The BOXER’S Guide to Inside-Fighting

September 26, 2016 September 26, 2016 by Johnny N Boxing Strategy, Boxing Styles 31 Comments

inside fighting for boxing

Learn how to pressure and break down opponents with inside-fighting.

Many boxers don’t like fighting on the inside. It’s not how they were taught to box and it goes against common sense. Why get closer to your opponent so he can hit you easier? Inside-fighting becomes this dumb risky move that you do only when you absolutely have to. I had to do it every time I was tired or getting jabbed to death. I hated it but I learned something…

There are ADVANTAGES to inside-fighting:

  • PRESSURE your opponents physically and psychologically
  • NULLIFY opponent advantages in power, speed, defense, skills, height, reach
  • FRUSTRATE aggressive or defensive opponents
  • STALL a fight or take a break by preventing opponents from punching
  • TIRE out your opponent without burning your own energy
  • CONTROL your ground and wrestle your way out of bad positions
  • DOMINATE in the ring by using your presence

Having inside-fighting skills can do wonders for your fighting ability. For one, it guarantees that no matter how deadly your opponent is, you will always be comfortable even up in his face. And second, you have a skill that many fighters do not have. This means you’ll be that much deadlier in the ring because fewer opponents will know how to deal with you at this range. I’ll teach you how to walk down any opponent and push him around to make room for all your punches on the inside while effortlessly avoiding his.

(Make sure you watch my attached Youtube videos to fully understand the techniques.)

 

Why Develop Inside-Fighting Skills

Most boxers start learning how to fight at close range due to forced circumstances. It’s often the short guy who can’t reach a taller opponent. Or the taller boxer who doesn’t have the power to hold off the stronger opponent. Or a slow guy who doesn’t have the hand-speed to compete with a faster opponent. Or the evasive boxer who doesn’t have the stamina to outrun the volume puncher. Or the aggressive fighter who can’t get through his opponent’s defense.

This was the case for me. I had to get comfortable with inside-fighting because I was getting jabbed to death by taller fighters or get mauled to death by volume punchers. Sometimes, it was because I was getting pushed around by the short stocky fighters. Other times I had no other way of escaping a really strong opponent’s punches except to get even closer and tie him up. And of course, there’s always that last round situation where you’re tired as hell and you need a break, or maybe there’s something in your eye, or maybe you’re hurt…it doesn’t matter what it is but you need to stall the fight. Inside-fighting is once again—your friend.

But then something changed for me…

I started to realize that inside-fighting didn’t have to be an emergency option. In fact, inside-fighting could be incredibly USEFUL for winning fights. For establishing an advantage, wearing down and breaking down opponents. And not only that but it was fun and came with so many advantages. I started developing more and more of my inside-fighting game and saw what a world of difference it makes.

You’d be surprised by the amount of talented boxers today who still do not have an inside fighting game. They do well on the outside, but have nothing to say when on the inside except to wait for the ref to break it up. And this isn’t only at the amateur level but also at the pro level as well. I have literally seen champions, fantastic boxers, and even knockout punchers who got stifled by a guy doing nothing more than crowding his space and mauling him on the inside.

For those who are looking for every opportunity, well here it is, my friends.

 

Advantages to Inside-Fighting

Why learn how to fight on the inside?
…because it’s an incredibly useful skill!

First off, it is truly such an effective and efficient way to fight. You can cause a lot of damage using rhythm and inside skills as your weapon. You can be very physically imposing even if you’re less athletic or using less physical effort. You can do a lot of damage and tire out your opponent, without putting yourself at risk to punches or tiring yourself out.

All while using less energy, you can nullify your opponent’s advantages in height, reach, speed, footwork, punching power, and even defensive ability. You can use inside-fighting to control the pace. Maybe you’ll speed things up to make him panic as you pressure him into making mistakes or punching himself out. Or maybe you’ll slow the pace down to give yourself a break by wrestling and pushing him around so he can’t find the space to throw punches at you. Or maybe you’ll stall the fight, because you’re hurt or have something in your eye or want to change positions, by smothering his punches, tying up his arms, and pushing him onto the ropes.

One of the most incredible things about fighting on the inside and part of the reason why I say it’s so indispensable is that you can cause a lot of damage without putting yourself at risk. To your opponent, it can feel like you’re all over him, pushing him off balance, punching him everywhere, fighting at a fast pace and making him very tired…and yet this entire time, he feels like he can’t hit you, like you’re too close for him to punch at and he can’t seem to get away from you. Even if one of his punches do get in, it doesn’t do much damage because he didn’t get the proper space and timing and he probably won’t be able to get in more than one effective punch at a time.

I like to compare inside-fighting to swimming. A beginner swimmer can flail his arms and spend a lot of energy splashing the water and not get anywhere. But an advanced swimmer can take 4 easy strokes and get halfway across the pool.

Advantages to inside-fighting:
– Energy-efficient and relatively risk-free way of breaking down opponents physically/mentally.
– Control the pace of the fight—make it faster, slower, or stall.
– Overcome disadvantages in height, reach, speed, footwork, power, defense, outside boxing skills.

I truly believe to be a great boxer, you have to know how to fight on the inside. There’s no way around it. I have yet to see an all-time great that didn’t know how to conduct himself on the inside. No matter what your preferred fighting style is, as a fighter, you need to be completely at home and comfortable with having an aggressive power-puncher all up in your face. Any man that can handle that situation is probably going to be able to handle any other situation inside the ring.

 

Disadvantages to Inside-Fighting

The biggest disadvantages to inside-fighting will come if you suffer from a size or height disadvantage, have poor balance, or don’t know how to fight and wrestle on the inside. Other than that, learning how to be comfortable on the inside is a crucial skill for all boxers. Remember that it’s a lot of work to keep avoiding an inside fight if you keep trying to run away and your opponent keeps running after you. It’s physically and psychologically exhausting.

Inside-fighting is very hard to do against a bigger opponents simply because they have more weight to lean on you and push you around whereas you might not be able to do the same to them. Not only that but it can be exhausting to block punches from a bigger opponent. Likewise a taller opponent can also lean on you but you won’t be able to lean back on him. It’ll seem like you’re always stuck underneath him and his longer arms are coming from all angles whereas your short arms can seem to punch around his lanky arms and reach his head or body.

Inside-fighting will also be especially difficult if you have poor balance or weaker legs. You’ll be falling all over the place every time you get pushed and you’ll never be able to get the footing needed to push him back or even throw meaningful punches. As with anything, the biggest equalizer is skill. If you’re truly skilled at fighting on the inside, many of these disadvantages can be negated a bit.

Disadvantages to inside-fighting:
Not as effective against bigger or taller fighters,
fighters with better balance,
or those with better wrestling ability than you.

One last disadvantage has to do with the rhythm of the fight. For amateur boxing, it can be difficult if your opponent is running constantly and you don’t have much time to do any work on the inside. Inside-fighting can also be very difficult if the judges are biased or the your opponent throws many flashy punches that count as scoring points. It’s going to be a risky strategy if you eat 2 or 3 jabs to get inside. At the very least, I must say that all inside-fighters still need to have some outside-fighting skills.

 

Inside Fighting Techniques

First Principle of Inside-Fighting

The first principle of inside-fighting:
STAY ON THE OUTSIDE!

