How Do You Explain Boxing to Other People

February 18, 2012 February 18, 2012 by Johnny N Boxing Basics, Boxing Mailbag 46 Comments

How do you explain boxing to others

I couldn’t resist making one of these funny meme’s for boxers. I was laughing while picking the images for this but then I started wondering: how do other people look at boxing? Most people I meet are always shocked to find out that I box. I’ve gotten better at explaining the sweet science over the years. Here’s what I tell them:


Boxing is a community sport where people come together to improve themselves. It’s a sport that challenges you mentally and physically more than you ever thought possible. You suffer only as much pain as you dare to push yourself. Although fighting is not required, testing your limits will be! It’s most certainly the best workout you’ve ever had.

Like everything else in life, boxing can be dangerous if you’re reckless about it. It’s dangerous if you let pride stand in the way of common sense, emotion in the way of intelligence. The only pain in boxing is having your ego shredded to pieces. The biggest risk in boxing is being too scared to improve yourself.

What do YOU tell them?

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J February 18, 2012 at 2:50 pm

i just say its an art, one of the only sports where one can be offensive as well as defensive at the same time


MJ April 3, 2012 at 6:34 am

very well said. i never thought of the “offensive and defensive at the same time” explanation, but your absolutely right!


Mac February 18, 2012 at 4:21 pm

I tell them, its the art of hitting, without getting hit.


Roman March 11, 2012 at 5:17 am

I think that’s crap.

Unless you have a significant physical advantage, preferrably speed, or an even greater box-ed advantage over your opponent, you ain’t getting away without getting hit.

Below the elite, boxing is about hurting your opponent more than he hurts you. That’s why on club-level, more often than not, the tough newbie beats the experienced “wuss”.

We’ve all been there: the new kid has only been here for four weeks. But you know he’s a mean sob. The first time you had him on the mitts, he wasn’t graceful, but he had power. He threw everything with bad intentions from the get-go. And he’s been pushing for sparring ever since day 1. You really feel agression in this kid.
And then there’s the college kid who’s been coming to the gym for 5 years. Technically sound, experienced, has been in a couple of bouts and his record is something like 12-4. You tell him: hey, go a round or two with the new guy. And you see it in his eyes: worries. Not outright fear, but he’s worried. What if the new guy is to tough?

And that’s why you don’t see many mediocre boxers around, but plenty of mediocre pressure fighters/sluggers. They eat mediocre boxers and usually only find their limits at the hands of the elite boxers.


Eric March 11, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Unfortunately Roman life isn’t fair. People will tell you that you can be anything you want to be, but how 5’7″ power forwards do you see in professional basketball, or how many 145lb fullbacks play in the NFL? I think someone once stated ” A man has got to know his limitations.” Being “mean” or let’s just say “having the killer instinct” is one of the most underrated assests of all combat sports. I’ve seen and heard of unskilled “mean” street fighters take apart a “trained” individual in fights. I remember a trainer of ex-Middleweight great Carlos Monzon once stated the best fighters are in the prisons not in boxing gyms. People also underestimate pure athletic talent and certain genetic gifts that a lot of people are either born with are aquired from playing other sports. We’ve all seen and heard of the multi-sport star is good at baseball, football, wrestling, etc. Well guess what, more than likely that person will dominate all but the most skillful athletes even at boxing unless he just hates getting hit in the face, or just doesn’t care for boxing. I’ve heard Ken Norton was a multi-sport star in track, football, and basketball, but that when he began boxing he was so subconcious about being “new” that he would often train at non-peak hours until he developed more skill. But Norton with all his physical gifts and natural athletic ability probably could’ve have beaten a good portion of other heavys in the gym even being new to the sport.


Johnny N March 11, 2012 at 2:07 pm

“The art of hitting, without getting hit” isn’t crap. It’s the point of the game, regardless of whether or not you do it well. I also don’t agree with the “tough newbie beats the experienced wuss” statement. I don’t see how anyone gets experience if they’re a wuss. I know what you’re saying but “experienced wuss” don’t really exist in boxing. You get hit from your first day of sparring till the end of your career. There’s no way a wuss can last that long in boxing. He might lack self-confidence or hate taking punches but that doesn’t make him a wuss.

