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Thursday, 18 February 2010

Boxing terms for non-boxers

It's been brought to my attention that it would be a good idea to clarify some of the terms I use on this blog as most people reading it are not boxers. I'm forgetting that a year ago some of the terms I use I would not have had a clue what they were either! I persuaded Mike to demo some of the terms for me as it's much easier to explain with a visual.. Hope this is helpful!

Sparring is basically two boxers practicing the sport in a boxing ring. Sparring is watched over by the coach to ensure both fighters safety and give the fighters feedback and things to work on as the session progresses. The aim is not to hurt your opponent when sparring but rather to practise the skills of the sport, both offensive and defensive. Of course, sometimes there are minor injuries such as a bust lip or on occasion a bust nose but a good coach will always keep control of the sparring to avoid a fighter getting seriously hurt. There can be different types of sparring utilised to help boxers work on particular aspects of the sport;
Standard sparring - Both boxers trying to score blows on one another. In some circumstances the coach may put two boxers in the ring of different weights or abilities and therefore one boxer may be asked to 'pull there punches' a bit which basically means to tone down their power so that their sparring partner is not injured. For example, in my case I am the only girl at the club so I have to spar males. Because of this the coach asks that they don't hit me with all their force due the difference in gender (and experience in many cases). The correct level is hard enough to be realistic but not so hard that one fighter is at a big disadvantage and will be at risk of taking too much damage.
Situational sparring - The coach will give a situation to act out, for example, if one boxer often gets caught on the ropes and struggles to get off them it would be helpful for that boxer to be put on the ropes and given some coaching to help him/her learn how to get out of that situation without getting hurt.
Touch sparring - Like tag, not used very often in the gyms I've been in anyway. I've done it once with guys who were 20-30kgs heavier than me when normal sparring would not have worked. It's more an exercise of reach, finding the distance you need to be from an opponent and tagging them when you're in the right reach area. There is no force involved.
Defences only sparring - Sparring where one boxer is told not to throw punches and to practise their 'defences only'. The boxer who is on defences only will not throw any shots just try to defend the shots being thrown at them from the other boxer, be it by footwork, head movements or hand movements. (see below). This is sometimes used by a coach to familiarise a new boxer to sparring by putting the novice in with an experience boxer and asking the experienced fighter to just defend whilst the novice attacks. It allows the novice to begin to familiarise themselves with sparring without the fear of been hit.

Orthodox Stance

The orthodox stance is adopted by most boxers, as the name suggests. It is the most natural way to box for right handed people (although in rare cases a left handed boxers may adopt this stance). To adopt the orthodox stance you have your left foot in front of your right with the body angled off and your hands should be by the side of your face to guard it. Your body should be angled in a way that it is difficult for an opponent to land body shots as your elbows and arms should protect it. The right handed straight shot is often the boxers most powerful punch.

Southpaw Stance

The southpaw stance is adopted by most left handed boxers (although again, in some cases it may be chosen by a right handed boxer) it is a mirror image of the orthodox stance so the right leg is the lead leg in this stance. In this case the left handed straight shot is often the boxers power punch.

There is an old boxing saying that southpaws should be drowned at birth (!) - because they are so awkward both for fighters and trainers, everything is back to front, trainers must do the demonstrations and mitts in the opposite way to what they're used to. For a boxer it is difficult firstly as the shots come from angles you're not accustomed to (because the majority of fighters are orthodox). Secondly the jab, one of the most useful punches against an orthodox fighter becomes much less effective because it is along the same punch path as the opponents, thirdly as both lead legs are close to each other you find yourself standing on each others feet and tripping over each other. The biggest reason southpaws are difficult opponents is because there aren't very many of them so you could go a long time boxing without sparring one or fighting one and when you did come across one it would be very different to what you had practiced in the gym whereas the southpaw opponent would likely be very used to sparring orthodox opponents and because of this would have an advantage against you. Whilst I have moaned a bit about how tricky I find it sparring a southpaw opponent I'm actually really grateful there is a southpaw close to my weight at my gym because if I ever do come accross one in a bout I will have more experience boxing one and therefore should not be at a dissadvantage.

Focus Mitts - Also known as padwork, this is where the trainer wears pads on their hands and shouts combinations for the boxer to do. It is used to mimic the demands of a fight and to pracitse combinations that can then be used in the ring.

The Punches
(All pictures show the punches from orthodox stance, for a southpaw they would be reversed)
It is a common misconception amongst non boxers that a punch generates its power in the upper body or through the arm muscles of a fighter. In fact a punch starts in the lower body and gains power as it travels up throught the body. This power is achieved through the kinetic linking of a chain of muscles. Much like the way a shotputter or baseball pitcher uses the whole body to throw the ball or shot the boxer must try to throw as much bodyweight into his punch as possible. A punch thrown just using the arm will not be very powerful regardless of the individuals weight.


The jab is thrown with the boxers lead hand, in orthodox stance this is the left hand, in southpaw the right. It is often the first shot thrown in a combination and can be used defensively by a fighter with a reach advantage to keep a smaller fighter away from them. It is generally considered the most important punch of an orthodox boxer as it is the closest punch to the opponent and can be used to set up most other punch combinations or as a weapon in its own right.

