boxing gloves

The 4 Basic Types of Boxing Punches: Everything You Need to Know

We continue our series on boxing with today’s article, which will analyse the main punches in boxing. Boxing is a very straightforward combat sport as it only allows shots with your hands, i.e. punches. You cannot use your legs to hit an opponent, like in other combat sports. Because of this, training and perfecting your punches is the essential part of boxing. The punching techniques are numerous, although limited.

The four basic punches in the boxing are the jab, the cross, the hook, and the uppercut.

If you want to be a good boxer, it is of the utmost importance to know your punches, how and when to use them. For all these answers, read our article!

1. Jab

The jab is a fast, straight punch tossed with the lead hand from the guard position.

This punch stretches out from the side of th torso and usually doesn’t pass in front of it. It is joined by a little, clockwise turn of the torso and hips, while the fist makes a 90° turn, thus becoming horizontal upon impact.

As the punch arrives at full power, the lead shoulder can be raised to guard the jaw from a potential counterattack. The back hand stays close to the face to monitor the jaw.

After hitting the opponent, the lead hand quickly returns to its initial position in order to continue guarding the jaw.

The jab is considered to be the most important punch in a fighter’s arsenal since it gives a decent amount of personal spread and leaves almost no open space for a counterattack by the opponent. It has the longest reach of any punch in boxing and doesn’t require responsibility or huge weight moves.

Because of its generally frail force, the hit is regularly utilized as a device to gauge distances, test a rival’s defence, annoy the opponent, and set up heavier, stronger and more powerful punches.

A half-step might be included, moving the whole body into the punch, for additional, extra force. Some of the best jab users in the history of boxing are Larry Holmes and Wladimir Klitschko.

The word jab was first used in 1825, to mean “to thrust with a point.” The term is a Scottish variant of the word job, which means “to strike, pierce, thrust.” 

2. Cross

The cross, or alternatively the straight, is a strong, straightforward punch thrown with the back hand.

When in a guard position, a boxer will throw his back hand from the jaw, crossing the body and going towards the objective in an orderly fashion.

The back shoulder is pushed forward until it reaches the chin of the attacker. Simultaneously, the lead hand is withdrawn and tucked against the face secure the jaw from a potential counterattack.

For extra force, the torso and hips are pivoted counter-clockwise as the cross is thrown. A proportion of an obviously expanded cross is that the shoulder of the striking arm, the knee of the front leg and the bundle of the front foot are on a similar vertical plane.

Weight is also transferred from the rear foot to the lead foot, resulting in the rear heel turning outwards as it acts as a fulcrum for the transfer of weight. The rotating body and the sudden weight shift give the cross its power.

Like the jab, a half-step forward might be added, in order to gain more power and speed.

After the cross is thrown, the hand is withdrawn rapidly and the resumes his guard position like before the punch (cross) was thrown. It tends to be utilised to counter punch a jab, focusing on the adversary’s head (or a counter to a cross focused on the body) or to set up a hook.

The cross is also called a “straight” or “right”, especially if it does not cross the opponent’s outstretched jab.

3. Hook

The hook is a semi-round punch aimed at hitting the side of your opponent’s head.

While in the guard position, the elbow is moved back with a horizontal fist (palm facing down), however, in modern professional and amateur boxing, a large number of boxers throw the hook with a distinctly vertical fist (palm facing themselves).

The back hand is tucked immovably against the jaw to secure the whole jawline.

The torso and hips are rotated clockwise, turning the left heel outwards. Upon contact, the hook’s circular path ends abruptly and the lead hand is pulled quickly back into the guard position.

Upon contact, the snare’s round way closes unexpectedly and the lead hand is pulled rapidly again into the watchman position.

A hook may likewise focus on the lower body and this procedure is once in a while called the “rip” to distinguish it from the traditional hook to the head.

Some of the best “hookers” in modern boxing are, undoubtedly, Joe Frazier, Bob Foster, Jack Dempsey, Henry Cooper, David Tua, Tommy Morrison, Rubén Olivares, Felix Trinidad, Andy Lee and Mike Tyson.

4. Uppercut

The uppercut is a vertical, rising punch thrown with the rear hand.

From the guard position, the torso shifts little to the right, the rear hand drops below the level of the opponent’s chest and the knees are slightly bent.

From this position, the rear hand is shot upwards in a rising manner towards the opponent’s chin or torso, depending on that you are going for with the attack.

At the same time, the knees have to push upwards rapidly and the torso and hips rotate anti-clockwise and the rear heel turns outward, mimicking the body movement of the cross, which mean that the uppercut is not that differne from other type of punches.

The uppercut’s strategic purpose depends on its ability to “lift” the opponent’s body, setting it off-balance for successive attacks. If possible.

The right uppercut followed by a left hook is a deadly combination employing the uppercut to lift the opponent’s chin into a vulnerable position, then the hook to knock the opponent out.

Samuel Elias, also known as “Dutch Sam”, is credited with creating this punch originally called an “undercut”. It was reported that “Dutch Sam created havoc with the new blow until a new way was found to block it”.

Some of the boxers quite famous for their uppercuts are or were Lennox Lewis, Joe Louis, Wilfredo Gómez, Julio César Chávez, Sonny Liston, George Foreman, Mike Tyson, Rubén Olivares, and Sandy Saddler.