About your experienced fighter syndrome vs the new kid. If a guy has been training for 5 years and he’s scared of a beginner, the training was ineffective. It also doesn’t make sense that a guy with 15 fights experience hasn’t sparred a tough brawler before.

And yes there are MANY mediocre boxers around, they’re called “brawlers” and other times they are “punchers”. They brawl because they fight better on physicality than they do on skills. If a boxer can’t beat a brawler, his boxing skills don’t count as skills. The very definition of boxing itself is suppose to make you more effective against a brawler than you would be against another boxer….so if you can’t do that, you’re definitely not a skilled boxer.

I understand styles make fights and that’s a different story. A pressure fighter or swarmer fight could give boxers problems, but “brawlers” are usually the easiest opponents for boxers.


Mac March 12, 2012 at 7:42 pm

You stole the words right from me Johnny haha.


Alex April 5, 2012 at 9:47 pm



BoxingDude June 14, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Johnny, you’re too wise dude haha. So well put.


trevybear88 June 23, 2012 at 4:05 am

The whole point of boxing is to hit without being hit. If you read my post in the thread ‘ Am I too old to start boxing’ I managed to do just that In my first ever boxing match against a physically stronger opponent who also had much more experience /knowlege than myself by using his over-confidence/agression against him! The one area that I have seen the experienced guys that cant really handle themselves is in karate and martial arts. I have often came across black belts in karate who wouldn’t last 2 seconds against a tough guy from the streets. Not all of them of course but some of them would be no use at all in a real fight and all their black belt would be good for is holding their trousers up!!


Eric March 11, 2012 at 6:44 pm

They say that an ex-boxer named Bobby Stewart brought a 13-14 yr. old Tyson up to see Cus D’Amato in upstate New York. Stewart I think was a Lt.Heavyweight and a grown man, although I really don’t know his credentials or experience. Anyhow they say the prepubescent Tyson was giving Stewart all he could handle almost from the get go. Granted Tyson wasn’t your normal 14 yr old being that he weighed about a relatively solid 190lbs, but here Tyson was giving a grown man albeit smaller man a lot of trouble, despite virtually no experience and only 13-14 yrs old. They say that ex-jr,middle/middleweight early 80’s contender Tony Ayala was sparring with seasoned professional veterans at the age of 14-15 yrs old, and even sparred with the Welterweight Champion of the day Pipino Cuevas. Of course Ayala could never get his personal life in order and his career was derailed by prison. Both of these fighters Ayala and Tyson were cut from the same mold, both were short, short armed, super agressive fighters with tremendous punching power. One thing about Ayala though is I believe he was boxing even when he was about 7-8 yrs old so by 14-15 he probably had aquired a lot of skill and knowledge that many much more mature fighters didn’t have.


Mister T October 5, 2013 at 11:46 am

”Experienced wuss”, if you’re experienced in a combat sport and are still a ”wuss” then you’ve clearly chose the wrong hobby.

Also, if someone who knows the technique of boxing goes up against a ”newbie” who’s ”mean” or whatever crap, i dont care how mean they think they are someone with technique would flatten them. Yes an aggressive edge is required if you wanna start boxing OBVIOUSLY but no newbie would beat up a good fighter lol.


Mystery Boxer May 3, 2016 at 12:44 am

Well said Roman. Let’s not beat around the bush. The aim is to defeat your opponent. If I drop my back knee which gives me an extra 5 inch in reach, thus my opponent doesn’t realize my extra range and throw a Hook and perforate my opponents ear. I will take a TKO as quick as a crisp and clean Hook to his jaw that I win by a KO. I don’t care. I want to win. Even a dozen Kidney Punches I will throw so he will never forget that he fought me regardless if I win/lose. Intimidation is a huge part of the fight game. When my opponent walks into the ring I never take my eyes off him. Anyone that gets between myself and the other fighter I push out of the way. Once he takes his eyes of me I know I have already broke his spirit. I spend endless hours in the Gym to look fearsome and are covered in tattoo’s. Having a rock hard body with the craziest 6 pack gives me an advantage before a Punch has even been thrown. I’m not saying that is the b-all to winning. Obviously you need skill and good technique but never underestimate a big ego. At the highest level most sport’s are won above the shoulders. Over and Out. Keep Punching.


