Basic Boxing Punches
Boxing punches are typically assigned numbers so that when training you can refer to and call out punches quickly and without confusion. Depending on your trainer, different numbers might correspond to different punches. The following is a basic and standard numbering system which many other systems use as a base.
- Left Jab
- Straight Right/Right Cross
- Left Hook
- Right Hook
- Left Uppercut
- Right Uppercut
You will notice a few things about these numbers..
First of all, all of the odd-numbered punches are thrown with your left hand, and all of the even-numbered punches are thrown with your right hand.
Second, these punches are in pairs (1&2, 3&4, 5&6) that are the same, or similar punches but thrown with the opposite hand. These pairs often serve as building blocks for effective punching combinations.
If you are a southpaw (left-handed) fighter these punches are all thrown with the opposite hands. For example, the number 1 is a right jab, the 2 is a left cross/straight, the 3 is a right hook, etc. Your stance will also be opposite (in respect to left-right direction) that of a orthodox (right-handed) fighter.
How to Throw Punches
The jab is the most important punch in boxing because it is used both offensively and defensively and is used to set up other punches. The jab should be thrown almost continually throughout a fight. It serves to keep the other boxer on edge, get a feel for the distance between you, and to expose vulnerabilities that your opponent might open when he reacts to your jab. Additionally, jabs are often thrown to counter an opponent’s punch, and to protect yourself while pivoting or retreating.
To throw the jab, shoot your left hand in a straight line outwards from your chin. You do not want to use your elbow to generate power, but rather your shoulder. Think of your arm as a coiled spring.
On contact, the back of your hand should be parallel to the ground and you want to make contact with the knuckles of the pointer and middle finger primarily. Your fist should be relaxed, and tighten just before impact.
Because you are vulnerable with an arm extended, your must quickly “recoil the spring,” pulling your hand back into a guard.
The cross, or straight, is the notorious knockout punch. If you have heard the saying “The old 1-2,” this is what it is referring to – jab, cross. The cross is thrown with the same “coiled spring” concept as the jab, with the additional factor of torque provided by your shoulders and and hips. The straight can be extremely powerful, but that also makes it easy to over extend and leave yourself vulnerable. Because the cross takes longer to throw, it should almost always be thrown after a jab or other punch, so that your opponent has a hard time reacting or seeing it coming.
To throw a cross, turn your upper body towards your opponent by pivoting on your back foot and rotating your hips. Do not lunge forward with your body as this will leave you vulnerable.
As your back shoulder rotates forward, extend your arm like a coiled spring. Upon impact the top of your hand should be parallel to the ground. Keep your fist relaxed until just before impact.
Throughout the punch, maintain your guard with your left hand near your chin. After impact, quickly recoil your arm, and pivot back into your normal stance and guard.
The left hook is a punch that can be both quick and powerful. Lenedary trainer Freddy Roach once said that he would rather have a strong left hook than a right cross, because of its proximity to the opponent (being your front hand). The left hook can catch your opponent off guard, can catch them on their chin, or be thrown to the body. It works well at close range, or in response to a punch thrown by your opponent that leaves them exposed.
To throw a left hook transfer your weight briefly to your left side. It is important that you do not swing your body in this direction, but simply transfer weight subtly.
Quickly use your weight on the left foot to pivot back to the right, raising your elbow, and punching across your body with your arm parallel to the ground. Your arm should be bent at approximately a 90 degree angle. Your arm should be tight to your body, and not extended far.
The top of your fist can either be facing your opponent or parallel with the ground, but should be flat and in-line with your forearm.
Be careful not to over-extend yourself to your right leaving yourself vulnerable, and make sure to keep your right hand at your chin maintaining your guard throughout the punch.
The right hook is similar to the left hook, but can be more challenging to use because it is coming from your rear hand, making it slower. It is often used in combinations with the left hook, and while fighting at close range.
Throwing a right hook is done just like the left hook, but with directions reversed.
To throw a right hook, transfer your weight briefly to your right side. Quickly use that weight to then pivot left, while raising your elbow and punching across your body with your elbow bent. Keep your arm tight to your body and not extended far.
Make sure not to over-extend and leave yourself vulnerable, and to maintain your guard with your left hand near your chin throughout the punch.
Uppercuts can be very dangerous punches, that are typically thrown when fighting in close range, or in response to a punch thrown by your opponent. Uppercuts can be knockout punches if they connect with the chin, but are also used rapidly to the body which can significantly harm an opponents balance and strength. Like hooks, uppercuts should be tight and controlled because you will be vulnerable if thrown wildly and over-extended.
To throw a left uppercut (front hand) dip slightly to your left at your waist. Raise your back heel, put pressure on the ball of your front foot, and dip your left elbow slightly.
Rotate your fist upwards, and explode up in a sharp movement from the front foot. Do not over-extend your arm, but keep it close with a sharp bend in the elbow.
Maintain your guard with your right hand throughout the punch, and pull your left arm back into your guard as soon as it carries through.
You arm should remain close to your body, and not dip excessively low, or carry through excessively high.
As the right hook mirrors the left hook, so the right uppercut mirrors the left uppercut. It is thrown in the same situations as the left uppercut, and often in combination with the left uppercut to work an opponents body.
To throw a right uppercut, dip slightly right at your waist. Raise your front heel, put pressure on the ball on your back foot, and dip your right elbow slightly.
Rotate your fist up, and explode upwards in a sharp movement from your back foot. Maintain your guard with your left hand throughout the punch, and pull your right hand back into a guard after it carries through.
The Danger of Over-extending
Over-extending can mean two things, both of which are dangers you need to avoid.
First, over-extending can refer to swinging a punch farther away from your body that it is meant to be thrown. This is commonly done with hooks and uppercuts. This makes the punch easy to avoid, and leaves your body wide open to be attacked.
Second, over-extending can refer to extending your arm (in a jab or cross) to the point where your elbow locks out. In practice or shadowboxing, if you throw your punches to full extension, you will hurt your elbow. Your punches should end prior to full extension of your arm.