Ok, easy, so just stay on the outside…wait a second, WHAT?! You have to stay OUTSIDE even when you go INSIDE? That sounds confusing!

Let me explain…

  • Imagine that there are 2 circles.
  • Your opponent is the small circle.
  • And YOU are the big circle, that surrounds him.

You may have remembered that old boxing wisdom that says to “stay on the outside” or “box him from the outside” and it meant to box at a range and to find angles for your attacks while avoiding his attacks. Well, you’re still doing the same here. But since now you’re both close to each other, it’s a matter of establishing THE FEELING that you are on the outside.

The fighter who is the SMALLER circle will FEEL like he’s stuck inside a tight shell and that attacks are coming in from all angles. He feels really small and forced to get even smaller to protect himself. And the more he’s stuck behind his shell, the more he feels like it’s hard to see his opponent, not safe to creep out from behind the shell, that it’s hard to counter back, and so he retreats even more into his smaller circle.

The fighter who is the BIGGER circle will FEEL like he’s the bigger fighter and surrounding his opponent on all sides. And that he is able to attack and move around his opponent at all angles while his opponent is stuck behind a guard and unable to counter back. He has an excellent view of his opponent, attack angles, defense angles, and feels relaxed and unthreatened.

When you go inside,
make yourself the BIGGER fighter,
not the smaller fighter.

So how do you establish your dominance as the bigger circle? You do it with body positioning, and presence. When you come inside, try to make yourself THE BIGGER FIGHTER. You are still surrounding him, you are still outside of him. Even if you compact your stance for defensive purposes, you are still BIGGER than him.

The mistake that many boxers do is shrink themselves to become smaller thinking this helps them get closer or get safely around their opponent’s attacks and they literally try to get inside their opponent. But if you do this…what often happens is that he picks you off with shots from many angles, or maybe ties up your arms, or lays on you, or pushes down on your head, or even just steps away from you. This is why you should NEVER go inside to be the smaller fighter.

 

How to Get Inside

Getting close to a guy who doesn’t want to be near you can be one of the most frustrating things in boxing. He runs and runs, and when you get even a little close, he nails you with hard shots, or you just get tired and don’t have the energy to chase anymore. There have been champions who built their entire career on running around.

It’s hard enough to chase down an opponent when you’re fresh, but what about the worst case scenarios? What about when you’re facing a brutal power puncher…going forward doesn’t seem so enticing anymore but what else can you do? Or what about when you’re facing a guy who throws many punches and you just want to get away to catch your breath. Or what if you’re afraid to waste energy chasing a guy who’s got way too much speed.

You should check out my guide on How to Cut Off the Ring at some point. For now, continue on to my favorite tactics to get inside. I’ll give you options for closing the distance no matter if he’s punching, not punching, or running around.

 

Lean back, and slip under

It’s very simple. You go forward when he’s going forward. Here’s how it goes: you lean back with more of your weight on your back foot and wait for your opponent to throw a long straight shot at you. Once he’s thrown a punch or committed to reaching at you with a combination, you immediately bend at the waist, dip your head down, and step forward into him as you slip under his punch (aim your shoulder into his ribs). Once you’re in close, it’s up to you if you want to attack or wrestle, or just pivot and get away.

One big tip I can give is to alter the placement of your head when you’re leaning back. Against some opponents, maybe you should have your head higher so they punch higher and that gives you room to slip under. For other guys, maybe if you have your head low, it can make them want to step in closer to you to reach at you with punches. Or you might notice certain angles might encourage your opponent to throw more hooks than straights, or vice versa. Try different things and see what reactions they cause. It’s a lot of fun to see how much difference one little detail can make.

Typical scenario for this tactic is when you have an opponent who punches a lot. Maybe he’s trapping you on the ropes, and you want to get close so you can spin out. Or maybe he’s just an aggressive guy who really wants to hurt you. The more he commits on his punches, the longer his arms are, the easier it is to pull this off.

 

Punch your way in

Another thing I like to do is throw a bunch of punches as I move forward steadily into my opponent. So I’m basically throwing a combination, maybe one or even several hard punches, or maybe many rapid lighter punches, and while he’s blocking, I use that opportunity to get closer to him.

Now the trick is to punch in a way that forces him to BLOCK the punch rather than to slip the punch. And the thinking behind this is that it’ll be easier for you to get into close range if his hands are busy blocking rather than throwing punches to keep you away.

So how do we get him to block rather than slip? One way is to throw punches aimed at the chest. Opponents are far less likely to try and slip punches if they’re not thrown at the head level. Another way is to throw punches at his guard. If his hand is already in a certain position, like glued to his face, you can keep him there simply by putting at his guard. He may get complacent and feel comfortable since he’s blocking your punches easily and not notice you using this as a diversion to get closer.

One other way is to fall in with a punch (preferably a big one). It’s like you’re swinging a wild punch as you throw yourself onto him. And as he’s blocking the wild punch, you’ve gotten that much closer without putting yourself at risk. It’s a great tactic and one that many inside-fighters use. They just kind of throw a bunch of punches and keep leaning on their opponents. And now their opponent is being pushed AND PUNCHED at the same time. It doesn’t take much skill but it’s really effective. This tactic also works beautifully when you trap an opponent leaning back helplessly on the ropes.

The best scenario for this tactic is against defensive opponents. They are far more susceptible to wanting to defend rather than to exchanges punches or throw back counters. Slow-footed fighters or opponents lacking good footwork are also great targets for this tactic since they don’t run away as much.

 

Square off along the ropes

The way this works is that anytime you trap your opponent on the ropes (or he’s close to the ropes), you square off your stance and stand a little more sideways to cut off the ring and prevent him from running away. Suppose your opponent has his back against the ropes and he can’t go back any more, he can only go sideways or forward (into you), this is when you can use this tactic. You square off your stance a little, to chase laterally and trap your opponent as you creep yourself closer to force a close-range fight.

You may find that this is a great tactic for cutting off the ring and help make opportunities for you to use the previous two tactics to get inside. It works well against many styles of opponents.

 

Keep the fight on the inside,
by constantly punching or pushing your opponent
(not by grabbing).

Get inside by keeping him busy, not by grabbing him.

One common mistake with many fighters is that they try to get inside is by grabbing their opponent. And I can tell you not only is this one of the worst ways to get inside, it’s also one of the most dangerous ways. The problem with grabbing is that it often leaves you vulnerable to counters and can get you penalized by the referee.

The best way to get inside and STAY inside is to keep him busy. And you can keep your opponent busy by either punching him or pushing him. This keeps his mind occupied and allows you to stay in close range. The moment you stop doing either of those, he starts throwing punches and wiggles away, or he might even try to grab your arms.

 

Best Position on the Inside

There is definitely such a thing as “the best position” on the inside. It’s not enough to just get close, some positions offer you far more safety and attack angles while giving your opponent almost no option to attack you. I’ll run you through a couple possible options and explain how they work.

The #1 best position is when your feet are stepped around your opponent to his side, and your head is on top of his head (or hovering somewhere behind or outside one of his shoulders), and your chest is pushing his head down or pushing on his gloves or one of his arms/shoulders. This position is so dominant because your chest puts pressure on him while your arms can attack him, all while your head is in a place that he can’t reach (and probably can’t even see). Using your chest to oppress an opponent (rather than your head or arms) is an important tactic for inside-fighters!

