"Hit and don't get hit" is a common phrase you’ll hear in Boxing. In part 1, we talked about blocking and catching punches and we learned a couple of clever ways to avoid damage. This article will focus on ways to evade punches, or as we put it earlier - to NOT get hit.
This article is the second part of a 3-part series on boxing defense.
How To Evade Punches
Depending on the type of punch being thrown at you, you have to use a different evasive technique.
Evading Jabs and Crosses: Slips
The best way to evade the straight shots is to Slip or step to the side. Let's look at the most common situation for two boxers in orthodox stance:
Boxer A (Attacker) begins the motion of throwing a Jab
Boxer B (Defender) makes a read on the coming punch
Boxer B slips to their right, while simultaneously doing all of the following:
Leaning to the right with their upper body, moving their head away from the targeted zone
Taking a small step with their back foot in the same direction
Rotating their shoulders clockwise as they lean
The point of the rotation is to keep your balance if you do get caught with a punch while slipping, AND to create a bit of force that you can leverage as you unwind from the rotation (in case you want to punch right after the slip).
Boxer A's Jab misses the target and they bring their left hand back to guard position
Boxer B returns back to stance
The whole slip, from start to finish, is so quick that it’s done in one breath (exhale as you slip and inhale as you come back)
Boxer B may want to add a second slip to the other side (identical, just on the other side) without a pause (slip right → come back directly → slip to the left) as a potential cross may be coming after the jab from Boxer A.
You should never try to evade the straight punches by weaving. Weaving doesn't work for straight punches as you need more time for execution and an opponent’s straight shots are too quick.
Evading Jabs and Crosses: Pull Back (and, optionally, counter)
If you are more advanced in reading your opponents, you can identify their intent to only throw a single straight shot, AND you are a good judge of distance, a pull back could be an option to avoid an oncoming shot. It's best to combine a pull back with a counter straight shot.
A pull back is simple to execute:
Shift your weight to your back foot and take a step back
Your attacker's punch will fall short
[optionally] Quickly step forward and throw a jab or a cross of your own
Evading Hooks: Weaving/Rolling-Under
When your opponent loads up on their lead hooks (exaggerating the motion, trying to pack more power) or throws a rear hook at you, the slip is not a good evasion technique to use because you remain in the "line of fire". A better option is to weave/roll under those looping punches so they don't land anywhere on you. You stay away from damage and the opponent uses up more energy when they don't meet a point of resistance. They have to deal with the torque they have created to stop their motion and return to their initial position, which is much harder than if the punch had met its target (you).
If you are at mid-to-close distance from your opponent, weaving under their lead hook may not be an option. Always keep your back hand up to protect you.
Here is how to weave/roll-under to protect from the lead hook (2 orthodox stance fighters, A attacks, B defends):
Boxer A starts throwing the lead hook
Boxer B makes a read on that
Boxer B moves their head off the center line toward their left and rotate their shoulders (counter-clockwise)
Boxer B takes a small step to the right, makes an arc-like (left-to-right) movement of their head and upper body under the hook of the opponent, and rotates their shoulders again (clockwise)
The movement is mostly executed using the legs and not the lower back
Boxer B doesn't lean over to the front (which would expose them to the uppercut)
Remember, the best defense is your offense. Think about adding a punch like the rear uppercut or a cross as you come out of the weave.
If you read your opponent and suspect they will throw two consecutive hooks (front, rear), you may want to weave twice. This is often the case when your opponent becomes desperate and reverts to their natural instincts of throwing less controlled punches. These punches are often wider and you will have more time to react if you stay composed, possibly creating an opportunity to end the fight.
Evading Uppercuts: Pivoting
In theory, the uppercut shouldn't be a threat if you keep a proper boxing stance and don't break your form while you fight. The time when the uppercut is landing is when the receiver has exposed their chin leaning forward.
One way to ensure that your opponent will hit nothing but air when they throw the uppercut is to pivot your body on your front foot as they throw it.
Here is the motion explained in a scenario where Boxer A throws a lead uppercut:
Boxer A begins to throw a lead uppercut
Boxer B rotates their entire body (45º, clockwise), pivoting on the ball of their front foot
Boxer B doesn't break their stance
Why is this a good idea? For one, your head would be out of harm's way. Second, you finish the movement in a position ready to strike, with an optimal visibility of your opponent. [To get ideas on how to effectively pivot, film study Lomachenko's and Pacquiao's old fights, preferably in slow motion.]
The uppercut can also be evaded with the pull-back. It's the exact same technique described above.
There you have it--the basics of boxing defense! If you are wondering "OK, but how do I practice and get better at these?" Part 3 of this series will cover defensive drills and exercises. In the meantime, check out the many boxing and kickboxing workouts, drills, and tips posted on FightCamp's YouTube Channel and Blog.
Boxing Defense 101: Blocking and Catching
Boxing Footwork Drills For Defense and Sparring
4 Defensive Blocking Drills For Boxing
Boxing Movement and Footwork Training: Slip Rope Drill
Boxing Footwork Drills For Beginners