BEST BOXING FOOTWORK
Boxing is one of the most popular forms of professional combat in the United States of America. In a boxing match two combatants will face off in the middle of the ring under three minute timed rounds, and wearing sixteen ounce gloves. The objective in a boxing match is to outmaneuver an opponent, and score points by landing significant punching combinations to the body, or the head. There are two ways to win a fight, and that is by knockout, or by winning the points decision. There have been many legends of the sport like Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, Roy Jones Jr, and Mohammed Ali, and in the modern era Andy Ruiz Jr, Tyson Fury, and Anthony Joshua have all delivered show stopping dynamics inside the ring.
What this article covers:
- Why Is Footwork Important
- How to Improve Footwork Ability
- Different Boxing Stances
- Footwork Drills
- Who Has the Best Boxing Footwork
All boxers must build up extensive skills in many attributes including agility, speed, power, fluency, balance, hand and eye coordination, strength and conditioning, and footwork. There are many different training methods that athletes will use in order to improve their ability to box. It is important to increase all levels of boxing skill, but the most important aspect aside from punching fluency, is an athlete's capacity to use dynamic boxing footwork techniques. Using dynamic, and strategic footwork is the backbone to any good boxer's game style, and an athlete that has a dazzling style of footwork is on the way to becoming successful inside of the ring.
WHY IS FOOTWORK IMPORTANT
In the boxing game all athletes will need to become extremely light on their feet. The speed and fluency that a professional boxer possesses is used to close the distance on their opponent, in order to strike. Using agility to step in and out of range is crucial to successfully dominating an opponent, and is vital in evading any form of counter striking. Fast, and strategic boxing footwork patterns will help an athlete position themselves so they can best set up their opponents for a series of combinations.
All power in a boxer's punch comes from their feet, and as the foot pivots it allows the hip to gain considerable rotation, which results in more momentum through a boxer's punch. The importance of footwork is unparalleled to any other component, and all athletes should be working extensively on footwork skills.
HOW TO IMPROVE FOOTWORK ABILITY
It is important to take note of what a professional boxer will do when they are inside the ring, and emulating the world's best fighters will help athletes become more seasoned strikers. There are many ways to improve an athlete's ability to use coordinated movements like side stepping, lateral shuffling, level changing, pivoting, or feinting. All athletes will need to get their physical conditioning into shape, and this means to build a comprehensive cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, and explosive power. Building up all of these physical attributes that are needed is a crucial element, and must be done with dedication, consistency, resilience, and mental toughness.
It is crucial not to brush past the important aspects when an athlete is attempting to increase their level of boxing. Too many students will focus on their power, or their combination fluency, which is an important aspect, but footwork must be worked on from an early stage of their development. Building good habits from the start is how an athlete can ingrain these movements into their muscle memory. Bad habits are like a plague, they can really set an athlete back in their development, and if footwork was not their main concern, then their game style will suffer, and will become harder at a later stage in trying to change it. Taking time to work through the technical components of boxing footwork is how an athlete can iron out the kinks, and begin to build a systematic form of footwork skills.
DIFFERENT BOXING STANCES
In boxing footwork is crucial, but without a good boxing stance it becomes increasingly hard to develop any type of good movement skills. There are many different stances in boxing with the two main ones being the orthodox stance, and the southpaw stance. The orthodox stance is the most traditional stance, and is the predominantly used stance by most boxing athletes. This stance involves standing with the athlete's feet a shoulder width apart, with their left foot forward, and their right foot slightly backwards. Their left hand is the lead hand, and is used for the jab, while their right hand is the rear hand reserved for the power punches. Both hands should be up guarding the chin, and their elbows tucked in to protect their ribs. This can be one of the most powerful stances in all forms of combat sports.