Straight/Right cross
or left cross for a southpaw

The straight punch, or back hand, is a powerful shot that often follows a boxer's jab. Because the punch is thrown using a full half turn of the hip (see picture) the shot can generate a lot of tourque allowing for greater power in the punch. Whilst powerful this shot can be a difficult punch to land on its own as it is thrown with the hand positioned furthest away from the opponent thus making it easier for the opponent to spot and potentially launch a counter attack. For this reason the backhand is generally thrown as part of a combination, usually following a jab from the lead hand as this can help disguise the blow therefore increasing its chances of landing, this is where the boxing saying the old 1 - 2 comes from because the jab followed by the right cross is considered one of the most fundamental punch combinations in the sport of boxing, the jab being the 1 and the cross being the 2.


The hook is a bent arm shot and is another punch often used within a combination. The lead hook is the most often used as the back hand hook leaves the boxer's guard open. The awkward angle the hook comes from can make it difficult to see. The hook is also a very effective shot when thrown to the opponents body. The power in a hook comes from full rotation of the hips and torso and a twisting of the front foot. Timing and technique are vital for effectivley landing the shot and because of this it is often viewed as the hardest blow to learn as a novice fighter. As you can see from the pictures the arm should be at a right angle and locked into the position.


The uppercut is a punch often thrown on the inside when the fighters are close together (not from long range). It comes up through the opponents guard and if landed will snap the opponents head backwards.

Counterpunching -Counterpunching can be an effective way of boxing, it involves waiting for an opponent to strike, anticipating and defending the blow whilst simultaniously launching a blow yourself to take advantage of the momentary open defence when your opponent attacks leading to targets becoming available which would have otherwise been guarded. It takes skill and timing to land a counter punch but if succesful these blows can often be the most dangerous due to the surprise nature of the blow. I've found it to be most effective against people with shorter reaches than mine as you can block their shots then easily reach them with a counter punch. It can be used against people with longer reaches, I'm just not very good at doing against people with longer reaches!

Combinations - There are many different combinations of punches you can throw in boxing. A combination is basically a series of punches put together to hopefully penetrate the defences of your opponent, you may have heard of a 1 - 2 punch as this is perhaps the most simple and common combination used in the sport. Other popular combinations are 1-1-2, 1-2-3. Combinations work well due to the fact that many boxers can easily block a single shot but it is unlikely that they will be able to block a 2, 3 or 4 punches in a row if they are thrown with good technqiue and at the right time.

Defending yourself in boxing is as important, if not more important than being able to throw a good punch, the aim is not neccesarily just to throw shots but to be able to defend shots and avoid being hit as well. In amateur boxing a point is scored when a punch connects to the head or body of an opponent so avoiding being hit not only avoids you being hurt it also avoids your opponent scoring a point. There are several types of defence in boxing;
Footwork - simply moving away from the shot, a step back or angle change can be all you need to do to avoid a shot, little actual movement is neccessary.
Head defences - Head defences can be a slip which is turning the angle of your body so your head leans towards your shoulder slightly so the punch glances by the side of the head. Ducking, simply ducking under a shot, bobbing and weaving moving slightly to one side and rolling with the punch, you may not always be quick enough to move right out of the way of a punch but moving with it (away from it) will lessen the damage substantially.
Hand defences - Block - catching the shot on the gloves or arms which does not allow it to make contact with the face or body, parry - parrying a shot deflects it as the boxer taps the punch away sometimes throwing the opponent off balance, both defences lend themselves to lead into a counter attack. Covering up the boxer closes their guard so shots will be taken on the gloves instead of the face

Amateur and professional boxing (the differences) - Amatuer boxing and profressional boxing (the kind you see on the tv) whilst both similar in their nature of attack and defence are actually quite different sports. The word amateur can be misleading as an amateur boxer could in fact be a very experienced and advanced fighter who fights internationally for his or her country in competitions such as the world championships or even the olympic games. The term amateur boxing is just the name used to distinguish the two branches of the sport. Whilst it is true that many succesful amatuer boxers may go on to fight professionally with the hope of earning large amounts of money from fighting some amateur boxers prefer to stay in the amateur sport and may never choose to move onto pro boxing. Some differences between the two sports are that in amateur boxing boxers will box between 3 and 4 rounds depending on experience whereas in professional boxing fights may go on for up to 12 rounds. The scoring is also done very differently in amateur boxing than it is in professional boxing. Whilst top amateur boxers (olympic and international level fighters) can be paid, most amateur boxers will fight just for the presitge or love of the sport and will not be able to earn money from the sport. Once a fighter turns professional he may no longer compete in amateur boxing or fight in the olympics due to a rule banning pro fighters from returning to amateur competition.

If there's anything I've missed do tell me and I'll edit it to add them!


  1. Wow! So much to know but all very enlightening. Thanks! Now when are we gonna see you in the pic? Come on don't be shy.

  2. thanks so much for this! now i want to go box :)