At first glance, boxing may seem very simple, you throw punches at each other. One guy gets knocked out, and the fight is over. It’s easy to reduce boxing to nothing but a mindless brawl. But the art of pugilism is actually more intricate than that. It’s a layered martial art with a lot of technical details.
The first things you learn are obviously boxing’s offensive techniques, and there are a lot of them. This is understandable, as boxing is primarily an offense-oriented martial art. But once you reach the advanced stages of training, you begin to peel away its many layers. You then realize how important of a role defense plays in the ‘Sweet Science.’
Defense in boxing is one of its most difficult aspects to master. It takes a lot of attention and focus to work on defense in boxing. Ultimately, the objective of boxing is to hit and not get hit. That’s the core philosophy of pugilism.
If you’re looking to improve on your defensive skills, here are a few pointers to get you started. We’ve listed down a handful of tips here to help fortify your overall defense, and take your boxing game to the next level.
Today, Evolve Daily shares four essential tips for boxing defense.
1) Keep your guard up
The very first thing you learn on defense is keeping your guard up. This is essential. The classic glove guard makes sure you are defending yourself at all times. The glove guard is the first line of defense from an opponent’s attacks.
The natural position of your gloves should be just above the cheekbones, enough to provide good coverage of sensitive areas like the chin and the jaw, but not so much that it impedes your vision or field of view. Elbows should be kept tight to the body, and not protruding outward. The fists need to be loose to focus on reactive parrying and blocking, but stable enough to maintain stability and balance.
Expect your opponents to throw a wide variety of punches from all angles. Your glove guard should make it difficult for any foe to connect on your face or head. At the same time, your hands should be free enough in order to move quickly to defend other parts of your upper body. The forearms can also catch punches, while the elbows defend the ribs and kidneys.
The best place to train the glove guard is, of course, in the heat of sparring. Practice with a sparring partner until blocking and parrying punches become second nature.
2) Move your head
Obviously, having a good glove guard isn’t enough. The other side of the equation is good head movement. Head movement will allow you to slip and duck punches, making you a slippery target.
At the elite levels of the sport, head movement is essential to a good defense. When your opponent is attacking relentlessly with combination punching, good head movement can take you out of harm’s way within mere inches. Some of the greatest defensive fighters in history have shown incredible head movement, legends like Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Roy Jones Jr., James Toney, and Naseem Hamed.
The main objective of moving your head is to offer your opponents a moving target they think they can hit. Constant and erratic head movement makes you unpredictable, and at the same time, keeps offensive-minded opponents preoccupied with trying to land clean. This also opens up opportunities to counter.
Head movement is one of the most important aspects of boxing defense, and is worth the time developing. Practice your head movement while you shadowbox, on the mitts, or in sparring. Moving your head needs to become an involuntary movement.
3) Let your feet take you to where you need to go
The third ingredient for a good boxing defense is solid footwork. Boxing can be misconstrued as a primarily upper body activity, when, in fact, focus on footwork is essential to success in the ring.
For many different reasons, footwork is often overlooked in boxing, especially for beginners. But developing your footwork early in training makes it much easier to enhance your movement in the later stages. Footwork allows you to move in and out, and around your opponent in order to either evade oncoming attacks, or to put yourself in an optimal position to deliver your combinations.
Good footwork involves being able to swiftly close distance and create distance at the same time. It involves sidestepping, lateral movement, and pivoting. The objective is to keep the feet loose enough so that movement isn’t constricted, but free. It means being light enough on your toes to get to where your feet want to take you, but also being sturdy enough to absorb blows without tipping over.
This kind of solid base and footwork requires lots of practice to master. But put enough focus on it, and it will do wonders for your game.
4) Pay attention to distance and timing
Last but certainly not least, is distance and timing. Mastering distance in boxing is somewhat of a secret weapon, because very few fighters are able to truly grasp the different ranges of fighting. It’s essential on both offense and defense.
At the same time, pinning down the timing required to successfully launch attacks from different ranges is equally as important.
When you understand distance, you know exactly how far out of range you are to realize when there’s a threat of attack. Conversely, you know the exact level of explosion required to put your own self in the best position to attack.
Timing works hand-in-hand with understanding distance, because you need timing in order to determine when to move in to close distance, or move away to escape an opponent’s offense.
Distance and timing can only be honed through constant sparring. It’s about acclimating yourself to the unique ebb and flow of a fight until your body understands it completely. The more hours you spar, the better you are when it comes to gauging distance and timing.
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