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Boxing 101: 2-Punch Combos

When the going gets tough in the ring, even the best fighters revert to their basic instincts acquired during training. We rely on our muscle memory and movements that we have practiced again and again so that we are able to adequately respond to the perceived dangers posed by our opponent. Most of these movements have become almost second nature to us as we work on them in our boxing workouts and drills.

After learning about proper boxing stances, how to move in all directions while keeping balance, and how to throw all of the punches separately, it's time to learn how to combine all of these into combos (a.k.a. "combinations") and build an arsenal of tools to help us perform at any situation.

What is a boxing combo?

A boxing combo is a sequence of punches and movements that you execute to attack or counter your opponent.
A successful boxing combo is one where you manage to:

  • land your shots
  • protect yourself from any counterattack from an opponent
  • quickly get out of your opponent’s reach

First, we will start with the proper terminology for boxing punches. This is referred to as the punch count number system:

1 = Jab

2 = Cross

3 = Lead Hook

4 = Rear Hook

5 = Lead Uppercut

6 = Rear Uppercut

 

Note: In some boxing workouts, you may see only numbers listed to indicate the drills and rounds. These are the corresponding punches for each drill.

How many boxing combos are there?

There are countless boxing combinations--definitely too many possibilities to learn them all. The most basic boxing combos to focus on and develop when starting out are 2- and 3-punch combinations. Those will build up the basics you will lean on when there is no time to think.

How do you practice boxing combos?

You can practice boxing combos by shadowboxing, hitting the heavy bag, or doing mitts with a trainer. Once you’ve learned the basics, it’s helpful to have someone shout random punch combos for you to execute so there is an element of randomness and uncertainty to your boxing flow. This helps your reaction and preparation for a boxing match.

With FightCamp's at-home boxing gym, you can practice your basic combos in the comfort of your home. On the app, you can workout with our trainers, and with the FightCamp free-standing punching bag, you get resistance on your shots, making the experience better and more realistic.

What is the best boxing combo?

There is no single best boxing combination.

Every combination has a way to counter it, so it comes down to you selecting what combinations would work best on every opponent and for every situation.

If you don’t have the time to go through all of our 2-punch combo suggestions and work through all 3-punch combos in an upcoming article - FightCamp Trainer PJ made a shortcut for you in his video "5 Boxing Combos every beginner NEEDS to learn".

What are some of the best 2-punch boxing combos?

There are a total of 36 possible 2-punch combos. Many are very useful, some are only effective under certain conditions, and some are rarely, if ever, executed. We will focus on a few, very powerful 2-punch boxing combos to practice.

A few things to keep in mind as you practice:

  • At the beginning of every combo - your weight is slightly on your back foot
  • Throw every punch with a step
  • Shooting the same hand twice requires two steps (front foot steps, back foot catches up; repeat)
  • Alternating hands between punches requires one step (front foot moves together with first punch; back foot catches up with the second punch)
  • If you consistently lose balance between the punches, try to practice very slowly to spot where the problem is and correct it
  • Make sure your guard doesn’t get compromised mid-combo - one hand should always cover your chin, and you should return the throwing hand as quick as possible to your guard after the punch
  • Always finish the combo in your proper boxing stance

Leading With The Jab

The jab is the most universal opening. It works with every punch to follow, including the jab itself (the double-jab, or 1-1).

The 1-1

Whenever you feel like you are being cornered or backed close, but not on, the ropes, you can likely use the double-jab to push your opponent forward.

The way to execute it:

  • Starting from your weight shifted towards your back foot
  • [1] Throw the jab
  • As you are extending the leading hand, step forward (front foot first)
  • Your back foot catches up as you are bringing the hand back
  • [1] Before you bring your leading hand halfway back to your guard - quickly shoot a second jab with it
  • Make another step forward (same as before)
  • Reset to your stance

Remember what we said earlier, we are shooting the same hand twice, so it requires TWO steps.

The 1-2

This is probably the easiest boxing combo to learn:

  • 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
  • Reset to your stance

Here we alternate the hands, and therefore, we need to make only ONE step.

