How to Brawl

April 3, 2012 April 3, 2012 by Johnny N Boxing Offense, Boxing Strategy 127 Comments

how to brawl

I was coaching 2 fighters in the ring the other day when a familiar scenario played out for the 1000th time. One fighter came forward with wild punches while the other fighter retreated behind a long jab. The boxer was trying to maintain his perfect technique but still couldn’t manage to keep the brawler from landing at will.

I begged the boxer to stop and trade with the brawler but he couldn’t do it. It wasn’t in him to exchange punches. When the sparring match ended he asked me, “Why does he keep beating me?”

Here’s what I told him…

You can’t fight for shit. You don’t know how to trade punches and you seem to enjoy running more than you do punching. The other guy is kicking your ass because he’s fighting and you’re not. Try using your skills to fight, not to avoid fighting. Or better yet, try learning how to brawl!

 

What’s the difference between a brawler and a boxer?

  • Answer: Nothing.

They’re both boxers. Boxing and brawling is really the same thing; they’re both fighting. Many people refer to boxers and brawlers as two different styles, defining the boxer as more slick and skilled whereas the brawler is more wild and aggressive.

The reality is that they’re relative terms. Pit 2 fighters of different skill levels together and one will look more like a boxer whereas the other a brawler. The “brawler” will seem more aggressive because he is trying to land punches. The “boxer” will seem more defensive because he’s already able to land punches.

 

The Fighter’s Primary Goals:

  • attack
  • counter attack (defense + skills + attack)

The fighter’s primary goal is to attack. Once you can land punches, THEN you can think about using a defense and other skills to AID your attack. A brawler is wild because he’s trying to fulfill his primary goal — ATTACK. The boxer is a step beyond by trying to attack AND DEFEND. When I fight someone better than me, I look to exchange punches. I only focus on defense once I know I can hit my opponent.

“You have to learn how to fight
before you can learn how to box.”

Where many wannabe boxers screw up is by focusing only on the technique and defensive part. But without the essence of a fighter (the “brawler’s” need to HIT), they lack the aggression needed to really win a fight. As a boxer, your first requirement is still to hit your opponent. Only after you establish contact are you allowed to focus on technique and defense.

It’s not easy being a fighter. Taking punches hurt so it’s tempting to skip the brawling skills and go straight to defense. The important thing is you must have what it takes to outfight brawlers when needed. Deep inside, you have to be a fighter too. You need the mind of a boxer, but the heart and aggression of a fighter. Without that fighter’s heart, you’re nothing.

 

How to Fight Like a Brawler

Remember, a brawler’s #1 goal is to hit the opponent. So all these instructions are to help you hit in the best way possible. It’s not about technique, it’s about the attitude and intention behind your movements.

1. Look at Your Opponent

Seriously, guys. Eye contact. LOOK AT HIM! BOMB HIM! Everything you do with intention takes eye contact. Everything you focus on will need your visual focus. When you read, you look at the book. When you play basketball, you look at the basket. When you box, you look at your opponent so you can hit him. Don’t look away or avert your eyes. Stare him down! Focus on the target, look at your opponent! If you can’t even hold eye contact, I can’t imagine how you’ll ever learn how to throw and evade punches.

 

Look at Everything

There are plenty of opportunities to hit your opponent. The head, body, chest, stomach, chin, behind the ear. You can aim anywhere. Start using your eyes aggressively and keep scanning for openings. For all you guys who complain that you can’t see anything–WAKE UP! Open your eyes and look! You are a coward if you cannot look at the opponent standing right in front of you!

 

2. Trade Punches

Your opponent is most vulnerable when he’s punching,
so punch when he punches!

 Attack him RIGHT when he attacks you. I’m not talking about slipping and countering. I’m talking about countering right away. Brawling is where you prove who’s the better man. When you trade punches, it communicates: “My punch is better than yours. My right hand will hit harder than your right hand. I’m not afraid to trade because I’m better!”

Everything you do is offense or counter-offense. Hitting is the focus in brawling, not defense. Exchanging punches is the brawler’s favorite scenario.

 

Counter with the Same Punch

Imagine that your opponent is vulnerable to the same punch he throws. If he throws a jab, you counter with a jab. If he throws a right, you throw a right. If he left hooks, you left hook. The easiest way to trade is to throw the same punch. Trade jabs, trade rights, trade hooks. NOTE: Uppercuts are hard to trade because some fighters will lean back as they do so.

 

Touch with the first shot

Never waste your energy on the first shot if you’re the aggressor. The better fighters are usually skilled at evading single shot counters. So you need at least one setup shot before you drop the bomb. Throw a fast shot before unloading your power punches.

 

Burst AFTER His First Shot

Wait for him to throw one punch, then follow up with 3. Keep doing this to break his rhythm. It communicates aggression. It communicates that you want to fight. You want him to think that anything he throws at you will be returned with more. From a strategic standpoint this tactic works because many brawlers aren’t very good at moving in and out. Their bodies are usually stuck in position allowing you to force multiple punches onto their position.

 

3. Breathe Faster

Fast breathing equals fast punches. Don’t worry about the punches, don’t worry about the power. Simply breathe fast to increase your handspeed during the exchanges. Quick explosive breathing will give you quick explosive punches. Next time you exchange flurries, focus on the breathing not the punches.

 

Exhale for Every Movement

Exhale when you punch, exhale when you defend, exhale when you move. Using a quick exhalation with every movement makes you faster. The faster you breathe, the faster you move. If you can breathe faster than your opponent, you can move faster than your opponent. Don’t worry about trying to think fast or be fast. Just breathe fast!

 

4. Crash into Him

Imagine that you and your opponent are two cars and that you want to get the best possible crash. The best “crash” would be when both of you are coming forward at the same time. This strategy works well for many reasons. Most people are better at moving forward than they are moving backwards (especially the brawlers). It’s harder for them to back up when they have so much forward momentum.

 

Attack when he comes forward

If he’s already chasing you, you’ve got your work cut out for you. There’s nothing a brawler loves more than an opponent that comes forward. If he’s going away it’ll be a bit of a challenge. You’ll have to walk him down cautiously and be ready to attack when you feel him change directions and come forward. Remember the goal is to exchange when both of you are coming forward into each other. Have fun and enjoy the fireworks! ;)

 

5. Try to Fight

Don’t try to sit there and think. Don’t try to be tricky. Try to fight. Walk forward and hit him hard. Challenge his pride! Make your opponent fight. The more he punches the better. The more he commits the better. The more he fights, the easier it is for you to fight.

 

Don’t try to SAVE YOUR BODY, USE YOUR BODY!

If you’re going to be tired, be tired of punching not tired of defending. If you’re going to fall, fall into him. If you’re going to be emotional, be angry not afraid. Don’t spend energy to SAVE ENERGY. Use all your energy! Show everything you’ve got. Later on, we’ll talk about being clever but brawlers don’t need to be concerned with that. Brawlers are the truth, they know what they want and they go straight for it.

 

TRADE PUNCHES?! Johnny, are you crazy?????

Look, I’m not saying for you to go out there and get killed. I’m saying you need to be able to stand up for yourself and learn how to fight. Because once you know how to fight, boxing BECOMES THE EASIEST THING IN THE WORLD! First try to brawl, go out there throwing and taking punches. Once you know how to brawl, learning how to box will make fighting so much easier.