The southpaw stance is the mirror image of the orthodox stance, but only in reverse. This stance is used by left handed athletes, and by other athletes that are looking to fool their opponents by mixing up their striking. The southpaw stance requires an athlete to stand with their right foot forward, and their left foot slightly backwards. Their right hand is slightly forward, while still guarding the chin, and is used as the jab hand. Their left hand is the power punch, and is also guarding the chin, and like the orthodox stance the athlete's elbows are tucked into their body to protect their vital areas. Athletes will often switch between an orthodox, and a southpaw stance, in a bid to disrupt the game plan of their opponent. In boxing, being unpredictable can be extremely effective, and athletes that telegraph their punches will end up spending a significant amount of time up close and personal with the canvas.
There have been a few boxing stances developed over the years, and one of the most iconic is the hands down stance. This can be an extremely dangerous stance, but can also be highly advantageous against an opponent. The hands down stance is often referred to as showboating, but in actual fact, it is a good way to force an opponent to attack when they may not be ready to. This stance involves an athlete to have their hands down by their waist, as they taunt their opponent with tempting head positioning. Some of the world's best boxers in MMA, and boxing like Roy Jones Jr, Mohammed Ali, Connor McGregor, Anderson Silva, and Nate Diaz have all built fame from this unorthodox style of boxing throughout their prolific careers.
Another iconic fight stance was developed by Cus D'Amato, the Italian boxing coach of the famous Iron Mike Tyson. This highly unique style of boxing was called the 'peek a boo' stance, and was established by Mike Tyson, and has since spread across the boxing fraternity. This style is highly defensive in its nature, and involves an athlete to put their guard up high, with both of their gloves just slightly covering their cheek bones. This was done to fully protect the chin area, while still leaving a good amount of visibility. The athlete will then contribute to the technical stance by using continuous head movement, bobbing, weaving, and lateral footwork. This is how an athlete can create genuine boxing footwork angles, and generate considerable power within their punches, but still remain extremely defensive, which makes any type of counter attack improbable.
There are many different types of boxing drills that can help an athlete significantly develop their footwork skills. One of the most iconic of all time is shadow boxing, and this exercise was utilised by some of the greatest fighters that have ever lived. A shadow boxing drill involves an athlete using a solo drill to practice their movement, combined with their punches against an imaginary opponent. The whole point of shadow boxing is to help an athlete develop their coordination skills, their fluency of movement, and their evasive skills, all while improving significantly with their muscular endurance, and their cardiorespiratory endurance. All boxers will use shadow boxing exercises as a part of their fundamental learning processes.
There are many different leg exercises for boxing that are highly impactful, and strengthening the quadricep, and the calf muscles are highly important for footwork techniques. Athletes should all be training extensively in skipping techniques, and this is for conditioning, and for intricate footwork skills. Skipping can be used for the warm up, or for other more intensive workout systems, which can help an athlete considerably with how they step, and the speed of their step. Perfecting skipping techniques can help an athlete use stutter steps, or shuffling techniques during their boxing fights, and this will help to generate enough speed so they can outmaneuver their opponents.
The mirror drill is another highly reputable footwork routine that incorporates two training partners to work cohesively together. One athlete will be defensive, while the other athlete will be offensive, and as the offensive athlete uses any movements they want, the defensive athlete will mirror image these techniques. This drill is designed to help an athlete perfect their footwork skills, as they look to evade many of the strikes that the offensive athlete will throw at them. This is a great way for the defensive athlete to work on stepping in and out of range, while being cautious of incoming punches. Understanding distance awareness is crucial in boxing, and this is how athletes can stay safe, but still launch attack systems at their opponents.
There are many other footwork drills like the lateral shuffle, and the forwards and backwards shuffle, that can help an athlete time their movements, while they keep guarded, and look at different ways to attack their opponent. Circling away from an opponent, while staying in connection with a well timed punch is a critical aspect for becoming successful inside of the ring. Using other types of equipment like a boxing bag, or a medicine ball placed in the centre of a ring, can be a good way to work on distance management. Athletes will use footwork to maneuver their way in towards the bag, or the ball, before stepping out of range and evading counter strikes. Using good footwork skills to circle around the bag, while keeping their lead hands in touch with a good distance to attack from, is vitally important.