You may notice that this position is easier to get to if you are taller than your opponent. Don’t worry, there is a way for shorter fighters to achieve a similar effect. One tip I like to give is to imagine that you’re taller than you really are and to oppress your opponent with the position of where your IMAGINARY chest would have been. So in layman’s terms, pretend you have a chest that’s as high as your head and to push him with this imaginary chest.

This is more of an application of FEELING rather than to try and push him with your body. And actually, inside-fighting has a lot to do with how you make your opponent FEEL, rather than to actually try and push him. You have to try it to see what I mean. As long as you’re close, the pressure will be felt. Hopefully, I explained well enough for you. This tip can help any fighter regardless of size.

Now let’s say you can’t get to the absolute best position. There are 2 mirror positions that I approve of. They don’t offer any advantages or disadvantages to you since both of you are in the same position in relation to each other but at least you can fight a safe and even fight from here.

One mirror position I’m ok with is when two fighters are squared off with each other and both are pushing and punching at each other. My advice is this, if you can, try to keep your head and chest higher than his head and chest. Even if only a little, it can help a lot. The other mirror position you can use is when both of you are in your traditional boxing stance and both of you have your head on the other guy’s shoulder. So it’s like your bodies are fitting together perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle. This position is great for stalling the fight since it’s easy for both of you to defend yourselves.

 

What’s the worst position for inside-fighting?

One where your head is facing down and you’re trying to ram your head into him like a bull. Also any position where your eyes can’t see your opponent (and yet he can see you) is a pretty bad position. There’s a good rule I like to say, “if you can’t see him, you can’t hit him”. And likewise, the opposite works as well “if he can’t see you, he can’t hit you”.

If you can’t see him, you can’t hit him.

 

Relax to get inside

One of the most important rules in boxing and especially inside-fighting is to relax to get inside. Many fighters will try to do things like jump or use a sudden explosive movement to quickly get inside. I don’t like this tactic because it wastes energy and startles your opponent, making him back away or suddenly become more cautious. Against higher level opponents who can read everything that you “try” to do, the harder you “try” to do something, the harder it is to get away with it.

So what’s my tactic? Chill out, take it easy. Instead of trying to jump in on the guy and freaking him out or worse (make him uncork a hard shot to your face), just walk in. Yes, I literally mean that. Be calm, be chill, and walk in with your punches. As long as you don’t make any sudden movements, he won’t make any sudden reactions.

But what if he gets wild and desperate to keep you off. Let him throw a million punches, you just smother him, swim your way in, a couple slips or bobs of the head to one side then the other, a little duck or feint and turn of the shoulders, and you’ll be inside sooner than you think.

One of my favorite tactics is something I like call “oozing”. When I try to “ooze” my way in, I imagine that I’m a thick heavy slime and that all his punches simply get absorbed by me rather than affecting me. I just kind of lean my body into him while staying relaxed and letting my weight wear out his arms if he tries to punch or push me away. By “oozing” or “sliming” my way into an opponent, I can tire him out very quickly especially if he tries to throw many punches at me. Like I said, you don’t need to waste your energy. Instead of trying to be fast, or run, or jump, or explode your way in, you could just relax your way in.

 

Invent tricks to get inside

Every fighter should have his own little tricks to getting inside. Maybe, it’s throw a right hand, then a push with a right hand, then grab. Or maybe it’s duck low, then lunge at him with a left hook and land on top of him. Or maybe it’s duck your head to the left and then pull it under and slip inside. Every fighter has their own methods of getting inside or getting close to an opponent. As you fight more and more, you will learn your own tricks.

 

Wrestling Techniques for Inside-Fighting

Knowing how to wrestle is an absolutely crucial skill for an inside-fighter. I don’t know if I picked it up naturally or if the short moments learning wrestling, judo, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu helped me but I can definitely say my wrestling ability is one of my greatest strengths in boxing. I’ve used it to man-handle many opponents, even ones that were bigger than me. And I have to say, it is such a comforting fact to know that you have the ability to push any man off balance and make him uncomfortable at close range.

You may have remembered that earlier in this post, I compared inside-fighting to swimming in terms of how much of a difference it makes in efficiency when you have skill. And right now, I will clarify that it’s the WRESTLING part of inside-fighting that’s actually the swimming part. Those who know how to wrestle will be able to push their opponents around without using much energy. Those who don’t know how to wrestle will keep losing their balance and get tired quickly.

Wrestling is the ability to control your opponent’s body
using position and leverage.

Most boxers think of wrestling as pushing and throwing each other around. I think of wrestling as controlling your opponent’s body. And the more you can control his body, the more you can put yourself into a dominant position while forcing him into an inferior position.

To begin, I divide the body into 3 target areas. First is the body (the actual torso and hips), second is the head, and third is the arms. Being able to control your opponent’s body allows you to control his balance and overall body positioning. If you can affect your opponent’s balance, you will be able to push him around, pull him, spin him, or move him however you like. You can control an opponent’s body using contact anywhere on his body, such as the upper body or head or arms. (Grabbing an opponent’s lower body is not legal in boxing.)

Being able to control an opponent’s head also allows you some control his upper body. You might lean on his head to push his upper body down under you. Or you might trap your opponent’s head in a place where you can hit it easily. Or you might shove his head off to one side so that he’s off-balance or turned away from you. Just remember that if your opponent’s head can’t turn to face you, there’s a good chance his punches won’t be able to reach you either. Now I have to tell you that it’s illegal to grab an opponent’s head with your hands, so you’ll have to affect his head by pushing on his neck or maybe other parts of his upper body. The point is to know that you can affect an opponent’s body movement greatly simply by affecting his head movement.

Being able to control an opponent’s arms allows you to affect your opponent’s body position and/or control his attacking and defending capabilities. For example, you could use your opponent’s arms as a lever to push him, pull him, turn him, or otherwise angle his body in a way that allows you to hit him easily. Or maybe you just want to control his arms to prevent him from attacking you. It’s not legal to grab your opponent’s arms, but here and there you could certainly apply some tactics to trap at least one of his arms to slow down his attacks.

Now let’s get to the different ways of controlling your opponent’s body on the inside.

 

Pushing techniques

The very first wrestling skill you have to learn is how to push. You need this ability to push your opponent off-balance (to take away his strength) or back (to take his ground). Indirectly, this same pushing skill allows you to prevent yourself from being pushed back or being pushed off balance.

How most boxers get this wrong is that they try to push their opponents straight BACK. Believe me, trying to push straight out at someone is one of the least effective ways to use your body. Your body just wasn’t made to effectively apply force that way. Try this little challenge (so you can see what I mean): stand in front of a wall and try to push the wall with the full strength of your arm. Do you see how it doesn’t work because your body gets pushed back? Now try and lean into the wall so that you can push the wall at more of an angle so that you don’t get pushed back. Do you see how low or how angled you have to be to push at the wall? That angled position isn’t common in boxing and it also leaves you vulnerable.

Some of you think pushing a wall is stupid because the wall is anchored in and you are not. That’s fine, I want you to do a different drill now but with a partner. Stand in front of each other and both of you put one hand on the front of your partner’s upper bicep (or shoulder) and the other hand under your partner’s tricep (or elbow). So it’s like you both have an over-and-under gripping position on each other.

