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When your opponent actively blocks your shot they are usually right in front of you, you are within range and have a sense of where they are. They have also used one of their weapons (arm/hand) to block yours, sometimes they will use both weapons as in the case where your opponent shuts down the middle with both arms to block an uppercut. In this contact range there are a number predictable counters which are relatively easy to see and feel if you have enough experience. The only thing that kills predictability is speed, just watch how many times Winky Wright picked off Trinidad with the jab if you want to see an example of that.
If you want to be a good elusive boxer who can set up compound attacks and anticipate counters, you need an instinct for what to do when you miss a punch. The solution is very straightforward; As soon as you miss a punch, move your head.
If it’s a jab that you miss you will slip left or right while keeping your eye on your opponent, then jab again as you close the distance. If he starts firing a full combo then its probably best to go on the defensive or keep moving your head until he’s done and then come through. Most often when you miss it means your opponent has anticipated your move and is a half beat ahead of you, that’s all the time he needs to hit you with a clean shot. Developing an instinct for moving your head after you miss takes time, it will become second nature through sparring and hard lessons in the gym. Every now and then you will miss not because of the skill of your opponent but simply because you miscalculated or were off balance, either way the sames rules apply.
Start to get a good feel for when you land or miss in sparring so that you don’t just barge ahead with combos that leave you exposed after the first punch. You need sets of combos that can be adjusted and changed in mid flight. As well, in order for the instinct to become a technique you obviously need the right way of moving, and this comes from hours on the heavy bag of jabbing and slipping, slipping then jabbing, hooking and rolling/ducking and vice versa.
When you miss that shot your opponent is outside of your range, he could be left, right, or a bit too far in front of you. It doesn’t mean that you have to abandon your plan, it means that you lost a beat, you lost a step, and moving your head while adjusting to your opponent is the best way to gain that step back and re-initiate. Just as an example, many times you will miss the first jab you throw, guys are ready for it and they either step back or lean back, and if they are good they’ll throw a counter shot right away (often a left hook). In this case your staple combo will be – jab, slip, jab, jab, right.
Keep this in mind, apply it to your training, and come up with your own variations.
Tabata sets are the hallmark of high intensity training, if you haven’t put some steady work into Tabata sets then you are really missing out on a new level of conditioning. You don’t have to make this a complicated matter, from my experience you’ll reap the most benefits from Tabata’s with sprints and punch-outs on the heavy bag. There are a couple keys to this:
1) Make sure you are already in relatively decent shape, you don’t want to do these after coming off a layoff or when you just haven’t been putting in proper training. Don’t look at Tabata’s as a quick fix, they are most effective on top of a solid base
2) Be steady with Tabata’s, you’ll start to feel a serious change in your athleticism after about 2-3 weeks of them done every couple of days. Don’t burn out on these or spread them out too thin, 3 times a week is good.
One pain in the ass is having to look down at your watch to check the time, so below I’ve made a Tabata set timer for download (right click save target as), just put it on your MP3 player and go to town. Once you click start you have 5 seconds to get ready, the first bell is the first 20 seconds of high intensity, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This repeats itself for 10 sets, only 8 sets are required for a complete Tabata workout.
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.