The Basics of Boxing Footwork
Boxing attracts fans and participants more for the hands than the feet, but once you start boxing, you quickly realise it is not your hands that set up your foundation for success, but your legs. You can hit as hard or fast as you like, if you do not possess good footwork, you will never get yourself in the proper position to land the punch and neither will you be able to set yourself to land a punch against a moving target. Good footwork is key to your success, all of the great boxers had great footwork, it doesn’t have to be the flashy footwork of a Muhammad Ali or Willie Pep(or current superstar Vasyl Lomachenko), it can be efficient but precise, such as the skilled footwork of Joe Louis, Guillermo Rigondeaux and Jose Napoles, never wasting a step or wasting energy.
In this article I am going to go over only the basics of footwork to help you get started with creating a strong foundation for your boxing.
The easiest way for me to teach the stance is for you to stand straight with your feet slightly wider than your hips, if you are right handed, take one step forward with your left leg, if you are left handed, take one step forward with your right leg. Now bend the knees, keep them firm but not locked, almost like sitting down on it, then slightly slouch the shoulders forward as if you are sitting in a chair, this is a very slight slouch so do not lean forward too much. Now raise your back heel, roll your lead shoulder towards your opponents chin which will also help you to slightly turn the back heel in so you have your feet set more like a sprinter. This is not a necessity, I prefer the back heel to point more 10 past 2 on the clock than quarter past two, simply because in this stance I find I move more fluidly and can come forward more fluently. Ensure your stance never gets too narrow, this means you are off balance when hit and you take away power from your right cross(or left cross)
When moving forwards, move the front foot first and the back foot follows. So the left leg for orthodox fighters and the right leg for southpaws. If the front foot moves 10inches, then the back foot will also move 10inches – this makes sure you are always in your stance and not becoming unbalanced because one foot is too close to the other. Move on the balls of your feet, do not walk forward heel to toe, keep the back heel raised and move on the front part of your feet.
When going backwards, we move the back foot first and then the front foot follows. A lot of newbies to the sport have the habit of moving the front foot first when going backwards, this fraction of a second difference moving the front foot first and not the back foot when moving backwards can be the difference between getting hit and not getting hit so always ensure the back foot moves first when moving backwards.
If you want to move to your left, move your left foot first. Generally in boxing when moving around, whichever way you want to move, move that foot first. With a right handed orthodox boxer then the left foot is your lead leg, for a left handed southpaw then your left leg is your back left but it remains the same, when going left, move the left foot first. Again if your left foot moves 10inches, then the right leg follows 10inches, this will make sure you are not crossing your legs when moving, which is the last thing you want to do because with crossed legs there is very little you can do both offensively and defensively and chances are, if you get hit with a punch whilst cross legged, you are going down.
Now the same applies going to your right, when moving to your right, move the right foot first and the left foot follows, again stay in your stance by moving each foot an equal amount of distance to prevent getting your stance too narrow or crossing your legs.
This is just a very basic introduction to footwork. Remember always land or push off using the balls of your feet, the balls of your feet are the first on and first off the ground, as mentioned earlier, do not move heel to toe, this is what boxers commonly refer to being ‘flat footed’. Always stay in your stance when moving, do not get the feet too narrow or too close. Whichever way you want to go, move that foot first, so going forwards the front foot moves first, going back the back foot moves first, going to the left your left foot moves first and moving right the right foot moves first.
Do not take large steps when moving as then you are only risking over extending yourself and using your energy inefficiently, smaller steps work better, lead with the feet and the hands(punches) follow. Most importantly, stay relaxed when moving around the ring.
Always practice footwork, it sounds basic enough but having strong basics means you have a strong foundation to build your skills around, even after years of boxing you must still allocate time to footwork and moving properly.
Once you have become proficient with the basics, you can then start looking at more advanced techniques such as using the pivot or L-step.