Boxing Mailbag 6-19-11

June 20, 2011 June 20, 2011 by Johnny N Boxing Basics, Boxing Mailbag 23 Comments

Your latest boxing questions about the southpaw left hook, boxing rhythm, body punching, amateur competition, boxing stance, fighting through injuries, and more.


1. I tend to get nervous and overly defensive. When I’m getting picked apart, I lean too far back and run away. What can I do? – AB

Hey Im 5’10 185-190. I fight southpaw even though Im right hand doninant but I see better out of my left eye. I can fight both ways but Im more comfortable southie. I tend to get nervous and either cover up and get picked apart or I lean too far back and run away. I need help with combos and defensive strategies! Any suggestions?

  • Your problem doesn’t seem to be a lack of combos or defensive strategies. Your sparring pace is too fast for you. Slow it down for 2 weeks so that you can see everything.

Boxing Mailbag 6-19-11

2. Hey Johnny, can you give me some tips on sparring? – Austin

I use a style similar to Joe Frazier’s and Jack Dempsey’s, if it’s any help. Should I break into a Dempsey Roll/ bob and weave as soon as my opponent approaches?

  • This is a tough question because I don’t know what boxing style your opponent uses, and I haven’t seen what you can and can’t do. You should break into the Dempsey Roll if your opponent is overly aggressive and stands right in front of you when he attacks. If your opponent uses constant in & out movement, then the Dempsey Roll will not work at all. If you to fight a forward-style, I suggest you study footage of intelligent stalkers like Miguel Cotto, Kostya Tszyu, Bernard Hopkins.


3. About how long does it take on average for someone to be ready to fight in the amateurs? – Jakob

  • The going average is 3 months minimum especially if it’s your first fight. If you have a good trainer who attends tournaments regularly, he will let you know when you’re ready. If you’re not super athletic or do not pick things up quickly, I would recommend taking 6 months. You can tell you’re ready when you’re no longer nervous about sparring other competing amateurs in your boxing gym.

4. Can a 15 year old boy like me become a top fighter if I train 3-5 hours every day? – John

Hi, I just started boxing and I just want to ask if it is possible for a 15 year old boy like me to become a top fighter or even a professional one day if I train 3-5 hours everyday? Are there any famous and skillful boxers who started later than me? Advice and tips would be nice. Thanks. 

  • There are many professional boxers that started around your age or later. Off the top of my head, I can name Bernard Hopkins, Sergio Martinez, Nate Campbell, Joe Calzaghe, I’m sure there are many more. 15 years old is not too late than all. 3-5 hours a day is a good start. Stay calm, be relaxed, and don’t fall in love with your power. Learn something new in every sparring session and learn all types of styles but use the ones you like best.

5. How do you land a left hook as a southpaw? – Chris

As a southpaw i find it very tough to set up an opponent for an left hook. I literally feel off balance and open for an counter right. Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  • Don’t throw it too wide. Just throw it like a left cross but with an arc. Try throwing the left hook as a counter so you don’t feel open. Bait your orthodox opponent’s right hand, and then throw your left hook over it (like Manny Pacquiao) or under it (like Lucian Bute).
  • If you’re throwing it as a counter, try holding your head a little closer and to the right, then pull your head out as you throw that left hook in. If you want to use the left hook in a combo, just mix it in with the straights. Try throwing it as a counter over your opponent’s straight right.


6. One more question. In your opinion what is the greatest tip you can give a boxer other than working hard? – Eduardo

  • Make sure you have fun. The moment something gets too painful or too boring, you run the risk of losing motivation or over-training yourself. Don’t burn yourself out, keep things fresh and fun so you can box with more passion. It’s very hard to be successful for a long time when you train like it’s work and your opponent is training like a kid in a candy store.


7. Do you need a trainer to sign up for an amateur contest? – Laura

And if not, where in Wisconsin can you sign up? I’ve been looking everywhere and have no clue.

  • You do need a registered amateur boxing trainer. I found 2 links for you with information on amateur boxing events and local boxing gyms in Wisconsin. I’m sure they may be more information out there if you search around your city. You just have to find a gym with amateur boxing trainers. Make sure they actually have competing fighters. Check out their boxers while they workout and spar and see if you like it. Your trainer will know all the amateur events coming up. There’s always something every month and the big tournaments are usually in the summer.

