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3-Punch Boxing Combos: Leading with the Jab (Pt. 1)

The jab is the most important punch. It sets up your combinations and works with every punch to follow, including the jab itself. This is the first of three articles in our 3-punch combos series.

[Note: When you punch, you can choose to throw stationary or with a step. In these articles, we will instruct the combinations with a step.]

What Are Some of the Best 3-Punch Combos Starting With a Jab?

The 1-2-3

This is one of the first 3-punch combos you typically learn. The thought behind it is: if your opponent hasn't covered up after the jab (1), they should be a bit more worried about shots coming straight forward after the cross (2), which may leave their chin exposed on the side for the lead hook (3).

The way to execute it:

  • Start with your weight shifted towards your back foot
  • [1] Jab
    • Step forward with your leading foot as you extend the jab
  • [2] Cross
    • When your jab is on the way back to the guard, start extending the cross
    • Your rear leg catches up with the front step and pivots into the shot, and at the same time, you extend the cross
  • [3] Lead Hook
    • Instead of taking a step with your front foot, pivot on it and try to execute the hook in place
  • Reset to your stance

Try to cover the whole distance to your opponent with the first two shots, so you are in range for the hook and don't need to take another step.

If your opponent’s head is too well-protected, try throwing the cross to the body and come on top with the hook.

The 1-1-2

Double-jab, followed by the cross.

  • Start with your weight shifted towards your back foot
  • [1] Throw the jab
    • As you extend the leading hand, step forward (front foot first)
    • Your back foot catches up as you are bring the hand back
  • [1] Before you bring your leading hand halfway back to your guard, quickly shoot a second jab with it
    • Take another step forward
  • [2] Cross
    • When your jab is on the way back to the guard, start extending the cross
    • Your rear leg catches up with the front step and pivots into the shot, at the same time as you extend the cross
  • Reset to your stance

On the second jab, try to make your front foot step forward and a tiny bit to the side (for orthodox stance - that's front + left; for southpaw - front + right). This way, the cross that follows can deliver more power as your upper body will have more freedom to rotate.

A popular slight variation is to throw the cross as an overhand (right/left depending on your stance). This means that the cross isn’t as straight and there is a bit of an arc to the motion so it can go over the guard and land on top of the head of your opponent.

Whenever the final shot comes right after a jab, you can put any other punch in its place. Be creative and vary this punch combo with other shots, perhaps the 1-1-6 (Jab - Jab - Rear Uppercut) will be something that comes very natural and easy to you, or the 1-1-4 (Jab - Jab - Rear Hook).

The 1-2-Pull-2

When you try to land a punch after a 1-2, but your opponent keeps countering before the third shot, you can use this combo to negate the counter:

  • Start with your weight shifted towards your back foot
  • [1] Jab
    • Step forward with your leading foot as you extend the jab
  • [2] Cross
    • When your jab is on the way back to the guard, start extending the cross
    • Your rear leg catches up with the front step and pivots into the shot, at the same time as you extend the cross
  • Pull back
    • After the cross, your weight should be a bit on your front foot. Use this as leverage to push off your front foot, and as you return the back hand to guard, take a step back
  • [2] Cross
    • You can throw it similarly to a lead cross with a small/no step forward
  • Reset to your stance

The pull back almost resets you to your stance, but the torque your upper body generates from the extended back hand will make it easier to throw the back hand again to finish. The most likely scenario is the shot you are pulling away from is a cross (maybe a jab), making the back hook a poor choice for a counter. The variation you'd want to try is the 1-2-pull-6 and finish up this combo with a rear uppercut.

The 1-2-Slip-6

When you end a combo with the rear uppercut, you need to be very close to your opponent. This boxing punch combo is another solution to the problem we solved with 1-2-pull-2. You throw the 1-2, but instead of avoiding the counter straight shot with a pull back, you slip with a step to your back foot, and finish off with a beautiful 6 (rear uppercut) to the chin under the guard of the opponent. Here’s how:

  • Start with your weight shifted towards your back foot
  • [1] Jab
    • Step forward with your leading foot as you extend the jab
  • [2] Cross
    • When your jab is on the way back to the guard, start extending the cross
    • Your rear leg catches up with the front step and pivots into the shot, at the same time as you extend the cross
  • Slip
    • Take a step with your back foot (on a diagonal - forward and out)
    • Twist your upper body with the slip to load up
  • [6] Rear Uppercut
    • Throw the rear uppercut without a step, feet planted on the ground
  • Bring your back foot back
  • Reset to your stance

There are too many great combos that start with the jab to fully cover, but here are a few more that you can try:

  • 1-3 Body-2
  • 1-2-1 but with the feet switched up (throwing your left hand with the right foot stepping and vice versa)
  • 1-6-3
  • 1-1-1 (triple jab)

Alright! You are now done with part 1 of this series. Before you jump into the next part, don’t forget to start practicing! The only way to truly learn something is by actually doing it. Go ahead and try those powerful combos on the heavy bag, the mitts or in sparring--and don't forget to have fun while you are at it.

Make sure to catch the next part of the 3-punch combos series, where we take a look at combos starting off with the cross.

Related Articles

6 Basic Boxing Punches
6 Tips To Throw The Perfect Jab
How to Use a Jab In Boxing
How To Throw a Lead Hook
Boxing 101: 3-Punch Combos


The Author: Nikolay Tsenkov is a dad, husband, entrepreneur, and boxing aficionado. He started training late, when he was 26 years old. One of his biggest regrets in life is that he never competed. For several years he has trained alongside national and European champions and professional boxers. He is an avid student of boxing, but enjoys all sorts of martial arts.