 

A true “boxer”:

  • can hit the brawler harder than the brawler hits him
  • can be more defensive without becoming less offensive
  • can outbox a brawler without spending more energy than him

Skills make fighting easier.
But first, you must know how to fight.

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127 Comments

J April 3, 2012 at 6:24 pm

First and foremost i would like to thank you for another enlightening article, so in order to fight a brawler you have to think like a brawler? and you need to take some to give some punches? and i remember what you said in one of your previous articles “REMEMBER TO BREATHE” makes complete sense now sir

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Shan April 3, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Very well written and clear! Thanks for the helpful information Johnny!

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carlos April 3, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Fast breathing, so what if the only punches are jabs and straights/crosses? Can those punches alone beat someone? In some brawls ppl dont stop throwing punches, so should i try to mimic or stay at my pace which is 1 to 3 punches at a time

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Johnny N April 4, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Those punches alone can definitely win fights. Brawling is fighting so you have to be prepared to fight. If he has a faster pace than you, then you need more effective punching.

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christopher flores March 11, 2013 at 2:15 pm

hey johnny first of let me say i love the site i think its great! now down to business im 25 yo been fighting since i was 12 i got some fights under my belt obviously, but ive been out for the past 2 years and before that i was out for 3 years… what im saying is my last fight was 2 damn years ago and i need to loose at least 10 lbs. to get back into fight shape the problem is i never had this problem i always walked around in fight shape even when i was out of the gym, i read all the things about the diets and stuff and im on that road now.. it sucks!!! well what i want to ask is seeing as how imve been doing this for 12 years now (damn time flies) do you think maybe i may be starting to be burnt out? im training to go pro early next year and i just want to know if what im experiencing is 2 years of ring rust or am i getting old?

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Johnny N March 21, 2013 at 2:58 am

Take your time. Relax and work your way back into the rhythm of things. Get in shape and then get down to business.

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John Taylor York April 3, 2012 at 10:13 pm

This happened to me and I got knocked down in sparring. I was trying too hard to think and I was thinking about defending and I was getting rattled. And I could never find my range. My punches didn’t have any effect and it felt like I was reaching. I can punch pretty damn hard and I have very good punching form but when I try brawling my punches lose form I feel like. And I’m so concerned with getting caught while exchanging that I refrain from brawling. Have any tips Johnny ? Once again thanks for a great article man, you’re a genius.

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Johnny N April 4, 2012 at 2:59 pm

If your punching form loses its form in fights, then you do not have good punching form. The easiest answer I can give you is to practice more. I would recommend following the tips listed above. Thanks John

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John Taylor York April 5, 2012 at 10:50 am

What i meant was that i have good form when i practice on the bag and shadow boxing but in the heat of the battle i just dont feel my punches landing hard and effectively

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Everton Henrique April 5, 2012 at 6:25 pm

I think you need more sparring sessions John.
I’m not that experienced also, but maybe if you build some confidence you’ll be able to fight more accurately.

Try sparring with your coach sometimes. Ask him to help you build confidence and courage.
You said you feels ok with punching bag and shadow boxing, so you probably have the needed to spar.

Build your confidence and your courage. Put your heart on it! Keep it going man!

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Johnny N April 7, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Sparring is not the same as hitting the bag. It’s expected to have your technique and form decrease during a real fight. This is natural. Keep improving!

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frank April 8, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Maybe your snatching your punches. I tend to do this in sparring. Just gotta let ‘em go.

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TiaanM96 April 3, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Thnx a lot for another great artical. I’ve started boxing this year and I love it. I’ve been reading your website for a while now. And I love all your work. I’ve learned some great things from you. Thanks a lot

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Neil April 3, 2012 at 10:41 pm

I love this article. This website is infested with knowledge.

Any advice on fighting while moving backwards? Of course guys back away with the jab but I mean offense, if there is such a thing.

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Johnny N April 4, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Yes there is…. Muhammad Ali was a king at fighting on his backfoot. Watch him carefully and you’ll see him scoring knockouts while moving backwards. Fighting while going backwards has to do with footwork skills so I can’t say too much without making a whole other article out of it. Practice jumping rope and moving around (especially backwards) while you jump rope.

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Neil April 4, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Thanks!

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Carl January 5, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Actually Ali did not look too good coming forward as a matter of fact…… he was always punching on the fly, occasionally, mixing it up but not nearly as much as Sugar Ray Leonard. In my opinion Ali was the greatest boxer for what he did in his career, not for how he boxed, he always looked great against brawlers, less impressive against guys who could crowd him.
Less interesting fights were against guys who could box, i.e. Bugner, or counter punchers like Jimmy Young. I know Ali was a little out of shape for the Young fight but Young made him look like an amateur.

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Lee April 3, 2012 at 11:00 pm

just reading this makes me want to come back to the ring. I’ve lost track of boxing for about two weeks now and I’m planning to return next week. Great job. Feels like you are really coaching anyone who is reading this. I’ll try this out on my next sparring. Most of my sparring sessions would be full of back and forth movement and trying to avoid punches. I think it’s a good idea to brawl just to feel how it really is to fight and how it feels to get hit. Well done Johnny!!!

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andrewp April 4, 2012 at 1:13 am

well done johnny excellent article.all the technique form timing balance footwork drills can take away from this one true fact of boxing .a champions heart is his biggest asset you can learn everything else but yuor born with heart

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Laura April 4, 2012 at 1:41 am

Just a tip: Never attempt learning how to brawl without adequate protection (without a good helmet and mouth guard). It will put you off completely from wanting to exchange punches in the future. Another idea would be to practice slow mo brawling to help build up confidence.

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Everton Henrique April 5, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Protection is surelly needed, mainly if you are on your first sparring sessions! I think the main objective when you’re starting boxing is to learn protect yourself.

Trains more the one who lasts more!

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Michael April 4, 2012 at 5:00 am

I can give first hand experience of this, as just as recently as last night I was sparring with a brawler. I was happy with my defence as he was unable to get through my guard, but I was so focused on this that I barely had time to strike.
My instructor noticed this and pulled me to one side and told me to stop concentrating on defending so much and try to strike a bit more. When I did this I noted that the brawler was able to brawl a lot less, as the roles were reversed and he was now thinking of defence more than offence. It was almost a game of cat and mouse in the end

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Tido April 4, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Great article man. I feel like the article is talking right to me. I literally just sparred for the first time last night with someone that was experienced. I”m 30 and just starting at this boxing gym on Feb. 14th. I love the sport so far. I have to admit, I got my ass kicked last night. It was tough to swallow but a good experience. During the beating, I lost eye contact and went into defense mode and got super tired out. I need to get over the fear of getting hit and start fighting then maybe I can learn how to box. What do you think the solution would be to over come this fear and unknown in the ring? I”m guessing more sparring haha.

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Everton Henrique April 5, 2012 at 6:15 pm

It might sound weird, but I think you need some face beating… lol.
I mean, when you take some punches on your face, some really nasty ones, you’ll probably lose your fear.

If you have a coach, I’d suggest you to ask him to touch your face during a sparring.
At the beggining, the main fear is to get punched on the face, and if he only touches your face you’ll start to lose this fear.

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Johnny N April 7, 2012 at 11:00 pm

You’re a beginner so give it some time.

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manex April 4, 2012 at 10:33 pm

I think I’m a fighter more than a boxer.

