How to Become a Better Boxer

Boxing is an internationally recognized combat sport. Participants from over 70 different nations competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics boxing event. This martial arts focuses on developing a practitioner’s punching skills for hand-to-hand combat. Even though you do not utilize as many parts of your body as a weapon, like Muay Thai, there is still a high level of skills and techniques required to master boxing. This article details training tips and techniques to make you become a better boxer, regardless of your boxing style.

Head Movement Drills

Effective head movement is an important aspect for both offense and defense. The following drills will enhance this ability.

  • Maize Ball - Use this tool to practice slipping punches while actively guarding your face with both hands. Perform this drill in front of a mirror to practice slipping without over-exaggerating its motion. Refining your slipping movements means it will be easier to recover and regain your position after dodging a particular punch.

  • Boxing Rope Drill - For this drill, find a location where you can line up a taut rope. This rope should be positioned approximately about your shoulder length. Get into your boxing stance and practice bobbing and weaving as you move forward and backward. Avoid making contact with the rope during this drill. As you become more proficient at this drill, start adding punches to it.

Double-End Bag Drills

If available at your gym, learning how to properly use this double end bag will boost the following boxing skills: punching accuracy, reflex, timing and being able to maintain a consistent rhythm. Double end bag drills are difficult and can be frustrating, but stick with it to gain its numerous benefits.

In terms of double-end bags, this comes most recommended by seasoned boxers:

Focus Mitts Drills

Find a teammate to help you with focus mitts drills before or after class for extra practice.

  • Combinations Drills - Use this opportunity to refine old combinations or to practice new ones.

  • Footwork - Do not forget the importance of footwork in generating punching power. During this mitt session, be mindful of how you are positioning your feet and pivoting.

  • Shifting Angles - Incorporate the changing of angles in your punching combinations.

  • Moving Your Head - Practice moving your head off the centerline as you throw single punches and combinations.

Heavy Bag Workout

While the focus mitts help hone your timing and punching techniques, heavy bag workouts will increase your punching power.

  • Heavy bag workouts are great opportunities to throw combinations with power and bad intentions behind it.

  • Visualize the bag as an opponent and release punching combinations that works the body and then attacks the head. These type of combinations will translate well to sparring sessions since punishing body shots drain your opponent’s stamina as well as lower their guard, which will then create openings for the follow-up head shots.

Blocking and Defensive Drills

In addition to the head movement drills previously mentioned, practicing the following blocking techniques will enhance your overall defensive skills. Furthermore, these workouts will reduce tendencies to be a stationary target that covers up with a “high guard.”

  • Reaction Drill - Find a training partner. Take turn having one person designated as the offensive fighter. The person on offense should throw a series of punching combinations while the other partner work on blocking and slipping the punches. Vary your combinations to make it less predictable and these punches should be light since the main purpose of this drill is to improve your defensive reactions.

  • Parrying and Countering - Work on deflecting punches and immediately firing back.

  • Active Guard Hand Positioning - Your hands should be held by your cheek and ready to protect your chin. However, do not keep them up high where your peripheral vision becomes blocked. This would make it more difficult to see hooks and easier for the opponent to slip out of view by changing their angle of attack. Therefore, you should only bring your gloves up from the cheek position to block when needed and then bring them back to its original position. Have your training partner test your boxing guard by trying to sneak various punches pass it.

  • Shoulder Rolls - Practice incorporating shoulder rolls to protect your chin and deflect punches. Being able to deflect an aggressive opponent’s punches, as they rush forward, is greatly beneficial. Diverting their movement would cause them to end up out of position while you respond with counter punches of your own.

Footwork Drills

Footwork drills are paramount to smoothly getting in and out of striking range. Additionally, these drills work on maintaining balance after pivoting and positioning yourself to control the center of the ring.

  • Angles - Learn to be explosive and move at different angles. Mount offensive attacks at various angles and then be able to safely exit out of striking zone at an angle different than the one initiated.

  • Pivoting - Keep your lead leg in place and stay balance on the ball of this foot, as you pivot to various angles. Throw different punching combinations each time you pivot to a new position.

  • Getting Out of Corners - Incorporate body fakes to dip and dart out of corners. Before initiating these movements, add jabs to create space between you and your partner.

  • Ring Control - Work on controlling the center of the ring and pressuring your training partner towards the ropes or to the corners.

    ​Check out the agility ladder I recommend below. It's the one we use in our class to improve our footwork.

Shadow Boxing

Keep yourself sharp by shadow boxing in your free time. Visualize an opponent in front of you and replicate various sparring scenarios. It is helpful to shadow box in front of a mirror, so you could evaluate your form and head position.


Sparring is extremely vital to developing your boxing skills. As you gain more sparring experience, you will get better at staying relax and picking up opponents’ movement patterns. Find teammates with different height, size and/or boxing styles to maximize your experience. The following are lessons learned from sparring sessions.

  • Be able to measure range and adjust your movements accordingly.

  • Learn to be loose and relax. Being tense will slow down the snappiness in your punches and burn unnecessary energy.

  • Test Your Defense - Test how well your defensive skills hold up in a live sparring match. Observe what holes and bad tendencies exist.

  • Attacking While Backing Up - Become proficient at throwing punches as you back away from aggressive sparring partners. Utilize straight punches to impede their forward aggression and create space for yourself.

  • Keeping Your Eyes Open - A common tendency for all new boxers is to flinch and close their eyes when they are caught in moments where they are expecting to get punch. You have to mentally remind yourself to eliminate this habit.

  • Feints - Utilize various feints to draw your opponent into exposed positions.

  • Broken Rhythm - Going slow and then picking up the pace. This action confuses and throws opponent’s timing off.

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