The best defense is Offense. Period. The next-best? Defense. Regardless of your level of training, or your record in the ring, there will be fights where you need to be able to box on the back foot, protecting yourself from your opponent's attacks and countering when the opportunity presents itself. There are 3 basic ways to defend yourself from a punch coming your way - blocking, catching, or evading.
The only punch you should ever try to parry/catch is the jab. Here is the technique:
Boxer A starts throwing a jab
Boxer B moves their back hand in front of their face (from the guard position) with their palm open, facing the coming shot
Boxer B's palm meets the jab with a bit of added force (from B), pushing the jab to the left side of their head
This way, if the jab is very strong, Boxer B will only use enough force to change the jab’s direction and not try and stop it in place
Boxer B should ensure their back hand doesn't travel too far (just an inch or two away from their face) and returns quickly to guard and protect from the next oncoming punch
How To Block Punches
Sometimes the energy you need to expend to evade a punch is either not worth it or not available. That’s when you need to know how to block a punch. "Blocking" a punch means allowing the punch to land on your arms, elbows, gloves, shoulders, etc. and absorbing the shock elsewhere, aside from your head and other vulnerable parts of your body (e.g. the liver). FightCamp Co-Founder and Trainer Tommy Duquette demonstrates how to block some of the most common punches in boxing in this video.
The jab and cross are the hardest punches to (fully) block because they come straight down the middle of your guard. [This is why you often hear commentators say, "He/she managed to split the guard with the jab/cross"]. The cross carries the most power. More often than not, you can parry the jab. There are styles of fighting that deal successfully with the cross, like the shoulder roll, but even if you don't block the cross and instead slip, pull back or pivot away from it, you still have plenty of tools to use.
Blocking hooks to the head starts with keeping your hands high and your guard up at all times. That is already significant protection, as you are protecting your chin which is the most vulnerable part, but it's not enough because the top of your head and your temples are still exposed.
Here is how to block a hook to the head:
Raise your blocking arm higher than normal guard (in order to protect the whole head)
As you raise your arm, your elbow comes at a 90º angle with your body and moves to the center, in front of your face/chin
Lean slightly to the opposite side
This movement is similar to a slip, but here you lean slightly less, you don’t take a step, and you cover your head on the opposite side of the leaning.
Earlier we mentioned that the lead hook can be challenging to weave under if you don't have enough distance and/or your opponent is throwing it without too much time loading up. In this case, blocking the lead hook is the more reasonable option.
You can use this technique in offense, too. Let’s say you want to double the lead hand in a combo:
Block with the back hand
Or when you throw a flurry of shots, you can execute the combo and finish with:
Block (one side)
Block (the other side)
Blocking a hook to the body is similar, but instead of raising your hands up you have to:
Lower the elbow of your blocking arm down towards your hip, covering the area under the rib cage
Bend your back a bit to that same side, but keep your chin tucked-in
Blocking the Cross
When you can't slip the cross, you can try the same technique we described for blocking hooks to the head. The goal is to make the cross slide on your elbow, forearm and glove. You should be careful not to rotate too little (the chin is exposed) or too much (the side of your face may be exposed). For 2 orthodox-stance boxers, here is how this looks:
Boxer A throws the cross
Boxer B blocks with their leading hand (like blocking a rear hook to the head)
You can slightly modify this by getting the elbow of your blocking hand a bit to the left
The idea is to make a "slide" for the cross, so you steer the power away instead of absorbing it with your body
Blocking the uppercuts is similar to blocking the hooks.
The main difference is that you don't raise or lower your blocking arm, but instead use mostly upper body rotation + a tiny bit of movement with the blocking arm to give an acceptable place for the uppercut to land (i.e. your elbow or forearm, and not the chin).
Here is an example situation:
Boxer A and Boxer B are at mid-to-close distance
Boxer A throws the rear uppercut
Boxer B slightly rotates their upper body (clockwise)
As they rotate their shoulders, the elbow of their leading hand moves to the center line (where the uppercut would've passed through)
Blocking and catching your opponent's punches is a great way to protect yourself from damage. But, ideally, you would want your opponent to not be able to land their punches on you, at all. In part 2 of this series, “Boxing Defense 101: Don’t Get Hit!”, we will talk about the best evasive techniques for a fight.
If you want to take a break from the theory and get your hands dirty with some actual training, head over to FightCamp’s YouTube Channel and pick from hundreds of boxing and kickboxing workouts and start moving.
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Boxing Movement and Footwork Training: Slip Rope Drill
Boxing Footwork Drills For Defense and Sparring
Boxing 101: 2-Punch Combos