saber khan February 18, 2012 at 7:27 pm

i used to say its physical chess


J February 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm

This is somewhat off the record, but i remember in one of your articles you stated most fighters reach their peak when they are twenty, im 22 now and started boxing when i was 20 but i didnt get into a gym until recently, (which is twenty two years of age), with the utmost respects johnny you are my drive and i will prove your theory of “age matters” in boxing wrong im going to be living proof that it is possible with the right mindset and the determination, dedication, commitment, etc, and of course once again with the utmost honor and respects towards you sir to prove your theory wrong. i will be boxing when im fifty years of age and plus, i started wanting to learn how to flat out fight and i just absolutely fell in love with the sport. now closing with the utmost honor and integrity for you and i would also like to add that not only you but hopefully other expert boxing viewers can see that the student never beats the teacher unless the teacher forgets the beast they created, your breeding true fighters and i will do everything in my power to assist the name “Johnny Nguyen” into becoming one of the greatest names in boxing history. Thank you sir


Eric March 11, 2012 at 7:38 pm


You calling 22 yrs of age old. Hahahahaha. Wait till you get older you’ll have t-shirts older than 22. Rocky Marciano started professional boxing a month shy of 25 yrs of age with minimal amateur experience in 1948, and Dwight Braxton aka Dwight Muhammad Qawi started professional boxing at 25 yrs of age in 1978 with no amateur experience. By 1952 Rocky Marciano was Heavyweight Champion of the World and Dwight Qawi would even get his Light Heavyweight title quicker in less than 4 yrs he won his World Championship from Matthew Saad Muhammad in 1981.


Alejandro February 20, 2012 at 8:36 pm

FUNNY Pics!! Gladiator killed me!! Johnny your boxing explanation is shockingly astute – its so on the money it stunned me!


Johnny N February 24, 2012 at 3:38 am



S February 21, 2012 at 8:09 am

I think that “what my mom thinks I do” would be a better image if there was a picture showing someone getting his nose broken or something along that line lol


Johnny N February 24, 2012 at 3:39 am

That was actually my alternative choice! My mom thinks I’m one punch away from getting sent to the ER.


Ligur February 22, 2012 at 9:55 am

I tell them my neck, shoulders and back were so stuck they felt like granite and I had a sagging belly from working at the office, staring at monitors and nerding it up sitting on my ass for at least seven years (all of which happens to be true as well), so I had to find an activity that would loosen up my upper body and fix my weight and health issues.

Hey it wasn’t MY fault the closest decent looking and affordable place also had boxing.

That was seven more years ago and I haven’t looked back 🙂


Ian February 23, 2012 at 9:34 am

The aerobics picture really hits home for me.
I don’t advertise my activities to co-workers, but for the few times i’ve ever mentioned kickboxing, or boxing to a female i’ve always gotten the SAME response…..”oohhh kickboxing, I used to do that at MY gym..”.
And i’m always holding back, cuz I feel like shouting “I DON’T DO AEROBICS!!!!”
I guess I shouldn’t get mad. I don’t exactly look like a tough fighter type….probably more like someone who does Zumba or Tae-Bo…ha ha….(ok slight exaggeration, but not inconcievable)


Mike February 24, 2012 at 7:47 am

I’m a triathlete/runner in the summer and a boxer in the winter. I’m reasonable at both sports but certainly not talented or very good at either.

I tell my friends that I can out-run my boxing buddies and beat up my running buddies.

But most guys I talk to have a basic understanding of the sweet science and I make sure they know I go to a “boxing gym” not a “gym that has boxing”.


frank February 26, 2012 at 11:10 am

Great article. This exactly sums up the misconceptions surrounding boxing. I only really delve into explaination if I feel people are genuinly interested, otherwise I’m happy for them to believe whatever they want. The fact my Mum thinks it’s more like picture two, makes it easier to explain any marks or scrapes…”Someone’s leotard strap broke and smacked me in the face!”.

