The ropes of a boxing ring can be a blessing or a curse. It can restrict your movement, allowing opponents to tee off on you. You can also use them to trap opponents so you can unleash combinations of your own.
Being pinned with your back against the ropes isn’t always a bad thing. Muhammed Ali popularized the “rope-a-dope” strategy against George Foreman, allowing the latter to pin him against the ropes and unleash vicious combinations.
It looked like Ali was losing the fight to an untrained observer, but that wasn’t the point. Ali allowed himself to be pinned against the ropes so Foreman could tire himself out so he could open up his offense in the later rounds as Foreman got tired.
Most boxing coaches will often tell you to stay off the ropes and look to control the center of the boxing ring, and that’s good advice for the most part. Boxing’s scoring system favors fighters who control the center of the ring and the pace of the action.
However, learning how to fight well with your back against the ropes is an essential skill set for any boxer.
Learning How To Work Off The Ropes
Beginner boxers tend to find themselves fighting with their backs against the ropes often since their opponents are typically able to control the center of the ring. This often forces them to use lateral motion or run circles around the ring as they try to avoid getting pinned against the ropes.
A fighter with decent cardio can typically run circles around their opponent for the entire duration of a fight or sparring match unless they’re going against a fighter who’s skilled at cutting off the ring and trapping opponents.
Regardless of how successful a boxer is at evading an opponent by running around the ring, they use more energy than the fighter controlling the center. That’s not the only drawback of fighting against the ropes, though. Judges typically favor the fighter controlling the action in the center of the ring on their scorecards.
The biggest drawback of fighting against the ropes is that a skilled opponent can keep you pinned there, opening you to fight-ending shots.
However, just because there are some significant drawbacks to fighting against the ropes doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do everything in your power to be as comfortable as you can be there. All boxers find themselves fighting against the ropes sooner or later, so you might as well use it to weaken your opponent’s will to fight by outperforming them in what should be a disadvantageous position for you.
Master how to fight against the ropes, and it can end up giving you the advantage during your fights, much like Ali was able to win fights with his rope-a-dope strategy.
Here are some tips that will improve your ability to fight with your back against the ropes:
1) Use The Ropes For support
Skilled boxers often use the ropes to try and catch a second wind. Boxing ropes have a lot of bounce in them, and boxers can use that to support their weight and to give their movements and strikes extra power. Think of a diver using the spring in a diving board to jump higher than they usually can.
2) Use The Ropes To Mount Your Offense
Boxers like Floyd Mayweather don’t shut off their offense when they find themselves against the ropes. Instead, they use it to land hard strikes that make it clear they are still dangerous even when pinned against the ropes.
It’s one of the many tricks Mayweather used to secure his 50-0 professional boxing record. Opponents would often say the blueprint to beat him was trapping him against the ropes, only to find out that wasn’t a safe position for them either.
Don’t be in such a rush to escape the next time you find yourself pinned against the ropes. Instead, take a deep breath, relax, and show your opponent you can still land clean strikes even with your back against the ropes.
3) Keep Your Guard Tight
One of the keys to having success against the ropes is maintaining a tight guard. A two-hands-up classic guard works best for most people, but feel free to use more complicated styles like the Philly shell if they work for you.
Many fighters have a terrible habit of unleashing a barrage of punches whenever they have an opponent against the ropes. It works sometimes, but it can also come back to haunt them later in the fight.
Floyd Mayweather’s fight against Oscar de la Hoya is a classic example of how having a tight defense against the ropes can work in your favor. Mayweather quickly established himself as the faster boxer, and he dominated most of the exchanges that took place on the outside.
However, De La Hoya had lots of success trapping Mayweather against the ropes, and he used each opportunity to unleash vicious salvos on Mayweather.
The crowd loved it, and they roared every time De La Hoya unleashed a barrage of punches. Oscar’s ferociousness might have even fooled some of the judges at times.
However, most of the punches De La Hoya threw during these exchanges did not get past Mayweather’s guard. Matter of fact, that was the strategy, and you could hear Mayweather’s corner telling him to keep it up because Oscar would gas himself out soon enough.
The first six rounds of Mayweather vs. De La Hoya were quite competitive, but Floyd pulled ahead as fatigue crept in for Oscar just like his corner predicted.
4) Keep Moving
Having your back against the ropes doesn’t mean you should stop moving. Standing still makes you an easier target to hit. Instead, keep bobbing and weaving and keep your defense tight. This makes it harder for your opponent to land clean shots and opens up your escape.
5) Tag Your Opponent While Exiting
A nice hard punch discourages your opponent from trying to pin you against the ropes as you try to escape. You can even switch positions with your opponent by shoving or pushing them into the ropes with a well-timed punch.
6) Master The Spin-Out
Spinning out is arguably the most effective way to escape when you’re pinned against the ropes. You simply pivot on your lead foot as you spin away from the ropes. You can even use the springy nature of the ropes to make your spin more effective.
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