You want to hit without being hit. That’s how you win a boxing match.
There is a continuum of defensive strategies, and I’ll list them for you, starting with the absolute worst, and ending with the best.
The worst defensive strategies:
Walking into a power punch
Getting hit square by a punch
You can take a punch as long as its not on your most vulnerable areas. You never want to get hit in the face, the jaw, the temple, or in certain ‘illegal’ areas, but if you have to take a punch, its not the end of the world as long as it doesn’t hurt you too much.
Rolling with a punch
Sort of the opposite of walking into a punch is rolling with the punch. When you do this, you markedly decrease the punch’s impact. Good boxers rarely get hit square. They’re always moving with their opponent’s power punches. Why do some fighters – mostly MMA or traditional martial arts practitioners – go down after very few punches, while boxers go many rounds before they fall? It’s because boxers hardly ever get hit with the full power of a punch.
Your opponent can take advantage of this by continuing to punch. Judges often can’t determine if the punch did damage or not. Even though you rolled with the punch and rendered it harmless, judges might still score it as a landed power punch.
Better defensive strategies:
Block the punch
When you block a punch, you stick something in front of it. Think of an ancient soldier with a sword and shield: he’s capable of blocking an attack by sticking the shield in the way. A boxer blocks in a similar manner, but he blocks with his gloves, or sometimes his elbows or his shoulders. Against the jab, this is often called “catching the jab”. Usually, boxers use the rear hand to block (or catch) punches. Catching with the front hand is counterproductive.
If you block punches by putting your gloves right in front of your face (called “putting on the earmuffs”), you can get hurt even though the punch impacted your gloves instead of your face. Your opponent can take advantage of your blocks by increasing the length of his boxing combinations. While you’re busy putting your hands in front of your face, he’s punching around your block. So you should only block punches that otherwise will land.
Parry the punch
When you parry a punch, you’re not stopping it dead like when you block. Instead, you’re deflecting it. You’re knocking it off line. The front hand is often used to parry punches. Successfully parrying a punch leaves your opponent vulnerable to counterpunches.
Your opponent can trick you by feinting. This may cause you to parry a punch that simply doesn’t exist. When you do this, you are momentarily vulnerable. Be sure to only parry enough to deflect the punch; don’t parry with so much intensity that you throw yourself offline.
The best defensive strategies in boxing:
Make him miss
When you make him miss, you are in a perfect position to make him pay. There are several ways to do this.
You can slip or roll with his punches. Slipping, especially, is a very effective way to put your opponent totally out of position so you can blast him with a power punch before he’s able to recover.
Sidestepping is useful against fighters with little experience. If a guy comes rushing in, try a sidestep.
Finally, if you have longer punches than his – especially if he’s an inexperienced fighter who throws nothing but haymakers – you can keep him from ever getting close enough to hit you. Good jabbers do this instinctively.
Your opponent can take advantage of this if he’s well conditioned. Often, judges will score an otherwise even fight to the fighter who showed more aggression. If he’s dictating the pace of the fight, he looks like a winner.
Hit him before he hits you
The very best thing you can do is to hit him before he punches. Think of the old saying: the best defense is a good offense. If you seize and maintain the initiative, he won’t hurt you. Of course, this is easier said than done. If you’re fighting a good boxer, he’s very dangerous; open up prematurely, and you’ll get the tables turned on you. So make sure you really can hit him before you commit yourself to a string of power punches.
What do you think? Do you have any defensive boxing strategies that I neglected to mention? Let’s hear your thoughts below.
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