Archive for category Fighting and Sparring

How to Deal With the Counter Left Hook

This is not easy, some guys are really good at countering with the left hook and moving their head and feet at the same time.  They step back and fade away into safety and you become exposed as you come in short taking shots.  Even if you have your hands up high you’ll get knocked off balance to the left if the guy has some ‘umph’ on his hooks.

The better guys are able to throw two and three counter left hooks in succession, and a lot of guys with a good counter left will time it with your straight right hand, they will bring their left shoulder to their chin and block your shot and hit you at the same time.  This is a slick move that guys used to pull on me all the time and I was able to add it to my own game as I got better.

Think about the left hook for a second, what’s open when your opponent throws it? Well, the entire left side of his body is open.  The top left side of his head is open and technically his chin and the whole centre of his face is open up the middle.  For the most part you are going to nail this guy with the right hand, but at the same time that is exactly what he is hoping you will throw, so this is where the chess match ensues.

The left hook counter is very safe counter when moving backwards.  Especially for the taller outside fighter who counters with the left hook when you are throwing.  I’ve found three good general techniques to launch an attack against a guy who has a fascination with the counter left, the key is rhythm and timing. I’ll explain each of them below.

1)  Quick Jab and a power right hand to the body – Here you are trying to get your opponent to commit to a left hook by initiating the attack with a jab.  You throw a quick jab, it doesn’t matter if it lands, the key is to finish your jab before he has finished the left hook and drop levels to throw the right hand to his open body, a fake jab works great, you are trying to draw out your opponent.  A psychological tactic in boxing is to make your opponent think a technique will work on you and then try to get him to throw that technique, and then you answer with the natural counter.  If you understand rhythm in boxing you’ll know that you stepping in to throw a full jab gives your opponent enough time to connect with a left hook.  So you are going to throw a quick jab/fake jab while stepping with the left foot and then follow with a big right hand when your back foot catches up, it’s the classic one two combo.  If he doesn’t go for your bait and just blocks, then GOOD, you just follow up with the left hook and other punches and step out when you are done, or hang inside if you are a good inside fighter.  If he swings with the left hook and you have dropped nicely then your right hand will land, you will then step out to the right on an angle and start up a second attack.  This whole interaction should take about one second or less.

2) Quick/fake Jab, slip head left, left hook and then straight right hand – Similar to the first tactic, you want your opponent to throw the left hook, he loves it and thinks he’s good with it, so let him think it’s going to work and take it away from him.  In this combo you are only expecting to land the straight right, the rest of the punches are just a set up, this is the beauty of good boxing, the shot you intend to land is down the road and out of sight, but you know exactly what you are doing.  So, you throw a quick jab to entice him to throw his hook, you slip left, and then come back into him with a big left hook and then **bamn** the straight right.  When you slip left his left hook should graze you or even make contact, but since you are slipping in the same direction as the punch it will have little effect.

3)  Double jab and straight right – This is not your typical double jab and straight right, you are going to barrel down and drive through him and aim your jab for his chest on the left side, it’s not as savvy as your classic double jab and right hand where you stand tall. Instead you are going to get a bit lower, drop your chin deep into your chest, raise your hands extra high almost like you are going to dive head first into this guy.  You want to be extra protected because your goal is to take his left hook off the right glove and then throw your right just after you feel it.  When you go in with this you are trying to be solid like a train on tracks, you want to throw the jab at his left shoulder or left part of his chest, this will open him up a bit for when you throw the right hand.  He will throw his left hook and most likely two or three.  After your double jabs connect with his chest/shoulder you are going to throw that right hand straight up the middle.  You are essentially going to walk through the fire of his left hook in a compact position and throw the right hand after his left hook has fizzled out.


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Boxing Footwork Instructional Video

Below is the promo video for the boxing footwork instructional video that I just produced, part of the goal of this video is to establish footwork basics for new boxers, but it is also geared towards offensive and defensive maneuvers for the intermediate to advanced fighter.  It will be available for purchase via download or DVD on this blog in the coming week for $19.95.


Compound Attacks

From a tactical point of view, I can’t think of anything that will take your boxing to the next level more than implementing and launching compound attacks.  The classic scenario is you go to your opponent with a set of punches and head movement, and whether it’s 3 punches or 8 he knows that after you have launched your attack he can make his move or at least take a break for a about 5-10 seconds while you reset.  When you set up a second immediate attack (within 1 or 2 seconds) there is an element of surprise and sustained pressure which separates you from 90% of fighters.

