They call him the G.O.A.T. — also known as the Greatest Of All Time. Heavyweight boxing legend Muhammad Ali is known for his slick techniques inside the boxing ring, and undeniable charm and charisma outside of it.
What made the late, great Ali so unique was his ability to combine his natural reflexes and god-given ability to fight, with his unorthodox movement and penchant for showmanship. In fact, there is no greater charismatic fighter in the history of the sport than Ali. He was totally on a different level.
Throughout his career, Ali dazzled in places such as Manila, Kinshasa, and all throughout the continental United States. The more his star power grew, the more he became an international icon.
Yet as much as people absolutely loved and gravitated towards Ali’s amazing persona, it was his skills that paid the bills. Ali’s boxing techniques were a joy to watch, and many boxers today have been inspired by his unique style.
Want to move and fight like Muhammad Ali? Let’s take a look at some of the techniques that made him such a tremendous fighter.
Today, Evolve Daily shares five of Muhammad Ali’s signature boxing techniques you can add to your game.
1) The Ali Shuffle
Perhaps the greatest and most significant skill in Ali’s repertoire was his otherworldly footwork. Ali loved to shuffle his feet back and forth, moving side to side and forward and back. He used it so often and his feet moved so fast, that he coined a term for it called the “Ali Shuffle”.
Above all else, the Ali Shuffle was basically just Ali using his footwork to his advantage, offering him unparalleled evasive movement that confused the majority of his opponents and left them guessing.
Ali could move to wherever he wanted in the ring, bouncing on the balls of his feet, and dancing around his foes with ease. Take note, this man was a heavyweight. But the way he moved inside the ring could be likened to a ballerina performing on stage.
Try to add forward and backward, as well as lots of lateral movement to your footwork skills. This involves hours of time spent focused solely on improving your movement. Once you are comfortable enough to move around the ring with confidence, you’ll transform yourself into a whole new fighter.
2) Superior Head Movement
Another of Ali’s incredible boxing skills was his superior head movement. Opponents often found it extremely difficult to connect cleanly on Ali because he moved his head as much as he moved his feet.
The result of this is guys just freezing in their tracks, not knowing how to deal with Ali’s constant movement. A few missed punches that hit nothing but air and Ali had already zapped every bit of confidence from his opponents’ bodies.
Ali would also like to teeter between safety and danger, opening up his head by keeping his hands low and baiting his opponents in. Although this is, of course, ill-advised, Ali’s superior reflexes kept him out of danger.
He had the ability to slip punches within an inch of them landing and then crack his opponents with a sharp and powerful counter.
If you want head movement like Ali, you must practice consistently until it the movement becomes muscle memory. This can best be done through shadow boxing, mitt work, and sparring.
3) Dancing Jab
They say the jab is the most important punch in boxing, and there’s a great deal of truth to that statement. The jab controls the pace of the action and controls distance. A good jab is oftentimes the catalyst to success.
Ali utilized the jab in a variety of ways. At times, he would use it as a rangefinder, pawing at an opponent to gauge distance so he could unleash his power shots. Others, he would use it to stop an opponent in his tracks as he came in for a combination.
One of the most unique ways Ali used the jab, however, is in a technique he coined the “Dancing Jab”. As Ali would bounce and tip-toe around his opponents, he would come across with almost a flicking jab movement, packed with speed and velocity. He would aim at his opponents’ foreheads, causing a knockback effect.
Sometimes, Ali would throw jabs exclusively. The goal was to connect and to connect often. Ali’s jab was one of the most effective in history. If you learn to jab as much as Ali did, it would significantly improve your game.
4) Right Cross
After landing the Dancing Jab, Ali loved to follow up with his most powerful punch — the right cross.
Ali’s right cross has been responsible for felling many opponents. It was thrown with maximum leverage, as Ali draw strength from his base. Even though he moved around a lot, Ali’s right cross had enough power behind it because he loved to explode forward when he threw it.
At times, Ali would also use the technique as a lead right cross, catching an opponent off guard with no setup. He would do this when he read an opponent was falling asleep on defense.
The right cross is one of the most basic punches in boxing, but that doesn’t make it any less effective. Perfect your right cross technique and you have a weapon that can close the distance even from range, and land with devastating power.
Last but certainly not the least, is the Rope-a-Dope. Ali became famous for this technique after using it against heavy-hitter George Foreman. The technique consisted of laying on the ropes and allowing his opponents to tee off in hopes that they would tire.
Obviously, this strategy is less effective in modern day boxing because the sport has become so dynamic over the years. However, the Rope-a-Dope represents sound boxing tactics more than anything else. In fact, one of the reasons Ali was so successful as a pugilist, is because he was a thinking fighter.
Ali would read his opponents’ movements, discover their habits, and then capitalize. Strategy is something you should be paying attention to in the ring. When you deem adjustments necessary, don’t be afraid to switch it up and try a new tactic.
Dynamic, thinking fighters always have an edge over fighters who just fight moving forward. Use your intelligence, all your tools, to gain an advantage and then make the most out of it.
Boxing is often referred to as a game of physical chess, and it’s absolutely true. The fighter with the better strategy will always be one step ahead of his opponents.