Good work Johnny.


Pete February 26, 2012 at 4:15 pm

I don’t bother to explain it unless they ask me specific questions about it.
Some ask, and I answer them.
Most ask me what I do to keep in shape, and I tell them that I box.
They either respond in a positive way, or they say “oh”, and drop the topic.
It’s funny, but once my friends and co-workers learned that I was boxing, they started speaking to me more respectfully. They’ve always treated me well, but it seems that there’s more of an effort to do so nowadays.
People have their own ideas about what it is, and that’s fine with me.


Ray March 12, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Haha that picture is hilirious because it’s true


joaquin frausto March 29, 2012 at 1:32 pm

you cant explain boxing in words best way to show what boxing is is to show the sport in a gym. boxing takes heart, dedication, smartness. its the only sport that demands the best from you. to be great in boxing you are going to have to suffer.


Johnny N April 2, 2012 at 11:06 am

Well said!


MJ April 3, 2012 at 6:32 am

“The biggest risk in boxing is being too scared to improve yourself.”



Tom June 15, 2012 at 5:23 am

i explain it simple as this: its to crush ur opponent in a “legal” way.
they all say im crazy and what did i put myself into, i was just laughing because i dont care what people think


trevybear88 June 23, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Because I love and participate in various combat sports (inc boxing and mma) my parents keep asking why Im so violent! They reserve a particular HATE for mma and insist that there are NO martial arts done inside the octagon and say that it isnt even a sport even though neither of them have ever been involved in a combat sport. They both agree that boxing, wrestling, judo, kickboxing etc…. are sports but when I explain that mma is based on these sports they tell me to grow up .. blah blah blah… Even half the anti boxing brigade usually participate in posh sports such as canoeing, skiing, rugby etc… all of which are more dangerous than boxing and mma. I guess some people are just ignorant and dont want to learn. If they tried OUR so called barbaric sports for just a few weeks I think their whole attitude and opinions would change! We live in hope!!!


Slat August 29, 2012 at 11:15 pm

I’ve tried to explain it but I just don’t think you can. I’ve tried every tactic but in the end it comes down to one thing; Most people have never been punched and the thought is terrifying.

I first noticed this when I started training other boxers. I had been punching and getting punched my whole life that I kinda forgot that there were people that have never been in a fight. The first time they got in the ring to spar they started acting all nutty, didn’t naturally defend themselves (like just ducking) and were terrified. Fear is good, but choosing to cage yourself in with a trained person ready to exploit your every weakness is so foreign to most people that there is no real way to explain boxing.


Lucas Allen November 11, 2012 at 3:25 am

For what I actually do you should have had jump rope


Angel Arroyo November 11, 2012 at 9:05 am

i’M late in the game, but on personal level i guess it won’t never be to late for me to box.


sanjay December 7, 2012 at 6:09 pm

this is my experience please try to Share your thoughts on it…

I don’t tell people that i box… i don’t need the attention anger or jealousy of people. As my Trainer told me “it keeps more shit out of my life”….. i think 65% of all the people are negative in the first place

I just do it for me and there are many others that never get respected for their skills either but they still do it because its their passion….. thats why i stopped telling people…. just like spiderman does what he likes without telling people……

whenever I do my roadwork at the fitness gym or outside i used shadowbox here and there just for fun and people think i try to show off^^…..

and they then start showing off their muscles they think they can take on all sports just because of their physique?
but than again i focus on my own expectations…… but people are just so odd…. starring at me when i d light weights…and so on i love boxing more then anything.. they dont know anything about it… putting on more and more armor making them heavy and slow… i only need to generate 4 pounds f pressure on their chin and i could still run away or be slick… a tiger can beat at bear.. sry got carried away there but these are my thoughts

and I filter out all negativity

maybe it has to do with the way i look or behave but its stll funny how i catch myself hiding what i do as a hobby from people i can imagine how lots of other boxers out there do the same thing….. its probably different in japan or some other countries where they have it as a high school sport….

but i actually all athletes get this reaction from people….. basically just doing what you want and like for you

what do you think about this???…. my gist was not to say anything and not to care…….