I love to punch!

I might circle but I don’t like to back up.

I like to come forward!

I believe that the best defense is a good offence.

If I can keep you off balance and defending yourself how can I get hit?

On the other hand if you can punch back — hard, with combinations — then I have to cover up and play defense.

It’s kind of difficult to move forward and punch when someone’s banging you upside your head (LOL)

… but you have to be prepared to brawl

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manex April 4, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Boxing quote of the year:

“You need the mind of a boxer, but heart and aggression of a fighter. Without that fighter’s heart, you’re nothing”

Really enjoyed the article Johnny!

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MJ April 5, 2012 at 11:00 am

I was about to quote the exact same thing and write “Quote Of The Month” above it. But on 2nd thought, you (manex) are 100% correct… Quote Of The YEAR”!

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Gian April 4, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Is it possible to learn to brawl while sparring softly and slowly? If so, how?

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Everton Henrique April 5, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Hey there Gian.

Personally I believe that brawl is all about moving your body forward, with all you’ve got.
Plus, you need to add energy to this moving, to make your punches become heavy with the weight of your body (even if they’re a little bit slow).

Of course if you have a good speed to add on that, it’s better. But that might cost you more energy also.
Also, I believe that brawling is more effective if you add combinations to it, like, to throw 3 punches in sequence, or at least 2.
So if you throw only 1 heavy punch, it’s more like a swing than a brawlers’ movement. I mean, you don’t have the moving weight momentum. It’s just one heavy and slow punch that could be easilly avoided by your opponent.

I’m not sure if it’s possible to brawl very slowly, because if you move your body slowly you’ll lose the weight moving momentum as I said before.

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Johnny N April 7, 2012 at 11:01 pm

It’s possible. Try doing it just like you described. Go at your own pace but make sure you keep pushing yourself.

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MJ April 5, 2012 at 11:01 am

LOVED this article Johnny. Very clear and informative, it makes a lot of sense. I appreciate everything you do on this site.

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Johnny N April 7, 2012 at 11:02 pm

You’re welcome, MJ. :)

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Duke7807 April 5, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Hi,

I just wanted to know something about breathing technique. Every time you throw a punch should you exhale through your nose?

Thanks

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Everton Henrique April 5, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Hey Duke.

I’m not that experienced, but I believe that the exhale must be through the mouth and the inhale through the nose.

When you throw a punch you should exhale. I mean, specifically on the moment that your punch “ends” (when all the power comes out and your hand is ready to hit the target).
If you watch some punch bag work videos, you’ll notice that they exhale when the punch hits the target (sometimes a little bit before it hits).

And you should inhale when you’re recovering your arm to rebuild your guard.

That’s what I do, but please, if someone knows a better way tell me!

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saber khan April 6, 2012 at 10:17 am

hey everton

breathe and exhale through the nose unless it’s broken or gets clogged up. breathing through the mouth will let your moutpiece get loose and if you get caught with a punch it might daze you or put you down. breathing through the mouth also has a tendency to lift up the chin, very bad idea. exhaling when punching isnt linked to when you land its linked to overall speed. the quicker you want to throw the quicker you need to breathe. johny mentions it in the article. try throwing as many hooks as you can in 3 seconds. if youre being natural you will breathe rapidly in short bursts. if you instead focus too much on punching as many times as possible, you may find yourself holding your breath. breathing out also tightens the abs against a body shot which is important when punching as your elbow is away from its guard duty

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Johnny N April 7, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Exhale through the mouth.

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saber khan April 11, 2012 at 2:50 am

? not in favor of keeping the mouthpiece tight while trading ? im assuming you tried both ways, what do you think the pros and cons are ? i do feel mouth breathing is easier to keep the pace but it hurts way more when i got caught. your thoughts coach ?

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Johnny N April 11, 2012 at 3:01 pm

I use a double-sided mouthpiece and exhale air through a small hole in the middle. My jaw is closed firm when I punch but it’s generally relaxed throughout the fight. Never trade with a loose jaw or open jaw.

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saber khan April 24, 2012 at 10:19 am

ok if that works for you, i felt very comfy breathing out through my nose and its been good to me. breathing out with the burst of air out (some people shout involuntarily) does help people with speed but i never felt any difference. the most important thing is to keep the jaw tight as we both stated

Everton Henrique April 5, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Oh guys.

You’re so lucky to have spar mates or even opponents to try these hints. =)
I don’t have this chance, my training is all by myself, specially focused on skills and conditioning.
It’s more like a boxing training than the “pure and true” boxing.

I’d like to try that someday!

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Doublejs August 1, 2012 at 5:18 am

Everton.. There are millions of us boxers, of all degrees that are ready and wiling to spar with you. Don’t be afraid to ask or go to a gym to spar with a real person. Also don’t think of sparring as a boxing match, they are totally different. During your sparring match you will be trying the techniques you have been practicing to see if they really work with someone throwing punches back at you. Talk to your opponent while sparring and if he seems to be better try and get some pointers.Remember sparring is never at full power and if your sparring partner seems to be hitting too hard “TELL HIM”.(Don’t get into a brawl). Talk at you soon, JJL

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victor April 5, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Hey johnny on the topic of brawlers, I live in Arizona, where 90% of fighters are Mexican. We don’t call them “brawlers” we call them “swarmers” in my gym, because from the bell they are on you; they have good technique, cardio and solid defense. Knocking these guys out is not an option, they do not go down and they are always going HARD to the body.I am Mexican too but I have a different style cause I am skinny and long, but man “brawling” with these guys is eating me up. HELP!

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Everton Henrique April 5, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Maybe if you do the same? Go on their bodies sometimes, just to feel if they can keep the rythm.
Plus, if I were you, I’d try to breake they rythm with Johnny’s hints.

By what you said, the more you run the more they beat you. Then I think you should open your guard a little bit, and beat they hard also.

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saber khan April 6, 2012 at 11:02 am

if youre fighting swarmers and you are not their style, you need to have a punch that will hurt them or be good at landing yours before them. there’s pretty much no other way man :)

im sure youve realised the easiest way to move in boxing is forward. if you let a swarmer come in without making them pay its not possible to beat them. you can punish them by hitting hard, hitting a lot, and making their effort of coming through your punches a fruitless task.

hitting hard is about planting of course. but also timing the other guy, using his incoming momentum and not being predictable (landing the punch he doesnt see coming) using angles and an assortment of shots. with a swarmer as opposed to a slugger (big shots, comes forward but not relentless) you can time his coming forward more than you can time each individual punch.

hitting a lot is about letting your hands go. if you dont hit em with as many a good chinned fighter will not get worn down. its a bunch of combos the swarmer has to walk through before seeing no one is home over and over, that does damage. if someone cant outland a swarmer and doesnt have the power to put them down he’s not getting a KO, he’s not getting a W on points. maybe he should pray they have a stroke :) also, a swarmer’s rhythm is haphazard unlike a slugger or boxer. if they punch first and are walking forward at you each punch will take less time to land than the previous one. if you dont hit first and with a few follow up shots you may not get a chance to do damage at all with a skilled swarmer. if youre a good counterpuncher and have the mark of your opponent thats great way to land a lot. the other way is to start first and really look to get many off hard.

