Nobody likes getting punched.
While boxing is fun, getting punched is not fun or pleasurable in any way.
Unless you’re a masochist, in which case you’ll need to strap up with an extra tight steel cup to conceal your satisfaction when you get punched in the face.
Your primary goal as a boxer is to knock your opponent’s block off. Your secondary objective is to complete mission A without being punched.
Here’s a surprisingly simple insight…
Your opponent shares the exact same mission as you. Just as you will be throwing your punches with ferocity, malice, and with intent to cause serious harm, you can bet the house on your opponent doing the same.
It’s called a fight.
If you don’t want to finish the fight stretched out on the canvas, you need a tight defense game.
I suggest you pay attention to what follows.
It Starts With Stance
A robust defense begins and ends with a solid stance and tight guard.
If your hands are up, then there is a physical barrier that has to be broken before you get hit.
You should start off in your guard, throw your combination, and then return to your guard. Even during the combination, the hand that isn’t punching should remain in guard position, so that you never leave yourself exposed.
And you should keep your guard up as you move and even when you’re outside striking range.
In case I’m not being clear: Never drop your guard!
Imagine you have just won one million dollars on a radio show. They’re telling you the details of how to claim your prize and you need to pay close attention. Unlikely an example, but go with it. The phone wouldn’t leave your ear and, you would hold it tight and to your head.
That’s how important you should treat keeping your guard up.
The only exception to this rule is when you’ve reached what feels like the millionth round and your gloves have become burdensome 50-pound anchors.
When you’re well outside your opponent’s striking zone, you can drop your arms for a quick shake to relieve cramps and get the blood back to the fingertips. As soon as you’re anywhere near encroaching the striking zone, get your guard up pronto!
9 Defensive Boxing Techniques
Now you’ve got the guard position nailed, it’s time to develop some techniques for dealing with those inbound punches. Let’s start with the simplest of all boxing defense techniques…
Covering up from punches and having your arms absorb the force of the punch is known as blocking.
For obvious reasons, it’s better to have your opponent’s punches hit your arms than connect with the vulnerable body parts: head, sternum, stomach, ribs, kidney (and balls, if you’re fighting dirty).
The key to a successful block is to take the hit with your arms and transfer the force through the body and out to the ground.
For example, when you block a jab coming at your head, your arms should meet in front of your face (leaving no gap) and also be touching your forehead. The force from the jab is initially taken on the gloves/arms, goes through your body, and then into the ground.
If you perform the block with your arms outstretched in front of your face, your arms will deflect and you’ll get pinged in the face with each punch that hits your guard.
Having your arms extended will also leave gaps in your defense that expose you to uppercuts and hooks.
Other forms of blocking include catching punches.
This technique is performed with your glove open and the palm facing your opponent. When your opponent throws a punch, you quickly rotate your hand so that the palm of the glove is facing them and you “catch” the punch on the inside of your glove.
The advantage is that your head doesn’t take any force as it does when blocking, and no vibrations will travel through your brain. The force is taken through your glove, arm, and then makes its way to the ground through your body.
Parry simply means to deflect punches. It’s different from catching punches as you change the direction of the punch slightly.
As the punch is coming in, you push the side of your opponent’s glove so that the punch is directed away from you.
Parrying is only used for straight punches – although it could be used for the uppercut.
You parry with the opposite hand to whatever your opponent throws e.g. the jab is parried with the right hand, and the cross is parried with the left hand.
Parrying on its own isn’t all that effective and for best results, you want to follow up with a devastating counter.
For example, let’s say your opponent flings the jab. You parry with you right hand which knocks your opponent off balance slightly and pulls down their guard. You then quickly follow through with a right cross while their guard is still down.
Moving out of the path of the blow is an extremely effective defense technique.
If you can preempt your opponent’s punches and move out of the way before they connect, you sustain no damage.
Slipping, ducking, and rolling punches are all forms of dodging, but dodging could also be stepping backward or to the side, or simply leaning back.
