Boxing lingo 101: Punches and defence tactics

Feb 15, 2021

Listen to a boxing pro or super-fan discussing the sport and you might be forgiven for thinking they’re speaking another language.

As well as the official rules and regulations of boxing, there’s the reams of terminology about technique and equipment – not to mention the various sayings and slang associated with the sport.

Here we delve into some of the unique boxing terminology surrounding punching and defence tactics.

So why not check out our handy A-Z to find out just how much of a knockout you really are in the boxing lingo department. 

Block

Blocking, or parrying as it’s sometimes labelled, is a defensive strategy that uses the hands as tools to deflect incoming punches. Keeping their eyes on their opponent, the fighter will have hands raised and chin down, and use a sharp blow to the forearm to send the punch firmly off course.

Bob and Weave

The bobbing element of this defensive move sees the boxer’s head shift sideways and under an incoming punch before they bend their legs and shift slightly to one side or the other. Once the swing to the head has been evaded, the fighter weaves back to an upright position. 

Clinch

To perform a clinch, the fighter will grasp their opponent’s arms tightly against their own body. The aim is to pin the arms in place so they can’t be used in attack. The move is often seen when the boxer needs to buy themselves some recovery time, however referees will quickly put a stop to clinching.

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Combination

A combination or combo sees several different types of punches joined together one after another. A classic example of a combination occurs when the fighter follows a jab with a cross to create the one-two combo. 

Cover Up

This is a last chance saloon as far as avoiding a punch is concerned. By raising their hands to their face and keeping forearms close to the body, the fighter can protect their head and upper body from hits. But by its nature the guard fails to offer much protection against hits from below.

Cross

A cross is also known as a straight, as it’s a – you guessed it – straight punch. Thrown with the rear hand from the chin, the fighter adds power by bursting the shoulder forwards, rotating the hips and shifting the weight from back foot to front foot. Once complete the hand quickly retracts.

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Hold

Sometimes described as a hug, but you definitely wouldn’t want to hug your Grandma in this way. A hold involves the fighter wrapping one arm around their opponent and using the free arm to continue landing punches.

Hook

Hook is a fitting name for this move, which sees the fighter deliver a semi-circular punch to the side of their opponent’s head or lower body. It’s a powerful punch made all the more impactful by the torso and hip rotation, and the pivoting lead foot. After landing, the hand quickly pulls back.

Jab

Sometimes described as the most important punch for boxers, the jab is nevertheless relatively weak. Its benefits lie in allowing the fighter to gauge distance, feel out an opponent, and set up more powerful punches. The jab is delivered with the lead hand and a small rotation of the torso.

Uppercut

When the fighter delivers an uppercut to their opponent they are throwing a rising punch with the rear hand, usually while in close proximity to the target. It involves the fighter dropping the hand with knees slightly bent, before thrusting the fist vertically upwards towards the opponent’s chin or torso.

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