8. Can I box with genu valgum? (opposite of bow-legged) – Daniel

I have genu valgum legs. Can I do boxing? What is the best stance for people that have genu valgum problem? Are there any professional boxers with genu valgum? Can I do squats? Thanks Johnny, you’re the best.

  • I think only a licensed medical expert can tell you what you’re limitations are. I don’t know what safety issues or medical risks come with genu valgum, so you should get a medical and be cleared by the doctor. As long as you can attack and defend, I don’t see why you can’t box. As for stance and everything, I would have to tell you to stand in whatever way is most comfortable.

9. What are some heavy bag exercises I can do? – John

  • Well there’s the usual heavy bag drill where you just bang the bag however you want. There’s also an accuracy drill where you put little squares of duct tape randomly around the bag. This gives your eyes something to look at and improve your aim. You can also do tabata drills where you do fast punching for 15 seconds, rest 15 seconds, and repeat. You usually have a partner switching off with you when you do this.


10. How can I stop jumping when I do shadow boxing and during sparring sessions? – Mark

  • Most people jump because they are overly aggressive or have bad stance. If you’re being over aggressive, you have to calm yourself down. In the gym, your job is to learn how to box, not to show off your fighting spirit. Save your aggression for the competition–you’ll need all of it.
  • Many guys also have to jump around because their stance is so bad that they can’t move swiftly, and so they resort to jumping to get around quicker. Try working on the heavy bag and limiting yourself to only stepping and not jump around the bag. If you force yourself to step without jumping, your feet will naturally find the stance that allows you to step better (instead of jump better).
  • Generally a good stance is not too wide, not too narrow, feet angling off to the side and not straight forwards, weight distributed evenly across both feet. From what I’ve seen, most people are leaning too far forward or too far backwards and they don’t realize it.



11. I was wondering how to perfect my balance. Can u help me? – David

  • Here’s a good link to getting a basic understanding of a good boxing stance – The Perfect Boxing Stance
  • As for perfecting your stance, just do a lot of shadowboxing and moving around. Focus on balance, sharp movement, relaxed movement, and try not to jump. Do it a lot and you’ll find the best stance for you.




12. How do you throw a jab-cross? – Orly




13. How do you win in exchanges? – Mark

I would imagine its very hard to see punches from the side when your close to your opponent and your both swinging.

  • When I’m exchanging punches, my body simply responds naturally. I have some idea of what punches and combos I want to throw, but for the most part, my trained reflexes take over and I punch and defend automatically (without thinking about it).
  • When I first started boxing, my trainer use to tell me: “throw 4-5 punches anytime you’re in range”. That was it. Then as I got better, he would say, “step out after you finish a combo”. Then as I got even better, he would add, “always throw 2-3 weak tester shots to bait his counter, then step back, THEN attack with 4-5 punches, then step out after you finish”.
  • This sequence got longer as I got better and I do all of it automatically. I don’t have to worry about “seeing punches” because I’m not looking for them. I’m simply coming to fight and looking for my opponents openings…and I let my trained reflexes do the rest. 


14. Where does the jab get its power? – Jeni

I just started boxing, and I can’t seem to “feel” where the power behind the jab yet comes from yet. The straight right, hook, uppercut all have some kind of grounded torque that feels natural and powerful. By contrast, my jab is awkward I have a tendency to want to swing my elbow up in order to get some power. Where do I generate power from, for my jab? My shoulder? Back? Help!!!

  • Excellent question, Jeni! I wish more boxers would ask me that because I see so many improperly loaded jabs. Most boxers throw with a loaded shoulder or rotate the upper body too much but that only wastes energy or telegraphs the punch.
  • The right way to add power to your jab is to just drop your hips slightly when you jab. You add power by relaxing your hip muscles and upper legs for just a split second. You can take a very small step forward to add some push to your jab and get into range. As for your jabbing arm, don’t focus on pushing your glove out, just try to straighten that arm as you drop your hip. (Not TOO straight because you might hyper-extend your elbow.) You want to imagine your arm transforming into a spear and stabbing him.


