How to Choose Your Fighting Style

June 25, 2015 June 25, 2015 by Johnny N Boxing Strategy, Boxing Styles 22 Comments

How to Choose Your Fighting Style

How do you develop the best fighting style for yourself?

I’ve had somebody ask me, “How do you choose your fighting style?” and I find it to be an interesting question. Because honestly…you don’t really get to choose your fighting style. You have to adapt to the game and do whatever it takes to win. So in a sense…if your goal is to win…your style will evolve to whatever it needs to be in order for you to win or survive in your combat environment.

Your fighting style should come to you naturally, evolving over the years as you jump through the hoops. What’s important is making sure that you go through these natural steps and growing pains to give yourself (and your style) the best chance to evolve into a fully malleable  and adaptable fighting style.

Here are the 7 stages of natural fighting style development:


7 Steps to Developing YOUR Fighting Style

It is all too temping to want a shortcut to your fighting style. Why waste time with all the other stuff when you already know what you want, right? Why waste time studying what the 99.99% of the other fighters are doing when you can just shortcut to the ultimate style.

Mike Tyson’s power. CHECK.

Floyd Mayweather’s defense. CHECK.

Pernell Whitaker’s head movement. CHECK.

Muhammad Ali’s footwork. CHECK.

Roy Jones Jr’s handspeed. CHECK.

Rocky Marciano’s chin. CHECK.

I mean really…why even bother with all “the regular stuff” when you can cut straight to the special stuff? Just do what the champions do and you’ll be champion, right? Copy the champions, not the average guys. Well I don’t believe this is how true learning works.

As a beginner, it’s important for a coach to teach you sound fundamentals and basic principles that are statistically more likely to succeed. This tactic alone should help you get to a solid start as your “technique” allows you to approach fighting from a more cerebral standpoint and to give you opportunities to understand why some moves make more sense than others. But this alone will not make you a champion.

To be a champion, you have to understand the full range of everything. You have to try all possibilities, good and bad. It’s not enough to only know the “right things”, you also have to know all the consequences of the wrong things as well. This not only allows you to have more options to choose from but also allows you to understand how to counter those options should you see them in your opponent. In a sense, you have to try out every possible option in order to understand everything. The knowledge, experience, and wisdom is found not only in the moves that you see a champion do, but also in the moves that he DOESN’T do. It’s this knowledge that he has within him that makes him a true master.

How you arrive at your fighting style,
determines how successful you will be with it.


1. Natural traits/instincts

You start off with your natural instincts here. Some people are more aggressive, others more passive. Some have more power and speed. Others have more heart and endurance. The longer-armed guy will default to a long-range style. The shorter-armed guy will default to a short-range style.


2. Initial Technique & Style Bias

As you start to pick up some boxing technique and improve quickly, it’s natural to feel empowered and enjoy the learning process. You’ll naturally gravitate towards fighters that pick at your curiosity (or whoever the dominant champion is in your era). If you like offensive knockout punchers like Mike Tyson, you’ll start to work on power punching techniques and style. If you like defensive boxers like Floyd Mayweather, you’ll start to work on your defensive techniques and style.


3. Gym Culture

Who you have to face in your gym greatly determines the way that you evolve as a fighter. If you’re facing guys who box and run around a lot, you will naturally develop skills that revolve around speed, footwork, and fine counter-punching skills. If you’re facing aggressive opponents, you will naturally develop a more power punching and endurance style. Even moreso than imposing your will, boxing is very much a game of adaptation and you will naturally adapt to the obstacle in front of you.

Your competition determines
the way you have to fight to win.


4. Trainer Bias

As you spend more time with your trainer. The months and years of listening to the same guy will add up. You will start to look a bit like him and even share his mentality. You will pick up his tricks and see things the way he sees it. Although you will start developing your own unique style, you may also find it easier to do things the way you first learned them (which are probably the counter-punches and counter-movements you were initially trained to do).


5. Better Competition

You will mature as the years pass. Your opponents will be in better shape, smarter, and better adapted to the boxing game. You go from sparring random guys at the gym to facing elite athletes in tournaments. The old brawling game doesn’t work anymore. Now you have to think more, and be strategic. You’re not only fighting an opponent but also forced to game the competition and respond to a constantly adapting opponent.


6. Habitual Success

You start to keep the patterns that garner you success. If hurting guys is your thing, you’ll start to retain the combos and patterns of movements that produce knockouts. If outpointing guys is the way you’ve won your fights, you’ll start to evolve more of a boxing hit-and-run style. You’re more likely to stick with what works than to try and reinvent the wheel.


7. Your Body Ages

Your body will change and you may develop injuries over the years. Your shoulder or arm or joints will not work the same. You cannot move like you did when you were younger. You might not have the same endurance you did when you were younger. You will be forced to do things more efficiently. You may even have to abandon some of your favorite moves altogether and forced to find new and clever ways to compete against the younger guys.