And from here, I want both of you to try pushing each other back (like sumo wrestlers). Given all things equal (size, strength, and skill), both of you are probably going to be stuck in the middle. Neither of you will be able to push the other back except for when you somehow push from a side angle. Generally-speaking, it’s hard to push an opponent straight back when he’s doing the same to you. One thing you’ll notice is that both fighters will very quickly try to get lower and place their feet further back so that they can get a better pushing angle.

Ok, so remember what I said about wrestling being about POSITION & LEVERAGE? I’m going to tell you how to get the best position and leverage to push your opponent back. The first thing is to STOP trying to push him directly back. Instead, try to push him UP! Imagine you are trying to lift him into the air. Again, your hands are now trying to push him UP, and not back! That’s right, the first step is not to push him back, it’s actually just to upset his balance.

You might be surprised, but the best position to off-balance an opponent is not by leaning into him and trying to get lower than him. It’s actually to stand up straight and push him UP so he can’t anchor his body to the ground. The second thing is not to have your feet out wide and far from each other, it’s actually better to have your feet closer together (like the width you would use to do a squat or a deadlift). Remember, your body has to be in position to exert force going UPWARDS rather than horizontal out at your opponent.

For the sake of demonstration, have one person trying to get low and push straight out and have the other person staying high and lifting straight up. Take turns so you know how it feels from both ends. The person doing the lifting should be able to easily lift the “pusher” off balance, and that once the “pusher” is lifted, it’s easy to push him back. The person getting lifted should feel like he can’t apply his strength and body weight into the push and that he’s getting helplessly pushed back.

So before, you might have been pushing your opponent like you were trying to push a dead car, now it should be more like you’re trying to deadlift or lift up a weight. Entirely different position and leverage now, right? Go ahead and try this with all your friends. Have them try and push you back from the low diagonal straight pushing position and you stay tall and just lift them up off balance and walk them back. It’s so easy and incredibly effective.

The secret to pushing an opponent:
stand straight and lift up,
rather than lean in and push forward.

A few tips for practicing this technique with a partner:

  • Don’t be frantic and explosive with each other. Be calm and push slowly at each other. You shouldn’t be panting and out-of-breath.
  • You have 4 pushing points! Most people only concentrate on their own two hands. But they forget: the opponent also has 2 points of contact with you and so if you’re clever, you will realize that you can push him back with HIS arms as well. So if he’s only pushing with his two arms and you’re pushing with 4 arms (2 of yours, and 2 of his), you’re going to win the pushing battle easily. My advice is to unify these 4 points so that they all push together as one solid piece, rather than alone as individual points.
  • You need to get your entire body weight into each pushing point. And this requires a very fine equilibrium between all your joints and muscles. Your body has to solid enough that all your body can unify into the pushing points. HOWEVER, your body has to be relaxed (or liquid) enough that your weight can fall into the pushing points. If your body is too stiff, you will feel like a hollow frame and not be able to push with your body weight. If you’re body is too relaxed, you will feel like your body is very heavy but not unified, and that you can’t direct all your weight into one point.

This last tip is probably the most ultimate skill of a wrestler or pusher. They know how to unify their body weight. AND NOT ONLY THAT… but they know how to de-unify their body weight. It feels like they’re able to push you powerfully, but then when you try to push them, you can’t seem to push anything (it’s like you’re pushing a cloud). Keep in mind, it is also a matter of style. Some guys push more, some guys relax more. You may have seen a similar skill like this in martial arts practitioners like Wing Chun students doing the “sticky hands drill”. (NOTE: I personally do not recommend that drill because I don’t feel it’s applicable to boxers.)

Learning how to solidify your body will require A LOT of body awareness. First you have to find the stiff joints and the weak joints. Stiff joints are the ones that are too over-powering, and they don’t let your body weight fall into the push—as a result, these stiff joints make you push yourself off of your opponent rather than push your opponent off of you. You can detect your “stiff joints” by noticing that whenever you apply more force through these joints, they push you back instead of your opponent back.

The weak joints are actually the joints that you forget to use. It’s usually not so much that the joint or muscle is weak but that you aren’t aware of that part of your body and so you don’t incorporate it into movements. I want to say you can detect your weak joints by noticing which part of your body is not helping to push or unify your body for the push. BUT this is tricky because the problem has to do with awareness. And so for whatever parts of your body that you can feel, you were using them already. And for the parts of your body that you’re not using, you won’t be able to feel them to know you’re not using them. So how do you become more aware? *Sigh*…it takes time.

The major joints in your body are lower body (ankles, knees, hips), then spine, then upper torso (shoulders, elbows, wrists). You have to figure out which ones are doing too much and which ones are doing too little. It will probably take you at least a year to really develop this body awareness.

Here’s my cheat sheet (that will apply to 95% of you):

  • Keep your legs straighter. Feet closer together (shoulder width) and feet flat along the ground (this fortifies your ankles). Keep the knees a little bent. Try to keep your pelvis straight up, not tilting forwards or backwards. How do you know if the pelvis is straight? Try to feel like your pelvis is suspended in mid-air with strings attached from the top and bottom and pulling on it from both ends, WITHOUT straining your glute muscles.
  • Keep your spine straight. A straight spine has the best leverage in most positions. Many boxers curl their spine when they’re trying to be smaller or more defensive, or when they’re trying to keep their head tucked. At the very least, I’d say try to have your spine less curled than your opponent’s spine.
  • Relax the arms. I consider the shoulder, elbows, and wrist to all be part of the arms. The biggest problem I see is that too many fighters try to push with their arm strength rather than from the rest of their body. It’s a common mistake that’s similar to how beginner fighters punch with their arms rather than their bodies. My visualization tip is to PRESS your arms rather than to straighten your arms. It should feel like your arms are to connect your core to your opponent and then you’re pushing him with your core (and legs).
  • REMEMBER: there are 2 ways to win the pushing contest. One way (the technically easier way) is to push him from an angle. For example, he pushes straight at you but you move to the side and push him from his side. The other way that I’ve been explaining this whole time (which requires more technique) is to push straight on at him, first you lift him up off balance, and then push STRAIGHT into him.

 

Lifting techniques

So I spent the last section on “pushing” where I showed you how to push an opponent by first lifting him. Now, for this section on “lifting”, it sounds like I’m teaching you a similar thing but actually there’s a difference. The section on “pushing” is to show you how to push an opponent straight back. For this section on “lifting”, I teach you how to lift an opponent in case you need to get him off you, so that you can move him or move yourself in any direction that you want.

Basically, you LIFT your opponent using your SHOULDER and your HIPS. Have your body relatively vertically stacked with your hips under you, and then dig a shoulder under your opponent (such as under his shoulder, or under his forearms), and then push him up with your legs. As long as your hips are under you (and not far out), it will be easy to lift him without straining your back.

Now the BEST POSITION FOR LIFTING an opponent is actually with your shoulder underneath his shoulder. So imagine you are standing off to his side and facing him with your body, you get one shoulder underneath his shoulder (the one close to you) and then just push up with your legs and push him off you. While pushing, you could also walk around him or circle him to get behind him. It’s your choice. The idea is not to actually lift him entirely into the air. You only need to get him off balance so that you can push him anywhere you want or just make space for yourself to escape.