15. How do you land the southpaw left hook to the body of an orthodox fighter? – John

I just have a question…I am a southpaw and I would like some tips on landing the left hook to the body on an orthodox fighter? Or any countering tips to land the left hook to the body? There is always tips for southpaws on landing the right hook to the body but not many tips on landing the left hook the body…a left hook to the body on an orthodox fighter would be on his right side which is also where the liver is located! So this coud be a potentially devastating punch! So, any advice on that left hook to the body Johnny?? Would definitely appreciate it!! Keep up the great work on your site!! Looking forward to reading your reply, thanks!

  • Landing the left hand to the body isn’t that hard. For me it works better as a straight left than a left hook. You don’t always have to aim for the pit of the stomach, you can aim straight at the side on the ribs under the armpit. You also have to mix in shots to the head and body. What you can do is put one to the head, pull your head back to slip your opponent’s counter right, then come in with one to the body. Or you can also do the reverse, throw it to the body (even if he blocks it), pull your head back to slip the counter right, then come back in with to the head or body. Manny Pacquiao does this a lot.
  • The left hook to the liver almost always has to be thrown as a counter because you want him to reach forward with his right hand which brings his liver closer to you. You don’t have to hook, you can punch straight at it.
  • One of my favorite things to do is to throw it as you step your front foot behind his front foot. As you’re running up his back side, he’ll concentrate his defense to his left, which means you can throw a really wide left hook to the body that will catch him off guard. Follow it up with another one to the head, or throw a right hook first and then another left.
  • Watch Lucian Bute. Watch how he digs that left to the body. He sets it up by leaning on the inside to bait his opponent’s right hand. Then he leans out and swings the left hand underneath on the inside.
  • Another great fighter to watch is Floyd Mayweather when he fights southpaws. I know Floyd isn’t a southpaw but you can reverse his technique. Watch his timing when he throws the right hook to the body against southpaws. 



16. What is the best way to build lean muscle? – Anthony

  • Calisthenics, body weight exercises, and eating well. Muscle built from high repetitions is usually very lean muscle.



17. I have long arms. What muscles should I strengthen so they won’t tire out quickly? – Anthony

  • The shoulders. Work the shoulders. Have drills where you throw lots of HIGH punches non-stop on the heavy bag. Do lots of speedbag work. Most important of all, learn to relax your arms when you throw punches. Learn how to throw many jabs without wearing out the arm. Relax that shot, put a stiff jab here and there but don’t overload that jab arm. Use good timing and sharpness to add power, not muscle effort.

18. Why don’t you write something about body punching in boxing? – Carpenter

It’s the only thing you’ve missed. And I’ve got something to add to your examples on the drowning style. Charley Burley. Look up Charley Burley analysing genius on youtube.

  • There are some body punching guides on the way. I explain how to get inside, how to set up the shots without getting caught on the head, how to force the shots in at close range. I love the Charley Burley video. A friend showed it to me a long time ago and fortunately, many of those principles are still in use today. Hang out just a little longer, I’ve got great stuff coming for you.



19. Do the lateral muscles help give you punch power? – Anthony

  • YES! Big time! You can even see for yourself. Put one hand on your lateral muscle as you throw a punch. You should feel the muscle contract sharply. The lateral muscle is much bigger than the shoulder muscle and probably contributes more power to your punch than the shoulder muscle. On a side note, have you seen how big Bruce Lee’s lateral muscles are?


