The thick air of the sweaty room fills your lungs, as you witness leather bombs launch instinctive combinations while feral, hungry eyes hunt for chinks in the armor. With all the killers in the room, stepping into a boxing gym for the first time is an overwhelming experience. But for most people, the leap is worth it once you start to immerse yourself in the sweet science of the sport.
People start boxing for a number of reasons, including trying to fit the “tough guy” stereotype birthed by action movies with unrealistic fight scenes. In reality, boxing will help you reach a peaceful place within the eye of the storm. At its core, it’s an exercise of your mental fortitude and primal instinct where the goal is to prevail with sound technique as opposed to brute strength. And if you stick with it, you’ll deflate your fragile ego and develop unwavering confidence while examining your unfiltered self. Now, we don’t expect you to do the Ali shuffle and punch like a piston after reading this piece. But you will gain basic knowledge about the sport. We’ll go over fundamental techniques, concepts, and gear you’ll need to start your journey in one of the toughest, most rewarding sports on the planet.
Safety Above All
We’re sure you’ve gotten lost in vicious knockout highlight compilations on YouTube, so you know the level of danger involved in the sport of boxing, but we still want to make the point crystal clear. We highly advise you to consult your physician to see if your body’s fitness level is up to par before joining a boxing gym. It’s also important to note that you shouldn’t try to teach yourself to box through YouTube videos. Guidance from a proper trainer who has experience in the ring is the only option if you want to truly learn the sweet science, even if you just want to lace up some gloves for solid cardio and don’t want to compete. Once you get approval from your doctor, start to prepare mentally for the grueling sessions.
Choosing A Gym
Before you commit to a gym, do sound research on several in your area to help you make the best decision. Check the credentials of the instructors, the equipment in the gym, and the weekly schedule to see if everything lines up with your needs. Normally, combat sport gyms will offer a one-day or one-week trial so you can try out a few classes for free. Take advantage of the free trial offer to gauge whether you want to commit to the boxing gym.
Protect Yourself At All Times
Before every boxing match, the ref will advise both fighters to protect themselves at all times. We know boxing is more exciting to the untrained eye when fists are firing away like machine guns, but defense is the root to success in the sport. And if you want to develop self-defense skills, learning how to evade and block punches is pivotal. If you can’t deal with an onslaught of strikes, you might as well prepare for bedtime. The basic defensive form is to keep your chin down and your hands up, protecting your face with your elbows tight to your body. But you’re going to need more than a perfect stance to protect yourself properly. To provide you with a solid starting point in defense, we’ll go over two concepts to add to your repertoire: blocking and slipping punches.
Before we even get into basic blocks for boxing, we need to discuss watching your opponent’s shoulders. Anticipation and reflexes play a critical part in the sweet science and one way to sharpen your elusiveness is through analyzing and observing the mechanics of punching. If your opposition dips their shoulder, it’s more than likely that the impending punch is aiming straight for your gut. On the other hand, if you notice one of their shoulders rise up, expect the leather to be flying straight for your mug. We’ll go over basic mechanics of punching in a little more depth in the offense section, but for now, know that shoulders can help you predict the future in the ring.
Your posture and stance are always significant factors in practicing air-tight defense. Stay in a staggered stance with your feet shoulder-width apart to keep your balance. Your left foot should be forward if you’re right-handed and vice versa if you’re a lefty, which is called a southpaw stance. Keep in mind to never cross your legs because that will compromise your balance. Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s check out how to keep your face looking pretty and your ribs intact.
Blocking Head Shots
Keep those hands up and guard your face, while your elbows hug your body tightly. When a shot makes contact with your glove or arm, turn your head and body away from the blow. By rotating your head and body away, you’re rolling with the punches, not catching the punch square, therefore, diluting their power. Right after you throw a punch, make sure it retracts back quickly to protect your face before you fire away another punch.
Blocking Body Shots
Your sharp elbows play the biggest factor in blocking body shots. We can’t stress enough about keeping your elbows tight to your body, as every opening is an invitation for pain. If the shot is coming down the middle, then it’s probably being aimed at your solar plexus. The solar plexus is a dangerous button on the body that, if punched with full force, could send you crumbling to the canvas even if you have the most chiseled abs on Earth. Close your elbows to form a shield, blocking straight shots to your bread basket. For hooks to the body, drop your elbows down to shield your ribs. Be extra cautious about your liver as well, keeping it covered at all times, since a landed haymaker there will end your night early.
There haven’t been any major polls taken, but we’re sure most people do not enjoy eating punches. Boxing is about getting into the rhythm of the fight and, in terms of defense, you have to bob your head to the beat of the combinations thrown to become a difficult target. Head movement for defense against shots to the dome is superior to blocking because you don’t have to sacrifice an arm to do it.
