How to Land the Uppercut

April 2, 2014 April 2, 2014 by Johnny N Boxing Offense, Boxing Strategy 23 Comments

How to Land the Uppercut

Most fighters are not throwing the uppercut from the right position.

  • Their body isn’t angled correctly.
  • Their opponent’s body is not vulnerable to the uppercut.
  • And by no surprise…their uppercuts never land or do any damage.

If you find it hard to land uppercuts, there’s a very good chance you’re not throwing it from the right place. You may be surprised to know that the uppercut is not only the most improperly thrown punch in boxing, it’s also the most improperly SET UP punch in boxing.

Here are 3 simple adjustments to make landing uppercuts TEN times easier!



When do you throw the uppercut?

When I first started boxing, uppercuts were one of those cool punches you practiced on the mitts all the time but rarely ever threw in the ring. Sure, it worked against guys that were at my skill level or lower but it never worked against guys of equal skill or higher skill than me.


The way I fought in the ring was logical:

  • Throw straight punches because they have better reach and don’t put you so much in harms way.
  • Throw hooks when you’re in mid-range and your opponent is guarded up the middle.
  • Keep a distance and don’t stay in your opponent’s range too much.


So what about uppercuts? When do those happen?

  • Should you throw an uppercut under or around your opponent’s arms? What if you hit his elbow? OUCH!
  • But if your opponent is open at the center…why not throw a straight punch to the open spot instead of an uppercut?
  • Are uppercuts better for the head or the body?
  • Are uppercuts supposed to be used when my opponent is shorter and ducking in? Or when he’s taller and on top of me?
  • What if he comes over the top with a counter to my head when I drop my hands for the uppercut?

Without knowing the right time and place to throw uppercuts, I kind of just threw them out randomly. Sometimes to be flashy, other times because it seemed like my opponent was open for one. And this is when it becomes a problem…the moment you only throw uppercuts when you see an opening. Because NOBODY ever walks around with an open hole for your uppercut.

It wasn’t a long time later when I learned how to time uppercuts to land as counters and also how to use the uppercut, even a BLOCKED uppercut, to cause damage and set up my other punches. I also learned many different variations and different ways to throw the uppercut. But the biggest tip was learning the right body position for the uppercut. This alone made it a million times easier to notice opportunities for the uppercut.

Knowing the right body position for the uppercut
makes it much easier to see an opportunity to land one.



Tips for Landing the Uppercut


Uppercut Strategy #1 – Get on TOP of your opponent

Try to have your head higher than his.

THE FIRST RULE – get on top of your opponent! Either your head is higher or his head is lower. The reason why is because uppercuts are best aimed at a target that is at YOUR head level or lower. The uppercut has more leverage, more power and is harder to detect when the punch doesn’t go higher than your shoulder level.


bad uppercut strategy

Uppercuts aimed at targets ABOVE your head are less effective.

  • It’s harder to see and aim at targets above your head.
  • There’s less power and leverage in this uppercut. It may also feel a bit awkward.
  • If anything, you could have thrown a straight punch at your opponent and it would have came from the same low angle as an uppercut.


good uppercut strategy

Here’s a good uppercut aimed below the head level.

  • This lower uppercut will be so much more powerful, and so much easier to throw.
  • Also, when the opponent is below you, you can throw freely without having to cover your head. Because your opponent is the one stuck down there defending against YOUR uppercuts…and he can’t throw above his head to hit yours.

Uppercuts aimed at your shoulder level or below
have more leverage and power.


Lean away from your opponent.

  • Lean away from your opponent slightly to set up your uppercuts. (But don’t lean too much that you come off balance.)
  • Leaning away helps you aim at higher targets (such as taller opponents).
  • When leaning away, only lean away with your upper body and not the lower body. More balance and power this way.
  • When leaning back, also try to tilt your weight towards the same leg as the punching arm. You get much more power this way.
  • Avoid leaning forward, to avoid getting hit by uppercuts.

When you think about it, the guy leaning away holds the advantage of “being on top”. Because when you lean away, it’s like your upper body is facing a little more upwards at the sky instead of straight across at the opponent…so now a target that is right in front of you becomes “below you”. It’s simply a trick of re-positioning your upper body to get the perfect “uppercut angle” against higher targets. This is a similar idea as to why shorter boxers will lean back when using the shoulder roll against taller fighters.