The best fighting style is your natural fighting style

I remember being a young reckless kid trying to do everything. Max power, max speed, max volume. I wanted to be the ultimate warrior. And this is how everyone learns…by taking themselves to the limit and then stretching their limits. When I look back now, I can see that as much as I tried, I never really got to choose my fighting style. I simply looked for the best choice and made the best decision that I could in any situation. I realized that I couldn’t just force things…it had to be natural.

As time went by…I learned how to see newer and better opportunities. In the beginning, advanced techniques were so hard because I had to do so much to achieve so little. But then I gained wisdom and experience and now I only have to do a little to get a lot. This is the result from acquiring lots of technique, skill, timing, and accuracy. The stuff I didn’t have when I first started.

As a beginner, I DID have lots of power and speed and endurance…and so I used that. I would brawl, trade punches, and unload lots of energy. It was so fun to fight. And then as the years went by (and my opponents got better), I started to see that everyone else had power and speed too and that I had to become more refined as a fighter. The thing is you don’t really get to become more refined until you first fight and elevate yourself beyond the PHYSICAL aspect of boxing.

Now that I can see the tiny details and intricacies of every moment, I know how to counter not only punches.. but movements. If he steps or turns or moves this way, I know how to react against it. I know how to react against all his tiny movements…and NATURALLY. It was never really a concern of mine to have a distinct fighting style. I just focused on learning and winning and being willing to let go of old habits in order to learn new habits.

Have you ever driven the same route home from work for years? And then one day you figured out a better way, a quicker, easier, faster shortcut that saved time and took less effort? You never went back to the old way, did you? Once you became aware of a new (and better) option, it just didn’t make sense to choose the same options you had when you had less awareness. Well fighting style development is kind of the same. With a raised awareness, comes new options and decisions.

So as my skills and awareness changed, so did my technique, so did my strategy, and so did my style!

And so how do you choose your fighting style?
Honestly…you don’t.

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Hirse June 27, 2015 at 1:29 am

Great write up as usually. One question though. Would watching proffesional boxers and their fighting styles eg. andre ward’s fighting style, slow your pace and punch output down in your amateaur bouts?


Johnny N June 29, 2015 at 12:17 pm

It might affect you if you’re trying to imitate/copy the style. But if you’re only watching for educational purposes, then probably not. Or maybe a tiny bit subconsciously. I don’t know…everyone is different.


Learning2box December 8, 2016 at 10:11 am

Is it odd that I always uppercut counter and follow most things into jab?


Johnny N December 8, 2016 at 2:59 pm

Not odd at all. Many defensive-minded fighters will like to end their counters with a jab so that it covers their exit. Also if you’re tall and/or lean back a lot, you’ll notice that the uppercut becomes an easy weapon to use.


iso June 28, 2015 at 1:27 pm

Great article bro but one question. İF you fight every time with the same fighter makes this bad habbit for example i fight with a tall guy and he fights from long range and i try to close the distance and fight inside because you can not fight in outside but in real i will fight in outside makes this sparring guy me a worster outside fighter


Semaj Brown June 29, 2015 at 2:35 pm

Great Article as always & im 17 & recently fell in love with boxing a couple months ago & in physical shape for sport & Im from Bronx Nyc. The problem is a need a gym thats not really expensive and a trainer but in this messed up city it seems to be all about the money. Im really dedicated to this sport. I wake up everyday with same state of mind which is cardio strengh training etc but should i buy my own heavy bag speed bag and double end bag & just teach myself. & Johnny i soon will buy all of your videos & books. I really want to make to the ameaturs asap because i dont know if im too late.


Trust€€ Fund$ July 28, 2015 at 9:36 am

Yo bruh, if you’re from the Bronx, you shouldn’t have a problem finding an inexpensive gym or trainers. It depends on what you think is expensive though. I used to go to John’s Boxing Gym years ago when I first began to learn boxing it was $50 a month then unlimited access to the gym. If you want a trainer, you can find a few good ones in that gym for $100 a week or less if they sympathize with your lack of funds like they did with me back then. That $100 a week is unprecedentedly low, actually unheard of in this city and it covers unlimited lessons with that trainer. I was working with Shabazz, but Understanding is available too and he actually has a few serious fighters. The Bronx is a great place to learn boxing man, John’s isn’t even the only place, it’s just the least expensive I know about. I’ve since left and moved to Gotham Gym down in SoHo which actually is expensive. $100 a month unlimited access but the trainers there cost much more than $100 a week, more like $3000 for six months or $150 for 90 mins.


Radd June 30, 2015 at 4:45 am

Hi Johnny, long time no write but i still follow the site (best boxing site on the internet). Great article as always. I hope you’re ok. Site improved very well during years. At first there is even no pictures but now this is a complete boxing site, congratulations and thanks for that. And where is “Saber Khan” i guess he doesn’t write as much as he wrote before. If you read this Saber bro, please don’t knock out anybody on airports, security of airports tightened because of you : )


Manny July 1, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Hey Johnny,

I understand the sport of boxing a lot better after reading some of your articles! The reason I am commenting on this article as well as the article about finding a good boxing gym that you wrote back in 2010 is because I am very curious as to whether i am a good candidate to begin boxing, given the circumstances that I will state in the following paragraph.

