Welcome to Warrior Punch's Boxing Training Tips - bringing you bite-sized technical insights from the wide world of combative sports.
Today's technique is brought to you by Floyd Mayweather and Andre Berto.
Labelled "High Stakes," the September 12th, 2015 match-up turned out to be another routine Mayweather dismantling. But it was instructive, as Floyd fights tend to be. Today's masterclass is about head movement.
Let's look at the way Floyd blended offense and defense that night to hit and not get hit:
That's incredible head movement! And not because it's particularly fast; it's just really smart.
Changing Head Slots for Offensive Defense (and Defensive Offense!)
Floyd's success in the two sequences above is all about his use of different head positions, or "slots" as they're sometimes called. Not only did he change his head slot at least five times in these two exchanges while punching, he did so behind a barrage of smart feints that kept Berto busy.
Let's take a closer look and see how you can apply this in your own training:
First, Floyd's moves his head off-line to the right with the body-jab, slipping Berto's jab as he does.
Floyd ends up low and off to his right, outside of Berto's jab hand. We'll call this head slot Position A.
From Position A, Floyd slips his head left - inside of the jab - coming up slightly as he moves back to a more central position. We'll call this new head slot Position B.
Floyd covers the move with a probing punch. Rather than trying to land hard, Floyd uses the jab hand to obstruct Berto's vision and block the path of his right cross.
The jab also acts as a feint. Berto has to take the threat seriously, or he'll pay for it later. So while Floyd moves his head, he also threatens offense - that's offensive defense.
Knowing the shift from outside to inside will give him good leverage on a right hand, Floyd throws the hook in transition to Position B.
Obviously, the shift from outside to inside also makes Mayweather a moving target as he punches. That's defensive offense.
From here, Floyd resets for a second attack sequence:
First, Floyd chooses to change position and recover his stance. He stands up tall and shifts onto the rear hip, using the threat of a right cross to cover the move. We'll call this tall, centered head-slot Position C.
Frame 2 shows Berto locked behind his guard, frozen by the feint. Floyd takes the opportunity to change levels, bending his knee to drop back into Position B. This is the same head slot he took to hook the body in sequence 1, only this time he uses it to stab with the left hand (frame 3).
But Floyd's not finished. Moving from Position B with the jab hand extended, Floyd slips to his left, moving his head outside of Berto's right hand to and throwing a hook to the body as he does. We'll call this fifth and final head slot Position D (frame 3 above).
These two attack sequences show Floyd move his head six times to land four punches without taking any in return.
Impressive stuff, but totally teachable. Unlike punching power, Floyd's offensive defensive isn't a genetic gift; with proper training and understanding of different head slot options, anyone can do it.
Boxing Training Tips for Offensive Defense (or Defensive Offense)
To move like Floyd, you'll need to understand which head slots are safe and available to you at any moment in the fight. You'll also need to dedicate rounds to refining your transitions from position to position.
Understanding Basic Head Slot Options
From any balanced position, you should have 6 basic head slot options available to you: top left, top middle (look back at Position C), top right, bottom left (Position D), bottom middle (Position B), and bottom right (Position A).
When you're standing normally in your boxing stance, you're in "top middle," and slipping left or right puts you in "top left" or "top right," respectively. The same applies when you're crouched, only you're now in the "bottom" vertical plane.
This basic list doesn't even cover the pull counter that Floyd made famous, but it's enough to get you started. There are many more to discover; horizontal-plane head slot variations are a topic for another day.
Training Head Slots for Offensive Defense
Start by flowing through the six basic head slot positions for 2, 3-minute rounds during your warm-ups or cool-downs. Don't worry about equipment for now. Focus on staying balanced and ready to punch as you transition from slot to slot. Keep your posture in tact and your eyes on your opponent.
In addition to these two dedicated rounds, begin to explore head slots while you shadowbox, spar, and work the bags freestyle.
There are a number of training tools that can help you drill head slots more effectively.
The maize bag is a particularly good option early on. This bag is not for punching, so the temptation won't be there right away, and the pendulum motion will help you build a good learning rhythm to try to keep for the round.
As you get faster and more comfortable moving through these basic positions, start to incorporate punches between transitions. Once you're ready to advance, you can mix punches in transition from one slot to another.
For example, you could slip and counter a jab simultaneously by moving to the top or bottom right head slot as you throw one of your own. From there, you can slip off-line and counter their follow-up cross by moving to the top or bottom left slot while throwing yours.
Once you're ready to start hitting on the move, you can incorporate the double-end bag.
This will allow you to work all the same the transitions and offensive defensive techniques, but will improve your accuracy, hand speed, and coordination at the same time.
Specialty double-end bags like the "peanut" (not pictured) will let you work in body shots, though you can also just target the bottom cord on a traditional one.
Watch Floyd Mayweather flow through head slot positions on the double-end bag in training for Conor McGregor below:
If you want to work on power punching for your "offensive defense," I recommend Aqua Training Bags for this purpose. They're great on the hands, and combine the best parts of heavy bag and maize bag work.
As you work your head slot game on the heavy bag, notice how different transitions add power to certain punches, and find what works for you.
Alternately, you can use some of the drills and combinations we've shared on the site and in previous editions of the #WPTrainingTip.
And if you're looking for a way to get a bead on somebody who uses head slot changes this well, grab a deck of cards and give Conor McGregor's creative reaction drill a try:
Hope you've enjoyed this training tip. To catch up on past editions, Google #WPTrainingTip or visit our Facebook page.