The typical scenarios for lifting an opponent would be when he’s extremely aggressive and jumping on top of you. Maybe he’s on your head, or on your back, or grabbing you. All you have to do here is get your hips under you, then dig one of your shoulders under him, and push up.

Another scenario would be when he’s trapped you in the corner. Maybe you could close the distance and grab him and if you can dig your head and one shoulder under, you can lift him up as you circle around behind him or spin him into the ropes and counter back. Maybe you could use this tactic to push a guy and trap him along the ropes. Without him being able to stand balanced, it’s hard for him to fight back.

One common scenario that I see many fighters struggling with is the headlock scenario. Let’s say your opponent has you in a head-lock and your head is stuck in his arm or maybe under his armpit. I’m sure you’ve experienced this before. It’s very hard to escape. You can’t stand up because his body weight has so much leverage on your back. And you can’t pull your head out since it’s locked in there.

So you really only have one option left…

…which is to go through. Anytime that your head is locked in, all you have to do is bring your hips in under you and then you can stand right up and lift him off of you. To be more clear, you have to bring your hips close to his hips. In case you have a problem getting your hips close to him, you could try reaching for his waist with your arms and pulling him closer to you.

The important thing to remember is that if your head gets caught in a headlock, make sure you push yourself through all the way. NOW…as you guide your head through, keep trying to face him with your body so that when you finally get through, you’re basically standing up behind him. This option will always be a much better idea than trying to pull your head back out.

 

Turning techniques

Turning is one of those body movement skills that make you look like a slick pro on the inside. And when you’re actually in the ring with a fighter who can turn, it’s scary as hell because you see this entire body disappearing from your view and for a split second, you’re absolutely terrified of getting countered HARD!

What is “turning” anyway? I’ve seen it called “turning an opponent” or “turn him on the inside” or “spin him into the ropes”, and I sometimes like to call it “spinning an opponent”. I’ve seen the term used for 3 different scenarios:

SCENARIO #1 (YOU TURN YOURSELF): Turning an opponent could mean to pivot or step around so that your opponent has to turn to face you. This would allow you a free moment to attack while your opponent has to pivot or readjust his feet before he can aim punches at you. Your body moves, but his stays. I’ve seen examples of both turning WITH or WITHOUT touching your opponent. If you’re touching your opponent, it’s more of a wrestling strategy. If you’re not touching your opponent, it’s more like a footwork strategy.

SCENARIO #2 (YOU TURN YOUR OPPONENT): Turning an opponent could mean to actually move your opponent’s body, and your body can stay still and/or turn with him if you decide. One way is to push him by his head or shoulders using your hands. Another way is grabbing his waist with 1 or 2 arms and turning him around. If you’re really close, you could also use your head and shoulders to push his upper body around.

SCENARIO #3 (BOTH OF YOU TURN): You could also grab him and as you pivot yourself, you turn him at the same time. This option is good for when you’re on the ropes and want to reverse the situation and spin him into the ropes. Either way, a fighter can be extremely disoriented when you move his body as he has to spend energy to hold his balance and at the same time watch for your punches. This option is also very good to use as a counter for when he tries to turn you, for example if he’s trying to turn you, you could go with it and at the same time, grab him so that he turns with you as well. I’ve used this on many opponents who tried to throw me. I hung on to them as I got swung around, and then recycled their energy to throw them immediately after. It’s very clever and uses their energy instead of mine.

 

How do you turn an opponent?

First rule, GET CLOSE and MAKE CONTACT. This should be one of the first principles of inside-fighting. You have to get close and you have to be touching your opponent. (QUICK TIP: when you get close, try to get close with your hips, not only your upper body.) Many outside-fighters and pure boxers lack inside-fighting ability because they don’t like contact, they want to stay outside and stay pretty and not ever let anything touch them. To a pure outside-boxer, inside-fighting can be messy and tiring, and also dangerous.

Second rule, PIVOT NATURALLY. Just pivot. Big pivot, small pivot, whatever happens happens. You’ve already gotten close and made contact. And now you just let the momentum take you. If your body wants to fall or spin or turn to one side, let that happen. If your body wants to go to the other side, let that happen.

Third rule, READ THE MOMENTUM. When you’re on the inside, imagine that you’re swimming inside many waves of energy. And that you want to swim with the currents, not against them. Because wrestling on the inside is messy and you feel many forces pushing from all directions, it might seem stressful and tiring to keep yourself balanced. But another way to look at it is that you have many waves to ride with, so just pick one and go with it. Let the force take you. And then if you can, send this force back to your opponent.

Fourth rule, FIND AN ANGLE. I find that it’s easier to turn an opponent when you push from an angle. For example, if I want to turn an opponent, it’s easier if I push him from one side of his body, rather than to push him at the center (since this only pushes straight back rather than turning him). And likewise if I want to pivot myself, it’s better if I make contact with him with only one side of my body rather than making contact with my entire body.

How to turn an opponent:
OPTION 1) make contact, pivot around.
OPTION 2) make contact, turn him away.
OPTION 3) make contact and hold, turn both you and him.

So that’s the easy part. (Just get close and turn.) Now what’s the hard part? The hard part, or I should say, the ADVANCED part is how to create momentum. The first couple times you try to turn an opponent, it will feel weird awkward. It might feel like you’re trying too hard to make something out of nothing. Either your opponent will sit still, and you have to make all this effort to jump to his side and turn him. Or your opponent will be moving around so much that you can’t find the right angle to turn him.

The thing is turning doesn’t work against an opponent who isn’t giving you any momentum. Or in other words, YOU NEED AN OPPONENT TO PUSH YOU in order to turn him. It takes a lot of energy to try and move someone all by yourself. So it’s always better if you wait for a guy who’s pushing at you. You need an aggressive opponent, a living one, one that’s trying to push you, or resist you, or wrestling back with you.

And how do you make someone push you or resist you? EASY! Get close to him, hug him, put a glove on his face or his shoulder. Push one of his arms with your forearm. Grab him somewhere. Try to push him a little bit in one direction and then when he pushes back, use that to turn him! If you’ve ever fought a pro before, you’ll notice that’s exactly what they do! They get so damn close that it makes you uncomfortable and they push you from all angles. And the moment you try to push back, they pivot out of the way or turn you and make you stumble around foolishly as they throw shots into your face. All you need is a whole lot of finesse. 🙂

ADVANCED way to turn any opponent:
Get close, put a little pressure,
and when he pushes back, TURN HIM.

 

Pulling techniques

Just like with pushing, lifting, and turning, the ability to pull an opponent is useful for moving your opponent around you. You can use “pulling” simply to upset his balance and make him vulnerable or also to trade places with him (such as when you’re stuck on the ropes). Pulling technique is often used in combination with pushing or turning technique to make your overall movements stronger. You could also be pushing from one side while pulling from the other. Or you could be pulling him off-balance as you turn him.

The trick to PULLING,
is to use your hips and centripetal force.

Pulling an opponent off balance is very simple. First off, it’s never a straight pull. You’re always pulling your opponent to either one side of your body or the other. We are using a centripetal pull, NOT a straight pull (which requires so much more effort).

The first step is to connect with your opponent. Maybe you have connection from only one arm, or maybe both arms. Maybe it’s your arms that are connected to him. Maybe it’s HIS arms that are connected to you. It doesn’t matter which side or who’s arms, all you need is one point of connection on any side. I like to connect by using my hands to grab my opponent by his upper arms or torso.