When executing these boxing punch combos, try to make your first 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 body will have more freedom of rotation.

The 1-3

Similar to the 1-1 (double jab), you should throw the 3 (lead hook) before you return your lead hand to guard (as you consecutively shoot the same hand).

  • Start with your weight shifted towards your back foot
  • [1] Jab
  • Step forward with your leading foot as you extend the jab
  • [3] Before your lead hand is halfway back to your guard, throw a lead hook
  • Together with the hook, take another step forward (same as before)
  • Reset to your stance

A good way to use this combo is to make your opponent think you’re only going to throw a single jab. For instance, throw a single jab, move around, throw a 1-1, move again, and then bam: 1-3. A beginner would almost always cover up or they will try to parry a second jab, exposing their chin on the side.

You should vary your boxing combos with footwork as well as punches. For example, a popular 1-3 variation, when anticipating a counter right from your opponent after you throw the jab, would be:

  • Start with your weight shifted towards your back foot
  • [1] Jab
  • Step forward with your leading foot as you extend the jab
  • Slip towards your leading hand (orthodox → left; southpaw → right)
  • Back foot catches up
  • [3] Lead Hook
  • Without a step, front foot pivots a bit into the hook
  • Reset to your stance

The 1-4


  • Start with your weight shifted towards your back foot
  • [1] Jab
  • Step forward with your leading foot as you extend the jab
  • [4] Rear Hook
  • Similar to the 1-2, the back foot catches up while you throw the second shot (the rear hook)
  • Reset to your stance

This combo is similar in mechanics to the 1-2, but this time, you have to be closer to your opponent. The rear hook is a mid-to-short range weapon, so you have to be significantly closer to your opponent after the jab, in order to land the hook.
Again, we are alternating hands, so only take ONE step forward.

The 1-5

This is another combo where we throw with the leading hand twice, but this time we are going to make an exception and we are going to only take one step.

  • Start with your weight shifted towards your back foot
  • [1] Jab
  • Step forward with your leading foot as you extend the jab
  • Shift your weight to the front foot as the back foot catches up, and rotate the torso to load up
  • [5] Lead uppercut
  • Without a step and with your feet planted on the ground, throw the punch
  • Reset to your stance

If you haven't seen the knockout of the first Dillian Whyte vs. Alexander Povetkin, this is how it happened. Povetkin threw the jab with a step forward, Whyte slipped it and covered high expecting an overhand right, and pop--Povetkin threw the left uppercut, catching Whyte's chin from underneath his guard.

The 1-6


  • Start with your weight shifted towards your back foot
  • [1] Jab
  • Step forward with your leading foot as you extend the jab
  • [6] Rear Uppercut
  • Similar to the 1-2 and the 1-4, the back foot catches up while you throw the second shot (the rear uppercut)
  • Reset to your stance

The ideal situation to throw the 1-6 is to have your opponent make the mistake of leaning a bit forward and keeping a high guard after a jab. You need to be even closer than for the 1-4 to land the uppercut in this situation.

Starting Off With The Cross

Combos leading with the cross are a bit harder to learn. For those of you who face an opposite guard much more often than your own (usually southpaws fight mostly orthodox stance fighters), the lead cross combos should be in your basic arsenal.

When you are a lefty (fighting from the southpaw stance) and you are against an orthodox stance fighter, the jab doesn't work well. It constantly clashes with your opponent’s jab.

The 2-2

This is a very rare combo and thus rarely expected on the other side. As you can see, doubling one of the hands results in two steps of the feet. Here is how to execute it:

  • Shift your weight towards your back foot
  • [2] Cross
  • Step forward with your leading foot as you extend the cross
  • Don't worry about pivoting the back foot too much
  • Bring the hand fully back to your guard, as quickly as possible
  • Let your back foot catch-up with the step
  • Add a little bit of loading/twisting of your torso for the second shot
  • [2] Throw a second cross
  • This time make a shorter step with the front foot
  • Having both feet closer together allows you to make a better pivot of the back foot and deliver a more powerful shot
  • Reset to your stance

When leading with a cross, you should always throw it very quickly because there is a big distance to cover. Try to throw the first shot with 60% of your full power, so you don't overextend making it hard to bring the hand back and prep for the second shot, and then throw the second shot with more power.

