Boxing is all about the hands, right?
It’s impossible to win a boxing match without throwing punches, and being a combat sport focused on attacking and defending with the arms, the hands get all the attention.
It’s not until you delve deeper into the sport do you realize the importance that footwork plays in the overall game.
You need to learn boxing footwork so that you can pack power into your punches and remain a difficult target to hit.
Good footwork is vital to a strong and efficient attacking game.
When you throw a punch, you sometimes have to take a tiny step to shorten the distance so that you actually connect with your target. Without these subtle steps, your combinations would fall short
It’s no use throwing beautiful combinations if all they do is intimidate your opponent with what might be.
“Step any closer, Sucker, and I’ll hit you with one of these.”
And it’s just as important for boxing defense.
Evasive fighters that are quick on their feet don’t risk injury by having to block punches. Having quick feet can also leave your opponent off balance and open up counter opportunities as he swings wildly only to hit fresh air.
If you’re an aggressive fighter, good footwork can help you keep the pressure on your opponent as you close distances quickly and stalk your prey with efficiency.
Pushing off the back foot is also how you transfer your weight through your arm to put power into your punches. And spinning on the balls of your feet creates the torque which leads to killer hooks.
Your feet movement can transform your punches from I’ve-felt-mosquitoes-bite-harder-than-you-punch, to, holy-shit-I-just-got-knocked-the-fuck-out.
Boxing Footwork Basics
You want to keep that beautiful boxing stance that you’ve developed (you have been working on your stance, right?) as you move around, circle, stalk, and retreat from your opponent.
Your feet should always be shoulder width apart, and you should never break your stance (left foot always in front if your stance is orthodox).
This can be extremely challenging for the beginner boxer, and you’ll find yourself walking backward when an attacker is putting pressure on you, or even crossing your feet (a big NO-NO!)
If your feet get too close together, or you’re verging on doing the splits, you’ll compromise your stability, movement, and ability to attack and defend.
You may be able to unleash the fury from “The Crouching Tiger” in Kung Fu, but having your legs wide and squatted leaves you without a solid base in boxing.
How to Keep Your Stance While Moving
Here’s the secret to keeping your stance as you move: always move the foot that is closest to the direction you want to go first.
It’s not so much a secret, in fact, it’s a pretty elementary piece of boxing advice, but it’s key to a proper movement where you keep in your normal stance at all times.
How it works…
If you want to move forward, step first with your left foot and then slide your right foot forward. If you want to move right, step with your right foot and then drag your left foot in the same direction.
It’s actually two movements performed very quickly. The initial step with the foot closest to the direction you’re heading, and then sliding the other foot in the same direction to quickly close the gap between your feet, so that you maintain that shoulder’s width distance.
Note: The first movement is a step, but the second movement is a slide, so that the lagging foot is in constant contact with the ground providing a stable base in case you get punched while moving.
Pivoting – Not like A Ballerina
Attacking from angles other than face-on with your opponent is highly effective for landing punches to unprotected areas.
When you hear about boxers “opening up angles” or “working different angles”, it refers to attacking from the side where the punches may be unsuspected.
It could also mean attacking from the front, but using uppercuts instead of straight punches.
When used in attack, the goal of the pivot is to quickly move to your opponent’s side while they are still facing the direction you were previously.
Pivoting in defense allows you to move out of a tight spot quickly e.g. when you’re getting owned in the corner.
To perform the pivot, you rotate on the ball of your front foot (turning either left or right) so that your body is at a new angle to your opponent.
The pivot alone doesn’t get you around your opponent. It actually has the opposite effect and leaves you facing your opponent’s side on. You have to accompany the pivot with one or two small steps to move to a new position (using the quick two-step movement described above).
Practice Makes Perfect
Boxing footwork definitely takes some practice and getting used to. I recommend you take the time to learn the correct technique even if your movement is slow and unnatural at first.
Plonk yourself in front of a large mirror and practice moving forward, backward, left, and right while in your stance.
Try pivoting on your front foot (left and right) and accompanying the pivot with a few small steps to get to a new position quickly.
Give it time, and you’ll be running circles around your attackers, taking advantage of openings in their guard while always being just out of their range when they try to retaliate.