Other Types of Boxing Punches and Combos

All of the above-mentioned punches can be thrown in rapid succession; these punches are the so-called introduction combat, or “combos.” The most common combination is that of the jab and cross, nicknamed the “one-two combo.” This is usually an effective combination, because the jab blocks the opponent’s view of the cross, making it easier to land cleanly and forcefully.

A large, swinging circular punch starting from a cocked-back position with the arm at a longer stretch than the hook and all of the fighter’s weight behind it is sometimes referred to as a “roundhouse,” “haymaker,” “overhand,” or sucker-punch.

Relying on body weight and the use of the centripetal force within a wide field, the roundhouse can be a powerful blow, but it is often a wild and uncontrolled punch that leaves the fighter delivering it off balance and with an open guard.

You can just imagine how dangerous this situation could become if you don’t use a sucker punch precisely. Generally, wide, looping punches have the additional disadvantage of taking more time to deliver properly, thus giving the opponent a fair amount of time to foresee it, reach and counter it if possible, by any means.

For this reason, the haymaker or roundhouse is certainly not a conventional punch, and is regarded by trainers as a mark of poor technique or desperation, i.e. it is a cowardly shot. But it is known to be used to finish an already “drugged” opponent, but even that is not used very often.

Another unconventional and uncommon punch is the rarely used bolo punch, in which the opponent swings one of his arms out several times in a very wide arc, usually as a distraction, before delivering their properly intended shot to the distracted opponent. Ceferino Garcia is commonly referred to as the “father” of the bolo punch, though a 1924 newspaper article reported a Filipino boxer named Macario Flores to be using it. Garcia, Kid Gavilán, Sugar Ray Leonard and Pedro Carrasco are known as some of the best bolo punchers in boxing history. Roy Jones Jr. and Joe Calzaghe also used this type of punch very often during their matches. 

An illegal punch to the back of the head or neck is known as a rabbit punch. It is a blow to the back of the head or to the base of the skull, somewhere around that area. Most people consider it to be one of the most dangerous punches because it can damage the cervical vertebrae and subsequently the spinal cord, which may lead to serious and irreparable spinal cord injury, even paralysis.

A rabbit punch can also detach the victim’s brain from the brain stem, which can kill instantly, so – as you can see – it’s careful to know how, whom and when to hit. The punch’s name is derived from the use of the technique by hunters to kill rabbits with a quick, sharp strike to the back of the head.

Another type of shot is the liver shot. Although we have already written an article about the liver shot, it doesn’t hurt to recapitulate. A liver shot can be either a punch, a kick or a knee shot, i.e. any legal shot in combat sports that successfully hits the liver or the lower part of the right ribcage, just above the liver.

The liver is a vital organ in our body and is a filter for all the toxins that enter our body. It is extremely delicate and it has a function in protecting our organism from harmful stuff. So, just as a shot to the chest area can leave you without air for a while or a dangerous shot to the head could render you unconscious, a liver shot can be just as painful and just as dangerous. But more on that later on.

Because of the liver’s position in the human body (right side of the abdomen), a perfect liver punch is always executed with the left hand, best using a hook shot. The shot should be short and quickly executed to produce the best effect. There is a standard combination in boxing when a left liver hood is executed after successfully evading the opponents left hand jab.

The shot is usually placed over or just under the 9th and 10th ribs.

Although the liver punch is the most common form of a liver shot, it can also come as a liver kick or a liver knee. The latter is mostly present in MMA battles and has the same effect as a punch, but is instead produces in the matter of an uppercut punch, i.e. from the ground upwards. As for kicks, they are a little more sophisticated, or – to state it more clearly – they have a more sophisticated variety.

The basic front kick is simple and is made using one’s left foot, placing it in the same area, but more from the side (unlike the punches, which are usually frontal). But a liver kick can also be made using a spinning back kick, where one can utilise either the foot or the heel to place a good kick in that specific region.

Such kicks can also push the opponent several feet backwards, allowing for an extra advantage in case the opponent is not knocked down or out by the kick.

Liver punches are present in boxing and MMA, but most of them happen by pure chance and are rarely intended. Why? First of all, they are not always easy to hit and, secondly, they are considered to be somewhat unfair, giving a big advantage to the hitter. Knees are mostly present in MMA, while liver kicks can be seen in MMA, but also some Oriental martial arts based on karate and Taekwondo.

Now that we’ve explained the anatomy and the physics behind liver shots, let us examine why they’re so painful and specific. The reason can be found in the physiology of the liver, i.e. its function in the human body. The liver is, as stated, a filter for bodily toxins, but it is also a very important organ in blood circulation.

So, when faced with a strong punch or kick, the liver releases both the toxins and a very large amount of blood, which causes a shock to the organism. Depending on the strength of the shot, the taker can either just bend over (thus enabling the attacker a great chance for a K.O.) or completely lose his balance, his breath and – ultimately the fight. 

This is all due to the bodily chemistry of the liver and its vital role in the human organism. Most liver shots are ultimately judges as T.K.O.-s or, in extreme cases, direct K.O.-s.

That’s it for today. Stay tuned for more information on martial arts and combat sports and see you next time!

Stefano Secci, French Savate Boxing, and Martial Arts champion
Article by

Stefano Secci

Stefano Secci was born on the outskirts of Genoa. He began practicing sports at 11 by enrolling in a Ju-Jitsu class; from there, I have not stopped playing sports until today. At 16, he switched to French Savate Boxing, which I married and has remained my first and only true love. Our testing and reviewing method.