Boxing is a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, it’s the best way to lose weight, for others it’s an engaging, interesting sport. For others, it’s the ultimate way to challenge themselves. And boxing is all of these things and more.

But many beginners feel intimidated, because they don’t know where to start. This guide will walk you through the process of starting out in this deceptively simple sport. Hopefully, you’ll come away with a clear picture of how to get on the right track

Technique

Guard

Advanced fighters use a number of different guards, each of which has their own strengths and weaknesses. For beginners, it’s best to go for the basic boxing guard.

For it, you need to have your dominant hand in the back. If you have your right hand in the back, this is called an orthodox stance. If your left hand is in the back, the stance is called southpaw.

In this guide, whenever I say “right” and “left” hand, it’s from the point of view of an orthodox stance, because that’s the most common.

Your elbows should be facing down, and your hands should be up. In terms of height, your gloves should be high enough to reach your cheekbones, but your eyes should be able to see over your gloves. Your chin should be down, and your body should be slightly bent.

You need to be relaxed while standing in your guard, and you should always return to it after throwing a punch, and while moving.

Stance

boxing guard

Just like the guard, put your dominant foot in the back. The feet should be diagonal to each other, a little over shoulder width. 

Your front toe, and your back heel need to be on the centerline. Knees should be slightly bent, and your weight should be evenly distributed between both legs.

Footwork

Footwork is one the most important parts of boxing. There are a lot of ways to do it, but if you’re a beginner, just stick with the basics.

Walking

In boxing, the most common way to move around is the step-drag. Step with your lead foot, and drag you back foot along. 

Avoid spreading your legs too wide apart. Use small steps. After you make a step, make sure you maintain the same distance between your legs.

Imagine you’re holding a rubber band with your feet, and you always need to keep it taught. When you step with one leg, it pulls your other leg along.  If you keep your legs too spread after you step, the rubber band will break. If you keep your legs too close to each other, it’s going to fall off.

Pivot

The pivot is a very versatile technique. You can use it for both defense, and offense. On the defense, it allows you to avoid attacks, and on the offense it lets you attack from angles that are harder to defend.

Keep your left foot in place, and swing your right foot clockwise. Keep your guard up. Experiment with different degrees of pivots. Start off by pivoting at 45 degrees, then at 90, then at 180.

Try to pivot counter-clockwise. This is a very useful move, so you should get comfortable with it.

Striking

General tips:

  1. Be relaxed
  2. Get your body weight behind your strikes
  3. Don’t telegraph 

Jab – the Most Underrated Punch

Benefits of the Jab
  • The fastest punch, because it’s the closest to your opponent
  • Great for testing your opponent’s defenses
  • Sets up your power shots
  • Keeps your opponent at a distance you’re comfortable with. Makes it harder for them to close the distance
  • Doesn’t give your opponent time to recover

How to Throw a Jab

Jab
  1. From your guard, punch with your lead hand, palm down
  2. Rotate your lead hip, and synchronize your strike with your footwork. There are three ways of going about it:
    1. Do a step drag with your lead foot. For maximum power, make sure your foot lands at the same time as your jab
    2. If you’re doing it in place, rotate your lead foot as well as your lead hip. Rotate the foot on your toes in the direction of your hip. Like above, the rotation should end at the same time as the jab lands
    3. Do a drag step, combined with a hip rotation. This gives you the longest range. It’s also the easiest way to get your whole body behind the jab. The drawback is that it takes the longest to recover
  3. Retract your hand back to your chin
  4. Keep your back hand up at all times

The jab is a straight punch with your lead hand. While not as powerful as most other types of punches, many coaches rightfully say that it should be a boxer’s best punch. See, the jab isn’t meant to be a knockout punch.

Its main purpose is to set up your power shots. Jabbing allows you to test your opponent’s defenses, and get a feel for how they react. Are they reaching for it? Do they slip it? Maybe they prefer to just take it on the guard? Whatever the case, their reaction gives you invaluable information on what type of boxer they are, and it forces them to react. This allows you to spot openings in their defense, and follow up with a more powerful strike.

Another benefit of using your jabs a lot is that it allows you to keep your opponent at bay, and control the pace of the fight. The best way to see what I mean is to look at any professional boxing match. Nine times out of ten, the fighter who throws out more jabs is the one who controls the pace of the fight.