From here all you have to do is sit down on your hips with the weight of your entire body to send him flying to your side with centripetal force. A few key details: put your body weight in your hips. Sit down on your hips a little bit and then use your legs to pull. You can pull by stepping back with tiny steps, or lean back a little (think “falling a little bit), you don’t need big steps or to bend your knees so much. With the proper leverage, a little movement can send him flying off balance. REMEMBER, it is your hips and the weight of your body that is pulling him, not your arms!

Pull using the weight of your body sitting in your hips,
not with your arms.

There are a few awesome ways to set up pulling. One tactic is to grab or connect to him with both of your arms and start pushing or applying pressure, the moment he starts to put pressure back on you, you immediately pull from that side. The other side of your body can be relaxed or even used to push him making him turn even more off-balance.

Another tactic is to quickly move one leg closer to the other to create a hole (where the leg used to be) for him to fall into. This works best when you’re really close and connected to both sides of your opponent (using your arms or his arms). Because centripetal pulling has to do with sending your opponent to one side of your body or the other, I find that it’s easier (and stronger) to do that when your feet are closer together. Of course, you wouldn’t normally stand like that but you can do it for just a second in quick moments to take advantage. This tactic is especially easy if he’s leaning on you. You can put your feet together or even pivot one foot behind the other as you make the hole for him to fall through. TIP: you can also use one of your arms or shoulders to push him into the hole as you pivot your foot around.

As with the previous methods, you have to be sensitive for where your opponent is pushing you from. Any force that he puts on you can be used against him. Practice will help you become more sensitive. And the more sensitive you become, the more you can time your movements to take advantage of his pushing. As you become more skilled, you can practically fling a guy across the ring with the tiniest effort. I’m sure you’ve seen it in martial arts…it’s like magic!

 

Head & Arm control techniques

All the other techniques were for controlling your opponent’s body. The techniques I will share now are for controlling your opponent’s head and arms. As explained before, controlling your opponent’s head and arms allows you to control the way he can attack and defend against you and also further control his body positioning.

Controlling the head is so effective because it affects every bit of your opponent’s ability to move. The head, being connected to the spine, is involved in all movements whether attacking or defending, and also used for vision. And the most common ways to limit the head are to crush it (force it down) or to turn it away (which can turn the entire body away). If his head is held down or turned away, the rest of his body can’t face you and therefore he can’t attack you.

You can use any part of your body to control his head. You can use your own head, or even your chest, or even your arms. A very common tactic is to use your forearms. You may have seen fighters like Floyd Mayweather use his forearms on the inside to hold his opponent’s head or neck down, preventing him from firing back punches. It’s not a legal move but the tactic is still effective and still commonly-employed (albeit cleverly) in short moments.

To use your head or chest, simply get in close and start pushing to deflect his head away. Headbutting is illegal, so you need to be throwing punches if you plan to use your head. To use your arms, you will also need some clever tactics. It’s not legal to stick an arm out and push your opponent’s head away with your glove or forearm. But what you can do is get really close and hold up your guard in a way that gets in the way of his head. You can also throw punches and then leave your arm out there and use it to smother him, rather than to pull it completely back to your own face. You could also block punches in a certain way where your gloves are closer to him rather than to you.

One little tip I like to give is to follow his head with one forearm. Your forearm is always where his head is and then you can pull it away at any moment to strike his head with the same arm or even the other. You don’t have to be so obvious and be pushing his head around but you could have your forearm in his face and if you are in close range, it will look like your forearm is being used more for defense rather than for pushing.

Having the forearm close by can be very frustrating and works as a psychological barrier. Even if you have no force behind that forearm, he will start throwing punches around it or trying to slip his head around it—which can make his movements more predictable for you to read. And in a sense, he’s giving up the center, which makes your presence stronger.

Now throughout all this, you have to think about your own head. Just as you are controlling his head position, you have to control your own as well. It’s best if you can have your head on top or higher than his. I find that on the inside, the dominant fighter typically always manages to keep his head up whereas the inferior fighter is always pushed around and his head is shoved down. It’s best if your head can hold the higher range and also a bit more center and then your presence is constantly forcing his head off center.

In the moment that his head is higher and he’s shoving you down and you’re starting to get caught in the headlock, remember to just push your head (and body) forward all the way through and go behind him. Be careful though as you might also be vulnerable to him turning you and countering you.

Controlling your opponent’s head position
affects his offense and defense.

Now, when it’s comes to controlling your opponent’s arms, I have a different visualization for you. You can’t really grab your opponent’s arms, that’s not legal and also not recommended since you can’t punch while you’re grabbing. The visualization I have for you to is to keep your hands on his arms rather than on yourself. Imagine that you are always punching or parrying, you are never blocking.

This can be a scary visualization because we are usually in the opposite frame of mind when we box. When most boxers are in their stance, they imagine their hands close to their body for defense and then the hands are sent out only to attack (via punches) and then quickly pulled back for defense. This makes a lot of sense because when you’re further away, your opponent’s hands are free to attack you for any angle so it’s best to be a bit more covered up so he doesn’t have so many targets to choose from.

However, when you’re in close, things are a little different. Because now the fight is no longer about who has more holes in their defense, it’s a little more about who is the bigger circle. It’s not so much about hit-and run. There’s a wrestling factor involved. Who is the more dominant fighter, who has more positional control. And so if you try to keep your defense super tight on the inside, you risk becoming the smaller circle and the more you close up, the more your opponent can open up on you, attack you from all angles, push you and spin you, further controlling the pace on you.

When in close, keep your hands on your opponent. Your hands are either punching or parrying, never blocking. Your arms are all over him, in his face or blocking his arms, getting in his way, making it hard for him to move around or throw punches at you. Like I said, your hands are either punching or parrying (guiding his arms around) as you try to control his body position. You are not blocking, you are not trying to bring your hands back for defense. I know it sounds scary because it seems like you’re not defending yourself. But in a sense, you ARE defending yourself because your hands are preemptively preventing your opponent’s attacks by not letting him punch in the first place.

When you’re outside, your hands are with you.
When you’re inside, your hands are with him.

Keep those hands punching, parrying, pushing, pulling. Keep wrestling, no need to block as much. You’re in close anyway and should already be smothering his punches. Find angles, turn him, HIT HIM! Walk-in, lean-in, punch him, if he blocks your punches, stay on him and push him to angle him or turn him, throw another punch, then get close to smother his counter. Your hands and arms are always grabbing or guiding his body somewhere.

 

Offensive & Defensive Strategies for Inside-Fighting

So you’ve learned how to move your opponent and move yourself into the best position. You know how to push your opponent around and you feel comfortable with a lot of body contact on the inside. Now it’s time to attack! Time to do some real damage and score some points.

 

Best positions for punching on the inside

The best positions are when you are slightly on your opponent’s side with your head in the dominant top middle position and your opponent’s head is under your head or angled off and it’s like you could punch the back of his head if you wanted. You could be to his right side or his left side, it doesn’t matter. The idea is you have full range to attack with both arms but he can only attack you with one (the farther arm) and also that you can reach his head easily but he can’t reach your head easily. Also your body is able to put pressure on him whereas his body can’t put pressure on yours.

The best inside-fighting position is when
you can see the back of your opponent’s head.