20. Can you explain what rhythm is in boxing? How important is it? – Daniel

  • Rhythm is the beat of your fighting movements. Every fighter has their own unique movement. Some guys have a 3-beat rhythm, this means they always move in 3 beats. Maybe this means 3 punch combos, or 2 punches with a defensive movement at the end. Or maybe they slip in 3-movements at a time. Some other fighters love to throw a potshot, pause, and then a 4 punch combo. Like a big jab, step back, and then come in with 4 punches. Some fighters have a consistent punching rhythm whereas others walk around a lot before they throw a combination.Every fighter has their own rhythm.
  • The reason why it’s important to have your own rhythm is so that you have some kind of efficiency. Your body and mind has a natural rhythm that it likes to attack or defend at. Perhaps you like to do 2 movements, pause, and then another 2. Or maybe you have a non-stop steady rhythm. If you fight with no rhythm, or you fight to someone else’s rhythm, you will get tired trying to keep up with someone else’s pace. When you fight at your pace, you last longer and perform better. 
  • Think of rhythm as like sleeping. Some people sleep more hours while others sleep less. Some need little naps to get through the day while others don’t. And if you don’t get as much sleep as you need, you feel weird or tired.
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John Taylor June 25, 2011 at 8:01 am

how did mike tyson slip punches as fast as he did? for his size he could slip in the blink of an eye. I was hoping you could tell me how he got that fast and what excercises he did to slip quickly. I’ve tried the slip bag and just simply slipping back and forth but have found no difference in the speed of my slips. I would appreciate your reply and I love this site. I’m on it everday


Johnny N June 25, 2011 at 7:21 pm

John Taylor – Mike Tyson is able to slip so powerfully and swiftly because of YEARS of repetition and excellent technique. If you’ve been slipping for years and still notice no difference, then maybe your technique could be improved. I will write a guide on slipping but here are some basic tips for now: keep your body balanced and grounded at all times. Slip with your whole body, not just with your head, this is what allows you to have maximum control of your whole body at all times. At first, moving your body will seem slower than moving your head but after a while, you will be more coordinated and able to move the entire body just as quickly. Mike Tyson is so deadly because he can move his entire body faster than his opponents can move just their arm. Move your whole body when you slip, just as you would when you throw a punch.


John Taylor June 26, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Thank you
Thanks for responding man. This site is greatly appreciated not only by beginning boxers like me but by anyone of any experience that has a passion for boxing. I was also wondering your height and weight and your fighting style. And I wanted to ask how can I win in exchanges? It always seems as though I’m just throwing blindly against my sparring partner and I get caught coming in. Sorry for my frequent questions haha. And thanks again dude


Johnny N July 5, 2011 at 4:35 am

Hey John, I really appreciate the questions so don’t worry about asking too many. The questions keep me sharp and help me explain to everyone exactly what they want to learn. I’m 5’7″ and 145lbs and fight with a long-arm boxing style. I have quick feet and throw sharp punches from long range and dig punches at close range. I like moving around in random patterns with my feet and keep my head movement to a minimum unless I’m being overwhelmed at close range. It’s hard to explain.

Winning in exchanges just requires you to drill some natural reflexes. Mainly, you just have to flurry 4-5 fast punches and then be ready to drop your head or slip to the side when he counters.


Amit July 5, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Jhonny you are great
Hi Jhonny,

You are really great. You have endless knowledge and a nice to explain that..I have become a big fan of yours.
A big salute to you sir.


John Taylor July 10, 2011 at 9:03 am

No Openings
In your earlier mailbag i saw you mention something about how great guys dont have any openings. How do they do this? How does a person get no openings?


Johnny N July 11, 2011 at 7:15 am

@John Taylor – I don’t literally mean that they have no openings. I meant that they’re just so much tighter and don’t stand with any holes in their defense. The only time they open up is when they’re throwing punches and that’s the only time you’ll have split-second openings to hit them. They’re also really good at reading your attacks and shifting their defense constantly to take away all your punches.


John Taylor July 13, 2011 at 6:38 am

I hear announcers and trainers say that boxers need to move there head when they jab. I tried this and it seems difficult to move my head while actuually jabbing. Is there something I’m doing wrong?


Johnny N July 13, 2011 at 6:42 am

@John Taylor – moving your head while jabbing. It’s possible, you can jump in with your head straight up and/or alternate as you jab in with your head all the way down to the side (like Bernard Hopkins). You can also move your head before and after your jab. That’s all there is to it.


John Taylor July 13, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Thanks man I’ll try that. I like your new parrying videos by the way. Very helpful. I was watching old films and Joe Louis also uses that side parry a lot when his opponent jabs


Arif G July 16, 2011 at 10:17 am

Hi Johnny,
Firstly many thanks for setting up an amazing site. You have a real knack for breaking down information in an accessible and logical way.