If you can…try to lean back only from your upper body, not your lower body. Keeping your weight evenly distributed across both feet gives you more balance and power. And again…make only a slight lean, don’t lean back any more than you need. And it’s perfectly ok if you don’t need to lean at all. And if you lean away while your opponent is leaning forward at the same, HIS upper body will be facing downwards while yours faces up and you’ll get the feeling that he’s really below you. Almost like he’s the same height of your hip. This is the PERFECT POSITION for you to land YOUR uppercuts! Because his body is hanging over and giving you a huge target to arc your uppercuts under.

And if you’re leaning back, then there’s nothing for him to throw uppercuts at because no part of your body is hanging over to be hit. (Also remember: it’s harder for him to even throw his uppercuts because uppercuts aimed at targets above the head have less leverage…AND he might not be able to see above his head.)

Of course, it goes without saying that leaning forward is probably the WORST WAY to set up your own uppercuts. Sure it can work if you’re both fighting on the inside and both of you are leaning forward. Your uppercuts won’t do as much damage as when your body is straight or leaning back a little. But you’re in trouble and you’re the one leaning forward and suddenly he leans back. In this case, it’s going to be YOU that eats the uppercut.

Getting on top of your opponents,
increases leverage on your uppercuts
while also protecting you from uppercuts.


Look at Mike Tyson’s uppercut.

Mike Tyson is very short heavyweight and yet even he manages to get on top of his opponents. Look at how quick and deadly his uppercuts are when his opponents are helplessly positioned below him.

Mike Tyson uppercut Tyson uppercut uppercut strategy Tyson uppercut technique

Notice how Tyson’s head is ABOVE his opponents when he throws the uppercut.


Mike Tyson landing an uppercut Mike Tyson uppercut knockout

Here you can see Mike Tyson leaning back and towards the SAME FOOT as the punching arm. It may appear like he’s leaning forward but in reality, he’s leaning BACK as he throws the uppercut.


2. SHORT Uppercut vs LONG Uppercuts

If you’re in close range:

  • Make space for your arm and fire. A little tilt to one side and BOOM!
  • You can throw harder uppercuts at close range.
  • Fire the uppercut even if he’s blocking. The power can penetrate through the gloves.
  • Visualize a compact loop or a penetrating DIG.

You should be firing away at close range. No need to aim or get fancy, just put it out there. And if he’s got his hands up high, you can still punch right through the gloves. A great tip would be to aim at the hand part of the glove or even the wrist as this shoves his own hand into his face.


If you’re at long range:

  • Go for a longer straighter uppercut.
  • Focus on speed and snap.
  • Aim at an open spot or time it so that your uppercut lands right as he’s punching.

Don’t visualize so much of a looping motion with the arm. Instead, try to think of it as a straight punch but with an upside-down fist. Don’t worry so much that the uppercut has to come from down under. Be sharp!

CLOSE RANGE – dig or snap the uppercut.
LONG RANGE – snap the uppercut.


3. Let Him Come to You

Don’t force the uppercut.

  • Let him come to you.
  • Let him lean into you.
  • Your uppercut does more damage when he’s leaning forward or coming forward.

Instead of chasing for the uppercut, let the opportunity come to you. Sure you can be aggressive and try to set it up but it’s easier to let the fight happen and whenever you see him leaning forward, you launch that uppercut. The more aggressive he is, the easier it is for you to land that uppercut.

Let the uppercut opportunity come to you.


Read my other boxing guides on uppercut techniques:

boxing ebook Advanced Boxing Techniques 30 Day Fighter's Diet Advanced Boxing Footwork Drills
Did you learn something? Share It!


Ankit April 3, 2014 at 5:03 am

Hey Jhonny i am not a good puncher and i am in Amature boxing what are the things i can do for making me strong can u please give me some advice and training to do


Johnny N April 8, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Technique and training, Ankit. Check out my guides on punching technique and boxing workouts.


Jon April 3, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Hey Johnny great guide as always. As a southpaw I love throwing the left uppercut counter after I slip my opponent’s straight right hand.
Also, I am moving to DTLA soon to be closer to work. Is that underground gym in LA still around? If so can you please email me the name and address?


Johnny N April 8, 2014 at 3:14 pm

It’s definitely around but there are also many other gyms for you to check out. I think you many good options from Downtown LA all within 30 minutes of driving.


Ankit April 4, 2014 at 2:57 am

jhonny please answer my question


Gary April 5, 2014 at 8:15 pm

Something to think about and a Great article. Thanks.