The best compound attacker right now is Pacquiao, that doesn’t mean he’s the best boxer, I still think it’s Mayweather, only time will tell.  However, watch what Pacquiao does and watch his fights, he throws a fury of punches after faking and setting up angles, he resets or steps back or creates an angle, and then goes in for a second helping of beat down on his opponent.

I picked this stuff up initially from watching tons of Tyson fights, he was a master at setting up second and third attacks, and he had to because every time he launched his opponent was on the run.  A good example of this is to watch him against Tyrell Biggs or Mitch Green, it took Tyson a couple of rounds to get close and start landing.  I learned a lot from watching Tyson and you probably can too, you can also learn a lot from watching Tyson lose to Douglas and Holyfield in their first fight.   It’s always good to see different strategies from both sides.

Ok, back to compound attacks.  The key is to set up your opponent for an attack down the road.  The biggest obstacle you will face is the conditioning to back it up, when you are not in shape you’ll be lucky to consistently get off strong single attacks, so you have to train for compound attacks.  Watch my video for some ideas on how to incorporate that in your training,  Slipping Punches – The Remix

You fake, move your head, and then go in with your attack, at the higher level of boxing most initial attacks will be neutralized or countered by your opponent.  If your boxing is tight then you will be able to neutralize your opponents counter or stay close enough to him on his retreat.  And so here lies the second attack and the compound attack; once your opponent has retreated or countered and you have successfully neutralized the counter, you then launch your second attack, it’s all about the footwork to create angles and stay close along with the constant head movement to avoid attacks.   You have to work out the specifics, but you get the idea.  The general pattern goes like this:

You: faking, moving side to side, in and out, moving your head

Opponent: doing the same as you

You: move in for your combination

Opponent: retreats or throws counter, or throws while retreating

You: stay within punching range as you move forward and moving head as soon as you finish punching, or move head in between punches while moving

Opponent: moves to safety or launches fresh attack against you

You:  pouncing on opponent as he moves to safety (since you are close enough), or countering his attack since you are ready for it and were about to launch again.

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Breathing in Boxing

Your body’s ability to process and utilize oxygen effectively is essential to good boxing, even though research has shown boxing to be about 70% anaerobic.  This means that boxing simulates short sprints, explosive movements, and dextrous agility that requires big energy on demand and needs less oxygen a more aerobic activity.

The optimal training formula for for boxing is not locked in however, old school long distance roadwork is still a staple of many coaches and boxer’s regimen.  Most good boxers and coaches have figured out one thing though, and that is that training has to simulate the intensity of the actual event, anything less than training for what a fight feels like will leave you performing suboptimally.  There is a slight distinction between breathing, oxygen usage, and boxing efficiency, yet they are all related.  Below, one of my Youtube subscribers brings this issue to my attention, and I’ll attempt to answer it based on a holistic view of performance training for boxing.

I really enjoy your vids! Its helping me alot in every aspect. I was wondering about breathing in sparring. The funny thing is when i hit the bags, heavybag, double end bag, body snatcher bag. i dont have a problem. But when i spar i have a problem. I guess im holding my breath. Can you please give me some pointers? Any help would be greatly apprecated.

First off, the proper breathing technique for boxing allows you to expel air almost completely when you throw your punches so the body’s natural instinct to take air back in goes into effect.  This way you have a steady supply of new oxygen coming in.  To do this you have to exert your exhalation from the lowest part of your abdomen.  If you exhale and only exert exhalation pressure from your upper diaphram or chest then you are going to get tense and tired real quick.

The best way I’ve found to do this is to make a loud “hmph” or “hugh” sound on each punch while keeping your mouth closed and breathing out through your nose.  When the air goes out strong your body will call it back.  It’s ideal to breath back in through your nose, I’ve had a deviated sceptum for years so breathing back in through my nose has always been tough, but it’s ideal.  The specific noise you make when you exhale doesn’t matter, a lot of top boxers make a “SSS” sound when they punch, some like Ricky Hatton, make a loud “Hagh”.  The key is that the air has to come from the lowest part of your abdomen, this also makes your body a bit tougher and more durable against counters to the body.

