There are four basic punches in boxing: the jab, cross, hook and uppercut. Any punch other than a jab is considered a power punch. If a boxer is right-handed (orthodox), his left hand is the lead hand and his right hand is the rear hand. For a left-handed boxer or southpaw, the hand positions are reversed.
In MMA you will see a lot of fighters switching stance, so, although they may be right-handed they may stand with their right leg forward – this can confuse opponents and allow the fighter to use their weaker hand to throw a power punch.
Although this post is about the basic boxing punches, I wanted to share that as it shows the importance of developing your skill in both hands. And shows the opportunities available once you master these four basic boxing punches.
The first boxing punch to master is the jab. The jab is a light, fast punch, meant to keep an opponent at a distance and to set up other punches. A series of good jabs will force your opponent to defend himself, and may open up opportunities for body shots or a hook to the side of the head.
A jab most effective when it catches an opponent off guard, but beginners frequently load their muscles before throwing a jab which will alert any experienced opponent that the punch is coming. They will notice the bicep or pectoral muscle twitch and be ready to block and counter punch.
While you’re learning the jab, practice keeping your bicep loaded throughout the round, so it’s ready to snap out a jab at any time.
If you have watched Muhammad Ali fight, you will have noticed how often he through a jab to keep his opponent at bay. This allows him to circle away to create space or to land more significant punches.
Here’s a video of the master at work.
Learn how to throw the perfect jab – here.
Heavy Cross / Straight
Once you have mastered the jab, the next punch to learn is the heavy cross. The cross is thrown with the dominant hand and is more powerful than the jab; as it is thrown with the stronger hand, from a greater distance and with more body weight behind the punch.
When throwing the cross, the fighter must use his legs to brace the punch. Instead of leaning forward and extending your back leg, it is more effective to plant your feet on the ground and pivot using your back foot. This will allow you to generate more power and keep your balance if your opponent is quick enough to counter.
Because beginners often feel like they need to reach forward to hit an opponent, they tend to lean forward and get up on their toes, leaving themselves wide open and unsteady for body shots
Conor McGregor has one of the most effective cross punches in MMA today. Although his style is somewhat unorthodox, he uses the basic principles and combines that understanding with his movement and fighting style to open up more opportunities for his powerful left-hand, and to generate more power.
Remember that Conor is a southpaw (left-handed) fighter, so if you are right-handed then you will throw your cross punch with your right hand.
But this is a great example to learn from, as it shows the real art in martial arts – once you understand the basics, the possibilities are endless. Develop your own style and make things work for you!
Learn how to throw the perfect cross – here.
The hook is one of the most dangerous boxing punches and is a common punched used to knock out an opponent – mainly because it’s a very short, close-range punch which is hard to avoid. It’s a great follow-up to a cross and is often used in the combination jab-cross-hook.
A powerful hook orginates at the hip, using all your bodyweight to generate maximum power. Instead of swinging your arm wrecklessly, raise your elbow, swivel your hip and let rip – keeping your arm flexed and following through with the elbow for a clean punch. Throw the punch from a safe guard and don’t forget to pull your arm back to guard immediately, as, at close range, you will always be succeptible to counter-strikes.
One of the most common mistakes is when boxers draw their arm back before throwing a hook. This signifies that you are about to throw the punch and also saps power from it. Start by working on a tight inside hook while standing in front of the heavy bag, then step back from the bag and work on extending the hook further without winding up the arm.
Again, these are the basics that you must master. But once you have the basics, the possibilities are endless.
Here’s an analysis of boxing legend, Rocky Marciano’s iconic jumping hook.
Learn how to throw the perfect hook – here.
The uppercut is another great punch to throw from short range, which is often available when your opponent is protecting the side of their head from a hook or jab. If you are in close range or in a clinch, then it’s often an option to push away from your opponent and land a quick, short uppercut, or to first attack the body and land the uppercut.
Like other punches, the uppercut needs to come from the body and be grounded by the legs. Unlike a hook, where you must rotate your hips, the power of an uppercut comes from rotating the shoulders. After weaving to the right, whip your left shoulder back, and to pull your right shoulder around to land the right uppercut.
Try again, then practice on each side – weave right, right uppercut, weave left, left uppercut. Practice from short-range and once you are comfortable, try to throw from farther without resorting to a scooping motion.
Although the uppercut can be thrown from a farther distance, that is where most boxers make their mistakes. If you are trying to reach too far then the punch will be more easily identified by the opponent and it will lose most of its power.
It’s also important to remmber that an uppercut, unless perfectly executed, will rarely result in a KO. Instead, it can be used to force your opponent’s head out of his guard, so you can land a jab, cross or hook and continue to attack.
One of the most iconic practitioners of the daedly uppercut was ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson, here’s a video of his top 10 uppercuts.
Learn how to throw the perfect uppercut – here.
Like everything in martial arts, mastering these boxing punches takes a lot of practice, practice and more practice. Practice them again and again on the heavy bag, double end bag and with mitts until they become second nature. Then practice some more.
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