Master Boxing – Left Hook

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Master the Left Hook in Boxing

The left hook is the king of knockout punches.

Everyone from Joe Frazier to Oscar Del La Hoya is proof that if you know how to throw a left hook, it can be the difference between winning and losing a fight.

However, throwing a left hook with the precision and power needed to floor your opponent isn’t as easy as it looks. Sure, the pros make it look easy, but trust me when I say there’s a lot more to the left hook than just swinging a punch that comes in from the left.

Most beginners have a weak left hook. I liken it to being hit in the face with a dead fish. It’s never going to knock you out – only shock, surprise, and piss you off.

If you want to throw a killer left hook that comes through like a bulldozer, then listen up.

Difficulties in Throwing the Left Hook

The left hook is a hard punch to master.

It’s thrown with the weaker hand (if you’re an Orthodox boxer) which is also closest to your opponent adding to the challenge of loading power into the punch.

On the other hand (pardon the pun), punches thrown with the right side are easier to learn and feel more natural. They transfer weight from the rear to the front foot which feels comfortable as we are better able to brace ourselves leaning forward.

Conversely, when the left hook is thrown, a boxer shifts the weight to the rear foot for added oomph in the punch.

However, there are times when you’ll see fighters throwing a left hook with their weight on the front foot. The hook may come in on a perfectly horizontal plane, and there may be a pivot on the ball of the lead foot, but having your weight at the front detracts from the power of the punch.

Instead of a killer left hook, you’re left with something more akin to the jab.

Neither method is right or wrong, and each is advantageous depending on the situation.

Why is the Left Hook So Effective?

How a left hook should be thrown

The left hook is precise and technically beautiful.

While the cross and right hook are powerful punches, nothing quite lands on the jaw with the swiftness and devastation of a left hook.

It’s unlike the right hook, which is sloppy, easy to see coming, and more of a mixture between a hook and uppercut, and sometimes even looping over like an overhand right.

What I like about the left hook is its speed, deadly precision, and its technical beauty.

Thrown correctly, the left hook can be the deadliest punch in your arsenal, and here’s why:

  • It usually targets the chin
  • It’s delivered with the lead hand
  • It’s a good setter-upper for your power hand
  • It allows you to work angles

Let’s look at each of the four points in more detail.

Targeting the Chin

The chin is a known vulnerability of the human body. Sometimes it takes nothing more than a tap on the chin and its lights out. The hook is perfectly poised to land squarely on the jaw which is why the almighty left hook causes so many knockouts.

Thrown With the Lead Hand

If you are a right-handed boxer (orthodox stance), your left hand is your lead hand and is therefore closest to your opponent. It’s this closeness, when combined with speed and accuracy, that gives the left hook that element of surprise.

Powerful lead in Punch

When you connect with your left hook and it doesn’t floor your opponent, at the very least, it will disorientate and open up their guard.

Similar to when you throw a jab, the left hook allows you to follow up your combination with a punch from your stronger hand.

This is your opportunity to follow up that left with one of the big hitters from Old Righty – hook, cross, uppercut, or even an overhand right.

Mixes up Angles

While I’m a big fan of the jab and cross, only throwing straight punches makes you easy to read. Launching an attack at every angle keeps your opponent guessing and increases the likelihood of you landing punches.

Types of Left Hooks

Although you’ll start off learning only one type of left hook (most likely the short-range, power hook), there’s actually several different types that you should add to your repertoire in time.

Mike Tyson Powerful Left Hook

Mike Tyson was known for his powerful short left hooks (Image: nationalss / Flickr)

Power Left Hook – As mentioned above, the power left hook involves transferring your weight to the back foot. It works best fighting in close quarters as it’s difficult to maintain range when you’re leaning backwards.

Being so close to your opponent, the left hook has little distance to build power, so the strength of the punch comes from the torque generated when you rotate your hips and shoulders.

Lunging Left Hook – The lunging left hook is a variation of the long-range hook. It’s thrown as you step forward and is therefore not going to have a ton of power.

