The uppercut punch is often one of the punches that boxers struggle with the most. Basic punch combinations like the jab-cross (1-2) become second nature to fighters, but the uppercut is a punch that can be tricky to learn, however it is an essential part of the short-distance game in boxing. When you're right in the face of your opponent and only have the space to throw looping punches, the uppercut becomes your secret weapon to create openings and land punches on your opponent.
Although it is tricky, the basics of the uppercut punch are actually not that difficult to grasp for beginners. Plus, even the basics can give you a leg up on your competition.
In this article, we are going to take a look at what an uppercut is, how to throw a proper uppercut, and the technique behind it, as well as how to set it up and defend against it in a fight.
What Is an Uppercut Punch?
The uppercut is a punch thrown with an upwards motion. Most often it's used at the short range of fighting, but it is also effective at mid-distance. It's almost never a punch you would use at long distance (an uppercut usually finishes up with the forearm perpendicular to the ground, which limits the distance you can target). You can throw the uppercut with either hand. You’ll rarely see an uppercut punch to the body, but technically you could throw the punch, targeting a point lower than your opponent’s chin. Here we are going to take a look at both front/lead and rear uppercuts, thrown towards the head of the opponent.
What Does an Uppercut Punch Do?
You can use the uppercut punch to do a variety of things. At mid-distance you can get your opponent to bring their guard up too high and open themselves up for body shots. At close distance, an uppercut thrown without power can be used to lift the opponent's chin, allowing an opening for hooks, and since it's often hard to see it coming, thrown with power, an uppercut can be a devastating shot.
What Is a Lead Uppercut Punch?
A lead uppercut in boxing could mean one of two things:
the uppercut is the leading punch thrown in a combo
or the uppercut thrown with your leading/front hand
To avoid misunderstanding we will refer to the latter as lead uppercut. For an Orthodox boxing stance, this is your left uppercut; for a Southpaw stance, this is your right uppercut.
What Is a Rear Uppercut Punch?
The rear uppercut is an uppercut punch delivered with the back hand. For an Orthodox boxing stance, this is your right uppercut; for a Southpaw stance, this is your left uppercut.
Let's look at the uppercut punch technique with each hand.
How Do You Throw a Lead Uppercut Punch?
The basics of throwing the lead uppercut are not too different from throwing a hook:
Start in your boxing stance
Imagine your opponent's head being at mid-to-close distance
Shift your weight a little bit to the front foot, lower your stance slightly and drop your front arm about one foot to create enough space to generate power
Keep your back hand up, protecting your chin at all times
Rotate your hips (orthodox → clockwise | southpaw → counterclockwise), getting your body to create force upwards while returning your position to a regular height
Simultaneously, exaggerate that rotation even further with your shoulders and drive your front hand in an almost straight motion upwards, with your palm toward your face, in the direction of the chin of your opponent
At the end of this motion your front shoulder should touch/cover your chin
Return your front hand to your guard and reset into your stance as quickly as possible
There are a variety of opinions on whether or not to pivot on the front foot, but it depends on the situation. For beginners, it's probably easier to start without it.
The uppercut is a punch that needs to be set up with some sort of punch combination. It isn't really effective when directly thrown on its own. The most common setup is:
Step/slip to your front leg (make sure you get your head away from the center)
Continue with a short cross (and maybe finish with a lead hook)
How Do You Throw a Rear Uppercut Punch?
The rear uppercut is probably a bit easier to throw than the lead uppercut, but it can leave you more open to counterpunches from your opponent.
The rear uppercut follows almost the same steps as the lead uppercut, but you do not need to shift your weight:
Start in your boxing stance
Imagine your opponent's head being at close distance
Drop your back hand, considerably lower, about one foot down towards your beltline
Rotate your hips (for orthodox stance → counterclockwise | southpaw → clockwise)
As you turn your shoulders, make an arc-type of movement with your forearm through the point you want to punch, finishing at a 90 degree angle to the ground
At the end of this movement, your front hand should be tightly covering your chin
Quickly reset into your stance
To set it up, you need to get your opponent to get his guard high and cover up. A popular setup would be:
For a quick visual demonstration of how to throw a proper uppercut on a heavy bag, FightCamp Trainer Tommy Duquette shows you step-by-step in this video.
How Do You Train an Uppercut Punch?
As with everything, practice makes perfect. In order to throw an effective uppercut, you have to practice and refine your technique over time.
Here are the 4 ways to train the uppercut (and any other punch):
Training with a punching bag
Sparring with an opponent
How Do You Defend an Uppercut Punch?
If you are getting hit with uppercuts, you are exposing yourself in some way. You either:
don't have a proper stance and your chin is exposed
or you overcommit with your shots, leaning forward too much, breaking your posture
Working on your stance and the ability to keep it during attack/defense is going to help you effectively defend against the uppercut.
How Do You Counter an Uppercut Punch?
The uppercut is a great weapon to have in your arsenal, but as with any other punch, you must also learn how to counter it. Let's explore the two (2) most basic situations where we would want to counter an opponent's uppercut.
Lead Uppercut Counter
The jab thrown alone or in a punch combo is probably most effective at stopping the lead uppercut attack. As with most other counterpunches, you will have to time the shot properly. Usually the lead uppercut is thrown with a step, so you have to catch your opponent while their head is still directly in front of you.
If the opponent doesn't return their hand quickly to guard, or you notice them dropping it too low, a few great counter options could be:
Cross (provided both fighters have the same stance)
Parry with the back hand
Slip inside (make sure your chin is tucked-in)
Rear Uppercut Counter
A rear uppercut is not often thrown at long-distance, so let’s take a look at counters at mid-distance. As your opponent starts rotating their body, a lead hook and a jab are closer to the target and can stop your opponent's attack.
Keep in mind that a rear uppercut in boxing is mostly thrown as a counterpunch, so your opponent is not likely to start with it. At close distance, you should always work on keeping a proper stance, with your chin tucked-in as you're punching, as well as constantly moving around.
The uppercut is an excellent punch to use in a fight. It’s not that hard to get the basics and technique right, but it takes a lot of practice. For more tips on boxing training and technique make sure to check out the rest of our Blog and our YouTube Channel.
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