why do boxers hug

Why Do Boxers Hug? [Boxing Clinch Explained!]

Boxing is one of the most strategic combat sports in the world, with various moves and tricks you can use to gain an advantage over your opponent. So, if you’re new to the game, you might be wondering why do boxers hug in the match?

The hug in boxing is called a clinch. It’s a strategic move where you trap your opponent’s arms under yours, stopping the action and causing a break. There are numerous reasons why boxers use a clinch, and it happens often, so it may look like hugging.

Like the Klitschko brothers, some boxers have taken the clinching game a step further, and they used it to perfection during their undisputed heavyweight reign. Let’s dive deeper into the boxing clinch as a strategy to understand how to use it better.

What Does Hug Mean In Boxing?

In boxing, a hug is what boxers refer to as a clinch. It may look like the boxers are hugging to an inexperienced eye, but it’s a very highly-used tactic that can help boxers in numerous scenarios.

So, how do you clinch properly in boxing? It’s against the rules to hold your opponent in boxing, so distinguishing clinching from holding is important. The goal is to close the distance by stepping inside the opponent’s guard and pinning their arms under yours, seemingly hugging them around the body.

This action is frequently used to prevent the opponent from gaining momentum and setting up the attack, but there are many more reasons why boxers clinch in a match.

What Is The Purpose of Clinching in Boxing?

As I mentioned, you can use the hug (or the clinch) in a boxing match to your advantage in so many different ways.

The most common purpose of entering a clinch is to stop your opponent’s attack. Fighters with a longer reach will typically clinch after their opponent tries to close the distance due to their shorter reach. Not only does it stop the opponent’s momentum, but it can disrupt their tempo completely and have a huge impact on the dynamic of the match.

Another reason why boxers clinch is to get a breather within the active round. As you get into the clinch, you get a few seconds of rest from keeping your guard up and taking punches before the referee separates you and resets the action

Taller fighters tend to lean on shorter opponents in the clinch and push them down to rest themselves and exhaust the other fighter.

As you can see, hugging can have many advantages and benefits if you can utilize it properly. Let’s break down some specific situations where boxers use the clinch to their advantage.

When Should You Use Clinching in Boxing?

Some fighters use clinching only in specific situations, but most elite boxers know how to use the clinch as a strategy. For instance, if you’re fighting a boxer with an aggressive, up-tempo style, use a clinch every time they try to break the distance and get into a flow.

It will allow you to slow the match’s pace down and get them out of their comfort zone. Floyd Mayweather used the strategy to perfection.

Another situation when you should use the clinch is when you have the height and reach advantage. If you can keep your opponent at a distance where you can do damage, and they can’t reach you, the only thing they can do is to tuck, shoot in, close the distance and go into a close-range exchange.

Instead of allowing them to strike from the inside, simply get into a clinch and have the referee reset the action back to the distance you’re more comfortable with.

While you’re inside the clinch, focus on resting as much as you can while trying to exhaust your opponent. Put your body weight on their shoulders by pressing down with your forehead. That way, you rest while they carry both your and theirs weight.

One more smart action when to use the clinch is when you find yourself in a dangerous situation. For instance, if your opponent scores a good punch and you feel rattled, clinch quickly and give yourself a few extra seconds to recover.

Be careful about “dirty boxing” in those situations, though, as short-distance inside punches may knock you out cold if you don’t pin both of their arms properly. You can also clinch if you get trapped in the corner or if your opponent starts a good combination to stop the action and give you time to reset your defense.

Be careful about clinching too much, though, as you may get deducted a point for passivity if you do it too much. Also, keep in mind some things while inside the clinch to make it more successful, such as keeping the opponent’s lead leg in between yours, tracking their hips with your hips, etc.

Is Hugging Illegal in Boxing?

Hugging is not illegal in boxing in terms of getting disqualified for doing it. Clinching is an important aspect of boxing, but it does come with restrictions.

You can’t stay in a clinch for too long, especially if both fighters aren’t actively trying to improve their position or throw punches. The referee will stop and reset the action quickly. Also, hugging your opponent and holding them while keeping one arm free to strike is also illegal.

You can get penalized with point deductions if you use the clinch too much and don’t engage in active combat.

As you learn more about the strategies of boxing, you might wonder how to augment your training regimen to improve your clinch techniques further. Trying exercises with notable top focus mitts for boxing can offer you new insights and should be your next move. This article will guide you in choosing the most suitable mitts to improve your overall performance.

The clinching game isn’t illegal, but it can also be quite dirty, and some fighters used it to their advantage a lot. For instance, Wladimir Klitschko was almost always the taller fighter in the ring, so he clinched excessively to rest on his opponents and exhaust them. 

However, he also often used the opportunity to step on their feet in close proximity. Imagine a guy almost 6’6 feet tall, weighing 240 lbs stomping your feet, and putting his whole body weight on you. 

He also often threw punches and then immediately shot in for a clinch to prevent any possible counters. Sometimes, he got penalized for those actions as it’s passively playing for points and preventing the opponent from striking back.

So, hugging or clinching isn’t completely legal in boxing, especially if the fighter tries to play it dirty. However, it’s still a crucial component that every boxer must develop to succeed, especially at the highest level.

Stefano Secci, French Savate Boxing, and Martial Arts champion
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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.
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