How To Start Sparring: Beginner Boxing Tips & Drills

Alright, so you think you are ready to try live sparring for the first time and you’re looking for some advice? Before we go into detail on boxing sparring, we should mention that you should only be sparring in a gym, under the supervision of a professional coach, and you should make sure you have all the proper protective gear and boxing equipment (mouthpiece, headgear, cup, etc.).

What is sparring?

Sparring is a live-action simulation of a real fight. The purpose of sparring is to prepare you for boxing and fight competition, so it's intentionally designed to be a little dangerous and aggressive.

How do you know you are ready to start boxing sparring?

You should make sure you at least spend a few months learning the basics of boxing defense and proper punching before you jump into sparring. Learn how to throw that jab, learn how to start catching punches--make sure you have the technique down before you advance any further.

A good way to do that, especially if you intend to eventually compete in boxing, is through FightCamp's Prospect Path.

Once you think you’re ready, FightCamp Co-Founder and Trainer Tommy Duquette has eight (8) key sparring tips for you as well as three (3) drills to help you train.

FightCamp Sparring Tips YouTube Video

Tips For Your First Boxing Sparring Session

Tip #1: Don’t overtrain the night before getting into the ring.
Boxing Sparring Tip #1 - Don't overtrain before going into the ring

This applies to both sparring sessions and fights. You want to be at your best, so don’t wear yourself out by overtraining.

Tip #2: Stay relaxed.

Boxing Sparring Tip #2 - Stay Relaxed

Live sparring can get intense and it can be nerve-racking, but you don’t want to let your nerves get the best of you. Nerves will exhaust you, so try to keep them under control. A relaxed fighter will be able to keep going for days, but a tense, nervous fighter will gas out quickly, even if they are in a phenomenal shape.

Boxing Sparring Tip #3 - Keep Your Head Up

One of the most common mistakes that beginner boxers make is keeping their head down. It feels safe, but it's not. You need to keep your head up so that you can see what's going on and be able to spot punches coming at you.

Tip #4: Don’t eat a heavy meal before getting into the ring.
Boxing Sparring Tip #4 - Don't Eat A Heavy Meal Before Going Into The Ring

A large meal can make you feel sluggish during a sparring session or fight. You also don't want to get hit in the stomach when it's full of food. Keep pre-fight meals light, and give your body enough time to digest before you step into the ring to spar or fight.

Tip #5: Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Boxing Sparring Tip #5 - Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Make sure your sparring partner is an even match in terms of weight and experience-level. Only commit to 3-4, two-minute rounds. It may sound easy, but sparring is intense and you are definitely going to feel every round.

Tip #6: Make sure you and your opponent are wearing 16-ounce gloves or bigger.
Boxing Sparring Tip #6 - Wear 16oz Gloves or Bigger

Sixteen ounce gloves are safer than smaller gloves because they cushion the blows and act as larger shields to block incoming punches to the head. It’s perfectly acceptable to check your opponent’s gloves prior to sparring to make sure they are not wearing smaller gloves. Some coaches try to sneak smaller gloves onto their fighters to give them an advantage in sparring, so be wary of that.

Tip #7: Lean on your trainer and your muscle memory when getting into the ring.
Boxing Sparring Tip #7 - Lean On Your Muscle Memory

Focus on applying the boxing basics and don’t try to execute advanced punch combinations. More advanced moves will fall into place over time as you practice.

Boxing Sparring Tip #8 - Keep Your Hands Up

Cliches are usually rooted in truth and this is one: you need to keep your hands up. When you throw punches, bring your hands back to your face to guard and not down by your waist. By keeping your guard in place, you can block punches coming towards your head. When you drop your hands down to your waist, you put yourself at a disadvantage and you expose yourself to more danger.

3 Drills To Help You Get Ready For Boxing Sparring

Hands Up Catch & Counter

  • Start in your regular boxing stance, with your hands up in a high guard
  • Your opponent throws a jab-cross (1-2)
    • You tense-up your guard to block the shots
  • You return a jab-cross (1-2)
  • Continue to repeat this exchange for a few minutes

Jab Catch & Counter

  • Start in your regular boxing stance
  • Your opponent throws a jab
    • You catch it (with your rear hand)
  • You throw a jab back at them
    • They catch it
  • Repeat for a few minutes

Jab-Cross-Lead Hook (1-2-3) Catch & Counter

  • Start in your regular boxing stance
  • Your opponent throws a jab at you
    • You catch it (with your rear hand)
  • They follow with the cross
    • You block it (with your lead hand)
  • Your opponent's combo finishes with the lead hook
    • You block it (with your rear hand)
  • Repeat this drill for 1 minute and then switch (you initiate and they defend)

At FightCamp, we know that sparring and competing in boxing may not be for everyone who is training at home. But, it can be a fun way to change up your at-home boxing routine and give you a sense of what it’s like to react and respond to live-action in the ring. Once you get down the boxing techniques and basics, sparring will challenge you in ways that the heavy bag can’t. Keep these eight (8) tips in mind, practice these sparring drills, and you’ll soon be able to take your at-home training to a new level.

For more ways to enhance your boxing and kickboxing training visit and subscribe to the FightCamp YouTube Channel to get the latest workouts and pro tips.

Related Articles

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Boxing Defense 101: Don't Get Hit!
How To Start Boxing Competitively
Boxing Defense 101: Blocking and Catching
20-Minute At-Home Partner Boxing Workout

The Author: Tommy Duquette is the Co-Founder and Head of Content at FightCamp. He is a former US Boxing Team member with 136 fights under his belt and qualified for the 2012 Olympic trials as the #2 seed. He has 18 years of experience training clients in boxing and fitness. Tommy is also USA Boxing Coach certified.