The Shift Technique in Boxing

The Shift technique in boxing

The shift in boxing is a move that has been around since former heavyweight champion Bob Fitzsimmons made his stamp in the sport with it. He did this by knocking out James Corbett in 1887 with it to win the world heavyweight boxing title. 

This is regarded as one of the most dangerous technical moves in boxing. However, it does take much practice and also requires it to be applied at the right time. 

In this blog, I will look at what exactly the boxing shift technique is, the background, and details on how to use it, along with some examples of current and past fighters that like to use the shift technique. 

What is the shift? 

Shift technique breakdown

The shifting technique is based upon where you move your body’s stride from one stance to another in order to close the distance on your opponent. It also allows you to apply more power while also pressurizing a retreating opponent to connect with a striking blow.

There are some notable names around the shift that became popularized by past fighters that have stuck to this day. This includes “The Fitzsimmons Shift” as mentioned above or the “Double Shift” coined by Jack Dempsey or the “Ketchel Shift” which is a triple shift move.

Due to the technique becoming so popularized and effective in boxing. Famous combat instructor Colonel A.J. Drexel Biddle. Also named it the ‘Killing Shift’ in his close-quarters combat manual “Do or Die.”

Check out Bob Fitzsimmons landing the rear hand in the image below from what looks like a shift move.

How to use the shift technique

Once you do the shift there is really no turning back as your body has committed, that’s why you have to time it at the right moment. Better opponents will be able to notice this distance change and be able to counter quickly. So you have to be careful not to use this technique too often. 

The good trick for shifting is to let the momentum pull you through as you make the transition. You also generally should only use the shift technique when you are trying to apply pressure or if your opponent is on the back foot. 

This is when a boxer shoots the rear straight punch and steps through for another rear straight punch from the opposite stance, to step through again to regain the original stance, covering massive distance and basically running his opponent right into the ropes.

Generally, there are two main and common methods to use the shift which I will go over now. 

1. The Fitzsimmons Shift 

This is the most typical and original shift technique you will see most fighters use. It is when a fighter throws a straight rear-hand punch along with their rear leg as it follows through into the opposite stance. E.g. orthodox to southpaw.

This is then immediately followed up with a lower rear hand usually to the body, however, can also be used to the head. Here is a great image breakdown below of Korobov using this against Uzcategui from a southpaw position. 

2. The Dempsey Double Shift 

This move takes a lot more practice and has to be applied at the right time or you could get countered. Originally coined by former heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, he described the move perfectly himself in his book ‘Championship Fighting’. See below:

It’s for use against a retreating opponent. You do the double shift like this: Telegraph that you are about to shoot a straight left at your opponent’s head. Shoot the left, which he’ll evade by stepping back. Then, immediately stride forward with your foot and (as you stride) shoot a straight right. If he’s fast he’ll avoid that one too, but narrowly. Then, immediately stride forward with your left foot and (as you stride) shoot a straight left at his head”

Jack Dempsey

There is an example of this move by former middleweight champion Dmitry Pirog further below in this blog.

Boxers who use the shift technique

Here is now a breakdown of some famous past and current fighters that have used the technique to give you a better idea of how to use it. Each fighter uses this technique primarily to close the gap, but some use it with a twist

Roberto Duran

Duran had to be one of the best to ever implement the shift technique, but as much as he used it for devastating blows on his opponent. The Panamanian legend would apply this so he could get on the inside of his opponents, which Duran was one of the best ever at. 

Using the shift it would help put his competitor on the backfoot while he knew he could start getting to work on the inside. I highly recommend you watch the video below by Lee Wylie who demonstrates Duran using the “Killing Shift” technique below:

Gennady Golovkin 

Another notable name that loves to use the shift is Gennady Golovkin. This is mainly due to his pressure fighting style which works perfectly with this boxing technique. Gennady mainly uses this close-the-distance very quickly setting up his overhand hook while also allowing him to get up close, throw a rear straight punch or hook up close. 

When Kazakh does the shift technique, it usually creates slight panic in his opponent as the shift technique’s momentum generates a lot of power due to the quick transfer of weight. 

Golovkin quite often will use both the ‘double shift’ and ‘ketchel shift’ as well to cause even more unpredictability in his attacks. Check out GGG using the shift below against Proksa.

Dmitry Pirog 

A fairly unknown boxer unless you are a hardcore fan! Pirog was a Russian boxer who won the world middleweight title against Danny Jacobs before he had to retire due to injury. 

In this clip below you will see almost a perfect example of the double shift technique. This completely took Jacobs by surprise resulting in a knockout. This just shows how devastating this move can truly be!

Final thoughts 

The shifting technique is a brilliant move to use to cut off the distance quickly against your opponent, get on the inside or catch your opponent off guard. 

This is definitely a move you should limit and be used when you are trying to catch your opponent off guard or to close the distance quickly. 

It is also a great move to use for orthodox vs southpaw and vice versa. This is because it unexpectedly puts you in the same stance and body position as them. Particularly if you’re orthodox vs southpaw, as it momentarily gives you the advantage of them having to adjust to turning southpaw, due to this being very unusual for them. 

If you enjoyed or found this blog useful, make sure to check out more boxing technique articles below:

Jamie - Boxing Life

I'm a boxing analyst, amateur boxer, and blogger looking 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 gear reviews, fighter analysis, news, training tips, or my own personal journey, I'll be covering it on 'Boxing Life'.

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