Not for nothing is boxing called the sweet science. Although it can look caveman like at times when watching on the tv for those who do not participate in the sport, there is in actuality a lot to the sport.
Practice makes perfect, but you’ve got to practice the correct things else you will end up learning habits that will then become very difficult to unlearn. As a coach it is my job to look out for the little things, these are the things which go unnoticed to the untrained eye and often to the fighter himself but correcting these ‘mistakes’ can make a world of difference to someone’s game. In this article I am going to go over the top ten boxing mistakes I see often in the gym and if you realise you have any of the following, you need to correct this as soon as possible.
1. Elbows Out
Far too often the elbows are not tucked in tight to protect the body, they can be flared outwards or raised too high exposing the ribs. Keep the elbows nice and tight so everything looks compact in your boxing stance. This can also occur when throwing punches, you will throw a punch and the opposing elbow is flaring out, keep them in!
2. Keeping the Chin down!
I see this happen when guys are throwing punches, the chin will raise and gives your opponent a dangerous opportunity to throw a punch and catch that chin hanging out clean! It also happens oddly enough, to those worried about getting hit back in return, the punches are almost thrown without intent because you are too worried about a counter shot so it is almost like you are reaching for your punch which ends up lifting your chin. Keep the chin down when throwing punches.
3. Looking at the gloves
There is a some debate over where your eyes should be focused when fighting. Generally the common advice is to just look forward, I go one further and say it should be the opponents eyes – looking at their eyes helps you anticipate punches better and read their body language better. A mistake I often see beginners make is looking at their opponents gloves, this never works because not only can you get feinted out if they fake one punch and throw another, it makes it harder to avoid a punch and move out of the way if you are looking at the gloves, the hand tends to travel faster than your head does when you suddenly realise the glove is coming your way….
4. Dropping the hands when punching
Keep the hands high at all times, this doesn’t just mean when you are in guard position and not throwing punches, this also means when you are throwing punches. Often I will see someone throwing the 1, 2(jab, cross) and the jab will drop when followed by the cross. It also happens with the hook, when throwing the left hook for example, the right hand will drop. You must keep the opposing or non punching hand high when throwing punches because it helps to protect against the counter shot. If you keep dropping your right hand when throwing a left hook expect your opponent to counter with their own left hook, if you keep dropping the left hand after jabbing, there’s a good chance your opponent will either parry your jab down and fire their jab or come over the top with their right hand. Punch from the chin, snap the hand back to chin, when throwing punches they should not come back low, the punch should snap right back to your chin.
5. The Back heel
The back foot is extremely important in the way you move, if you have the back foot flat on the ground, it will slow down your footwork and use more energy. You’ve got to have that back heel slightly raised, this will help you move more quickly and more efficiently. Moving in and out, changing angles with pivots, all come much easier and more naturally when that back heel is raised
6. Always Loading up with every punch
A common mistake for people new to boxing is trying to load up with every punch because they just want to hit someone and knock them out. Loading up on every punch you throw is a great way to tire yourself out and to get countered easily. Try to relax when you are throwing punches and they will come out a lot better and you won’t signal your intentions. Don’t lunge in with your punches and don’t try to make every shot a KO punch, this isn’t a video game where one punch knocks down everything in sight, control yourself and stay composed.
7. Being flat footed
This is related to the point above. We often hear the term ‘heel to toe’, what this means is you are being flat footed, which again will slow you down. Generally the heavier fighters may be a little more flat footed simply because it takes up much more energy for a big man to stay up on his toes on the balls of his feet. But those heavyweights such as Muhammad Ali who did stay on the balls of their feet only ended up being the greatest heavyweight of all time….
Move on the balls of your feet, it will help your movement no end and give you a much better rhythm to your footwork and much better flow to your movement. Being flat footed will make you feel sluggish and a sluggish fighter is much easier to hit. Practice moving using a slow gallop.
8. Crossing the Legs
Not just crossing the legs, but moving the wrong foot when moving around the ring. In its most simple terms, whichever way you move, that is the foot you move first, this helps prevent one getting their legs crossed. If you move forward, the front leg moves first, if you move backwards, the back leg moves first, if you move to the left, the left foot goes first and if you move right it’s the back leg which moves first. A lot of times I will see someone moving their front foot first when going backwards, although the difference is only a fraction of a second, that could be the difference between getting hit or making them miss. Good footwork is the basis of a good fighter, you must correct any mistakes with footwork. Crossing the legs will leave you vulnerable if taking a punch and it also means you cannot throw a punch with any amount of serious power.
9. Looking down when rolling under punches
When rolling under punches, keep your eyes up, do not look down when rolling under punches for the simple reason that if you are looking downwards, you won’t be able to see the next punch coming and if you don’t see the next punch coming, you will not be able to brace for it which means it is going to hurt a lot more than it should have. A reason why people end up looking downwards when rolling under punches is usually because of instead of bending at the knees, they are bending at the waist – I understand this will happen when you are tired in the the middle of a fight or sparring session, but you must practice good technique to fall back on in these times, bend the knees making a U shape with the head, eyes looking up at your opponent. If it is inside fighting or along the ropes, keep the eyes looking at the chest, your peripheral vision should be able to still see the punches coming.
10. Lack of Head movement
You cannot expect to just walk forwards in straight lines, your opponent will end up picking you off because it is becoming predictable, they know where your head is. But what I really mean is after throwing your punches, do something else, either use your footwork to move out of range, or move your head off centre line. When you’ve just finished throwing a four punch combo at your opponent, you better believe they are now going to try hitting you back, so move the head out of the way! Far too often I catch someone admiring their work after landing a punch or two and then end up getting countered because they didn’t think to move their head after the punches. Again just like the previous point, I understand when one gets tired, head movement is one of the first things which disappears, but you’ve got to drill in good habits so you can fall back on good technique on those times you do get tired in the ring. Practice slipping and rolling off your shots.
So that’s just the top ten boxing mistakes you need to avoid. The next time you are the gym, ask your coach or a friend to keep an eye on you when training to make sure you aren’t doing any of the above. Good Luck!
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
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