However, like the long-range uppercut, it’ great for surprising your opponent and working angles from a distance. Your arm should only be slightly bent so you connect from long range.

Stepping Left Hook – Imagine a Matador moving out of the way of a charging bull and you’ve got the technique. As you’re opponent rushes forward when attacking, you pivot on the front foot, moving your body to the left and out of the line of fire, while simultaneously throwing a hook.

The stepping left hook is extremely difficult to master, but when it’s pulled off successfully, it is the slickest looking counterpunch man has ever seen.

Shovel Hook – This hook gets its name as the motion mimics shovelling. It’s also known as a digging left hook and a hookercut.

It’s a combination of a hook and an uppercut and comes in at an upward 45° angle. However, it’s actuality not so precise in practice and is thrown any old way and from every angle possible.

If you target the bottom of the rib cage, the shovel hook is a painful and highly effective body shot. Ideally, you want your knuckles to dig in behind the rib cage and push up.

How to Throw a Left Hook

People will often tell you that all you need to win a fight is power. Not true. Power is only one part of the equation which is easily trumped by technique.

Think about it; smaller guys outbox bigger opponents in the ring and out on the street all the time.

Concentrate on mastering the correct technique for any punch and everything else eventually falls into line.

With that in mind, here’re the steps involved in throwing a proper left hook.

1. Start from your on guard position.

2. Bend your knees a little and transfer your weight to your lead foot. Turn your right shoulder in while dropping your left shoulder and left arm slightly. This motion should be performed extremely quickly and should be unnoticeable to the untrained eye. This is called “winding up” and helps to load power into the hook.

3. Throw your left hook while simultaneously rotating on the ball of your lead foot. As you throw the hook, the weight is transferred from the front foot to the rear. You’re spinning on the ball of your left foot while pressing down on the heel of your right foot.

4. Keep your arm locked rigidly at an angle close to 90° and make sure that your wrist is straight. Your arm should move in a horizontal plane.

5. Your hips and shoulders should rotate naturally as you rotate on your lead foot. You should finish the hook with your body facing right. Using your whole body will put power behind the punch.

6. Keep your left shoulder high and tuck your chin in behind it to defend against crosses and right hooks. Your right hand should also be held tightly against your head to defend against counterpunches.

7. Remember to exhale as you punch. As soon as you’ve thrown the hook, return back to your on guard position or continue with your combination.

Main Learning Points

The left hook seems easy enough when it’s broken down into baby steps.

But for Newbie Norms – who this Master Boxing series is intended for - I realise it can still be a lot to take on board.

Even the experienced guys are guilty of poor form when the hook is part of a long combo, or they’re under pressure in the ring.

If you only remember a fraction of this post, make sure it’s the essentials listed below.

  • The left hook is a whole body movement. Put your shoulders and hips into it.
  • Pivot on the ball of your left foot. Leave your right foot grounded.
  • Don’t wind your arm back for power - you’re telegraphing the hook. Instead, perform a tiny twist to your left, drop your arm and shoulder slightly, and punch from there.
  • Keep your arm locked at an angle close to 90° (short-range hooks).
  • Throw the hook at chin level and use your left shoulder to protect your chin.
  • Always keep your right hand tight against your head.
  • Finish the hook facing right.

Final Words on the Left Hook

It's worth taking the time to practice the left hook (Image: Mark Cristino / Flickr)

Boxing is an art, it's a science, and the only way to prevail outside of passion and heart is technique.

As with everything in boxing, developing a devastating left hook takes time. It isn’t going to happen overnight, no matter who your coach is.

However, if you dedicate yourself to learning correct technique - paying attention to every subtle movement – there’s no reason you can’t have a knockout left hook with sufficient practice.

If you follow the above steps you will find out two things:

1. Proper form outweighs arm strength. If you have good form, you don’t rely on big guns for power. Even 50” biceps can’t compete with a hook that has someone’s whole body weight behind it.

2. You are now in possession of a killer left hook.

This is the second post in our Master Boxing series. If you enjoyed this post and learned something from it, then check out our post on mastering the jab.

Main Image (toenailsandfeet / Flickr)