Doing Damage: Judging Boxing–The Punches

Posted: May 11, 2012 in How to Judge Boxing
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Have you ever wondered why there’s really only four punches in boxing?

There’s the jab, the cross, the hook and the uppercut.

Sure there are variations–the 3/4 hook, the hook that comes in an uppercutting fashion etc but these are really variations on a theme.

There are four punches for good reason.

The body that is trying to impart damage while reasonably protecting itself from damage can really only do it these four ways within the rules of boxing.

I used to be a karate instructor and there were 100’s of variations of strikes, thrown in different stances, with the hand in different positions and in innumerable motions. Why doesn’t that happen in boxing?

Well, for one reason the boxing glove doesn’t allow for different hand formations and there is also a scoring of the glove that limits strikes coming from the knuckle area. More importantly, though, is that bio-mechanically other ways of throwing strikes leave the body way too vulnerable in the ring. The boxing stance is the way it is not because it is aesthetically pleasing but because through trial and error it results in the percentage balance of risk and reward.

The boxing stance with one foot slightly forward, the body turned at a slight angle with the knees bent limits the targets for the opponents. It also positions the body to throw punches efficiently and balances the body for movement, striking and slipping. The guard is high with depending on your view positions thumbs at the temples and elbows in to protect from body shots. Most arms are not long enough to protect the head and the body at the same time so a fluid movement between the two areas is required.

Every time a punch is delivered the boxer’s body becomes vulnerable. The punch needs to be recoiled as fast as possible to reduce this vulnerability. A fighter obsessed with safety will fail to commit to a punch and instead will focus on recoiling the jab too much. This will make the jab ineffective and have the reverse effect on the fighter’s safety because now the opponent can step in to counter the weak jab.

A cross travels a farther distance and though more powerful also makes the head of the striker more vulnerable to the powerful hook. The strike has to be in closer to make it work which means they have to cross through a danger zone to position themselves to do it. Coming means rolling the dice on getting caught. When you hear commentators say that a fighter isn’t getting off it may not mean that they are unwilling to punch and may mean that they are not willing to risk getting the position to throw the cross.

The very first knockout (and some of the others) shows well executed crosses.

The hook requires even closer positioning and because of its arc it endangers the striker even more than the cross. Without proper body mechanics it can turn into an arm punch. it may make a loud thud in the ring but that has more to do with it landing on the flat part of the side of the head. If the shifting of bodyweight isn’t behind the hook it is not that fearsome of a punch.

(Joe’s hook comes at :29)

To throw the uppercut a fighter has to be almost chest to chest with an opponent. Otherwise the face is exposed. In tight the risk is minimized.

This is all Boxing 101 and important to fighters. It is also crucial for judges to understand when it comes to evaluate what is happening in front of them. When a fighter isn’t throwing a cross it may be because the opponent is controlling the ring and their counters are controlling the action. An arm hook may land but shouldn’t be given the weight of a good all-body hook. A jab that paws, doesn’t snap and only reaches the opponent’s gloves isn’t a scoring blow even if the loud “thwack” that the fans cheer makes it seem so. And uppercuts inside thrown without the benefit of a bending of the knees and twisting of the torso are merely arm punches that don’t account for much damage.

Sure, boxing is simple but the better word for it is elegant. Elegance connotes a beauty within the simplicity. A well delivered punch is elegant and appear uncomplicated but there are many micro units of it that add up to it’s elegance.

More importantly, a well delivered shot does damage.

For other blogs in this series  click here.

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