After every combo, you need to move away from the danger zone. After throwing the back hand you are particularly vulnerable, so make sure to quickly move away from the range of your opponent: in and out.

The 2-6

A common combo you see with a leading cross is the one with a rear uppercut to follow. This time we will add a slip in between punches:

  • Shift your weight towards your back foot
  • [2] Cross
  • Step forward with your leading foot as you extend the cross
  • Slip to your rear hand's direction (for southpaw → left)
  • The slip will not require a new step: instead of catching up with your back foot forward, step with it in the direction of the slip. This changes the back foot’s position.
  • Rotate/twist your upper body to load up
  • [6] Rear Uppercut
  • Reset to your stance

Varying boxing combos with slips helps you avoid return fire from the opponent and puts your following shot(s) on a new, potentially unexpected angle.

Lead Hook Combos

The 3-2


  • Shift your weight towards your back foot
  • [3] Lead Hook
  • Step forward with your leading foot as you rotate your upper body for the hook
  • [2] Cross
  • As your leading hand travels back to guard, start extending the cross
  • During this, your back foot catches up with the step, together with cross, and you pivot the leg on the ball of your foot
  • Reset to your stance
  • The legs execute almost the exact same movement as in the 1-2.

The 3-6


  • Shift your weight towards your back foot
  • [3] Lead Hook
  • Step forward with your leading foot as you rotate your upper body for the hook
  • [6] Rear Uppercut
  • As your leading hand travels back to guard, start extending the uppercut
  • During this, your back foot catches up with the step, together with the rotation for the rear uppercut
  • Reset to your stance

Protecting yourself from uppercuts and hooks at the same time is not easy. That's why combining them works well. To execute 3-6 well, your body should do almost exactly the same as in 1-6, but from a closer distance. Adding a 1 or 2 at the beginning can be a good way to solve the distance problem and get into range a bit more safely.

Another way to throw an effective 3-6 is to hit the body with the hook (3) and when the opponent leans over to protect from another body shot, you throw the uppercut to catch their chin.

Leading with the rear hook is hard for advanced boxers, so we will leave it out of this article.

Start With The Lead Uppercut

The 5-2


  • Shift your weight towards your back foot
  • Lean towards your leading foot to get a bit lower
  • [5] Lead Uppercut
  • Step forward with your leading foot as you get up with the uppercut
  • [2] Cross (like the 1-2 and 3-2)
  • Reset to your stance

Sometimes you are able to land the cross, but it constantly hits the guard or the forehead of your opponent. To get their chin up and exposed, you can wait for a straight shot (1 or 2 / jab or cross) slip to your leading foot in order to get into a good, low position for throwing the lead uppercut: 5 - 2.

The 5-4


  • Shift your weight towards your back foot
  • Lean towards your leading foot to get a bit lower
  • [5] Lead Uppercut
  • Step forward with your leading foot as you get up with the uppercut
  • [4] Rear Hook
  • Similar to the 1-4, the back foot catches up while you throw the second shot (the rear hook)
  • Reset to your stance

This combo is the same basic idea as with the 5-2. You lift the opponent’s chin (with the 5) to hit it with the back hand, but instead of throwing the cross, you throw the rear hook (4).

In this article, we covered the most important 2-punch boxing combos. Practice these combos shadowboxing in front of the mirror, on the heavy bag, with mitts, and sparring. Think about the situations where they fit best and work at making these combos a snap reaction.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we will take a look at the best combinations with 3 punches.

For full boxing workouts, tips, and tricks check out our YouTube channel.

Related Articles

Six (6) Basic Boxing Punches
The Ultimate Guide To Boxing Stances


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.