How Indonesian Boxer John Basan Cuts the Fat Before Each Fight

Boxers, more than most other athletes, need to watch their weight. This often means a month or more of high-intensity cutting routines. You want to lose weight like John? Here's how.

John Basan is always ready for a fight. Unlike other boxers, this 26-year-old can't afford to slack off, ever, because his bouts are often scheduled with as little as three week's notice. So that means he has to practice every day and maintain a strict diet so he's always at fighting weight. Well, almost always. He does allow himself two cheat days… a year.

But John wasn't always this fit. He didn't even know he wanted to be a boxer until six years ago when he left his small village in East Nusa Tenggara to start a new life in Jakarta. Here, in the capital, he met up with a childhood friend—a man he refers to as his brother—who slept above a boxing gym. John would watch him spar every day and eventually he asked his brother how to throw a punch.


John quickly realized that if he wanted to make a serious go as a boxer he would need to slim down. He exercised constantly, losing fat while maintaining muscle mass, so he could box as a super bantamweight—a class for fighters between 54 and 55 kilograms.

He fought his first match at 55 kilos, but since then he's moved up two weight classes. "It's because I didn't watch what I was eating close enough," he told me with a laugh. Now when he steps in the ring, John boxes at 57 kilos, or about three kilos lighter than his normal weight.

So how does he lose the extra kilos before fight night? It's not easy, he told me, but with enough hard work anyone can do it. Here's how:

John starts his routine with a warm up that's 40 minutes of nonstop cardio. It doesn't really matter what kind of cardio you do as long as you get your heart rate up and stick with it for the full 40 minutes. For John, this means an eight kilometer run. For those of us who maybe aren't already a lean, mean fighting machine, it could be swimming, biking, or the boxer's favorite, skipping rope.

When John really needs to cut the fat, he'll add a second run later that afternoon. We all might not be able to reach his level of fitness, or have enough time in our busy schedules for two-a-days, but no one said losing weight was easy.

Feeling tired yet? I hope not, because that was just the warm up. Now comes the actual workout. Boxers need to do a lot more than run for 40 minutes to get shredded for fight day. It's also important to work those muscles as well as that cardio, because most people lose muscle mass as well as fat when they are trying to lose weight.


So how does he do it?
Complete the following three exercises with one minute of rest after each set. You need to do all of them six times before moving on.

Do non-stop sit-ups for 30 seconds. Break for 60, then go again for another 30. Finish six reps.

Get into plank position and hold it for 30 seconds. Break for 60. Repeat six times.

Do 100 push-ups. No extra reps here, just 100 of them and you're done. (Easy right?)

Work through a punching routine for three minutes straight, making sure to keep the intensity level high throughout. Alternate hands and make sure you cover all the basic blows—jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts. Repeat this six times with a 60 second break between each set.

Shadowboxing really gets your heart pumping, and that helps you shred fat. How much depends on your weight, but heavier people can lose up to 400 calories in an hour—if you can make it that long. Boxers like John shadowbox to warm up their joints and muscles. He told me that you could do it alone, but doing it in front of a mirror definitely helps you maintain your form once you're feeling tired.

Hit the heavy bag
Perform a series of punches on the heavy bag for three straight minutes. Rest for one, then repeat for a total of six reps.

Pad drills
You're going to need a friend or a trainer for this one. Grab a partner and have them slip on the focus mitts. They need to keep their hands in motion to create moving targets for you to hit. Don't know what this looks like? Watch this, or really any boxing film. Any one will do. They all have a scene with focus mitts in the training montage.


So you do this drill for about three minutes, non-stop. Then rest one and do it five more times, for a total of six.

Yup. We're back to the sit-ups. How else are you going to get those washboard abs? Again for 30 seconds, one minute of rest, then back at it for a total of six. Everything is done six times, so by this point you should feel like a pro at this.

If any of this seems hard, that's because it is. Changing your lifestyle, either a little bit or a lot, definitely takes time to get used to. John didn't start out running eight kilometers twice a day. He started with a slow jog and added distance and speed gradually over time.

It's the same with dieting. Want to see a boxer frown? Tell him that you were always told to lose weight first, then work out, so you don't get "bulky." It's a rookie mistake, he said. Dieting first makes you weaker than before the diet started. Then when it comes time to work out, you get tired too easily, and most people just give up.

If you want to actually lose weight, then you need to come out at the bell with a balanced diet and a good workout routine. But also take it slow, and manage your expectations. No one is going to end up looking as cut as John after a week, or even a month, of working out. It takes time and a gradual increase in the intensity and length of your routine, he said.

“You can’t just plunge yourself into this routine," John said. "You have to take it step-by-step."