Common mistakes
  • Not using it enough. Seriously, anytime you feel even a momentary lull during the fight, throw a jab. If your opponent is coming on too strong, don’t just stand there – jab while retreating. If he starts backing away, step in with another jab!
  • Dropping the lead hand when retracting. Another very common mistake, that leaves you open to a strong hook, because it leaves your head open
  • Not using full extension. A lot of people aren’t using the full range of their arm when they jab. If your elbow is bent, that means you’re not using the full length of your arm when you jab
  • Reaching for it. The jab is a great way to close the distance, but it’s by no means a replacement for good footwork. A lot of fighters forget that, and overcommit when jabbing. Sometimes that works – especially if your arms are longer than your opponent’s. But if you’re fighting more experienced fighters, you’ll quickly find out that this is a mistake that’s very easy to punish
  • Not using body weight. As I said above, sometimes this is the right call. Using just your hand lets you punch faster. This is useful if you just want to get a feel for your opponent’s defenses. But you should definitely not turn this into a habit. True, a jab isn’t meant to knock people out, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and put some power into it. Even if it’s just rotating your hip, a jab is much more effective if there’s some body weight behind it. Otherwise, your opponent will just plow through your weak jabs

Straight/Cross – One of your Strongest Punches

Benefits of the Straight/Cross
  • Very strong power shot. Can be used to end the fight
  • Very easy to pick up as a beginner
  • Very versatile – can fit into a lot combinations
  • Can be used to intercept different types of punches
How to Throw a Straight
cross
  1. From your guard, punch with your back hand, palm down
  2. Rotate your back hip in the direction of the punch
  3. At the same time, rotate your back foot on your toes. Your knee should face forward, at around 45 degrees
    1. One variation is to lean into your front leg. That way you get your head off of the centerline. This makes it difficult for your opponent to counterattack
  4. Retract your hand back into your guard
  5. During the whole time, your front hand should stay up

A straight (or cross) is a straight punch with your back hand. The terms “straight” and “cross” are often used interchangeably. However, in boxing there is a difference. A “cross” is actually a counterpunch. It’s a straight you throw while evading your opponent’s jab or straight, and it crosses your opponent’s outstretched hand.

Most coaches don’t make such a distinction, and use the term “cross” for straight punches you throw with your back hand. There are arguments for both sides about if you should make such a distinction or not. And while I won’t be getting into that debate right now, it’s a good thing to keep in mind when we talk about this type of punch.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the straight. It’s one of your strongest punches for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s thrown with your dominant hand. This makes it very easy to transfer a lot of force into it, because it’s the hand you’re most comfortable using.

The second contributing factor is the leverage you can get by striking with your back hand. Compared to the jab, with a straight It’s much easier to turn your body into your punch, and get your bodyweight behind your strike.

Another source of power is the distance your hand has to travel to get to its target. As we know from our physics classes at school, force is equal to mass times acceleration. In this case, mass depends on how well you can get your bodyweight behind your punch. And acceleration is increased by the distance your hand has to travel.

Unlike the jab, however, the straight is slower, and it gives your opponent a lot of time to react. This is why you should always set it up with other strikes. A classic combination is the jab-straight, often referred to as the 1-2.

But there are endless ways to set it up – multiple jabs, lead hooks, a straight as a counter after evading, feinting a jab so you can throw a straight…

Just keep the following things in mind:

Common mistakes
  • Overcommitting/Leaning. A lot of people lean too much into the straight. And it’s understandable – it feels good, because you can really get a lot of power by leaning in. But the problem is that it throws you off-balance, and you’ll need more time to get back into your guard. Time an experienced opponent can use to really punish you
  • Not extending your arm fully. Just like the jab, a lot of guys punch with their elbow bent. Not only does this shorten your range, it also decreases power, because it dampens the force of the strike. Yes, you shouldn’t extend your arm too much, because it’s bad for your joints. But don’t keep it bent, either. Make sure you use the full length of your arm to get the best range and power
  • No set-up. All strikes with your back hand need some kind of set-up, otherwise your opponent will see them coming from a mile away. The straight is no different. Either do it after you’ve tested the waters with a couple of jabs, or feint a slip with your lead foot, and then throw your straight.
  • Dropping the hand while retracting. Similar to the jab, don’t drop your hand while retracting. Otherwise, you leave yourself wide open

Left Hook

Benefits of the Left Hook
  • Comes from a side angle that’s difficult to defend
  • Good option for body shots
  • Can easily hit the side of the chin, which can knock your opponent out
  • Can target the liver – another sure way for a knockout
How to Throw a Left Hook
left hook
  1. From your guard, throw a curved punch with your lead hand, palm down. Your elbow and forearm need to be parallel to the ground
  2. At the same time, rotate your lead hip, and the toes of your lead foot.
    1. Alternatively, you can pivot on your lead foot, in order to get more power into the punch
  3. Retract your arm to your guard
    1. If you’re hitting a heavy bag, bounce your hand back to your guard
    2. If you’re shadow boxing, use the momentum of your strike to swing your hand back to your guard
  4. Keep your back hand up

The left hook is one of the deadliest punches in boxing. It can be used to target several areas that can lead to a knockout: the side of the chin, and the liver. It, along with the right hook, is one of your best options when it comes to body shots.

