an unknown history, set forth by the author of the book. However, question that naturally arises: why this story in the view of using 52 blocks was not and is not told by Mike Tyson himself or those who trained and were personally acquainted with him? The second version looks more plausible. 52 blocks style might be a commercial project, the goal of which is to rewrite the history of Tyson's triumph and to give a somebody’s credit to an unknown criminal style. However, final conclusions will be made later in a special issue.

Author: Kanykei Tursunbaeva