Could you please give advice on how to get back into training after an injury. I am recovering from a knee injury (meniscus partial tear) and it is frustrating to be off training and to lose one’s fitness.


Jonny H July 18, 2011 at 1:15 am

As always
very nice work on the site, the new videos are great and without sounding wierd, it’s nice to put a face to all this helpful advice

I had my first amateur fight last weekend, and was lucky enough to come away with a UD in my favour. Downside was that in the closing 30secs my opponent fractured my left eye socket, so I’m off the sparring for a while.

Any suggestions/rough timeframe for easing back into my full training regime? Some advice from you or anyone who has suffered the same injury would be much appreciated. I would ask my trainer but he’s essentially ditched me while I’m unable to give it 100% ( he won’t be my trainer for much longer)



Johnny N July 18, 2011 at 8:39 am

@Arif G – coming back from an injury, ouch! The general precautions will always apply: take it slow. Those partial tears have ended many careers. Your doctor should have provided some basic stretching and rehab exercises. Stick to that for a long time and if I were you, take some extra time off if you haven’t done that already. Boxing is really strenuous and can easily aggravate old injuries. Other than that, just keep yourself in the gym and give it 3 weeks. Don’t worry about a crappy performance, within 3 weeks you should feel like your old self again.

@Jonny H – A fractured eye socket? Oh man…who did you fight?! Just take it easy…this is the same type of injury Antonio Margarito suffered against Manny Pacquiao. I believe he kept training but went without sparring for at least 6 months. It’s a shame your trainer couldn’t work with you because you weren’t able to fight.


Jonny H July 18, 2011 at 8:45 pm

that’s what all my friends said when i told them! I can’t remember all that much of it, just the crack as the punch landed and thinking to myself “that’s probably gonna hurt once the adrenaline runs out….”

Thanks for a rough idea, my doctor said about the same, but I know doctors always allow more time than I really need, just in case something doesn’t heal right.

There’s some footage my bro took of my fight, if I can get his camera I’ll put up a link so you can see where I went wrong….it’d be nice if I could avoid this happening again hahaha!


Johnny N July 21, 2011 at 4:22 pm

@Jonny H – Post the footage on youtube and share on our facebook or something. Or send the link here, too. I’m really curious to see. You’re a brave soldier!


@ricky July 22, 2011 at 3:31 am

Johnny, I read your articles periodically and I wondering which of the following is most effective : according to cross fit 20 sec jogging /20 sec running /20 sec full / for two miles 3times a week, insanity which consist of plyometrics in the morning ,or long run..If it was all to me , I probably do high intensity everyday ,as a result ,I know that would to be overkill .. ultimately, I wanna at my peak .Im 27 with over forty amateur bouts , but I haven’t competed in five year.amazing website has refresh my basics , its amazing how much u lose within a short period of time..thanks


@ricky July 22, 2011 at 3:33 am

Excuses the typos ..:-)


Johnny N July 23, 2011 at 5:31 am

@ricky – That cross fit workout is brutal. Definitely a more intense workout than just running. Be careful that you don’t let it become overkill, as you said, because over-training is dangerous.


@ricky July 24, 2011 at 7:32 am

Any views on Albert pope boxing on YouTube and his vid on punches down the pipe


Johnny N July 24, 2011 at 6:53 pm

@ricky – Albert pope’s boxing style and technique is very different from what I’ve been taught. So I can’t really comment on it other than that I don’t agree with it. I don’t understand it and can’t really offer an opinion on it other than that I would not box that way.


@ricky July 25, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Thank for comment before I developed some bad habits ..:-) im looking forward to more of visuals .


hi,I am an out boxer,I hv a problem trying to keep brawlers from getting into range.what should I do? April 28, 2012 at 8:41 am


muhammad June 21, 2015 at 2:07 am

hi there.
i’m wonder how some people can take powerfull punches and not being knock out?!….are there any training for training your face to tolerance more punches?
thanks for your website.(sorry for bad English!!!)


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