The Basic Skills To Master First For Boxing Beginners

basic skills for boxing beginners to master

Boxing often wins new fans because of the knockouts and violence, but it keeps them loyal and invested because of its incredible complexity and depth. But before you reach those pugilistic depths, you need to learn the basics. Just like with many other crafts in the world, the foundations are easy to learn but hard to master.

In this article, I will help you start your boxing journey and learn which are the basic skills to master as a beginner in boxing.

The boxer toolkit

It all starts with the stance

As a boxing beginner, the boxing stance is the first thing you must master. A good boxing stance must provide the right balance between movement, attack, and defense. There are many different stances used by experienced boxers that sacrifice one aspect for another, but it is usually recommended that all beginners must start with the fundamental boxing stance.

Here are the key points.

  • The feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  • The stronger hand is a rear, while the weaker hand is a lead. (Generally)
  • Lead toe and back heel in a straight line; knees slightly tucked
  • Weight is evenly distributed between both legs
  • Hands are up at head height.
  • The chin should be tucked

Without a balanced and stable stance, everything else falls apart. Here is an image below of 3-weight world champion Alexis Arguello who had a great fundamental stance.

Arguello's Textbook Boxing STance

Boxing footwork/movement  

Footwork and movement are perhaps the most profound aspects of boxing. The main goal in a boxing match is to be in a position where you can deliver full-power punches while your opponent cannot. But, before you dive into the deep end, you must first navigate the shallows, and the basic movement patterns in boxing that you must learn first are moving forward and backward, moving laterally, and pivoting.

You must follow a few guidelines. When you move forward, always step with the lead leg first and then slide the back leg into position. When moving backward, the logic is the same: move the back leg first, then slide the lead leg as well. For the basic boxing movement, you always lead with the leg that corresponds to the direction you are going in. 

After you’ve grasped the basic movement, you need to start combining it with punches. After all, your opponent will not stay cemented in one place and wait for your fearsome overhand to hit him. 

Here is a great video by Coach Anthony on the basic footwork fundamentals:

The boxer toolkit

The Punches

Punches are the only strikes allowed in boxing. There are many variations and even more applications for each punch, but every beginner must master the 6 basic boxing punches. 

The Jab

The jab is a straight punch with the lead hand and is the fastest and safest punch you can throw. It is also the longest-reaching punch, and it serves as the building block for everything else.

Cross

Ryan Garcia using right Cross vs Luke Campbell.

The straight punch with the rear hand is called a cross (technically, a cross is a punch that crosses an opponent’s jab and comes in a slightly downwards motion, but the rear straight is commonly referred to as the cross). You should also try to move your head off the center line when throwing this punch.

Hook

Photo: Joe Camporeale, USA Today Sports (Canelo throwing the hook vs Cotto)

The hook, just like the uppercut, can be both a lead and a rear one. It’s a punch that travels horizontally to the ground and hits the opponent from the side. Hooks tend to be thrown from a shorter range than straights but can carry more power. The lead and rear hook have very similar mechanics but very different applications.  

This is often a punch you will fighters throw to the body when up close or to throw the liver shot which can be devastating to your opponent.

Uppercut

Photo: Getty Images (Joshua throwing the uppercut vs Klitschko)

The uppercut is a punch with an upwards trajectory and is best used in close quarters. The uppercut carries great power and is harder to see from the opponent, but it’s also more dangerous to throw because the hitting hand and shoulder can’t protect the head. 

Combinations

Throwing single punches is usually nowhere near enough to win a boxing match. To surprise an opponent, you must use combinations of punches. There are thousands of possible combinations, but you can start with two punch combinations such as a jab-cross and a cross-left hook for beginners. Then you can add more. For beginners, it’s best to alternate left and right with each punch and avoids same side combos. 

If there is one thing you must remember, it is that the power in your punches comes from your entire body, not just your arms. A good punch is the culmination of the kinetic force generated through the legs, hips, back, and finally the arm. 

The boxer toolkit

Building up defense

mayweather jr defending

Learning how to defend punches is equally important as learning how to throw them properly. There are multiple ways to defend in boxing, each with its own pros and cons.

Blocking / catching with arms

Best boxing head guards for sparring review

Blocking a punch means that you use your glove, forearm, or elbow to absorb a punch that is aimed at a more vulnerable part of the body, like the head or stomach. The problem with blocking is that the force of the blow still goes through the body, and against really powerful punchers, it’s not a viable long-term strategy.

But blocking is the simplest and fastest defense to execute as well as easiest to learn, so it’s the first step and building block of boxing defense.

The next step after blocking is parrying. Parrying means deflecting an incoming punch with the hand, thus deflecting the impact as well.

Body and head movement

The best form of defense is evasion. If a punch misses completely, you don’t receive any damage at all, while the opponent tires out faster. Head movement is one of the most beautiful techniques in boxing, often creating truly mesmerizing sequences.

There are different ways to use head movement to evade punches. As a beginner, these are hard to pull off against a sparring partner, but nevertheless, they must be trained regularly. Slipping is the technique used for straight punches. Ideally, the head should move to the outside of an incoming straight punch.

Rolling and ducking under punches are used mainly against hooks and other looping punches. Again, the best option is to roll in the direction of the punch and end up on the outside of the opponent from where you can hit him and he has no immediate option to fire back.

Moving out of the way of strikes with footwork is also a good option, but this leaves you out of distance to deliver counterattacks. Head movement and footwork also work together, but this is beyond the scope of a beginner. You have enough to learn already.

Make sure to read my article on 6 Defensive techniques every boxer should learn

How to put it all together

After we’ve gone through the basic techniques, we need to tie them together. It’s good to familiarize yourself with what you need to know and start preparing a home. All the knowledge you would ever need is readily available on the internet, but nothing substitutes practice. 

Find a good boxing gym

You will never reach a reasonable level without a trainer and training partners. Find a reputable boxing gym in your area and join. Training alone has many benefits and is something you will always do, but the gym is the place where skills are really honed with your training partners.

You will also have the watchful eye of the trainers who will catch and correct your mistakes. If this isn’t possible, why consider an online course to keep you on track.

Hire a coach

If you are eager to progress faster and can afford it you can hire a coach to have one on one sessions. This way you receive all his undivided attention.

Personal sessions can also be done online. A trainer may watch you shadowbox or hit a bag and provide valuable instructions and correct mistakes. 

Shadowbox

Shadowboxing is essential for every level of boxing. It is the time to work on new techniques, develop game plans, and string everything you have learned together. Just never forget to work on something specific with all your intention and focus.

True shadowboxing is not just a cardio exercise, it’s a boxing-specific exercise that helps to learn and cement techniques.

Buy equipment to work on the fundamentals

You will need some equipment to get the most out of your training time outside of the gym. A heavy bag is a great investment. There are hanging bags and free-standing bags, each providing specific benefits and catering to different needs, so regardless of your situation, you should be able to find a suitable bag for your home gym. Read my article on the differences between the two bags here.

Double-end bags, dummies, egg weights, agility ladders, jump ropes, and medicine balls are also amazing assets for boxing training, and having some of them at home will make a full-fledged workout without going to a dedicated boxing gym possible. 

Train!  

No amount of information and advice will help you if you do not train, regardless of how valuable the information may be.

Knowledge is gold and you should always understand what you are doing, but in order to master even the fundamentals of boxing, you need to work. So, go out there and start boxing today.


Hopefully, this article was able to give you a better understanding of what basic skills you should try to master first in boxing. And how you start implementing it as part of your overall boxing training plan.

I recommend you check out some more useful training-related articles below:

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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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