By themselves, body shots are also an extremely potent weapon. They can knock the wind out of your opponent, which can pretty much end the fight. Once you get the wind knocked out of you, it’s nearly impossible for you to move, let alone evade attacks.

Another benefit of the left hook is that it comes from an outside angle, which is very difficult to defend against. It requires your opponent to shift their entire body, which can expose them to other angles of attack. 

Common Mistakes
  • Dropping your arm while retracting. After you throw your left hook, make sure not to drop your hand during retraction. A common defense for your opponent is to drop below the hook, and if you drop your hand during retraction, you leave your head wide open for a counterhook
  • Not bending your arm. Sometimes, people want to get more reach with their left hook, and they extend their arm. This drastically decreases the power you can get out of your punch. It can even lead to injury, because your wrist isn’t supported by the rest of your arm. So, if you can’t reach your opponent for a left hook with a bent arm, then close the distance using footwork.

Right Hook

Benefits of the Right Hook
  • Good for body shots
  • You can get a lot of power into it
How to Throw a Right Hook
right hook
  1. From your guard, throw a curved punch with your back hand, palm down. Keep the elbow and forearm parallel to the ground
  2. At the same time, rotate your back hip, and the toes of your back foot.
  3. Retract your arm to your guard
    1. If you’re hitting a heavy bag, bounce your hand back to your guard
    2. If you’re shadow boxing, use the momentum of your strike to swing your hand back to your guard
  4. Keep your lead hand up

This is one of the most difficult punches to land, and there are a couple of reasons for that. 

First, it comes off your back hand, which means it has more distance to travel. This is something it shares with all strikes you do with your back hand, but the right hook gives your opponent even more time to react. 

Because in addition to being thrown with the right hand, it also has a curved trajectory which makes it much easier to see. With a straight, it’s much harder to quickly gauge how close the punch is, because it’s moving directly at you. But a hook’s curved trajectory makes it much easier to see.

This is why it’s vital to combine it with other strikes. This could turn your right hook into a very potent finisher.

Common Mistakes
  • No set-up. A very big mistake people make is to throw the right hook without setting it up properly. The best way to do that is to incorporate it into a series of punches and footwork, aiming to close in on your opponent. You can also do it by fainting a slip, but that way it’s harder to land, because of its winding trajectory
  • Dropping the lead hand. Just like the other strikes with the back hand, it’s vital that you don’t expose yourself

Left and Right Uppercuts

Benefits of the Uppercut
  • A lot of fighters don’t expect it
  • Comes at an angle that can easily penetrate an opponent’s guard
  • Easy to get a lot of power into it
How to Throw a Left Uppercut 
  1. With your lead hand, throw a punch at a 45-degree angle, palm up.
  2. At the same time, rotate your lead hip, and the toes of your lead foot.
  3. Retract your arm to your guard
  4. Keep your back hand up
uppercut
How to Throw a Right Uppercut 
  1. With your back hand, throw a punch at a 45-degree angle, palm up.
  2. At the same time, rotate your back hip, and the toes of your back foot.
  3. Retract your arm to your guard
  4. Keep your lead hand up

To get more power, you can crouch down a little, and dip the same side’s shoulder. Then, rise up as you throw the punch.

Uppercuts aren’t thrown as frequently as other types of punches. One of the reasons for this is the fact that your head is exposed while throwing them, unlike the jab and straight, where your head is protected by the shoulder of the punching arm.

But that is what makes uppercuts unexpected, and a great addition to any boxer’s arsenal. Left uppercuts are stronger than the jab, and can catch your opponent off-guard.

Right uppercuts can be devastating at close and mid-range, but should be used sparingly, because they leave your head open to a counter left hook. But in the right circumstances, they’re the perfect option for targeting the head or body.