Yuhi April 6, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Thanks for very useful tips.
There are so many “How to THROW”(yes, it’s important, too,but…), but very few “How to LAND”. Your instruction really makes senses. Looking back my memory of good uppercut punchers, all of them land in the way you explain. I was not able to recognize or analyze the good uppercut punchers in the way you do. Thanks to you, now I’m ready to practice in the ring.


Johnny N April 8, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Yes, “How to LAND” is very important. I’m glad you realized the details in this guide, Yuhi.


Alex April 7, 2014 at 11:12 pm

Canelo Alvarez has an excellent ranged left uppercut.


Marcos Cordeiro April 11, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Another nice article! I´ve started boxing training in my room with a heavybag reading the tips on this website And after, going to Gym for put it in pratice.
And today i am a two time brazillian navy heavyweight Champion, and i dream to win more difficult championships , and i´m working for that.
I Have to Thank you for all knowledge you put around here, johnny!
keep going with the good work! and please ignore english errors in this message, i´m brazillian and my english sucks! ;P


Johnny N July 13, 2014 at 6:57 pm

Congratulations, Marcos. Proud of you!


Sinkorswim May 18, 2014 at 1:29 am

What do you think if a tiny bob in with an uppercut. Just a slight advance and then. pop, right in the chin/gut?


Johnny N July 13, 2014 at 6:58 pm

It totally works and yes, keep it tiny.


Malik May 31, 2014 at 5:53 pm

God damnit Johnny I fucking love you bro, Id kiss you if you were right in front of me. Dude before this article I swear I couldnt land an uppercut to save my life so I never tried and secretly envied the guys that could. I always practiced the form but just could never see the right time to use it, its as if it never came so I easily defaulted to just straight punches. This article opened my eyes to the possibilities and It was such a coincidence I had sparring that night so I tried this out and I landed the rear uppercut 6 times that night. That doesnt seem like a lot but for me its a fucking miracle I was/am so happy. That slight lean back tip was golden and made things so much more natural and gave me more confidence to actually throw the uppercut. I never used the lead uppercut, thats going to take more time to get down I still dont really see my opening for it and at times when I possibly could my natural reaction is just to stick my jab in there.

That day I also worked on the light punches from that article you wrote… Interesting results but thats a whole nother story Anyway

Thanks a lot man!!!!


Johnny N July 13, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Malik, I happy for you, man. I know the feeling! You did great. For that lead uppercut…set yourself up like you’re throwing a left hook to the body but then throw a left uppercut to the head instead. Another way to think about it is to lean your weight back to the side and over and past your FRONT HEEL (not the front toes)…that will be the right position to launch that lead uppercut. Try it… 🙂


Malik July 16, 2014 at 10:46 am

So for the left uppercut im not “leaning away with my upper body” like i would for the rear uppercut?


Johnny N July 22, 2014 at 11:52 pm

Try leaning back. Try leaning left. Then try something in the middle. Try it and see. It’s hard for me to define it as “leaning away” because it can feel like you’re somewhat leaning forward at times or off to the side. It’s like you’re leaning forward, sideways, and back, at the same time. Hard to explain…easier if you try it.


Erick Perez June 3, 2014 at 10:03 am

Hey johnny it seems that this punch is better for tall guys kind of like a over more short guys. Is.this a misconception or for the.most part


Johnny N July 13, 2014 at 7:04 pm

The uppercut punch works for anyone. Obviously, you will have to set it up differently depending on your height and your opponent’s height.


Jor22 May 15, 2015 at 4:05 am

Hey johnny what’s your height?


Johnny N June 9, 2015 at 8:46 pm



Kingsley Azimi October 19, 2015 at 9:41 pm

Johnny i like u to enlighting boxers on how to use footworks in the ring,for me the most thing that make boxers lose fights and strengt in boxing matches is lack of proper knowledge of footwork in the ring,this was one major reason tyson lost to lenox lewis so cheaply,thats also why roy jones jr ,had a brillant show because he was good with is foot work,watch muhammed ali,thats one of is most secret,am tired of boxers running into jabs,following punches instead of positioning or steping back,they run into punches thereby getting under there opponent and lossing fights foolishly,is important to know good footwork before u startboxing and know when to forward or stepback,the fact that yr opponent landed a punch does not men u should start runing after him u only gonna be under him and tired easily,watch david izon vs jerferson match u see how jerferson lost that match because he lack foot work ,which affected is stamina,thanks


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