not letting their forward movement be fruitful is most important. against that swarmer. hit but dont stay in front of him (boxer) or around him (slugger), make him start all over. with swarmers you want to hit and then clinch, or hit and then push away or get a sharp angle and make them have to turn and start walking forward all over. also changing the rhythm of combos is a good way to mess up a swarmer who has good defense and wants to counter after a combo. they can get hit when they think you’re done throwing, and you can move away when they think you’re still going to throw something and theyre waiting to catch you. swarmers press forward with a rapid pace, and will love to walk down someone trying to back away in small angles (which is good to do with sluggers if your power is limited). but they hate someone who suddenly changes angles and backs away, or grabs them, or seems to disappear when they think `my turn to punch now’. it means the distance between them and the target will be large again, and they have to build up momentum and eat some punches to move into range. they hate this. i should know i fought in a swarming/pressure style.

feinting is always good, mechanical swarmers wont fall for it much but skilled swarmers can be set into traps with good feints. and if your swarmer has their head forward, take note and make use. uppercuts. hitting the body is always a good tactic and a great way to mix it up. but not wise if you need to let others get into their punching range for you to get into range to hit their body. throw body shots in the middle of a combo.

finally, swarmers want to be ring generals but even more they want to be mind generals (`i will still keep coming, you cant hurt or tire me’). dont fall for the illusion that they cant be hurt and they wont get tired. when that happens you get afraid to punch, and suddenly they seem to be punching more and hunting you down easier. when youre not punching back or hard, they get more confident walking you do! instead, think `i will mug him over and over and if he’s left standing at 12, i’ll have used him for target practice for a half hour.’ walking forward and punching is no sign that a swarmer is good or unhurt or untired. know that if you hit accurately, hard and repeatedly he will tire and lost. just dont wait for him to quit. kind of like picking up a girl (dont wait for her to tell you to kiss her, know if you make the moves she will be ready to go :D)

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Johnny N April 7, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Keep developing your skills. Keep working on what you have. There’s no rule saying you have to brawl.

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Laura April 5, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Hmm… the only thing that makes me not want to brawl (I don’t mind brawling as long as I have a well padded helmet and mouth guard on) is the fact that I usually have to brawl with guys much bigger than myself. Some of the bigger guys in my gym really pack a punch and outweigh me by 50lbs. Being the only girl in my boxing gym, sparring (especially brawling) isn’t easy but its a challenge I appreciate. This article has given me the information that my own trainers have been trying to tell me. Thanks Johnny, next time I spar I’m going to reflect on these pointers (not while I spar of course) and see how it goes.

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David.W April 8, 2012 at 11:05 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Jb8tMfCDxw

Hi Johnny I’m 17 years old my birthday was 6 days ago I’ve read almost all the articles on this site and it’s the most useful information I’ve found on boxing and thank you so much for sharing it! My first judged amateur boxing fight was about a month ago now. I actually had another amateur boxing fight about 4 months before, but it was versus someone from my own gym and my coach said it was a “practice tournament” (we’re a small club in a small town) therefore it didn’t count on our records. So I actually had 2 amateur fights and I’m currently 2-0 but the last one was against an opponent making his debut from a different town. I remember reading in the comments awhile ago that you said you would analyse someone’s fight for a fee, but seeing as I’m 17 and have no credit card I was wondering maybe if you could do mine for free? That would be awesome man! And maybe give me some tips/pointers or even tell me some things I need to work on and how I could do that. I would appreciate it so much, I actually plan on fighting for a living! I plan on transitioning into MMA after I get a lot of boxing experience under my belt. Anyways after reading this article it made me think, during my first amateur fight 5 months ago I didn’t really know how to brawl at all. To be honest the only reason I won my first fight was because my opponent had terrible cardio. It was only my fight a month ago that I really learned how to do it because I just had to to win and I’ve been doing so much better in sparring since then. I’ll upload my fight of 5 months ago also so that maybe you can see what I mean! I felt like a new boxer after this fight. Anyways I look forward to all the articles you have yet to share and your reply to this! Thanks for the site Johnny.

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Johnny N April 9, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Hey David, I didn’t analyze too closely but here are some things I noticed at a glance:

- you need help on balance and footwork. You fall too easily.
- read the guide on beating shorter fighters. A lot of useful tips there for you.
- you use your punches well. It’s nice to see that you throw from both arms instead of just the jab arm.
- your weight always seems to be too much on the toes or too much flat. Both will cause you to fall back off the heels. Work on finding a good balance.

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Gil April 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm

As always, Johnny..Excellent article. Johnny..

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David.W April 11, 2012 at 8:57 pm

So basically you’re saying I need to focus on developing balance/footwork and fight tall more? Thanks for the tips! You should have seen the balance in my first fight lol. Not very good at all.

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SHAQUILLE April 12, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I BEEN FOCUSING ON POWER INSTEAD BREATHING SO I’VE LEARNED TO BREATHE FASTER TO FIGHT FASTER ^__^

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Duc Nguyen April 15, 2012 at 9:43 pm

I disagree with you Johnny. I will elaborate when I have time. You can’t land punches if you’re being hit. This is why it is fruitless to put two newbies in a sparring session. It’ll be like rock’em sock’em robots with a person getting hit without knowing why they got hit, or them being able to hit without knowing why they were able to land. Defense sets up offense, and skill sets up offense. There is a reason the Cubans teach their fighters defense before they learn their offense. I train my new fighters the same way. This allows them to take a tough equation out (being able to land) and lets them concentrate on, and develop, vision, distance, timing, acclimation to pressure, i.e. the intagibles that they will need to land a punch. It has worked great from my experience.

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Johnny N April 17, 2012 at 10:01 am

I”m 100% with you, Duc. I don’t like 2 green newbies brawling either but I do feel they have to somehow learn the “fighting mentality”. And it’s best if they can do that without brawling. How is your team doing, btw?

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Duc Nguyen April 15, 2012 at 9:45 pm

I do agree with your strategies and technique on how to brawl however :)

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curtis April 21, 2012 at 12:49 am

who was the greatest brawler? Liston, Marcarnio, Foreman, Shavers, who?

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AzBoxerVictor April 21, 2012 at 10:54 am

Greatest brawler: Joe frazier. He never even threw jabs! Just straight bombs every punch! He broke his arm as a kid at the elbow and never got it fixed so he said it grew back where he couldn’t straighten it but it grew back twice as strong! That’s tight

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Guilherme Nanini April 30, 2012 at 6:18 pm

This evening I had a brawling experience. I call a new guy to sparring (who at this time I didn’t know it was a MMA guy), and suddenly the guy threw a heavy right hook. Well, I fought back in the next four rounds and tried to avoid his right hand, and sometimes his left, crating opens to hit. It was a very nice survival experience, adrenaline level went crazy, I was calm and have to train slipping. I’m sure the guy respect my uppercuts and my straights.

I’m a green newbie in boxing, but I have six years of experience in kendo, Japanese fencing, which is quite different from boxing, specially on the psychological and physiological effects of being hit. In kendo there is almost no pain.

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Uciha September 27, 2012 at 3:35 pm

You can’t learn without proepr instruction, if you learn the techniques the wrong way it could do more harm than good.I’d suggest a similar martial art of combat system (in a gym), here are some suggestions:Sanshou, boxing, kickboxing, kyokushin karate.good luck!

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Guilherme Nanini April 30, 2012 at 6:43 pm

It is nice to learn that you can take a punch and put your right hand in the face of a guy…. Bang!