Common Mistakes
  • Telegraphing. Uppercuts are one of the hardest punches to do without telegraphing, because it’s very natural to lower your hand before doing them. One way to prevent that is to lower your body before you go in for an uppercut. That way it’ll be harder for your opponent to anticipate it
  • Slow retraction. A common mistake for most punches, in the case of uppercuts, it can lead to a lot of problems. During the punch itself, your head is exposed. So, anything that makes that exposure longer can lead to a lot of problems. So, use the punch’s upward trajectory to quickly get back into your guard

Left and Right Overhands

Benefits of the Overhand
  • Comes at an angle that goes over your opponent’s guard
  • Leaves you protected while you’re throwing it
  • Works well by itself or as part of a combination
How to Throw a Left Overhand
  1. With your lead hand, start throwing a jab. At the midpoint of the punch, rotate your hand clockwise, until your thumb is facing the ground. Your elbow should be facing away from your body, at roughly 45 degrees
  2. At the same time, rotate your lead hip, and the toes of your lead foot.
    1. Alternatively, you can pivot around your lead to get a better angle around your opponent’s guard
  3. Retract your arm to your guard
  4. Keep your back hand up
Overhand
How to Throw a Right Overhand
  1. With your lead hand, start throwing a hook (or a wide straight, if you want a tighter arc). At the midpoint of the punch, rotate your hand counter-clockwise, until your thumb is facing the ground. Your elbow should be facing away from your body, at roughly 45 degrees
  2. At the same time, rotate your back hip, and the toes of your back foot.
    1. Just like the left overhand, you can also pivot around your lead foot to more easily get around the opponent’s guard
  3. Retract your arm to your guard
  4. Keep your lead hand up

Overhands are one of my favourite types of punches. They can be incorporated into a number of combinations, and they can go over an opponent’s guard. You can use them to go on the inside of your opponent’s hook. Overhands can offer great reach, and are a good option for both closing the distance, and as a means of giving you some breathing room while retreating.

The way you naturally lift your shoulder while throwing them protects your head, and if you don’t drop your elbow during retraction, it leaves the head unexposed during the entire duration of the punch.

But as much as I like overhands, don’t rely on them too much. While their trajectory makes sure your head is protected at all times, it leaves your ribs exposed for quite a while. So, if your opponent weaves under your overhand, they can land some very nasty body shots.

So, it’s best to use overhands as part of a combination, or as a counter to hooks.

Common Mistakes
  • Telegraphing. Pulling your hand back, or dropping it right before punching can be a tell-tale sign to your opponent that you plan on throwing an overhand. 
  • Making the arc too wide. Some people go for too wide of an arc when throwing overhands. This gives your opponent more time to react, and means you’ll almost never land your overheads
  • Dropping your guard. More common when throwing a right overhand, dropping your guard leaves you exposed to a counter attack, and it might even lead to you getting knocked out. So, try to not let your guard down 

Defense

Blocking

There are several ways to block in boxing. If you’re a beginner, I suggest going for blocking punches off of your guard. 

For straight punches to the head, just bring your gloves closer to your face – raise your right hand against left-handed punches, and raise your left against right-handed punches. Nice, simple and effective.

Against body shots, bring your elbows down a little bit, and twist your body sideways. Against left-handed punches, lower the right elbow, and bend your upper body to the right. Against right-handed punches, do the opposite – lower your left elbow, and bend your upper body to the left. You’re essentially “laying on” your opponent’s punches.

Alternatively, you can cover their straight punches with your hands. The principle’s the same – cover left-handed punches with your right hand, and right-handed punches with your left. Against hooks, bend your elbow so it’s facing your opponent, and put the inside of your glove next to your ear (the movement is similar to when you want to push your hair behind your ear). Make sure your hand is firm. Otherwise, your hand could painfully slap into your ear.

You can also reach for your opponent’s attacks, and stop his punches before they’re gained momentum [… does this a lot]. However, that can leave you very exposed. So, do these types of blocks unless you know what you’re doing.

Slipping, Bobbing and Weaving

Slipping, Bobbing and Weaving are some of the most fundamental defensive techniques in boxing. 

Slipping is pivoting with your lead or back leg in order to evade a jab or a straight. Generally, you can slip either way, but the best way to do it is to slip so that you’re on the outside of your opponent. So, against left-handed punches, you slip to the right, and against right-handed punches you slip to the left. Again, you can also do the opposite, but it’s much more dangerous, because it gets you closer to your opponent’s other hand. So, as a rule, always try to slip in such a way that you’re on the outside of your opponent.

Bobbing and weaving is usually done against hooks. It’s where you bend your knees to lower your body a few inches. Then, you step out, under your opponent’s arm. When bobbing and weaving, the same principles apply as is slipping – always do it so that you end up on the outside of your opponent.