Whether you use a couple of quick steps, or upper body movement, or a combination of the two doesn’t matter, as long as you move out of the flight path of the punch.
Slipping doesn’t mean losing your balance to avoid a punch – that would be a terrible defensive maneuver.
When you slip a punch, you lean to the left or right to get out of the path of the punch. It’s an upper body movement, sometimes accompanied by a small squat, where your head dips to the side and your shoulders twist.
It’s used to avoid straight punches like the jab and cross.
Bobbing and Weaving
Bobbing and weaving ensure that you don’t remain a stationary target that is easy to pick off.
You don’t have to throw any punches when you perform the bob and weave, and it’s more of a passive boxing movement that makes you an elusive fighter.
Your head quickly dips from side to side in a circular motion, while you’re also ducking and leaning back and forward.
Mike Tyson and Joe Frazier were masters of the bob and weave. When Tyson was in his heyday, his head would dart in every direction. It must have been aggravating for his opponents who would swing violently for his head only to be met with a counter.
Duck and Roll
Much more than just a tasty lunchtime snack.
Lame joke, but I couldn’t resist. I know what you’re thinking – I hope his boxing is better than his sense of humor.
The duck and roll is extremely hard to master, but done effectively, it can be lethal.
It’s the perfect defense technique to deal with the hook. When your opponent throws the hook, you perform a small squat while leaning in the direction the punch just came from. Then as you rise, push through your legs and counter with a hook or cross.
The Defensive Jab
It’s often said that the best form of defense is attacks. This couldn’t be truer than when facing off against an aggressive fighter who persists in keeping up the fight tempo.
Before your opponent even gets the chance to unleash a flurry of punches, stop him in his tracks with a quick and stiff jab to the head.
Mix it up with a single punch, the double jab, or even three or four in a row to keep your opponent guessing.
Nobody like consistently getting tagged in the face, and you can bet that the defensive jab will stop, or at least slow down an aggressive fighter.
Keep popping off the jab and don’t let him in striking range while looking to unload with your counter combination.
This is an excellent technique for the later rounds of a fight, where you’re gassed out but still want to finish the fight strongly in the eyes of the judges.
Some boxers adopt the counter-attacking style as they find it natural or their sharp reflexes make them particularly good at it. They choose not to waste energy with constant attacks, and instead wait for their opponent to make a mistake and then capitalize on it.
Counter fighting is extremely effective, and good counter fighters can win fights while sustaining little or no injuries. However, this is no easy feat. It takes time to read and react to punches.
Regardless of whether you’re a counter fighter or not, you should learn how to throw a solid counter punch to add to your repertoire of defense tactics.
Any punch that follows on from your opponent’s punch could be called a counter punch. However, counter punches have the following characteristics:
- You don’t lead the attack. Counters are a reaction to an opponent’s attack
- They usually follow a defensive move, but not always. You can punch as soon as you recognize your attacker is about to punch
- They are thrown immediately after of during your opponent’s attack. You don’t stand off, reset, and then lead your attack.
- A successful counter should be fast and land before your opponent has returned to guard.
Practicing Boxing Defense
That wraps it up for boxing defense.
There’s a lot to take in this section with nine defensive boxing techniques discussed.
Eventually, the goal is to be able to perform each of the defense techniques as automatically as blinking.
But this takes time – years in some cases. You have to keep drilling the movements until they become ingrained in your muscle memory and spend countless hours sparring until you have the ability to accurately read punches.
However, if this is your first furry into boxing defense, don’t get bogged down by the time and learning that lies ahead. The main thing is practice. Break it down and start small.
Here are two things you should do right away…
- If you’ve got a training partner, take it in turns to throw the four basic boxing punches in slow motion and try the various defense techniques. Start slowly, then gradually increase the speed until you are flinging punches at normal speed and your natural reaction is a fight reflex.
- If you’re flying solo, get in front of the mirror and practice the techniques. Check for gaps when you’re blocking and that your hands follow your head when you slip or bob and weave.
And when the time feels right, test your defensive boxing skills with a round of sparring.