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Ken L May 1, 2012 at 7:47 am

How many lessons (how long) would it take for the average beginner to be able to defend himself if attacked in a one-on-one fist fight?

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Johnny N May 1, 2012 at 5:20 pm

I don’t know, Ken. What do you mean by average beginner? Some people are really athletic, others have no coordination or physical strength. But I would say 3 months of hard training everyday would be enough to transform even the weakest individuals.

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Ken L May 1, 2012 at 7:51 am

BTW: Johnny, I truly appreciate your mentorship mentality. If lived in the Denver,CO area, I’d want you to teach me how to box!!

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Johnny N May 1, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Maybe one day. You never know!

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Iron Boy May 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm
Charles May 25, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Johnny (because i obviously know you personally enough to be on a first name basis llol) I have read a heak of a lot of your articles and love them, but this was one of the best things i have ever read. I have always been that person that loved boxing for the more intellectual part but when reading this article you just seemed like you were speaking of a passion, taking boxing back to the primal urges of fighting and im not going to lie it was honestly just extremely beautiful in my eyes. This was just extrodinary and I really just wanted to tell you that.

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Johnny N May 26, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Thank you, Charles. This guide is definitely something I feel strongly about. People should not be boxing to AVOID fighting. They should be boxing to FIGHT better.

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TSego May 27, 2012 at 7:24 pm

So brawling and boxing are the same because they are both fighting? Could I replace Wrestling with brawling and have the logic hold up? Brawling and boxing are antithetical to each other. One is a chaotic use of raw power with little regard for technique, defense or anything else save for knocking someone unconscious. The other is a scientific approach to fighting with two fists that is grounded in basic axiomatic principles such as defensive position, offensive capability, weight distribution, timing and range, strategic employment, etc.

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Johnny N May 28, 2012 at 11:52 am

Brawling and boxing are NOT the same, but they are BOTH fighting.

The only difference is technique and skill. Boxing is JUST as raw as brawling. If anything, technique was designed to make you more raw (more powerful, more brutal, more aggressive, more effective). Good technique will allow you to hit harder, move better, and think LESS, not think more. Brawlers have strategy too, it’s just that their strategy is very low level.

But yes, I understand your explanation too. I’m trying to expand the attitude of thinking, not convince people that “brawling” is the same as “boxing”.

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TSego May 27, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Now once someone becomes acclimated to a sparring environment and is exposed to different styles, they are going to have to find what is best for them. If the kid gets in there and mixes it up, that’s good. It will teach them something about themselves but if it’s not for him, it isn’t for him. You shouldn’t abandon a strategy just because you are poor at the execution. That is what sparring is for. The kid is going to learn by failing. Besides, boxers tend to fair better against straight brawlers if they can execute. What gives boxers trouble are pressure fighters which is basically a brawler who can box and does have a reverence for foot placement, cutting off the ring, defense and body shots.

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jason tran May 28, 2012 at 12:01 am

hey johnny can you make an article of how to properly fight using the peekaboo style? Or can you give me some tips since this is my primary stance…

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Johnny N May 28, 2012 at 11:53 am

Funny you asked, Jason. Somebody asked me this same question 24 hours ago and here’s what I said:

“I haven’t written it because the peek-a-boo style is so hard to win with. You have to know that it is a defensive style! There are other fighters with similar peek-a-boo styles in recent times such as Winky Wright, Arthur Abraham, and Joshua Clottey.

This style isn’t unique at all, although Mike was very good at it. It’s basically a peek-a-boo position that many fighters (even average amateurs) will do when they’re fighting passively. I’m guessing the reason why Mike had to use it was because he was so small compared to his competition and he didn’t have the slickness to slide his way in. So instead he waded/jumped in with a high guard and exploded with huge counters.

It’s a horrible style for amateurs or beginners. You will get out-punched and easily lose a fight because your hands are busy defending instead of punching.”

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Radd August 1, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Hi Johnny, long time no writing but i visit the site regularly, it keeps growing and growing you do a great job here. Congrats Zatoichi :)

I want to say with all my respect,

69 kg amateur world champion “taras shelestyuk”, 75 kg world champion “Khytrov Levgen” and 75 kg world silver medalist “Murata Ryota”;

They are all use “high guard” and “peek a boo” style bro. Also clottey done good job against big names with this style. I dont think its an horrible style. I guess every style can be effective according to boxer. Also its not a must to waiting for block the punches on that style. Slip and counter still can be done when see a punch coming (see punch coming -slip(dodge the punch)-and at the same moment open the guard for punching). So hands are not always busy for blocking. Thats just my two cents. Also when you say horrible to my style, you are breaking my heart :)

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Johnny N August 1, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Like any other style, it’s effective when used correctly but it also has its limits. When a beginner asks me about that style, I would recommend for them not to do that because it’s easy to end up as a punching bag when your beginner tendency is to wait forever.

If it works for you, then keep it!

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TSego May 28, 2012 at 7:47 am

Also you can tell a an aggressive boxer who is still getting his ass whooped by a slicker boxer type from a brawler getting his ass kicked by a boxer type. Would you say that Juan Manuel Marquez looked like a brawler when he fought against Mayweather? Absolutely not. It just so happened that Mayweather was better at what Marquez does but it still didn’t dampen Marquez’s technique to any but the untrained eye.

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Johnny N May 28, 2012 at 11:55 am

No JMM didn’t look like a brawler. He looked MORE like a brawler, relatively. He was trying with desperation punches at times and seem to swing a little wider to try and connect. Mayweather seemed more relaxed and more precise. But yes, JMM didn’t look like as much of a brawler as did Ricky Hatton.

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TSego May 28, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I think the reaching by JMM was more a result of his willingness to lean in over his lead foot too much. As much as he fights off of the back foot, he seems to reach too much when going for uppercuts, hooks, etc. off of his left hand. I think Mayweathers slicker style caused his imperfections to come in to the spotlight. Though all one has to do is look at Ricardo Lopez ( epic in his own right but not without his own technical flaws) to see where that came from as they were both coached by the same guy.

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kok kit May 28, 2012 at 1:13 pm

HI Johnny,
Thank you for this great article among so many in here.
Personally i hate to see brawler’s fight usually it’s quite ugly to watch
at the club. Lot of beginners brawl , some learned to control it, some just quit after few classes.
I have the problem to want to fight too technically and aesthetically which makes me a quite gentleman fighter if you see what i mean. If i outbox someone and see that he can’t handle i will give him more space to fight back. But brawlers they never mind to hit hard on beginners and that’s something that usually bother me quite much when i witness it. I think it’s kind of a good training to learn how to deal with brawlers but not on beginners that can really discourage someone to continue boxing and i saw so many of these never returned back to the club after having face a brawler.
I have to say it’s not easy to deal with brawlers because they have this will of taking you down and i personally don’t have enough of this will… Sometime i manage to break their pace but mostly depending on how aggressive the brawler is.
Usually when the guy is super aggressive i have big trouble to send back punches certainly thinking too much on how to protect and that’s i get caught even more. I had a sparring recently with a non-beginner brawler, he brawls during 10 sec before the end (suddenly explode, i didn’t expect), our ring is super small and got cornered. I had no possibilities of getting out before the end of round but it was enough time for him to lend a strong straight punch on the body. I still feel the pain.
So i was thinking should i defend better or should i find a way to fight back.. You just confirmed with your post what i need to improve to be a better boxer : ” Once you know how to brawl, learning how to box will make fighting so much easier.”
Will you write something on how to clinch properly and how to use it wisely ( thinking of when you are under flurry punches or being overcome by punches). Any article on how to fight with full face headgear ? Thank you for your lights and time.