I turn 17 years old in 20 days and am seriously considering joining a boxing gym. I find myself constantly watching boxing and I guess you could say that I’ve developed a passion for it, even though I’ve never stepped into the ring. I currently weigh 270 lbs. and stand at 5 ft 9in. I play football for my highschool so im not completely out of shape but i’m just a bit discouraged about my weight and how old I am. I was just wondering if i was too old and heavy to try and start boxing now. Please take the time and respond to me when you can I would greatly appreciate it.

Thank You
Plant City, Fl


Anon July 6, 2015 at 7:11 pm

Your age is definitely not a problem (given the right genetics and/or childhood hand/eye coordination activities). Your weight however, is likely a problem. You can spend 3 to 4 years adjusting your weight proportional to your height, and you can still make it in time. This is assuming your weight is fixable. If not, I guess it’s too bad.


Arjun B July 5, 2015 at 1:06 am

Hi everybody
Before choosing a style you should know about the advantages and disadvantages of a style
eg:If you chose the style of counterpuncher and you don’t have skillandspeed and reflexes.You chose wrong?
So chose wisley.


Alex July 15, 2015 at 11:33 am

Hey Johnny!You mentioned in one of your posts that you are short-sighted -3.75.I have the same problem but I am something like -5.50.I started to box and to spar and it is going pretty good so far.I want to have my first amateur fight soon,I currently spar with contact lens on and it is ok,but I was wondering if I will have any problems passing the medical exam.I am afraid they won’t let me fight.Keep up the great work buddy!


Johnny N July 15, 2015 at 12:09 pm

You’ll be fine.


Alex July 15, 2015 at 1:03 pm

Thanks man!!!


Captain Kong July 31, 2015 at 12:14 am

I am very serious about fighting and I was wondering what you would think of this idea that im using.
What I have done is figured out what strategy i am naturally inclined to take due to well my temperament and well how i enjoy winning. I have really tried to get a good understanding of it and I have started to write down all the ways I can go about enacting my strategy.

Also…what I think my style is about is figuring out what situations people are uncomfortable (range or pace) and keeping the fight there.
It sounds like something you wouldn’t really want to try and do but I really enjoy it and I can do it in almost any matchup do to just…i guess attributes?

Does it sound like im going down a good road or no.


Waffles August 21, 2015 at 4:28 pm

I wish I can box like Joe Frazier.


Jonas Lake August 22, 2015 at 4:28 pm

I’ve always breathed through my nose, this actually explain a lot why I usually do better in gym at school, now I’m gunna spread the word


lucky March 27, 2016 at 3:57 am

I understand the sport of boxing a lot better after reading boxes and your articles. because I am very curious as to whether i am a good candidate to begin boxing, given the circumstances that I will state in the following paragraph.
I turn 18 years old in 8 months and am seriously considering joining a boxing gym. I find myself constantly watching boxing and I guess you could say that I’ve developed a passion for it, even though I’ve never stepped into the ring. I currently weigh 270 lbs. and stand at 5 ft . I play Rugby for my high school so I’m not completely out of shape but I’m just a bit discouraged about my weight and how old I am. I was just wondering if i was too old and heavy to try and start boxing now. Please take the time and respond to me when you can I would greatly appreciate it.
Thank You


Mohammad Alikhanian July 13, 2016 at 5:43 am

coach told me i am a volume puncher but i wanna be a power puncher.Can i change or is punching power or speed only genetics?


Mikey August 19, 2016 at 6:07 pm

Also, you may have to further adapt your style for your opponent. As your opposition improves sooner or later your going to run into someone who has your number and the only way your going to be successful is to try something that he doesn’t expect or isn’t prepared for. Or If you have to fight someone who is much taller than you or who can switch his stance for instance…. your going to need some new and different skills.


Pat August 23, 2016 at 3:50 am

Hi Johnny,how are you my friend?long time not talking with you about boxing!;)
I was growing up in a country with a good boxing amateur division-in the east of germany,better known as DDR oder we have there an excellant trainingssystem including managers and all that stuff what you need to get the best results.may you have to get an old book from theese days-its written in german,but i know here is an big community from peoples from vietnam whichs lives here in berlin and so i guess in your family may its possible to translate some pages of this book!?:)
this is an old but very good book about all aspects of boxing and you may get it on ebay from a german seller-may if you get lucky;)
for my own experience i would say to addapt a style compleetly for a few month from a special choosen boxidol-like tyson,or rocky it on the same manor like robert de niro when he gets into a new rhole for a film.everytime when putss the glove on then think automaticly you are getting tyson,after training you become the normal state again-thats for me the best option like method acting.then after a few month you came back to you natural style,but you will be much moore better then.then you can choose a other fighter and make this on the same way.
please give it a try in training-you will see its working great!
Best wishes from Germany!:)


pat September 1, 2016 at 6:33 am

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