Johnny N December 7, 2012 at 10:19 pm

I’m never worried about boxing in public because I’m having fun and keeping to myself. I don’t care what others think because haters probably don’t understand the sport. Aside from that, I’m pretty good at staying in positive environments where people have respect for passion and support for their fellow man.


Terry December 23, 2012 at 8:39 am

Dear Johnny – I am writing from London, England. I admire your writing and the journalistic skill with which you put across your ideas. As teaching material, it is most the intelligent and thoroughly thought out I have come across. I wish I had encountered someone like you at the beginning of my boxing career, instead of the deadbeats calling themselves trainers running the 7 gyms I tried. I wouldn’t call myself a natural athlete, and although I am strong, I avoided sport at school. Then I discovered boxing, and in spite of the deadbeat frainers, I found that I really liked fighting. Boxing turned out to be the most thrilling and the most fascinating physical activity I had ever tried. I taught myself enough with the help of sparring partners to get a lot of fun out of it, but as a trained teacher, I now know how well run a gym has to be and how good trainers must be, ought to, be if boxing is to be a safe sport. Over here, amateur boxing is in decline. It is seen mainly as a sport for juvenile criminals and recovering gang members in police boxing clubs. When I try to explain boxing to people, they say, “Brain damage ! Boxers get hit the face, don’t they ?” The British Medical Association (BMA) has been waging a successful war against all forms of boxing, even “boxercise” and “boxing slimnastics” lest they tempt people into trying real boxing. Boxing is now banned in all schools and most colleges. For many years, medical journals here and in the USA have had articles attacking boxing and highlighting phenomena such as the “second impact syndrome”. I have even seen an article saying that the light punches to the head sustained in well controlled routine sparring in the gym, have a cumulative effect. I have also seen a report about a research project into concussion that has been started in connection with the famed Bengal Bouts (Notre Dame University, USA) because the latest medical techniques can detect the slightest degree of brain tissue injury. I have an answer to all this, but I would like to know whether you have a way of tackling it. Warm regards, Terry


Johnny N January 5, 2013 at 11:20 am

Brain injury is a risk boxers accept when they get in the ring. I wish more doctors would find better ways to understand concussions and invent new protective equipment instead of scaring boxers or helping to ban the sport.


Terry January 6, 2013 at 7:05 am

Dear Johnny, I do not think your reply goes far enough. There are many good reasons why boxing should be encouraged, but the doctors are the big enemies of boxing, and so they must be answered because they have enormous influence over parents and educational authorities. Because of them thousands of youngsters all over the world are being deprived of boxing. I would say, first, that millions of (mainly) men have boxed since the sport emerged in its modern form in the 19th century, apparently without harm to themselves. Secondly, I would say that there has to be, as in all sports, a decision taken as to whether the risks outweigh the benefits or not. An enormous amount can be done to minimise the risks and leave the doctors with the impression that rugby (which they heartily approve of) is more dangerous than boxing. Thirdly, the fact has got to be got across that there is a real difference between amateur and professional boxing and that amateur boxing isn’t just a short version of professional boxing ; also that amateur boxing doesn’t lead inevitably to professional boxing. Fourthly, there are many levels in boxing, which is one of the things you have taught me in your articles, that it isn’t all about junior tough guys desperate to get fight as fast as they can, that a boxer who isn’t a junior tough guy isn’t worthless, as some trainers seem to think. Fifthly, that with rigorous, graduated training, particularly in technique, much can be done to eliminate danger. Sixthly, much needs to be done to improve the quality of trainers, especially over here. Most of them wouldn’t last five minutes as trainers in say, judo or lacrosse, if that was what they wanted to teach. Seventh, all existing safety equipment should be worn at all times when boxers are learning new moves or sparring, although it is only about 50% effective. I would forbid boxers from bringing their own gloves to the gym, because some of them would turn up with cheap gloves that would turn their fists into blunt instruments rather than fists fit for boxing. The gym would have to provide gloves and they would have to be of the very best (thanks for your reviews of equipment). Eight, there is a case to be made for redesigning all boxing equipment to make it safer. Structurally it has hardly changed since the 19th century, although modern materials are now used in making it. I have done some research and found that there are nearly 200 patents for safer boxing equipment (since 1878), but they were not taken up by manufacturers because the boxing market has probably been too small or too hostile to change. Nine, there is a possibility of changing the rules of amateur boxing to make it safer, and that is happening in some parts of Europe, but enough for now. Regards, Terry.