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Johnny N May 30, 2012 at 12:23 am

Clinching guides will come soon. As for full face headgear, I’m not sure what you’re referring to. If you’re talking about the masks used by martial artists, I would say those are really hard to use and see through.

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TSego May 28, 2012 at 4:38 pm

I do however think that if you are going to box, that you have to learn to fight. I’ve taught plenty of boxers who were great slick boxer types but when deep in the trenches would just cave in. I think it teaches you something about yourself which is why I’m an advocate of the weekly hard sparring session just to keep people honest.

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Akhil June 4, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Thanks a lot…………. now i know what my problem is.,. this problem has been troubling me since i started boxing, i never understood why i could not do well in sparring even though i am pretty good at boxing… it’s because i have the mind of a boxer but not the heart of a brawler.. you have inspired me………..
Today i am going to go to my gym and spar with the guy who i’m always afraid of sparring because he beats me up. Thanks a lot , seriously Thanks.. You cleared my mind and gave me my will to excel.

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Thomas June 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm

This is probably my number one problem. I have been boxing for a year now, coming from thaiboxing, also for a year, and I feel that I just “lose” in sparring when it comes to terms of agressiveness. For example there is this guy, been doing it a little longer than me, but his technique is worse than mine, he’s about 15-10 kgs lighter than me, and I’m taller than him, but he manages to stay out of the jab, then suddenly comes, I might defend myself against some of his first punches, but then a big overhand left comes, and he just rocks me. I know I could take him just by looking at the weight difference (I mean, it’s sad really), but somehow I don’t. This lack of brawling spirit is probably the cause of it, and I’m going to try to work at it by just following him around constantly and not take my jab-distance method which I normally do as the taller guy.

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Brian June 20, 2012 at 9:16 am

I’ve been in boxing for a little over three months. I was having a string of good sparring matches for a while, but lately I’ve been getting my ass kicked; yesterday was especially bad. Each time I have a question about what I could do to improve, I find an answer here.

My current situation is this: I feel that I started out as more of a brawler (hadn’t developed any defensive skills in the beginning); I was landing punches and taking them. Noticing that other guys seemed to gracefully move in and move out of range and slip my punches, I started working more on defensive skills; mainly, evading with footwork and keeping a tight high guard that many of the guys have said provided no opening. Instead of standing there like I used to and trade punches, when my opponent moved forward, I’d move back and vice versa, resulting in more of a staring contest than a sparring match as we blocked most of each other’s single punches, which were mostly single jabs, and stayed out of each other’s range. I’m not sure what happened, but things have changed and now guys at the gym are landing multiple punches, mostly new guys and a particular competing amateur, and I’m only getting in one, particularly sharp, jab instead of combos and trying to get out of the way. I’ve somehow lost the brawling skills. After reading this article, I’m going to try and go back to trading punches with these guys and see how that works out.

Question if you have the time: This gym I go to is my only option for learning to box, so I don’t know how it is in other gyms. Is it normal for sparring matches to be like real fights? The guys at this gym are always trying to knock me out and landing hard punches on my jaw. I always try to go for the nose or face as a courtesy. It doesn’t seem right to go for broke when we’re trying to learn. Everyone here fights really hard in sparring. I thought sparring was practicing movement and going slower speeds. The amateur fighter mentioned above was totally wailing on me yesterday. It kinda threw me off as he’s much more skilled and has years more experience.

Thanks again!

Brian

Thanks for the blog!

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Johnny N June 22, 2012 at 3:30 am

Good gyms usually go at whatever speed that allows you to learn the most. Bad gyms just kinda throw you in there and make you fight your way out. Not everyone succeeds as a brawler because not everyone is born with a granite chin or chip on their shoulder.

Maybe it’s time to check out other places or maybe even stand up for yourself and refuse to get in the ring with guys that don’t give you a chance to learn.

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Ian June 20, 2012 at 10:08 am

From my own experience, how hard you go in sparring is sometimes difficult to regulate because you feed off each other. Having said that, the ideal is somewhere in the area of 75-80% power. They shouldn’t be trying to knock you out. Some possibilities are: the coach is not doing their job, you are going too hard yourself and receiving the same in return, or your sparring partners simply don’t like you. You should be able to address this with your coach – as a question, rather than a complaint.

Secondly, you have just answered your own question without knowing it.

You mention having only 2 options; trading punches recklessly OR throwing single shots.
What happened to the third option? You already said that your sparring partners are doing it. Throw combos. They are having succcess because their skills have evolved, while yours have remained static. Do you think reverting back to your early brawling style (that all newbies do when they know nothing about boxing) is going to solve the problem? That would be taking a big step back, rather than forward.

It’s simple. If you have been playing a cat and mouse game of throwing a single shot, getting blocked, parried, ducked and then back to square one – what to do? Fuck! Just throw another punch goddammit? Isn’t it obvious? Throw two or three more, they can’t block each one. Then before it turns into a brawling contest, move or circle out and make him miss.

This is boxing 101 stuff that your coach should be drilling into your head. If he’s not coaching you, or protecting your safety from over-aggressive newbie punks, you need to switch gyms.

Good luck, and stay safe.

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J June 21, 2012 at 9:38 pm

IAN i would like to point out that its boxers like you that are making boxing great thank you!

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Freddy June 21, 2012 at 6:18 am

I think the boxer should fight in the way that makes them feel most comfortable. You can’t make somebody be something they aren’t but whether build up what makes them who they are.

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Johnny N June 22, 2012 at 3:33 am

Fair point. I’d say people should must learn how to fight if they insist on being a fighter.

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Peter July 9, 2012 at 6:43 pm

…..I only brawl if I have I mean if iam in a corner or ropes or get caught somehow i dont know if its good or not someone told I should be running away from there but suits me sometimes.. Normaly Iam very slick and difficult to hit because of my natural Jr junior like style ( both hands forward or down good rexlecs) I agree u have to fight but i Think its better to hit then be hitted so I try not to brawl often Watch first fight Jones junior and hopkins how easy ”boxer” can outbox a brawler (not most emotional fight but still) so dont waste ur health if dont have to Good luck great website Thou

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Josh July 15, 2012 at 9:35 am

Great article. With boxing for the past 10+ years, and employing a “brawler” or pressure fighting style as I do, the lead punch is really the biggest key. Do NOT abandon the jab. If you’re going to be a brawler or a pressure fighter (I adopted the style after realizing my knees and ankles were shot from other sports, so movement – and true boxing – wasn’t my forte anymore), using the jab will make landing the 2nd and 3rd power shots very easy. The jab doesn’t need to be powerful, or a sticking jab, it just needs to be whipped out there to blind your opponent as you follow with the a 2 or 3. Also, mix up the first punch. Don’t just use jabs. It gets predictable, and if you’re boxing anyone with skill, he’ll pick up on it and make your day hell. Throw a lead right hand that’ll force you to go inside, and then bust him up to the body. Also, I see this a lot, once you get inside, WORK! If you stay at range, a boxer with a good jab will tear you up. Inside, you have to OWN that real estate. Hit him with everything. Go to the body, go up stairs, everything. Don’t simply tie him up or let him tie you up. Lastly, it’s something two pieces of advice that I live by in the ring, that makes my style hell for other fighters.. 1, punches in bunches; 2, uppercut uppercut uppercut. He’s going to slip one or two punches, but if you’re throwing 3-5 at him, unless it’s Andre Ward or Floyd Mayweather, you’re going to catch him with 4 and 5. Ya gotta throw more than one and two in there. And the uppercut. Boxers will tie you up and try to lean on you inside. The best punch to hit’em with, the uppercut. They’re leaning over on you and practically asking for it… oblige them! Two big points to make with the uppercut, learn to throw it properly. It’s not a big punch that starts at the hip. It’s a quick rotate of the hips and throw it through the middle. Second big point, do NOT throw it from too far away. Its easy to see coming, and leaves you WIDE open.