Countering

Countering is the epitome of the phrase “The best defense is a good offense”. It’s done by intercepting your opponent’s attack with an attack of your own.

To do this, you need to anticipate your opponent’s attack, and counter with a shorter attack from the same angle. E.g. when your opponent throws a right overhand, you throw a left overhand that goes on the inside of his hand. That way his punch slides off the outside of your hand, while your punch lands in his head.

Alternatively, you can intercept a curved punch with a straight punch. E.g. your opponent throws a left hook, and you intercept it with a cross (with your elbow facing up). This is usually done when your opponent throws a punch with a wider arc.

If you want to make a good counter, you should combine it with slipping, bobbing or weaving, to make sure your opponent’s strike doesn’t land on you. In general, countering is much harder than other forms of defense. It’s a lot more involved than blocking or evading attacks. Try it once you’ve become comfortable with the other forms of defense.

Strategy/Boxing Styles

If you’re a beginner, and you’re just starting out, then it’s way too early to be thinking about boxing styles. Even once you’ve become comfortable with the basic techniques, you should know that every person is different, and has their own unique style and approach.

Still, there are similarities between the approaches people have when boxing, and we can broadly group these approaches under several styles. However, styles aren’t something rigid. In fact, many boxers change their fighting style based on the opponent they’re fighting. Even if you don’t plan on fighting in competitions, it’s still a good idea to try out different things, and see which style suits you best.

Swarmer

Swarmers try to win by applying constant pressure, eventually overwhelming their opponent with a flurry of attacks. They like to get close to their opponent, so they can rain down a flood of hooks and uppercuts. 

To be a swarmer, you need to have:

  • Good footwork, so you can get in close, and not let your opponent evade you
  • Good power, so you can get the most damage out of your close-range shots  
  • Good head movement. As we said above, jabs are a good way to keep your distance. So, before closing in, swarmers need to deal with their opponent’s jabs. This is why good head movement is important for a swarmer
  • Very good “chin”. A fighter’s “chin” measures how well they can take hits to their jaw without getting knocked out. So, if you’re very aggressive about closing in on your opponent (which is vital to a swarmer’s gameplan), expect to eat a lot of punches to the head. If you can’t take that, consider switching up your style

Swarmer tactics are a great fit when fighting an opponent with a longer reach. Closing in can take away his advantage, especially if he isn’t comfortable fighting in close quarters. 

Still, it’s not for everybody, because it assumes taking some damage before you can close in, so you can unload on your opponent.

Famous swarmers:

  • Mike Tyson (although not throughout his entire career)
  • Joe Frazier
  • Rocky Marciano
  • Jack Dempsey
  • Henry Armstrong
  • Ricky Hatton
  • Tommy Burns
  • Harry Greb
  • Battling Nelson
  • Henry Armstrong
  • Carmon Basilio
  • Jake LaMotta

Out-Boxer

An out-boxer is the polar opposite of a swarmer. They try to keep their distance from their opponent, using fast, long-range punches. They don’t have as much power as swarmers, but they make up for it with quick footwork. 

To be an out-boxer you need:

  • Excellent footwork. Again, this style relies on excellent range control, and footwork is a vital component for this. Simply backing away won’t get you very far (a boxing ring can prove to be very, very small when you’re trying to run away). You need to be light on your feet, and smart about your movements. Watching a good out-boxer’s footwork is a beautiful thing, the embodiment of “flying like a butterfly, and stinging like a bee”
  • Very good defense. Along with footwork, defense is another important component of the out-boxer’s repertoire. Sooner or later, your opponent is bound to be successful in closing the distance between you. Whether that means an end to the fight, or just a minor setback depends on your defense
  • Excellent Stamina. As an outboxer, you need to constantly move around, and throw jabs to maintain your distance. All of this will wear you down, and if your stamina isn’t up to the task, then the fight could end pretty quickly
  • Very good jabs and straights. Jabs and straights are the out-boxer’s bread and butter. They need to be strong enough so your opponent can’t just power through them. But they need to be effective enough so you don’t need to expend too much energy on them. At the same time, you need to throw jabs as often as you can, so that your opponent doesn’t get a window to close in on you

The out-boxer’s style is best for more defensive fighters. Typically, their goal is to win in points, rather than by knockout. Still, there are cases of out-boxers packing a lot of power in their punches, and winning by knockout.