Terry January 8, 2013 at 9:04 am

Dear Johnny, Thanks for your comment about sparring in the martial arts. So, many people go to the martial arts for self-defence, but isn’t boxing known as “the noble art of self-defence” ? Surely, a good punch on the nose is enough to put any aggressive scoundrel in his place !
I’d like to add a bit more to what I have been saying about the opposition of the medical world to boxing. There have been three developments in amateur boxing in Europe as a result of the opposition of the doctors:-
1. “La Boxe Educative”. This started in the Box-Club Basel about 10 years ago. It consists of boxing in which the boxers only tap each other lightly. A hard punch leads to disqualification. It has spread to France, Switzerland and parts of Germany. Text books on “La Boxe Educative” have been published and now there is a network of regional and national championships in it, and you can see videos of it on Youtube. I admire the thoroughness and the imagination with which technique is taught. Boxing has been allowed back into Swiss schools on the understanding that it is “boxe educative”. Of course it isn’t the real thing, but it may have some value as an introduction to real boxing. Box-Club Basel evidently hopes so. Perhaps boxing has to be sly and use this as a way to get the proper version of itself back into the educational world and its vast reservoir of young people.
2. “La Boxe Educative hasn’t caught on in England, but many ordinary boxing clubs allow only body punching during sparring except for those boxers who are about a fortnight away from a fight. I’ve even heard of a professional gym where this rule applies – Brendan Ingles’ famous gym in Sheffield where Naseem Hamed was bred. I don’t know how Brendan works it.
3. There is a marked tendency with some amateur referees in England to stop fights too early, i.e. if a fighter takes more than two or three good punches to the head (“contestant unable to defend himself”).
I think that it is possible to teach boxing your way and have it as a safe game. I admire the depth of your knowledge, your ability to explain things so well and to cater for people at all levels of boxing. Keep up the good work. Terry.


Whitecollarboxerlawyermexcity February 24, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Cool pics man! Well, last friday someone at the office was surprised that I practice boxing and that I do actually have friends at the gym, all of them of diferent social status(you know, there are school teachers, computer programers, store employees, carpenters, etc; so I explained that when you’re in the ring, it doesn’t matter if you are a politician or a humble employee, ’cause a punch is a punch and boxing let’s you improve yourself by making all men(in the ring) equal(at least in theory), so you must be humble enough to learn from others and also share the small amount of experience that you may have.


Johnny N February 26, 2013 at 10:16 am



Rihard March 2, 2013 at 12:46 am

My mother was shocked when she found out that I’m a boxer, she thinks it as the sport about “punching out the other guy’s head till his brains crawl out trough his ears”. My father admires me for the sport as he was also a boxer. My friends, they have different opinions, some have the opinion of my mother some are there for me, telling me to not stop the training and go ahead.

For people who dislike boxing, I explain it as a sport which teaches you great self-defense on the street and there’s nothing near to hitting out the guts of the opponent, but it’s an art where you land a successful punch and don’t get hit by your opponent’s one, it’s an art of outsmarting the opponent.


Diego June 24, 2013 at 10:13 am

Boxing is to gain control over your deepest instincts: you cannot kill and you cannot run. In other words, you learn to use your animal instincts to become a better man, by taking control over the most powerful (and dangerous) forces inside you.


Ethan August 15, 2013 at 11:13 am

I just tell people I dance. Same basic principle


joth June 16, 2016 at 4:42 pm

that’s nice.


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