Which Guard Should You Use?
The first thing you learn as a boxer is your stance, you learn where to place your feet and where to place your hands. Now the style of your stance is often influenced by where you undergo your training, if you live in the UK for example and likely most of Europe, you will be taught with the hands high guard and how many times as a coach have I shouted ‘Hands high!’ when overlooking sparring? But is the high guard really the best guard you can use?
I’ve done a lot of film study in the past year, especially because of the lockdown and I have put out a lot of videos which involve a fighters stance and in my opinion the American style is the most effective guard you can use – now the USA again has a variety of styles so which in particular? I could give a region such as Midwestern USA so this mainly refers to Detroit in Michigan but I also have to include cities outside of this region such as Philadelphia as there seems to be a lot of crossover between Detroit and Philadelphia.
So why do I say this. Well a few months ago at the turn of the year, I wrote my article on the top ten greatest boxers of all time and pretty much all of them used a very similar guard and this guard was the rear hand was either under the chin or to the left side of the chin and the lead hand was held ‘low’. The fighters in the article picture were all top ten of all time by most accounts, they could even have an argument as the top five ever, Sugar Ray Robinson, Henry Armstrong, Ezzard Charles, Willie Pep and Joe Louis.
None of these fighters, who are considered the greatest in history used the high guard, the closest was probably Roberto Duran but even his lead hand was held around chest level and he often employed a touch jab which came back lower, there wasn’t a single high guard in sight.
Now this is not to say the high guard is wrong, there isn’t really a wrong guard in my opinion but if you are looking at the most effective guard then it is not the high guard – I do believe you should learn the high guard – it is important to be flexible and have more than one guard in your arsenal but I do not believe that the high guard should be your base guard, sure you can use it on the ropes, maybe if you are hurt you can cover up with the high guard, perhaps if your opponent is faster than you, you can switch up to the high guard but as a base style, the back hand under the chin with the lead hand a little lower is a much more flexible and effective guard.
There are a number of reasons for this, the rear hand can be used to parry the jab and block the right leaving the lead hand free to jab or hook. I also believe having the lead hand lower makes you more efficient and quicker in your defensive moves, you can slip a lot quicker in this guard as opposed to the high guard. Defence is just as important as offence and with this guard your head movement is a lot more natural, the high guard relies more on blocking, I know that is effective but I’d rather make the punch miss because blocking power shots such as the hook or cross with the high guard, especially against a heavy puncher will still have an effect. Look at the greatest defensive fighters of all time, Willie Pep, Nicolino Locche, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Pernell Whitaker, James Toney, George Benton, again none of them used a high guard.
We can even take a look at more recent boxers – Floyd Mayweather Jr is widely recognised as the greatest boxer this century, of course Mayweather hails from Michigan, not far from Detroit and made the shoulder roll popular. Some would say Andre Ward was the third best boxer this century, again he uses the shoulder roll – rear hand under the chin, lead hand held lower. Let’s go back to the 90’s – the two best boxers were Roy Jones Jr, he used a hands low guard and Pernell Whitaker. Whitaker used the shoulder roll and was coached by George Benton, Benton used the philly shell himself as a boxer and boxed out of Philadelphia.
What is the most popular or most famous gym in the world? Most likely you’re thinking of the Kronk Gym and yet again the Kronk Gym, based in Detroit, Michigan uses the rear hand under the chin and lead hand low as their main fighting stance. I also covered this in my video Ezzard Charles – The Perfect Stance and again Charles was based in Midwestern USA fighting out of Cincinnati, Ohio. I have done a post of this in the past but I will include again below for your reference. Every guard has pro’s and con’s, every guard has weaknesses but in my opinion based on my studies, the below video outlines what is the best boxing stance.