Famous out-boxers:

  • Muhammad Ali
  • Floyd Mayweather Jr.
  • Lennox Lewis
  • Pernell Whitaker
  • Winky Wright
  • Roy Jones Jr.
  • Wladimir Klitschko
  • Felix Trinidad, 
  • Larry Holmes

Slugger

Sluggers are probably the most brutal type of fighters. Their footwork is basic at best, but what they lack in finesse, they more than make up for in straight-up, raw power. 

Generally, sluggers aren’t very mobile in the ring, and have a hard time keeping up with faster fighters. But when they do catch their opponents, sluggers can often end the fight with just a single punch. 

They throw fewer punches than swarmers or out-boxers, and they don’t use any complex, flashy combinations. They often leave themselves open to counterpunching, but they have the chin and endurance to just shrug them off.

A good slugger needs to have:

  • An extremely high tolerance for pain and endurance. Sluggers usually take a lot of punishment in the ring. This is why you’ll need high endurance and pain tolerance, so you can shrug off everything your opponent throws at you
  • Very good chin. Again, expect to take a good beating. Some sluggers just put their hands up to cover their head, and charge straight for their opponent, but there’s still the danger of a well-placed knockout-punch to the chin. As a slugger, you’ll need to be able to take it, and plow through
  • Obscenely high punching power. Sluggers are usually slower than average, so when they do land a punch, they need to make it count. This is why they work extra hard on their punching power

Not everybody’s cut out to be a slugger, but it’s a great style for people with bulkier builds. And while they aren’t as fun or interesting to watch, their effectiveness is often undeniable.

Famous sluggers:

  • Mike Tyson (some experts say he’s more of a slugger than a swarmer, on account of his incredible power)
  • Terry McGovern
  • Sonny Liston
  • Max Baer
  • George Foreman
  • Rocky Graziano

Boxer-Puncher

In many ways, boxer-punchers are a mix of swarmers and out-boxers. Like an out-boxer, they have very good hand speed, counter-punching, and footwork. But unlike out-boxers, punchers are a lot more aggressive – a trait they share with swarmers.

The puncher’s game plan is to constantly apply pressure on their opponent, and always have control of the fight. They’re among the most entertaining to watch, but it’s a style that’s hard to master.

The typical boxer-puncher needs to have:

  • Good footwork. Punchers need the ability to quickly reposition themselves. Unlike sluggers, who don’t mind taking a lot of hits, punchers want to constantly control the fight by applying pressure from different angles, never letting their opponent react
  • Very good hand speed and combinations. As a puncher, you aren’t trying to end the fight in a single hit. Instead, you’re trying to land as many hits as you can, so that you gradually wear down your opponent. So, as a puncher, you need to constantly be on your toes, and be as fast and unpredictable in your combinations as possible.
  • High explosive power and endurance. Endurance, along with explosivity, is important for any boxer. Punchers are no different. But since their style requires constant pressure, and is so explosive in and of itself, that it’s often hard for less experienced punchers to make that extra push that ends the fight. You need very high stamina and endurance to maintain the high intensity that makes punchers so deadly

Boxer-punchers generally have good match-ups against both swarmers and out-boxers. Against the former, they usually have the power to stop them from coming in too close. And vs out-boxers, they can usually match their speed, and go in close where the out-boxer is less comfortable.

Although it sounds very good on paper, it’s a difficult style to master, and requires good speed, power, and footwork.

Famous boxer-punchers:

  • Manny Pacquiao
  • Joe Louis
  • Ray Robinson
  • Ike Williams
  • Joe Gans
  • Alexis Arguello
  • Erik Morales
  • Tommy Hearns

Exercises

Shadow Boxing

Shadow boxing is an exercise where you move around against an imaginary opponent, throw punches in the air, slip, bob, and weave.

It’s one of boxing’s most iconic exercises. The main purpose is to warm you up and prepare your muscles before you start the more intense part of your workout.

But shadow boxing can be much more than that. It can be used to improve your technique, footwork, speed, rhythm, power, endurance, offense, defense, and so much more. I have a whole article on it which you can see here.

Heavy Bag

The heavy bag helps you work on your punching form. Working with It increases your punching power, speed, and endurance. Regardless of your level, it can be a great addition both to your workout, and you should try to incorporate it to your training. 

But if you plan on using a heavy bag on a regular basis, you’ll definitely need some hand wraps and a pair of bag gloves.

Speed Bag

While the heavy bag helps you better your striking power and muscles, the purpose of a speed bag is to boost your speed and improve your hand-eye coordination.

It also provides a great workout for your arm muscles, which is a very welcome additional benefit.

