Basic Boxing Punches

The Jab

When a new boxer steps into the training ring, the jab is the very first punch that they learn. It is not the most exciting punch and because it is unlikely to knockout out an opponent, most beginner boxers do not see its utility until they are actually in the ring. It is the first punch that boxers learn because it is the one they will use most often, and the one that they will come to rely on during bouts.

Because it lacks the power of some other punches, it’s not a favorite of some boxers, but those who use it effectively have success in fights than those who never use the jab. As the foundation of all other boxing punches, a properly learned and performed jab can help every other area of a boxer’s technique.

Whether in southpaw or orthodox stance, the boxer’s jab is thrown with their lead hand (the hand in front), which may not always be his dominant hand. During this punch, a boxer’s arm extends first with the thumb upwards, while the hand is in a fist. Right before the boxer’s arm is fully extended, they should turn their hand so that the thumb faces inward. This little twist at the end gives the punch more power.

The shoulder of the arm that is performing the jab should stay tucked in towards the chin. One of the benefits of a jab is the ability to protect the chin, while also throwing a punch. Why is this important? Because when a boxer throws a punch, they are open to a counterpunch from their opponent. Tucking the chin in towards the shoulder prevents the opponent from being able land a clean punch on the jabber’s head.

To complete the jab, the boxer pulls their fist back to the starting position quickly, to prevent leaving themselves open to counterpunches for too long. The jab has many uses, including offense or defense. Effective boxers can fake a jab to distract an opponent while setting up another, more devastating punch.

Effective use of the jab can help a boxer learn the distance between themselves and opponent

Right Cross

The cross is one of the most important and powerful punches a boxer has in their arsenal. It is a staple of every boxing style, and because it requires the boxer to push off with their back leg and twist their torso, it can deliver a devastating blow to any opponent. Its only shortcoming, however, is that it takes longer to set up and deliver than a jab, which can leave the boxer open to counterpunches, if they are not on their guard. The cross is also effective as a counterpunch itself, especially when an opponent has thrown a punch that requires them to come in close.

A proper right cross requires the boxer to be in orthodox stance (otherwise the punch would be a left cross, which has the exact same technique, just with the left hand, crossing the body). Whatever stance the boxer is in, they use the rear hand to deliver a cross. A right cross is one fluid movement, that brings together many different motions to deliver a powerful punch to the other fighter. Pushing off of the back foot, thrusting rear hips forward, and swinging the arm forward across the body, delivers the most possible force. The rear shoulder should protect the chin when the arm is fully extended, thumb facing inward, as the fist connects with the opponent.

Like with a jab, a cross starts out with the hand in a fist, thumb facing upward, the hand twisting at the end of the punch to deliver an extra snap of power. At the end of the punch, the hips should be square with the target.

Once the punch has landed, the boxer should recoil their body into its original stance. The cross, because it requires the boxer to swing their rear fist across their body, can leave them open to hits to the torso, against which they might have no defense. As soon as the punch has delivered its power, they should return to their natural fighting position. When the cross is used as a counterpunch, there is less necessity to recoil quickly, as the opponent is already in an offensive position and cannot land another punch until they, too, are recoiled. Crosses are often combined with jabs, and are often the second punch that a new boxer learns when they step into the ring.

The Hook

The hook is the staple of the slugger’s style and when executed correctly, results in a knockout more often than just about any other punch. A hook requires a boxer to be a master of timing and strategy, as well as to have excellent control over their punches, in order to deliver the most devastating blow at the perfect time. Still considered one of the most basic punches in boxing, it can be used as a greatly effective punch, in the hands of the right boxer. Because it requires a close range and variability, it is a great option for a boxer who can use one fist as adeptly as the other, and not just to deliver blows to the face, but also to the torso.

An orthodox boxer will most often make use of the left hook. If you’ve ever watched boxers train, you’ll probably hear their trainers saying “One, two, three.” This is the jab, cross, left hook combination that so many boxers use to great effect. In quick succession, these punches can be punishing to an opponent, and because they can even help a boxer close the distance between them and they opponent, they can make the hook that much more effective.

To perform a good hook, the boxer should start with a back foot planted firmly. Then, the boxer twists on the ball of their front foot—the heel should move outward. This allows the boxer to pick up speed and momentum, as their body weight shifts to the back foot. As this is happening, the lead hip will be rotating inward to give the punch even more power.

Then, the lead arm should start, bent, at about ninety degrees. This then twists, along with the hip. As the twisting is happening, the lead elbow is moving upward, until that arm is straight and parallel to the ground. Some boxers will try to cock this arm before throwing the punch, and while that might give it more power, it also warns the opponent about what is about to happen and leaves the punch-thrower open to counterpunches.

The process is largely the same, with a southpaw approach being the mirror opposite of the orthodox approach. The hook is great for stunning an opponent, which can allow the aggressor to get more punches in, to get his opponent to wobble, or even to knock him out.


The uppercut can be one of the most devastating punches in boxing, when it is used by a skilled boxer. Boxers who are facing opponents who are known to use uppercuts should take extra caution in protecting their chins.

Both southpaw and orthodox boxers can use both fists to land an uppercut. Which stance the boxer uses and which fist they want to use to uppercut will change how the punch is thrown. In general, the pattern of the punch is the same.

Right Uppercuts for Orthodox Boxers

The knees should be bent, with the rear leg bent a little bit more than the one in front. This gives the boxer a lower center of gravity, which provides more power. As the uppercut is thrown, the body-weight shifts forward to the front leg by twisting the heel of the back foot outwards, while on the ball of his foot. The hip moves forward as the weight shifts (which gives the punch the power of the boxer’s core muscles).

The right shoulder drops, and the upper body leans slightly. The hand that is not throwing the punch should remain close to the face. The inside of the fist follows this pattern: facing left, facing up, facing inward. As the right shoulder performs the follow through and the hips rotate, the boxer strikes his opponent, and then quickly returns to their previous stance.

Left Uppercuts for Orthodox Boxers

Knees bent, with the body-weight on the ball of the front foot this time. As the punch is thrown, the body-weight shifts to be evenly distributed between feet. The lead hip goes forward and upward (less decipherable than hip movements for right uppercuts), the body leans slightly to the left, the left shoulder drops, and the left fist’s path is an exact mirror of the right uppercut.

For boxers that use the southpaw stance, the concepts are exactly the same, but should be performed in mirror. Because the left hand is dominant for most southpaw boxers, they follow the steps of the right uppercut for orthodox boxers, mirrored for the left side of the body, and the same for the left uppercuts, mirrored to be a right uppercut for a southpaw boxer.