There’s a quick mantra I tell myself when I’m training: ‘head, hands, feet’. I repeat this to myself during my workouts every now and then to remind myself that I should be moving at least one of these three things at all times, ideally you should have two or three moving. You’d be surprised how many good boxers don’t adhere to this and have limited their potential.
For example, ‘head’ and ‘feet’ means you are slipping punches and moving to create angles. ‘Hands’ and ‘head’ means you are slipping while throwing shots. ‘Head, hands feet’ means you are punching while moving in with your feet and slipping your opponent’s shots. Either way, the specific grouping is not important, what’s important is that your training and your boxing is dynamic! Constant motion, ‘head, hands, feet’. This is how to fight to be superior, and this is how to train to win.
When you look at your boxing combinations there is a lot at play: rhythm, footwork, head movement, angles, fakes, set ups, punches, counterattacks, speed, conditioning and situation; there’s much more involved than just punching. Punching is the fun part, it’s easy. Getting to your opponent safely, striking, and then moving out of danger is the hard part, he’s not going to take it lightly that you are coming in to knock him out.
Below are the stages of a real boxing combination, all your combinations in the gym and in the ring should have elements of each part, train with these components in mind and don’t stray from them.
1) Opening rhythm. There is rhythm in boxing, it’s not a dance beat, it’s a serious of broken sections of beats that are fast, medium and slow. Your footwork, head movement and speed all set the pace for each attack. When you are in front of your opponent you are expressing your rhythm, faking, stepping in and out quickly (pendulum steps), rocking your head back and forth, posing, circling your hands or keeping them tight to your chin. Before your throw any punches you want to eliminate the chance that your opponent can time you coming in. Before you throw, fake with your head, fake the jab, step in and out and then back in, circle your opponent to the left and to the right etc. The last thing you want to do is stand still and come straight in, even advanced boxers tend to revert to this.
2) Jab. Most combinations start with the jab and I advise it 80% of the time, the trick is not to throw the same jab over and over again in the same way. Slip your head left then jab, slip right then jab, jab to the lower chest then to the head, jab to your opponents jab hand and then jab to the chin, throw a backhanded jab and then come through with the right hand. Mix up your jab’s power from a snap to a thrust. Read your opponent and mix it up.
3) Throw your combination. Most boxer’s rely on a set of combinations that work for them and I advise this, you need to have ‘go to’ combos that your mind will think of in the heat of battle. Believe it or not, the simplest combinations can work on the toughest of fighters. In all my boxing I have had more success with this combination than any other–jab, jab, straight right, left hook. Not to fancy, but it works. This combo alone is not good enough though, you need a lot more.
You have to understand that combinations are not just a string of punches, there can be quick breaks before you restart your attack. For example, jab, straight right, slip your head right, straight right, left hook. In this combo I applied the pressure, I then took a quick break by slipping my head to the right, in this break I am able to take an extra step forward and avoid any counters from my opponent, I then resume my attack. It’s all about rhythm again, you need to learn to throw a quick combo, move your head or step to a new angle and then restart the assault. The biggest problem beginner and intermediate boxers have is that they only throw one set of punches at a time. Once you learn to throw a combo, move your head and feet, and restart all in one flurry your boxing will see new heights.
4) Step back and move to an angle or step out to the side. Once you are finished your combination it’s essential that you don’t just lay there, you need to step out of danger and this has to be a part of all your combos in the gym. If you don’t practice this way then you’ll be a sitting duck come fight time. The only reason to stay put after your combo is if you know you are a better inside fighter and intend to stay there. After spending energy on your combination you will need a brief recovery period of a second or two, this is your opponent’s best time to attack you and the time where you need to let him know that you won’t be easily caught. Once your combo is done, step out. If you step back make sure to immediately step to the side, don’t step straight back and stand there.