If I was to sum Boxing up in one sentence it would be an oft repeated quote ‘to hit and not get hit’, that is really the essence of Boxing.
Every sport every task has its fundamentals, in Boxing if I was to choose some key fundamentals, those would be having a good jab, footwork and head movement.
There are many ways to avoid getting hit, footwork is one, the great Willie Pep used superior footwork to avoid getting hit and become one of the greatest if not the greatest defensive Boxer in history. In today’s era, a good example of a Boxer who uses superior footwork to avoid punishment would be Ukraines World Champion Vasyl Lomachenko.
In this article the method I am going to discuss is head movement. It sounds like common sense, but far too often Boxers get lazy and do not move their head enough – and neither do they practice or drill in moving their head enough.
The list of great Boxers who had great head movement is endless, Muhammad Ali, Nicolino Locche, Pernell Whitaker, Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran, Julio Cesar Chavez Snr, Joe Frazier and to name one great Boxer who noticeably declined once he stopped moving his head much later on in his career – Mike Tyson.
There are a few drills you can use to incorporate head movement, two drills I like to include are for the jab, and the cross.
The 1st drill for the jab should add any head movement after every jab is thrown, for example, jab, followed by an inside slip or jab, followed by a duck. This is also a great technical drill to use for sparring, when sparring clients I train, the 1st round or two is almost always a technical drill for jabbing and slipping/ducking. I use this same drill for the kids I train. Jabs only followed by a head movement.
If you want to extend this on to the pads, then I suggest two drills, the 1,2 slip, 2 or with your hands down, the 1,2,1,2 slip 2. The 1 refers to a jab, and the 2 refers to a cross, so jab, cross, slip, cross would be 1,2 slip, 2. The slip here would be the outside slip.
The 2nd drill is something better worked on in shadow boxing or any combination punching drill. It requires a roll after every cross is thrown.
Jab, Cross, Roll or 1, 2 roll. Simple enough isn’t it? If you wanted to use this on the pads for the drill I mentioned above, it would be 1, 2 slip, 2 roll. or 1, 2, 1, 2 slip 2, roll.
Always keep in mind that ideally you want to be moving your head after your last punch, slip or duck after a jab, roll after a cross or a hook. Yes I understand it is well nigh on impossible to do this after every jab or combo, people get tired and technique falters or it takes time to adjust and then remember to move your head, but drill it in as much as you can so the head movement becomes second nature to you. Which leads me nicely on to my next drill.
Shadow Boxing, work head movement in to your shadow boxing. Move around the ring, stop, bounce on the balls of your feet, slip, repeat the process, stop, bounce, 1, 2 roll, continue on, stop, bounce, jab, inside slip, moving on stop, bounce, slip outside, slip inside, roll and so on. Just continue to work in head movement to your shadow boxing so it becomes second nature when you are in the ring sparring – 1, 2 double roll, hook, cross, roll.
Another good drill I like to use when training the kids is to have one standing against the wall so they cannot move back, and their partner throwing light punches at them. The aim is to use head movement to avoid the punches, slips and rolls. Because the punches are not thrown hard or fast, it gives the Boxer a chance to learn muscle memory and get in the flow of moving their head when faced with punches. We’re really just teaching them to get in the habit of moving their head so it becomes instinctive for them, you want to start off slow with the punches and gradually pick up the pace over the weeks or months as they progress and become more comfortable.
Other benefits of this drill is that it allows you to recognise punches(the positioning of the body when each punch is thrown, such as the shoulders) and helps to train out the flinch reflex so the Boxer is not closing their eyes or turning away when a punch is coming so it really is necessary to start slow so they can gradually adjust to the pace.
Once you get better at moving your head you can then move it up a notch and start adding in punches after the head movement, a good example of this is the jab, inside slip, followed by the screw jab. You can then take it further by adding the cross after the screw jab, so jab, inside slip, screw jab, cross. What do you after will depend on the situation, you may follow up with a head movement, another punch or two or step out of range.
So those are some basic drills which will help your game and help your head movement, leading you to become a better Boxer, so give those a try and see how you get on!