Roy Jones Jr – How to Beat the Philly Shell or Shoulder Roll


how to beat the philly shell

How to Beat the Philly Shell or Shoulder Roll

James Toney is one of my favourite boxers, when it comes to fighters I would recommend any young fighter to study, Toney is arguably the one I would most recommend. Toney was a great boxer, using the shoulder roll few if any were better at fighting inside the pocket than James Toney was. Since Floyd Mayweather Jr made the shoulder roll so popular and others refer to it as the Philly Shell defence or Michigan Rock(in reality the Philly Shell defence is simply a variation of the age old Shoulder roll as old as boxing itself), in this article and video I am going to explain how Roy Jones Jr was able to come up with a plan on breaking the shell of James Toney.

How Roy Jones Jr beat the Shoulder Roll of James Toney

There were two key plans of attack for Roy Jones Jr when faced with James Toney. Now we have to remember that at the time of this Super Middleweight clash, James Toney was undefeated and he was one of the best fighters in the world as well as being a world champion. His defensive skills and his counter punching skills were already amongst the best we had ever seen so this was a tall order indeed for Roy Jones Jr.

The first plan we see from Jones is that from the onset the left hook becomes a key weapon – in the opening round Jones threw almost as many left hooks as he did jabs, from what I gathered he threw just over 20 jabs in the opening round, compare that to 19 left hooks! Not for nothing was Roy Jones Jr known as Captain Hook and it would be the perfect antidote to James Toney’s guard in which Toney’s back hand was held under the chin as opposed to the side of the chin, leaving a small window of opportunity for Jones to exploit.

The second note was Toney’s right hand which I just touched upon. When Toney threw a punch with the left hand, his right hand noticeably dropped. Now this meant Toney was susceptible to the left hook, a punch Jones naturally favoured. What this also meant is that when Toney jabbed, especially if it was a double or triple jab, Jones could anticipate Toney’s right hand dropping and counter with his own left hook and not only land a shot but interrupt the flow of Toney’s combinations, forcing him to reset and start over.

One point I should comment on though is that Jones was uniquely placed to carry out these plans because he was just such a freak of nature with this athleticism and reflexes. Jones was immensely fast with both his hands and feet and that allowed him to whip in multiple left hooks and land punches with his left hand whenever Toney was dropping that right hand when using the left, someone of lesser speed may not have been able to capitalise on these windows.

Lastly, due to Jones quick feet we can also see another tactic he was using against Toney. Jones would throw a punch or combination and Toney with his excellent defence, would catch and slip the shots – when Jones saw Toney slipping he would immediately pivot to the side and throw another few punches and because Toney was slipping he was stuck in position and would inevitably have to take a few shots before he could move out of position. Once again Jones natural speed allowed him to have a lot of success using the pivot and change of angle against James Toney.

Watch the video below to see Roy Jones Jr in action and demonstrating how to beat the philly shell or shoulder roll. Now this doesn’t guarantee it will work on any opponent using the shoulder roll or philly shell defence but it does notify you of a few key points you can work with when faced with a opponent using this guard and that is number one, keep an eye on the position of their right hand and number two using the pivot if they use the slip a lot as part of their fighting style from the shoulder roll guard. Floyd Mayweather Jr for example used the shoulder roll but because he had quicker feet than Toney(this could just be down to weight) then pivoting against Mayweather may not have been successful.


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Boxing Coach
Strength and Conditioning Coach
Boxing Author of:

The Boxing Cheat Sheet - Your Ultimate Guide to Ring Survival

Strength and Conditioning for Boxing - Work out Hits to get you Fighting Fit!

Forgotten Legends of the Ring - Ten Past Masters of the Squared Circle

*Any videos or images used on this site to support my articles that are copyrighted are used for educational purposes and in accordance to the fair use act and are not my own - all credit is due to the respective owners. No copyright infringement intended.


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