The science of boxing is not hitting, the science of boxing is hitting without getting hit. Unfortunately, slick defensive skills don’t have the same appeal as knockouts. Novice boxers often work tirelessly to develop strong punching power while ignoring their parrying, slipping, bobbing and weaving. Still worse, they develop habits that leave them vulnerable for attacks.
There is perhaps no boxing habit worse than lifting your chin in the air. The chin is the self-destruct button. One well placed blow will render even the best of boxers out cold. The problem is we naturally hold our heads high, a habit that is only rectified through habituation. A trick is to hold a tennis ball under your chin while doing all boxing drills. This forces the boxer to focus on keeping their chin tucked and even the slightest laziness will cause the ball to drop. Jumping rope, road work and shadow boxing with the ball tucked under the chin might make elicit a few sideways glances, but it will teach a rock solid defensive habit.
Move your head!
Now that we have our chin protected we need to get moving. Anyone who has hit a double end bag knows how frustrating and challenging it can be – the reason? The bag is moving quickly side to side. A steady target is easier to hit than a moving one. Incorporating head movement before and after a combination will make any boxer much more elusive. Start and end each series of punches with a few slips, weaves or ducks and your opponent will often times be left punching the air. Mike Tyson perfected this early on with his peekaboo style. Once an opponent had one of their haymakers miss they were also open for a devastating counter punch. Many believe that Tyson’s early knockouts were based on power alone, but in reality they were the product of constant efficient head movement. Once again, this is not something that should be practiced only during sparring. Head movement should be prominent in shadow boxing, bag work and during pad sessions.
Along with lifting the chin, beginning boxers have a habit of not returning their hands to their face after punching or dropping one hand while the other is throwing. The solution is to make sure the boxers touches their chin or temple after throwing each punch. A major reason that boxers drop their hands is due to shoulder fatigue. Exercises should be incorporated into develop shoulder stamina and the boxer should always be reminded to relax and keep their arms loose to avoid premature fatigue.
Once a boxer has their hands up, chin down and head moving they are on the path to great defense. Remember, in boxing often times the best offense is a good defense.