First, you can avoid straight punches to the head by slipping them. While keeping your hands up to protect your face, you can slip a straight shot by moving your head just enough to the left or right side to evade it. By slipping an opponent’s straight shot, their punch will take longer to retract, giving you ample time to counter with a haymaker of your own.
If you’re dealing with hooks to the head, you can duck or roll underneath them. Monitor your opponent’s shoulders to anticipate when the shot might come. When you see the hook thrown, you can squat as it’s hurled toward you, allowing it to fly right over your head. You can also roll under the hook, using the momentum to pop back up and throw back a hook of your own. If you time this correctly, your opponent’s body will be wide open and you’ll be free to deliver a rib-crushing blow.
Slipping, ducking, and rolling punches is heavily reliant on your reflexes. With that in mind, we have two drill suggestions for you to practice in order to absorb the proper mechanics. Here is one solo drill that will help improve your head movement:
Slip Bag: A slip bag is a compact, weighted sack attached to a bungee (an easy DIY project). Secure it to a doorway with the weighted ball hanging, and push it forward so it sways away and returns toward your head. You can practice slipping your head left or right as the bag comes at you.
Slip rope: Tie a rope tightly from one point to another. Make sure the rope is six inches below your head while you’re in a fighting stance. Start on one side of the rope and roll underneath it, moving forward. Continue to do this until you get to the end and repeat.
Throw With Bad Intentions
If you’re starting boxing, chances are you’ve been inspired by a knockout artist. The likes of Iron Mike Tyson, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Jack Dempsey, and George Foreman all have show-stopping highlights of diabolical death-touch knockouts. So when you think about offense in boxing, it’s natural to run the knockout reel highlight through your mind. But it takes tremendous effort to be a knockout artist, and just like any other sport, it starts with offensive basics.
Throwing A Punch
Flush out all of the action movies where the hero cocks back his fist and launches it into someone’s face. Technically sound punches aren’t telegraphed with big motions. The mechanics of a punch are about the same, save for the angle you’re throwing and the type of shot.
To keep things simple, we’re going to explain the fine details of a straight punch with your right hand. A boxer will keep their dominant hand back and the weaker hand forward with their feet shoulder-width apart, pairing up with the hands. This explanation will be geared toward right-hand dominant fighters, so make the proper adjustments if you’re left-handed. Rotate your hips to generate power while turning the shoulder of the right arm toward your opponent and imagine punching through your target. At the same time, your back right foot will be twisting into the punch, as if you’re putting out a cigarette with that foot. The combination of all these movements will generate maximum torque and project the punch with devastating power. Keep your wrist straight when punching so you won’t break it and try to land the punch with your first two knuckles, since they’re the biggest, for the most damage.
Four Basic Punches
The beauty of this sport is in its simplicity. There are four basic punches in boxing for which you should become familiar to build a sturdy offensive foundation. Before we get into the punches, let’s briefly go over how to shadow box, which is a drill you can use to perfect your form. Usually, shadow boxing is used for practicing combinations, but for now, you can use it to drill single punches. Shadow boxing is practicing punches and combos solo without the use of any other equipment. You can imagine you’re throwing strikes at your opponent and refining your form during the drill to mentally prepare as well. Ideally, you want to be in front of a mirror at the gym so you can observe your punching technique and footwork. Here are the four basic punches you can practice in a shadow boxing drill:
Jab: A jab is a quick, straight punch with your lead hand, which is typically the weaker of the two. Every time you throw a jab, you should step forward and retract the punch back to a defensive position. Keep your shoulder up as you jab to protect your chin as you throw it. Use the jab to gauge distance or set up power punches. Check out Andre Ward and Muhammad Ali for examples of the perfect jab.
Straight: Throwing a straight, which is also known as a cross, is done with your rear hand. Pivot your body to throw the punch, coming up on your toes on the back foot, as you rotate your hips forward. A straight or cross should be used as a lead power punch, counterpunch, or within a crisp combination. Watch Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Joe Louis for amazing examples of straight punches.
Hook: When used appropriately with the right timing, the hook is one of the most devastating punches in boxing. Bend your arm at or close to a 90-degree angle for maximum power and rotate your body simultaneously with the hook while bending your knees, which is what the term “sitting down on your punches” means, for maximum effect. It’s important to keep your elbow high as you follow through with the punch. If you miss with your fist, your elbow could get some action. Yes, that is dirty boxing, but dirty boxing isn’t dirty if you’re using it to defend yourself outside of the ring. Take a look at Mike Tyson and Joe Frazier highlights to witness the hook in all of its glory.