My two cents to this, as the brawling style has been my way in the ring for a while.

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vvtill July 29, 2012 at 5:04 am

if the brawler was too aggressive (this normally happen in the street fight), most of our punches were being intercept by brawler hand or blocked by brawler because they attack so much and so aggressive.His body was full of adrenaline and anger. Under this situation, what can we do in order to fight back and defense?

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Johnny N July 30, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Land a good counter!

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vvtill July 29, 2012 at 5:11 am

i really love the part breath faster, and exhale in every punches, does breath explosively here means making the sound ” SHHHH” loudly and fierce when we throw punches?

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Johnny N July 30, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Yes it does.

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j August 20, 2012 at 8:08 pm

this fight seems as if roy jones tried to box a brawler, i personally think someone just found a style to beat jones flashy style, may i get you opinion on this johnny? What did roy do wrong in your opinion?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-9lE8eCKAs

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Johnny N August 21, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I can’t count that video because Jones was way out of his prime here. Nonetheless, everyone has a weakness whether there exists an opponent to exploit it or not.

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j August 26, 2012 at 8:17 am

ok let me rephrase that, just imagine that isnt roy jones and that isnt danny green please and pretend there just two ordinary fighters, would you say that constant pressure will be someone thats just throwing jabs?

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Johnny N August 27, 2012 at 9:35 am

2 ordinary fighters… well anything could work. Constant pressure can be anything, jabs, crosses, a lot of stalking or a lot of faints. Even just psychological pressure can be constant pressure.

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E August 27, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Just a simple Thanks!!!
On your site every night, for about 1.5 hours.
Feels great if I try-good or bad, then read, then try again,
Your site gives me better results, at least a better frame of mind.
Thanks

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Johnny N September 4, 2012 at 2:28 pm

I’m really happy for your results. You’re welcome.

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James November 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm

great article johny. I didn’t read all the comments, so hopefully Im not repeating what somebody else said. when someone is getting beaten by a brawler, i also tell my students to pause (feet planted, hands up, chin down) and simply have a look. it is amazing what opportunites you see in doing this by remaining calm; and not just panicking and retreating backwards. often the counter will be very obvious. the timing of the counter is important also, as you have highlighted (‘wait for him to punch then follow up with 3 etc.).

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Filipe S. Rosa November 9, 2012 at 9:26 am

I’m getting great tips with your website. I’m from Brazil, and even with MMA becoming quite popular in the last years, boxing is almost dead. Thanks to the results with the last Olympics, we’re been hearing a little bit more about the sport.
I’ve been training for 10 months now, and in my second month of training, I had a fight (first and yet my only fight) with a begginer from another gym. Having experience with Wing Chun Kung Fu (wich is directed for street fights) I done everything wrong in the 1° round and got my ass kicked out. The guy came as a real brawler and did’nt know what to do. But then I realized that I was using techniques that are not made for the ring, so in the 2° round a was much better, trading punches and defending better. Walking through the ring to make him search for me and hitting back when he was attacking. But the other guy tought that it was wise to keep the brawler way.
Result: In the 3° round he almost could’nt raise his hands. Then it was my turn to brawl. The judge had to stop the fight several times in this last round because all my hooks was hitting him and the headgear was going out of place. The fight ended up in a draw, but in the end of the event my trainer said to me: As a boxing match it was a draw, but as a fight, you won.

Just a little experience about facing a brawler.

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Filipe S. Rosa November 9, 2012 at 4:12 pm

By the way, when I said that MMA is becoming popular and boxing is almost dead, I mean that this is happening in Brazil. Sad thing to me because although I like MMA I love boxing. Here we can’t even watch on TV. There’s any channel that shows boxing matches regularly. Even on cable TV only ESPN and HBO exhibits boxing like… 2 times a year.

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Aaron December 29, 2012 at 3:38 am

like pacquiao vs diaz ^_^

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Korey January 21, 2013 at 7:34 am

I want to know how to train a group of people like certain drills I can do that benefits myself and beginners and do I use different drills for heavier people …… Or should I just use the drills I’ve learned

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Johnny N January 23, 2013 at 12:13 pm

There are so many drills and methods out there that I couldn’t cover it in one comment. The simple answer is: YES, drills are good. Keep learning more and keep doing them.

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Mannie Parker January 22, 2013 at 8:52 am

VERY PLEASED!!!

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Jack April 18, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Hey, Jack here, can you make an article on infighting? Since you’ve made one for Brawling then I don’t see why not one for infighting, would be helpful ;).

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Johnny N April 19, 2013 at 10:03 am

Yes… that’s in the works. It will be a multiple-part series.

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SlugfestXD June 10, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Nice article Johnny. I’ve always loved brawling, slugging & hard-hitting. Thats why my favorite boxer is George Foreman, he was definitly a brawler and his punching power was unmatched.

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Daniel August 24, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Hi Johnny, thank for putting info on your site.
I started boxing late. I’m now 33. I’m not a person who likes bloodshed (I like going to museums and classical music, and boxing is not something I thought I’d ever pickup). But being bullied for many years in my life is starting to take a toll in my mental well being. I decided to fight back. Being aggressively threatened even at the age of 28 in my workplace, is something I found shameful and damaging to my selft-esteem, so much that I could not look myself in the mirror. I felt so helpless and I had nightmares of this guy. I even had to see a psychiatrist, and nothing worked. The nightmares continued. So I turned “evil” and went to the dark side. Violence. The nightmares stopped.
But I have a problem now.
I’m now training at the gym where the people are ALWAYS commenting how “I am here to fight, not to learn boxing”. How I’m too aggressive and I am trying to hurt the other guy, and not trying to box”.
Is it considered bad etiquette to brawl at a gym? I throw wild punches because I am terrified. Those people that I spar with tag me with jabs and punches and feel the satisfaction. They get confident and smirk, and I hate it, so I fight back with “bad intentions”. So, far a few of my bombs connected and they are now hesitate to come in, so I think it worked. I’m pretty new, but I feel like I am getting into trouble with the people there. Just today, I have been told that my “bad intentions” is off-putting and really pisses him (the father of the guy I sparred with) off.

I do not know how to back off, but win the psychological war. To me, knowing that I am WILLING and able to stand and trade with a person gives me security, and I find it hard to let go. But I don’t want to get into trouble with anyone there, and there aren’t many boxing gyms in the area. My instructor disapproves of me as well.

What should I do?