One way to test this and get a feel is to put your fingertips right below your navel and let out a forceful “Hmph”, do three or four fast ones in a row just like when you throw a combo, you should feel the exertive outward pressure of your abdomen.  Now try this, put your fingertips on your upper abdomen and exhale forcefully without letting your lower abdomen exert pressure, you’ll notice that you feel tight and still have a lot of air left in your lungs to expel.  In the heat of real boxing, this is how a lot of people tend to breath, it takes training, experience and conditioning to get this properly calibrated.

There is a bigger problem for my prospective boxer above though, and poor breathing may be the sympton, but it’s not the cause.  One thing I stress in training is to simulate the fight feel and conditions as much as possible.  A lot of fighters either forget, are unaware, or lack drive to get in the proper shape for a fight.  Hitting the bag is the equivalent of a jog, and fighting is the equivalent of a sprint.  Sparring and fighting is high intensity for the simple reason that the opponent moves, and appliess pressure through offense and his ability to dodge your attacks.  It takes a lot of steam to launch an attack and to retreat to safety, with a bag it only takes about half the effort.  Let me put it to you in measurable terms:  If you are going to have a 100 punch output during a round of sparring, you need to be ready for a 300 punch round on the bag.  This is about the equivalent I have found, it may be a little less depending on your footwork and head movement, but you get the idea.

One thing I stress to fighters is to hit the bag at fight pace.  Fight pace is rapid, it’s dynamic, it incorporates head movement, in and outs, lateral motion, in fighting, and fast fast fast combos!  My recommendation is to have at least 2 workouts a week where you go 4 rounds at fight pace.  This means you warm up for 3 rounds.  And then when round 4 hits, its a mad fury and all out tactical brawl with the bag.

How will you know if you are doing it right?  By the end of the third round at fight pace you will be begging for the bell to ring.  Another way you’ll know is when everyone in the gym is staring at you wondering if they need to exorcise the demon within.

You need to simulate the feel of a real fight in training.  Another trick I used to do is when the bell would go for the round, I would bust out 20 straight burpees before stepping to the bag. I would do this for each round. Under these conditions you will learn to fight tired and under fatigue.  You don’t want to train this way all the time, I recommend twice a week.  Remember in training to simulate the feel of your toughest rounds in the ring!

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Timeless and Priceless Advice

You need to listen to this old school fighter and coach.  I’ve preached this stuff to fighters until I was blue in the face.  No more needs to be said, just watch this whole video and listen close.   Thank me by taking heed of his advice and training your ass off.

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Y’all Must’ve Forgot!

You’ve been training for months, years, maybe a decade, and you’ve picked up a ton of knowledge along the way.  As you go it’s easy to forget the little things you used to do and the optimal mindset, especially if you’ve taken some time off or got stuck in a rut.  It’s not until you get clocked, land a sweet shot or suffer from absolute boredom in the gym that you remember some of the things that made you a better boxer along the way.

Do ya remember the way you used to skip furiously for the last 30 seconds of every round

…remember the way you used to jab to the opponents glove or shoulder before stepping in with a second jab

…remember the way you used to slip to the right and lean slightly back when you threw that big uppercut

…remember the way you used to duck out and step to the right after landing that right hand to the body

…remember the way you used to get up in the morning with a calm and serious mindset, focused on training

…remember the way you used to hit the bag at high intensity pace, like it was your opponent

…remember the way you used to keep your chin tight into your chest

…remember the way you used to launch an attack on your opponent, and then launch a second immediate attack.

…remember the way you used to roll off of every left hook you threw

…remember how you used to love doing ab work

…remember the way you used to work with your stable mates and leave your ego to the wayside

…remember when you used to do sprints and intervals as part of your roadwork

…remember how clean your diet used to be

…remember when your woman used to ask you what you were pensively thinking about, and all you could say was ‘boxing’

…remember how much you used to welcome and face the pain of training

…remember how you used to slip, duck and move after every combo

…remember how you used to spend two rounds just working on the jab

…remember when 3 rounds on the bag was just a warm-up

…remember telling yourself that you were NOT gonna lose this fight

…remember the thrill of surviving a fight with your best performance win, lose, or draw

…remember  when the speed bag was fun and just icing on the cake in your workout

…remember when the music you listened to and boxing were synonymous

…remember when you would rip combos like a machine gun

…remember when you didn’t care how big or small your sparring partner was

…remember not being able to go another round and doing it anyway

…remember the way you used to attack to the head, then body, then back up to the head

…remember how loose and fast your left hook used to be

…remember how you used to spend 15-20 minutes just working on footwork

…remember when you could train and hang out in the gym for hours

Do ya remember how much you love boxing!?