Uppercut: The uppercut is a vicious close-range strike that can deal lethal damage to your opponent’s chin. To execute this punch, bend your knees, keeping your hips down, lower the shoulder you’re throwing the punch with, and rotate your body, driving your fist in an upward motion toward the opponent’s chin. You want to put your weight behind the punch, so keep the uppercut tight and throw it with your entire body. You can run highlights of Roy Jones Jr. and George Foreman for examples of insane uppercuts.
Move or die is the name of the game. You can have the best punching technique in the world, but if you don’t move your feet well, you’re pretty much a slightly dangerous punching bag. We couldn’t in good conscience let you leave without mentioning the importance of footwork. Staying on your toes and moving around will give you opportunities to create angles for your shots and help you avoid getting hit flush, as it’s integral to defense. Without solid footwork, you’ll be a flat-footed fighter who’s totally predictable. If you’ve ever seen the Ali shuffle or remember Rocky chasing chickens, it’s because footwork is paramount to the sweet science.
In practicing solid footwork, you want to stay on your toes and generally keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Never cross your feet, which compromises your balance, and always step into your shots. Here are three drills that will help you improve your footwork:
Jump Rope: This basic exercise that will allow you to develop a rhythm and keep you light on your toes. It will also help you control your lower body and enhance your cardio.
Box Jumps: With this plyometric drill, you can upgrade your explosiveness with box jumps. You will need to shift seamlessly from moving around and going into brawl mode to catch your opponent off-guard, so developing your explosiveness is vital to success.
Agility Ladder: Typically used for football, the agility ladder has found its way to boxing to the boxing world because you can do countless footwork drills that increase your speed. Performing drills on an agility ladder will also allow you to develop fluidity in your movement.
Train With The Right Stuff
If you want to train as a boxer, you’re going to need the appropriate gear. Although boxing isn’t exactly the safest sport in the world, you can reduce injuries by investing in quality equipment. To help guide you in the right direction, we gathered well-made boxing essentials for you to consider.
Simple Touch Pro Round Timer
Every boxer needs a round timer, and the Pro Round Timer app was created to keep you sharp. The convenient app has fully configurable sounds and times, and allows you to set times, round warnings, and rest rounds for custom boxing workouts. You can even AirPlay the app to an external display for a full-screen gym timer.
TKO High Speed Skip Rope
Ditch your old school jump rope and upgrade to the TKO High Speed Skip Rope. This speed rope has a 90° perpendicular swivel design and polyurethane 5mm thick rope to help you increase your cardio and endurance. It measures about 9.5 feet in length, but it can be adjusted to fit your needs.
Pro Impact Mexican Style Handwraps
Wrap up your knuckles and protect your wrist with the Pro Impact Mexican Style Handwraps. These 180-inch elastic hand wraps feature velcro closure for a secure fit and are machine washable for repeated use. The form-conforming hand wraps will protect your hands well in training, sparring, or matches.
Shock Doctor Double Nano Mouthguard
You don’t want to lose any teeth during a match or sparring session, which is why wearing the Shock Doctor Double Nano Fight Mouthguard is a good look. The dual-arch, minimalist mouthguard is designed with high-impact technology to stabilize both your upper and lower jaw. It also comes with a $10,000 dental warranty in case you catch a haymaker from an especially talented opponent.
Hayabusa T3 Boxing Gloves
Constructed with proprietary foam, the Hayabusa T3 Boxing Gloves will keep your knuckles safe as you train. The odor-resistant gloves provide a custom fit thanks to the Dual-X adjustable technology. And according to Hayabusa, the T3 Boxing Gloves provide industry-leading wrist support, preventing injuries to keep you training consistently.
Hyperfly ProComp Duffel Bag
Made for various combat sports, Hyperfly’s ProComp Duffel Bag is a water-resistant carryall for your gear. Built with everything you need, including an inner dry sack, 550 cord handles, a stow-away padded shoulder strap, and an outside welded zipper pocket, this water-resistant duffel bag will keep your boxing essentials organized and ready to go.
Cleto Reyes Traditional Headgear
Cleto Reyes has been a trusted brand for professional boxers for years, so you can’t go wrong with their traditional headgear. Handmade in Mexico, the Cleto Reyes headgear has a three-point anatomical design and a lightweight nylon face bar for safe sparring. It’s made with latex foam padding and natural leather to ensure quality.
Everlast Leather Heavy Bag
To practice your combinations, the Everest heavy bag provides you with a durable target to test your power and fitness level. Made with high-grade leather and a unique blended shock-absorbent filler, this heavy bag is a long-lasting companion. The 70-pound bag comes with a chain and a swivel assembly for easy setup.
6 Self-Defense Moves Every Man Should Know
Boxing is a fantastic combat sport to train daily, but you should also gain knowledge of other techniques. Check out our recommendations for the self-defense moves every man should know to gain knowledge on skills to complement your boxing.