One of the most fundamental aspects of improving footwork skills is agility. There are many ways to train in agility skills, and one of the best ways is with a rope ladder. Athletes will step in and out of each of the ladder rungs, as they articulate their way through the ladder, while keeping their hands up guarding their chin. Athletes can use side stepping, or any other combination of movements, and perfecting agility skills will benefit an athlete exponentially. The cone drill is also another highly functional footwork drill that can bolster an athlete's agility. Athletes can place cones in a row, spaced apart by a certain distance, as they look to weave in and out, while throwing punches. Another way to use the cones is to sprint at the cone, before moving into a lateral shuffle, and then circling around the cone, then shuffling backwards.
WHO HAS THE BEST BOXING FOOTWORK
Some would argue that the most dazzling footwork to ever grace a boxing ring is Mohammed Ali. His showmanship, and audacity inside the ring earned him the title of the greatest boxer that has ever lived. Mohammed Ali was the creator of the Ali Shuffle, which was a footwork move that scintillated fans, and bewildered many of his opponents. One of Ali's most famous quotes was 'float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee' and this referred to the lightning fast footwork that Mohammed Ali would patent inside his illustrious career. Ali was known throughout his entire career, as a stylish, and slick boxer who moved with elegance, and systematic footwork inside of the ring. He often danced around his opponents with an unprecedented finesse, which would often leave his opponents bewildered by Ali’s iconic dazzle, and his famous right hand.
Guillermo Rigondeaux is a Cuban boxer that may not have become the greatest of all time, but his exciting style of footwork has made him one of the most challenging fighters to ever grace the spotlight. Guillermo was known as El Chacal, and even though he was not the most technical boxer, he did achieve monumental heights after winning back to back Gold medals at the Sydney, and the Athens Olympic Games, and Guillermo was also a seven time Cuban national champion. As a fighter, Guillermo has no opponent when it comes to footwork, as his expertise in the ring has seen him effortlessly running circles around his opponents, and without even blinking an eye. Guillermo is known for his strategic nature, and because of his ability to traverse around the ring with ease, he has become one of the hardest fighters to overcome.
Floyd Mayweather is another legend of the sport, and his iconic stylings has earned him the nickname Floyd 'Money' Mayweather. Floyd is famous for his notorious shoulder roll, which he applied to many of his famous bouts inside of the ring. Floyd would showcase his master class by stopping his opponents shots with his broad shoulders, and his strong forearms. He would then take apart his opponents with powerful, and accurate counter strikes, as he proved his defensive style to be extremely effective, and intimidating. Floyd also had a superior style of footwork that he used to outmaneuver his opponents, as his knowledge of positioning, and movement was levels above anyone from his generation. Floyd would often use his expertise in footwork to stay off the ropes, out of corners, and always keep the action of his fights in the center of the ring.
The late great Willie Pep was a former featherweight world champion, as many people in the fight community considered him to be one of the greatest defensive fighters of all time. Willie had two extremely distinctive traits, and they were his genius level head movement, and his dynamic and exciting footwork skills. One of Willie Pep’s most famous sayings is that “he who hits and runs away, lives to fight another day.” This was an iconic statement, as Pep would use lateral movement, and utilizing the entire ring, which he would often confuse and bewilder his opponents. He combined out of the box footwork, and erratic head movement to innovate his incredible combinations, which would often excite the crowd. Pep’s audaciousness, and his elusive nature would often leave his opponents stumbling into the ropes, as he made his opponents look like amateurs. There have been many great fighters step into the ring, or the cage over the last few decades, and all of them would give the same advice, make sure to work exclusively on footwork skills, because this will single handedly pick apart opponents.
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