Anytime that your head is behind your opponent’s head, you have the positional advantage. Now keep in mind that you will almost never be able to get completely BEHIND your opponent, so this rule is not to be taken literally. It’s meant only in a loose sense. For example: if you’re standing close to each other and your bodies are angled around each other…who is more likely to see the back of the other person’s head? If you can see the back of his head (even if only the side of it) and he can’t see the back of your head at all, YOU are in the better position!

Maybe you’re a little more able to see the back of his head because you’re off to his side. Or maybe it’s because you’re leaning over his shoulder. Or maybe it’s because you’re pushing him at an angle. I could probably rephrase to say, “you should try to see the SIDE of his head”. Ehhhh…anyway, you get the idea.

Now how do you get to the side position anyway? Let’s imagine that you’re both squared off or you’re both in a matching stance (orthodox vs orthodox) where both of you have the same angles. You have two choices from here. You can pivot, turn, or push him so that you end up on his right side. Or you could step your back foot up cutting it around his front foot so that you end up on his left side.

Another option while inside-fighting is to temporarily turn southpaw. Let’s pretend he’s pushing at you. You could momentarily step your front foot back (letting him fall forward) and you would momentarily be in a southpaw position.

If you’re going to be stuck in front of him in an evenly-matched mirror position, at least try to have your head on top and FEEL like you are the bigger circle. The goal is always to find an angle that makes space for your punches while making it hard for him to punch you back.

 

Punch timing and rhythm on the inside

The first tip I need to share about punching on the inside is to use timing and rhythm, rather than vision. When you’re standing farther out, yes, you need your eyes to see your opponent’s attacks and open targets. But on the inside, this isn’t going to be fast enough. You need to be more intuitive than that. All kinds of punching and movement will be happening non-stop and you might not even be in a position to see all his movements. You’ll stand a better chance if you know how to read your opponent’s movement by FEELING them rather than by seeing them.

Again, it isn’t that you don’t use your eyes. Sure, you still need your eyes to see his intention, and get a feel for his rhythm and movement. But you have to use your body contact to understand where his body is, and where he’s pushing against you, and where his body is vulnerable. It’s not only a punching fight but also a pushing fight. Once you understand the flow of his movement, try to time your movements with his and let go of your shots to make the most damage.

One of the best tactics to landing body punches is actually using timing and rhythm. Often times on the inside, the body is never exposed and so the only way to hit it is to punch right when he punches and if you do it right, you can catch him turning right into your punch. How deliciously painful! Many beginners have a hard time landing body punches on the inside because they’re always trying to throw around their opponent’s arms or waiting for open shots. Sometimes I aim right where the arms are protecting and I time it just right so that my punch will land right as his elbow lifts up to punch at me. Just try it and see. Punch right at his guard in the middle of exchanges and you’ll be surprised at how many of them get through.

When punching on the inside,
rely on timing and rhythm, rather than vision.

The worst thing you can do is sit there, peeking out through your guard, and WAITING for an open shot. No more waiting, you have to be proactive. You don’t NEED to see anything. You don’t NEED to look for targets. He is right in front of you. Your bodies are touching already, so you should know where his head is and where his body is. Start pushing, turning, and throwing. Don’t wait for opportunities, create them!

What’s the second worst mistake you can make offensively on the inside? If trying to use your eyes is the first mistake, the second one would be trying to use speed. This is a typical mistake made by beginner boxers. The common thinking among beginner boxers is that you have to be fast on the inside in order to hit him before he hits you. And then because opponents are typically more defensively-aware on the inside, beginners feel they need to be extremely fast in order to take advantage of their opponent’s openings. What actually ends up happening is that they burn a lot of energy trying to throw punches when they’re being smothered or pushed off balance. And then they get tired! So again, just relax, and find the rhythm!

Now the hardest part about telling fighters to use timing and rhythm is that they end up waiting. It’s kind of like how beginners hit the double-end bag—they just kind of stand there and wait for it to stop moving. Well, a real fighter will never stop moving. So here is my real-world advice: just keep punching. Keep moving, keep fighting. As you move, you will start to catch a nice rhythm for the fight, and you’ll be able to pick it up and slow it down as needed. The moment you stop moving, you’ll fall out of rhythm and then it’s like no matter what you do, it’s never the right time.

There are a few classic rhythms on the inside. They’re usually something like this. Fast punches, then push or pivot, then 2, 3, or 4 hard shots, then some more clinching. Push or pivot off your opponent and dig 2 hard shots, then block or slip his counter, then fire back 2 hard counters, then hold again, then flurry, then step around, then push and throw another hard shot at the face.

Now for a defensive rhythm. It’s all about finding a nice moment to switch from defense to offense. You don’t have much time, you can’t sit still for more than 2 seconds or else you’ll eat some hard shots. Use a solid block and then right after his first punch or anytime during his combination, you explode out of your shell and interrupt his combination with hard counters. Sometimes you interrupt on his first punch, other times on his last punch. Different opponents are more vulnerable at different moments in their combinations. Another thing you can do is slip or duck his first punch (or a hard punch) and then counter right away. If you’re too tired to explode, you can roll with his punches and then flow into your own combination when you’re comfortable. Sometimes you go against his rhythm, sometimes you go with it.

 

One-legged combinations on the inside

One rule I rely on for inside-fighting is not to shift weight as much. Typically in outside-boxing when you’re fighting at farther range, it’s very common for fighters to try and shift their weight from one foot to the other on every punch. It’s also common for fighters to try and keep their weight in the center and shift a little on every punch. Now for inside-fighting, I’m going to recommend you to go against that. Here’s why…

The common problem with inside-fighting is that both of you are leaning on each other and taking up all the space at the middle. There’s no room to punch because both of you are smothering each other’s punches. And so my tip here is to shift your weight to one leg so it’s like you’re all of the sudden on the side of your opponent. This immediately makes room for you to punch (at least from one arm) and momentarily makes your opponent vulnerable since his defense might not have yet adjusted to your new position. (NOTE: A little shift is all you need, don’t over do it. Some of the shift is from your lower body, some of the shift is from your upper body.)

Now to maximize this position, it’s best if you stay on that leg as you throw combinations from that side. And then at some point, shift to the other leg and attack from the other side. For this reason, I call this tactic “one-legged combinations” because you’re staying on the same leg as you throw combinations instead of switching back-and-forth between both legs. So just keep your weight in the center to close up or stall the position, then shift to one side to open up attack angles, and then close up again, or shift to the other side to attack again or get away. Keep in mind, you can move your foot when you shift weight; try stepping or pivoting to see if you can create new angles with each weight shift.

Don’t shift weight with every punch on the inside,
keep your weight more on one leg
when throwing combinations.

In a way, shifting weight is actually the inside-fighting version of boxing footwork. Because typically in outside-boxing, boxing footwork is more like that flashy jumping around that you see. But on the inside, boxing footwork is far more subtle because you don’t have time to jump around. And it’s also tiring and also harder to do if you are pushing each other around. On the inside, you have a better chance of staying balanced if your feet are on the floor more often.

This tactic of not constantly shifting weight is actually very similar to many principles I share in another article called, The 3 Axes of Boxing. Please take a look at it for more tips to help you maximize your offense and defense from different angles.