Focus Mitts

Focus mitts are a great way to try out different combinations, and work on the areas you need to improve. They let you hone your skills to the point where different punching patterns and counters become second nature.

Sparring

Sparring is by far the ultimate training method. It lets you apply the skills you’ve learned during your training, and it allows you to put your willpower to the test.

However, it can be very dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’re a beginner, always do it under the supervision of a coach or a more experienced fighter. And if you’re never done any sparring drills, don’t just jump straight into full-contact sparring.

A good progression to go for is to initially limit yourselves. First, start off with 3-4 minutes of only throwing jabs at each other. Then, do 3-4 minutes where you can only throw jabs and straights. After that, have it so you can only throw hooks at each other.

Like with everything, start slowly, and gradually work your way up in speed.

Do this for as many training sessions as you need. Once you start feeling comfortable, you can do some sparring where all types of punches are allowed, but don’t throw them as strong as you can.

If any one of you starts feeling like it’s going too far, just stop. Yes, it’s true that in a competition, you need to go all out. But this is not a competition. This is a training session. Your aim isn’t to knock your partner unconscious. It’s to train, and learn how to become better.

Spread the process out a little. If you start going at it full-force in your first week of training, you’re bound to injure yourself or someone else. Full-contact sparring is something you do after you’ve become extremely comfortable with lighter sparring drills. And even then, you should always do it under the supervision of your coach or trainer.

Workout Routine

Beginner

Warmup – 10-15 Minutes

You can start off with some light stretching. Begin with the head and neck, and continue with your core, arms and legs. 

Once you feel some flexibility in your joints, you can start the cardio part of the warmup:

  • 30 seconds – With your guard up, start bouncing side to side
  • 30 seconds – Transition into bouncing forwards and backwards
  • 30 seconds – Jumping Jacks
  • 30 seconds – Squats. Try keeping your hips on the same level with your knees, and keep your back straight
  • Do 5 reps

You can follow along with the video below:

Shadow Boxing – 10 Minutes

If you want to do a bit of a cardio workout, you can try something like this:

  • 30 seconds – Bounce forwards and backwards. Every time you step on your lead leg, throw out a jab
  • 30 seconds – Switch your lead leg, and do the same thing on the other side
  • 30 seconds – Step forward with a jab and a straight. Step backwards with the same combination
  • 30 seconds – While having your left as your lead leg, step to the left with it while throwing a jab and straight. Then, step to the right, again throwing a jab and straight
  • 1 minute – Bob and weave with the lead leg. While you’re coming up, throw out an uppercut with the back hand, followed by a lead hook. Then, slip with the back leg while throwing an uppercut with the lead hand, and a hook with the back hand
  • Do 3 reps

For a more pure boxing workout, don’t switch the lead leg as often, and work only on one side.

Here’s a good video you can follow along with:

Focus Mitts – 10-15 Minutes

  • 1 minute – Jab-Straight. Have your partner feed you a jab and straight that you slip to evade
  • 1 minute – Lead hook, back hook. Partner feeds you the same combo. Bob and weave to dodge it
  • 1 minute – Lead uppercut, back uppercut. Partner feeds you the same combination. Slip to evade it
  • Do about 5 reps

Heavy Bag – 15-20 Minutes

  • 1 minute – Jab-Straight. Move your hip, so you can get more power into each punch.
  • 1 minute – Bob and weave to the side, and deliver two hooks. Have your left leg in front, bob to the left, and follow it up with a back hook and lead hook. After that, bob to the right, and follow with a lead hook and back hook
  • 1 minute  – Push the bag a little bit. Go in front of it, and keep it in position with uppercuts. Don’t let it swing back
  • 1 minute – Jab-Hook. Bob and weave, then repeat
  • 1 minute – Full-power, full-speed punching. You can do any combination you want, just don’t stop hitting
  • Do 3 reps

Sparring – 3-10 Minutes

Again, this really depends on your level. Start slowly, and gradually work your way up in speed and intensity.

If you can’t do it under the supervision of a coach or more experienced fighter, then just stick to the more basic sparring drills. Both of you throwing only jabs and straights, only throwing hooks, etc.

In terms of how long you should do it for, again – it depends. If you’re just starting out, do it for about 3 to 5 minutes. As you get better, you can extend that to 3-minute rounds – 2, 3 or even more rounds, depending on how fast you’re progressing.