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Pro-style as an Amateur

When I first started boxing I had a textbook amateur stance and style; hands high, left hand about six inches away from the chin, fairly upright stance and active defense with a focus on ‘cover and counter’ type rhythm.  It wasn’t long before my coach pulled me aside and said that this was not going to work.  He had me pull my hands to my chin, square up just a bit and start working on my head movement with immediate counters and punching while the opponent was punching.  Did he know that I loved Mike Tyson!?  Who knows, I’m sure I gave it away somewhere in my training.  This ‘new’ Peekaboo style took me to a new level in the gym, I felt like I had a style all my own (of course this wasn’t true), I imagined I was Mike Tyson, slipping and countering, and knocking guys out!

Style is one thing, ability is another, and the ability to execute your style is even another thing.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t have the punching power of Mike Tyson, most guys don’t, even the pros.  After many beat downs in the first 6 months at the gym I started to get into my rhythm and style, and in my first fight I was like a white Mike Tyson, I bobbed and weaved and came ahead with heavy blows.  It wasn’t all glory, I was gassed by the end of the second round from all the aggression.  I won that fight, mostly from solid defense and the ability to land clean shots when it was my turn to throw, I didn’t knock my opponent out and it wasn’t the Mike Tyson-esque performance I imagined.  Which brings me to the purpose of this post, a reader writes in:

… I also noticed at the amateur level, everyone learns to box the traditional way. However, I really like the unpredictability of Floyd Mayweather’s style, or the ambush style of Sergio Martinez. I believe much of their success has more to do with their unorthodox style than just there natural ability.

What are your thoughts on fighting like the above-mentioned fighters…Sergio and Roy Jones Jr. often drop their hands, yet it seems to work for them. I don’t have amazing quickness, but would certain drills or repetition help me achieve similar working styles at the amateur level?”

There are a couple things you should keep in mind with any kind of style:

1)  Your style is how you put each piece of your boxing repertoire together in action.  To keep it basic, one guy likes to catch the jab and counter, the other guy likes to slip the jab and counter.  This is the beginning of style.  Boxing is about position, technique, patterns and rhythm.  You can emulate Roy Jones or Mayweather, but you will always be you with your own style, this can be good or bad.  Take what you learn and make it your own, remember you are trying to win and good fighters do what it takes to win.  Style is secondary to winning.  Just look at how Mayweather changed up his style right after he got hit by Mosley in round 2 of their fight.

2) Fight based on your competitive arena.  Most top pro boxers started with a traditional amateur style.  This is because the amateur game is based on punch connects and judges don’t like fighters who stray from the amateur style template.  They think that you are ‘showboating’ when you drop your hands.  I’ve never seen a guy who has dropped his hands in the amateurs win against an evenly matched opponent, the judges just won’t score for him.  In the amateur game you have to play to the judges favour, you can drop your hands a bit and work an evasive style, but I wouldn’t go too far from this, unless you know you can clean up your opponent.

3) Dropping your hands has it’s purpose.  The main reasons to drop the left hand into a Philly shell position or to drop both hands and be cagey are; first, you can move your head quicker based on weight distribution along your body, second, you can see punches a bit easier, third, you can shoulder roll to set up counters, and fourth, you can throw punches from outside of your opponents line of vision.  If you are going to drop one or both of your hands then make sure you can back it up with real technique.
4) The best way to develop any style is to take risks in sparring and practice what you are trying to achieve.  You have to take risks if you want to improve and not rely on what works all the time.  You have to put your ego aside and risk losing a round or two to try something new, that’s the best way to learn.

5)  Understand that distance and rhythm are critical to your boxing style.  Look at Mayweather who likes to pot shot and pick opponents apart from the outside, he controls the distance and paralyzes his opponents mentally.  Look at Pacquiao who moves well side to side, moves his head and the comes in with quick combos and moves a bit only to come in with a second set of combos.  Look at Manuel Marquez who has slick and measured counterpunching as he waits for you to create the opening, and look at Victor Ortiz who barrages you with punches and forces openings.

All in all, your style is going to come down to your mentality, your level of proficiency with each technique, and your ability to put pieces together.  Practice the techniques until you have them down and work your new style in sparring, take risks during sparring.

Having said all that, I like this guy’s video below on how to work on the Philly Shell defense.

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