Sonny Liston was a fearless heavyweight champion, noted by many as still the scariest and most intimidating man in boxing history, Listons style all began with his battering ram of a jab. Aided by an amazing reach which was far longer than average for a man of his height, the 84in reach on his jabs would set you up for his powerful hooks and crosses.
When you talk about the greatest jabs in boxing history, I have often heard Listons name being mentioned as amongst the best or in some cases as the best ever, yes even better than Larry Holmes and Muhammad Ali(for what it’s worth, the best jabs I have studied are Larry Holmes, Pernell Whitaker, Muhammad Ali and Thomas Hearns).
There was a twist though to the jab of Sonny Liston, at times Liston would change the trajectory of his jab – instead of shooting the jab out, elbow, shoulder in a straight line and turning the hand over, Liston would also throw the jab with an upward trajectory.
This jab was taught to him by his old school trainer Willie Reddish. Reddish had been a heavyweight boxer who had fought big names such as former world champion Jersey Joe Walcott and after his boxing career was over, Reddish ended up becoming a trainer and worked with the likes of Gypsy Joe Harris and more famously Joe Frazier and Sonny Liston. I picked up this move from watching Billy Padden whom I speak to on Instagram – Padden was trained by Willie Reddish and is an old school boxing coach who has worked with a number of UFC stars such as the top female fighter in the world, Amanda Nunes.
Now there are a number benefits of changing the trajectory of the jab and throwing it in an upwards manner(note this is different to the up jab which is delivered with the hand held low). Firstly by punching ‘up’ it automatically raises your lead shoulder to protect your chin, this is instilling defensive responsibility into your offence. What this also means is that because the jab goes up and your chin is tucked in behind the shoulder, it is much harder for your opponent to counter attack your jab as your arm will be in the way due to its upward trajectory.
Sonny Liston would also use this upwards jab to stiff arm his opponent – from here he could either keep them at the end of his jab or he could hold them in position to set up whichever punch he intended on throwing next. Once Liston had got that jab going he could also start to bring in the jab feint but that’s an article for another day(you can view that here as I have already uploaded this on my YouTube channel).
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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