Training at Home

One of the good things about boxing is that you don’t necessarily need a gym in order to train. You can do it just as well at home. Still, there are some things you should have to make the most out of your home boxing workout:

  • Partner. For most people, a partner is the hardest thing to get a hold of when training at home. A good partner can hold your focus mitts, assist you in drills, spar with you, and provide motivation for training. Good partners are the main reason many people go to gyms instead of training at home
  • Heavy bag. A heavy bag is essential for developing punching power and proper form
  • Hand wraps and boxing gloves. They’re essential for working on the heavy bag, as well as for sparring and drills. The weight they add also helps you keep proper form, and work your arm muscles

But while training at home is a great way to improve your skills and stay in shape, it’s not a substitute to a good gym. Why is that? Well, for one, gyms give you access to a lot of different people you can train with and learn from. Sparring with them, doing drills, or just seeing their approach to training is invaluable experience. 

Even if you have the best partner in the world training with you at home, sooner or later you’ll become so familiar with each others’ styles, that progress for both of you will start becoming slower and slower.

Yes, training at home is important, and all good boxers do it. But if you don’t go to a gym once in a while, you risk becoming stuck in your ways to the point where you just stop improving.

Training at a Gym (what does a gym need to have)

There are many things you need to look for when looking for a good gym. And unfortunately, I’m not the one to tell you what they are. Every person is different, and we all look for different things in life. The same applies for boxing gyms. The things I value, and the things that help me improve are unique to my way of learning and training. 

So, this list isn’t the absolute best qualities a boxing gym should have. They’re the things I look for in a good boxing gym:

  • Good coach/trainer. Finding a good trainer is the hardest part in any martial art or combat sport. Boxing is no different. A bad trainer can get you into bad habits that can take years to unlearn. A good trainer can help you tap into your potential, and not only make you a better boxer, but a better person. It’s difficult to find a good trainer, and if you’re a beginner, it’s even harder. While there’s no single way of knowing who’s good and who isn’t, here are a few things that indicate a good trainer:
    • Has students who’ve trained a long time with them. This is a very good indicator of how good a coach is. If people have stuck with them a long time, that tells you two things. First, people feel he helps them improve, and he’s still got a lot to teach them. If he didn’t those people would have moved on a long time ago. Second, it means he’s someone people are comfortable with, which is vital for fostering a tightly-knit community you’d want to be a part of
    • Has patience for beginners. Some beginners progress extremely quickly. However, most of them don’t. A good coach needs to have enough patience to account for that, and not be condescending towards beginners.
    • Has a specific approach for different kinds of people. Everybody learns differently. An explanation that works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. For example, when presented with a new combination, some people learn best by trying things out on the heavy bag. Others need to do some mitt work first. Some pick things up immediately, while others need more time. A coach needs to account for that, and tailor his drills and exercises accordingly
    • Can explain the reason behind his drills and training methods. A lot of mediocre coaches don’t know why they give certain exercises to their students. They just do it, because that’s the way the coach himself was taught, or because someone told them that’s how you’re supposed to teach. A good coach tailors the drills and exercises he gives based on the specifics of his students, and he’s ready to tell them why, and how that will improve their skills
    • Knows when to push his students, and when not to push them. In boxing, sometimes you need to push yourself. It’s the only way to overcome your limits. At other times, pushing yourself can lead to serious injuries. It’s a very fine linen and a good coach knows when and when not to push his students
  • Friendly, welcoming atmosphere. When you’re starting out, the other people in the gym are probably going to be better than you. In some gyms, the people training there are sometimes unwilling to help you out, give advice to newbies, or even train with them. These are the markings of people who think they’re skilled, but are actually just assholes who are too full of themselves. Helping beginners is one of the best ways to improve your own skills, and most skilled fighters are happy to do so. Also, having a friendly atmosphere means people feel welcome, and are more likely to stay. For you, that means there are  more people to train with. And as we already said – the more people you’ve trained with, the more diverse and valuable your experience will be
  • Adequate equipment. To me, this is by far the least important thing about a gym. If the trainer and his students are good, and if they’re people I want to train with, then I don’t really care about the facility. I view it like having a beer with my best friends – be it in a classy restaurant, or just sitting on the curb, it’s all the same to me – I’m there for people, not for the venue. Still, if a gym has a couple of the things listed below, it’s certainly a plus (things at the top of the list are more important than things at the bottom):
    • Heavy bag
    • Focus mitts
    • Speed bag
    • Double-end bag
    • Free-standing bag

This is a very big topic, and here I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are people who actually prefer gyms with a less friendly (even hostile) environment, and some who look for completely different things. I’ll definitely come back to this topic, and devote a whole article to it.

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