Eastern European Boxing Style | Breakdown

Eastern European Boxing Style

In this article I want to go over the Eastern European Boxing Style which so often gets misinterpreted in boxing today.

The style is often associated with fighters from the Eastern bloc of Europe, that includes the likes of Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Poland etc

In this blog, I want to dismiss some of the typical stereotypes. I will however give you some background on this style, give some of the typical techniques they like to use, dismissing some of the stereotypes, along with examples of Eastern European fighters. 

History

eastern europe fighting history

While professional boxing and prize fighting became huge in the western world during the 20th century, especially after World War 2. The political nature of the world was very different with East vs West coming into fruition.

It was from this standpoint, the Eastern bloc of the Soviet Union wanted to apply dominance over their Western rivals in amateur sports such as in the Olympics. It was during this time the Soviet Bloc dominated the amateur scene winning over 50 Olympic medals during their existence. 

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, fighters from these area started to compete in the professional ranks. This has seen many fighters dominate in certain weight divisions as they continue to challenge the worlds best in the west. 

What is the Eastern European Boxing Style? 

The Eastern European Boxing Style is mainly influenced to be effective in the amateur boxing systems. This means they traditionally have very good boxing fundamentals which include: 

  • A solid upright stance
  • High guard 
  • Stiff powerful jab
  • Pawing jab
  • Mostly straight punches when throwing power shots.
  • Linear footwork 

Many of these fighters continue to use these traits when entering professional ranks, which labels them with this style. They are also known to be very durable and tough, being able to take many shots. 

However, this can change slightly from fighter to fighter; it varies depending on their weight, size and ability. Traditionally, you would not see these Eastern boxers use flashy moves like shoulder rolls, changing angles etc. But this is very much changing so they are able to compete with the rest of the world when turning professional. 

Notable Eastern European fighters 

Here are some examples of some of the greatest Eastern European fighters, which includes past and active fighters:

  • Wladimir Klitschko
  • Vitali Klitschko
  • Gennedy Golovkin
  • Viktor Postol
  • Sergey Kovlev 
  • Murat Gassiev
  • Oleksandr Usyk 
  • Vasyl Lomachenko 
  • Alexander Povetkin
  • Dmitry Bivol

By using some of the fighters above I will break down some of these techniques below with examples. 

The stance and guard

As mentioned there is some variation in what some eastern European fighters do. For the most part they will all usually use a higher guard in some respect to block hooks or even straight shots. 

Bigger fighters with longer reach that like to use the jab, will tend to stick out the lead hand to create distance and also to set up their backhand straight cross. One of the best examples of Eastern European fighters using this was the Klitschko brothers, who would frustrate smaller opponents using this technique. See below image of Wladimir Klitschko against David Haye below:

Wladimir Klitschko stance

For shorter reach eastern fighters, who need to work to get on the inside, tend to apply a more of a peek-a-boo style like Mike Tyson. But instead of creating angles to get up close, will either slip or jab instead while applying constant forward pressure footwork. Here is example of Murat Gassiev’s stance below: 

GASSIEV stance and guard

Great examples of combinations between the two are Golovkin and Usyk, but also combine some western boxing philosophies in their style. 

The Jabs

The Jab is the cornerstone of some of the best European fighters and they use this to set up their powerful straight power shots. There have been typically two ways they use the jab or a combination of the two. This is either stiff powerful jab or pawing jab.  

Stiff Jab 

The fighters with a longer reach and size advantage have had much success using this to their advantage. By having strong stiff powerful jabs built into these fighters from a young age, it helps to set up their strong boxing fundamentals.

One of my best examples of eastern European fighter using the stiff jab is Sergey Kovalev. He very much used this to his advantage and definitely developed it as he transitioned from the amateurs to professionals. Almost all opponents struggled against Kovalev’s jab due to stiffness and variation of it. Here is brilliant video by Handzagod which shows this in action below: 

Pawing Jab

This has been seen to be used by most of the southpaw eastern European boxers and and in particular the Ukrainians. 

The pawing jab is not in particular a technique that can be considered eastern European as the likes of Thomas Hearns and Larry Holms would use this in the past. However, it is something that has been used by those in the east in recent years. 

So how effective is it? Well basically instead of causing damage like the above stiff jab, it is used to block their opponent’s vision, to be used in high volume in order to apply pressure or to simply set up a harder punches and combinations. This helps to continually keep the opponent guessing in what will throw next. Two of the best at using this right now are Lomachenko and Usyk. Check out Usyk using this effectively against Tony Bellew below: 

Power punches

Now I don’t necessarily believe the only power shots eastern European fighters throw are straight 1-2 shots. In fact I would very much say this is a stereotype that gets associated with them. For example, Golovkin likes to use his jab to get into range so he can in fact throw his devastating hooks up top or to the body. See Reemus Boxing’s brilliant short breakdown video on Golovkin below on this. 

Another brilliant example of using hooks was Povetkin. Due to him being slightly shorter in reach and height. The Russian would often time and catch his opponents off guard by slipping into range or throwing a jab to body, before throwing a left or right hook. See example below against David Price:

via Gfycat

However, that’s not to say that they don’t prefer to throw a simple 1-2 combination. In fact this was probably a move the Klitschko brothers liked to use often, due to their size and reach. Thus making it much easier for them to get in and out of range quickly after throwing their straight power shots. 

Usually if they were to throw a straight shot, it would cause some damage or even a knockout. See below: 

via GIFER

Footwork and defence

Now the footwork of eastern European fighters often gets described as Linear movement. Which is basically backwards and forwards. Now being an observer of many of the best easter European fighters over the years, I don’t believe this to be the case.

In fact, I would say eastern European fighters potentially have some of the best footwork laterally and all round. Yes there may be some boxers that use more linear movement more, but that is generally more to do with keeping on the outside so they are able to defend themselves. 

Interestingly if you watch Usyk vs Gassiev (Two Eastern fighters), you would think they were from two different sides of the earth. Usyk in this fight uses intelligent lateral and pivots movements. While Gassiev lived up to the stereotype of linear movement in this fight. Check out video below:

As mentioned earlier, depending on the size of reach of the fighter, they will tend to either stick out their lead hand or hold their guard closer like Gassiev does to parry and slip shots thrown at them.

Final thoughts

As you can tell from the above a lot of the traditional stereotypes of Eastern European Boxers are not exactly the case. 

It is clear that a lot of the top fighters from these areas have started to developed other boxing skill sets. It is clear now that the once western influences can now be seen in many of the top Eastern European fighters. 

I do believe that they are brought up and trained with most of those traditional boxing fundamentals. But as they get higher in international competitions or turn professional. They look to develop their skill set even further after this is set in place. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this breakdown analysis, comment below if you would like me to cover another boxing style. 

If you would like to read more articles like this make sure to check out the following:

Or why not check out my individual boxing fighter styles analysis articles here.

Jamie - Boxing Life

I'm an amateur boxer and blogger trying to pass on my boxing experiences and passion to anyone looking to learn or find out more about the sport of boxing. Whether that be reviews, news, training tips or my own personal journey, I'll be covering it on "Boxing Life".

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