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Afrain Amherdt August 25, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Boxing is a sport, not a brawl. If you want something closer to brawling, try an MMA gym. They’ll let you kick people and be elbowed etc. Or a Muay-Thai gym, which is similar to kickboxing. Call either about days when they spar, then take your trial class then. Find them on yelp or yellowpages online.

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Newton August 26, 2013 at 9:42 am

I’m not Johnny, but my suggestion to you is to stay controlled. You WILL get hit and they ARE probably better RIGHT NOW.

But over time, your technique will improve and you will be much better for it. That’s when you will start putting it all together.

Right now it sounds like you are trying to take a short cut, somehow get good, without putting in the work and taking the licks and bruises.

If their jabs and straights are hurting you, tell them so. It seems like you don’t like getting embarrassed, but that shouldn’t be the case. Are they jabbing full power or is it just their confidence annoying you? If it is the confidence, that is your problem, not theirs.

Also, what are you doing sparring anyway? Sounds like you are new and not ready for it (no offense).

If you do what I said and they still don’t respect you, I suggest you find a gym where you are fully comfortable.

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Newton August 26, 2013 at 9:52 am

To add to that.

Change your mentality into thinking, sparring is a training exercise for a sport. You should be trying certain techniques and combos in there and be thinking:

“hmmm that worked, oh that didn’t work, let’s try this…”

Your intention is not to hurt the other person. You don’t have to back off, but you can still exchange without throwing a haymaker. Throw a controlled hook or uppercut at 70%, that should be enough to get them off.

The brawler in this article is referred to as mentality…as in don’t be afraid to throw punches and get in..don’t be afraid to get hit….your goal is to hit the other person…..it doesn’t mean go wild with berserker rage…

Boxing is a sport and you should go in with good sportsmanship.

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Johnny N August 27, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Stop the high-intensity sparring. Go back to doing only jab sparring until you learn how to control yourself better. It IS bad etiquette to spar harder than your opponent’s pace. It’s especially disrespecting to the more skilled opponents who are holding back because they don’t want to hurt you. They feel like you’re taking advantage of their kindness.

If you find yourself in an uncomfortable position, asking to slow down the pace would be a better solution than to turn up the intensity. All that will do is only make YOU more uncomfortable.

Everything you’re going through is completely normal but the sooner you can learn the rules and get comfortable, the sooner you can use sparring to your advantage and truly learn how to defend yourself.

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Newton August 26, 2013 at 9:37 am

Good stuff as always.

Two part question:

I’m 31 and have been sparring up and coming amateurs (18yrs to 26yrs old). I do it as a hobby because I enjoy it. They are doing it to tune up for fights and for serious training.

I find myself hitting at around 50-70% power, but it seems as though they start about that but start going full power after I land about 2-3 hits. I think they may think I’m going full power. What should I do? Crank it up a notch? I’ve always thought sparring was 50-70%, or am I wrong?

Also, related to this how-to, I find myself with much better “killer instinct” when I’m going full power. When I go 50-70% it feels very leisurely and hard to get myself in that state of mind. When fully concentrated I land a lot more hits, am much sharper and surprisingly don’t get hit as much either. I guess you could call it “the fighters mentality.” After I cranked it up on some of those kids (after they cranked it up), I pretty much dominated the fight. So now that has me thinking, how to do this when trying to go 50-70%.

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Johnny N August 27, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Percentages are really about fairness. Is it fair for both of you to go 50% when one is so much stronger than the other. Is it fair for both of you to go 50% when one has a much weaker chin than the other. What’s important is that both fighters have a mutual respect and are being fair with each other. If they turn up the pace, it might be because you are indeed hitting harder than they are. And it very well could be the case if you are the less experienced one.

A new guy usually doesn’t take punches as well and so he always feels like his opponents are going harder. And then the new guy goes harder thinking he’s matching his opponent’s power when in fact he’s throwing much harder. The opponents are annoyed because they’re not putting out much power at all. If anything, they are relying on effective technique, accuracy, and most importantly TIMING of their punches. Likewise the new guy doesn’t have as good a defense or even awareness of punches so even little jabs can feel like surprisingly hard punches.

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Daniel August 29, 2013 at 10:40 am

Thanks for the replies guys!

I’m still trying to find my way around the gym. The guy I sparred with (whose dad wasn’t too happy) started 2 weeks earlier than me, so I’d say we are about equal. And it happened a number of times where the coach has specifically said we shadow box each other – NO HITTING. I made a conscious effort not to hit, but the other guy went “Oops!”. Once, twice, three times, up to 6 times I counted. I had enough and I went after him. He’s been more careful shadowboxing with me ever since, because he knows I will hit back.

The first time we sparred, the coach said, “light touches”, but I always feel that he hits hard. Now that we are at each other’s throats everytime we spar, I don’t feel that there was any difference between the first time and now in terms of how hard he hits. Hence, I concluded that there is no such thing as “light touches”, and he went hard from the first day.

As for sparring with more experienced fighters (he competes), I told my coach I don’t want to spar with him due to past experiences where I was being outclassed greatly and being hit a lot. I was going home with headaches that lasted for days. But my coach “chickened” me to do it, so I did. He’s a pressure fighter, so everytime I fight him, I get hit with hooks when he gets inside of me, and didn’t know how to deal with it. I went on survival mode and started throwing haymakers. One of them connected and then the fight was stopped. 2 different times this happened, and ever since then, he is a lot less aggressive, and hesitates coming in. I feel a lot more secure and a lot more willing to spar with him now because I know I won’t be hurt since he is a lot less aggressive.

New guys have come and gone, and so far it’s just been the three of us sparring with each other regularly, with me getting more and more aggressive by the day.

Going by the “what works and what doesn’t work argument”, sadly for me, because of these experiences, I fear that I am now conditioned to think that being aggressive is what works. Hence, my increasing aggression, and possibly the reason why the father wasn’t too pleased.

I don’t know any other way to control the pace of the sparring session. Right now I am learning defense from Youtube videos to improve myself.

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Johnny N September 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm

It’s really unfortunate you guys couldn’t have figured out a more comfortable way to learn but HEY, I’m happy to hear you’re improving. Keep it up.

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sam September 23, 2013 at 4:16 am

Hey Johnny, when I spar hard I tense up and find it hard to snap and flow well, any advice would be great thanks.

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Johnny N September 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm

That’s why you shouldn’t spar hard unless you’re comfortable at that pace. Try slowing it down a bit, Sam.

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Sam September 28, 2013 at 2:59 am

Thanks for the advice.

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Matt December 6, 2013 at 4:11 am

HI Johnny, I’m a tall guy and most of my opponents are shorter than me. Would you recommend trading punches like this with someone who wants to brawl, or rather working on keeping him at the end of my jab and tying him up everytime he tries to burst forward with a flurry?

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Johnny N December 11, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Do what works. Sometimes, styles may force you to fight differently from conventional advice.

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Steve January 22, 2014 at 1:23 am

Good article Johnny! Although, as a pressure fighter myself I find that my weakness is fighting other brawlers/pressure fighters. Have you got any tips on how to fight well against a brawler if I am a pressure fighter myself?

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Johnny N January 24, 2014 at 11:42 pm

Work on winning exchanges and also develop stronger punches. Good head movement is nice. Also work on developing a WALKING-style. Being able to walk around smoothly saves energy and always leaves you planted for throwing more punches.

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