 

Best punch combinations for inside-fighting

The best punch combinations on the inside are most likely going to be hooks and other variations of hooking punches—such as uppercuts and overhand rights. Basically, you’re throwing shots with a bent elbow since your arms don’t have room for straight punches. Even if you were to throw a right cross, it’ll be possible only because you slipped or stepped to one side and/or bent the elbow to make it fit. Take a look at my example combos and make your own!

NOTE: check out my punching combinations list if you don’t understand my punch-numbering system.

2-3-2 – Right hand, left hook, right hand. Beautiful combination that fits nicely in close range if you slip in or lean over on your front foot a little bit. If you want, you could also pull away by putting weight more on your back foot, and then come in with your right hand, and stay there while you throw the hook and second right hand. Some variations: you could throw the hook to the body. You could also finish the combination off with another hook to the head and shift your weight with it so that your body leans away afterwards. If you’re having problems hitting his head with the right cross, try aiming it at the chest.

6-3-2 – Right uppercut, left hook, right hand—all punches thrown with your weight on your back foot. You can aim the punches to the head or body. The idea scenario here is that your right uppercut picks up his head, your left hook chops it off, and the right hand puts him down if he’s still standing. It’s a brutal combination. Some variations: if he’s blocking the uppercut by sticking his gloves in front of his face, you can aim the uppercut at his wrist, it’ll shove his hand into his face and still pick his head up for your hook. Also, instead of finishing with the right hand, you could finish with a wide right hook to his body. After the first 2 head shots, he might not expect the last shot to be a body shot. You could also finish the combo with another right uppercut (6-3-6). Also, you can shift over to your left foot on the last right hand shot if you like.

3-6-3 – Left hook, right uppercut, left hook. This combination is also thrown with your weight on your back foot. The thinking here is the guy is leaning into your space and so you lean back to throw left hooks that can counter his right hands, and throw right uppercuts that can catch his head when he leans in. All punches are aimed at the head here. If you want, you can aim the right uppercut at his solar plexus, this is VERY PAINFUL! You could also finish with another right uppercut (stay in place) or even a deadly right cross (shift over to your front foot). You could also pivot with the second hook, and THEN throw a finishing right cross. Or you could leave your forearm in his face after the last hook to set him up for a hard right hand counter. Or maybe even do a push-off after the last hook, and then throw some more shots.

2-5-2 – Lean your weight to the front foot, then throw a right hand, left uppercut, right hand. The big tip is to aim your left uppercut at his chin. This is such a tricky combination is because most opponents will expect a left hook to the body when they see you leaning in and so his arm will be positioned to block the left hook to the body, except only your glove arcs upwards (instead of around) and hits him in the face. Keep mixing up 2-5-2 with 2-3b-2, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s an amazing combo that’ll keep opponents guessing.

3b-5 or 4b-6 – Now you’re throwing double shots from the same hand. The hook to the body brings his defending arm to the side which then exposes his head to your uppercut up the middle. You can do it with either hand. If you’re throwing left hand punches, keep your weight on the left foot for both punches, and vice versa for the right hand. Feel free to finish up with a 3rd shot from the opposite hand. This is a very classic pro combination, many people think of Mike Tyson for this combo. Another variation that’s not as popular is 3b-2-5 or 4b-1-6.

6b-5b-6b-5b-2-3-2 – Basically a bunch of uppercuts to the body followed by some shots to the head. I have my weight relatively centered when I throw this combination. You can throw it hard with full power or use it as a blitz combo just to score some points and do some light damage or keep him busy. You can also throw the body uppercuts light and quick and then throw the head shots hard. This can also be a great shoeshine combination (all fast punches) to mix in with hard combinations… do it like this: throw a flurry, pivot, 2-3 hard punches, pivot, another flurry, repeat.

1-2-1-2-3b-4b – Ok, please DO IT LIKE THIS: throw a really fast 1-2-1-2 to the head, and then HARD hooks to the body. *bapbapbapbap-BOOM!-BOOM!* The first couple shots are just to distract him and make him lift his defense up to his face and then he’ll be open to your nasty body shots. I tell people to do this all the time and so often fighters will be tempted to throw the first 3 or 4 shots hard with full power. Don’t do that, it ruins the effect. Get close to him and just throw out the first 3-4 shots as fast and as light as you can. The first shots are supposed to be with maximum speed to surprise him, and then save all your power for the hooks, ok?!

Push & Punch – It sounds so simple but it really works. There are a few ways you can do this. You can get real close, lean on each other. And then when you’re ready, push him to make space and immediately throw punches at him. Another way is to leave a glove or forearm in his face, and then pull it away and throw a shot. For example, you can use your left glove to push his face or even just hold it in front to cover his eyes, then pull it away and throw a hard right. It sounds so easy and cheap of a trick but it works well in transition. For example, you throw a 1-2-3, and then leave your left glove in his face after the hook, then pull the left glove away and throw a hard right.

Pull & Punch – You can pull an opponent’s body off balance and then punch. But you could also pull the defending arm away and then punch. (Yes, it’s a dirty tactic.) Some fighters will put their left hand on their opponent’s defending glove and then while pulling their left hand away, they use that hand to pull away their opponent’s defending glove, while simultaneously punching with their right. You could also pull with your right hand to set up your left hook. Another trick I know…this is for when you’re close to each other on the inside and your opponent has his elbow covering his body. Use one hand (palm facing up) to pull your opponent’s forearm or elbow away from his body to expose his ribs for your other hand to punch the body. Remember: you pull his arm and throw your punch all in one motion.

Pivot & Punch – Try this sweet little trick. Do the mirror position where you’re both leaning in with your head on each other’s shoulders. Let’s pretend your head is on his left shoulder. From here, with your left arm and shoulder under his right shoulder, pivot out clockwise on your left foot as you use your left shoulder and left arm to throw him forward in front of you, then counter hard with your right hand (finish with more punches if you like). You can also try pivoting out the other way. Have fun with this move.

Wrestle & Punch – Remember all those wrestling techniques I taught you? USE THEM! How about stepping around him and then punch. Or turn him, and then punch. Or push or pull him off balance just a bit and then unload on him. Typically after a successful wrestling move you should be on his side or even almost behind him. What many fighters will do is throw hard hooks to the body and then to the head. The reason why it’s good to throw punches to the body after a successful wrestling move is because many fighters will instinctively block their head when they lose sight of you for a moment. Even better yet, if he’s covering his face, well then you’re free to punch anywhere you like—he can’t see your punches anyway. There’s a good chance his guard will be surrounding his face leaving him open for an uppercut to come from underneath.

Slip-in wide right (TRICKY!) – This has got to be one of my favorite shots of all time. I remembered seeing professionals get away with this so many times and I never understood how it worked because it looked like such a simple wild punch that kept landing. It wasn’t until other fighters used it on me a couple times that I kind of figured out the essence. So what it LOOKS LIKE, is a really obvious wild wide right hand that just somehow manages to catch everyone right in the face. But what it actually is…is this: you slip into your opponent’s space BUT bring your head inside in a way that makes it look like you’re going to either throw a HARD left hook to the body or a HARD straight right to the face. And because of your intense presence, your opponent shifts his guard over to cover his face or his ribs, which leaves him open to your wide right hand (aimed at the left side of his face). Another way to think of it is like this: your opponents will typically follow your head with their defense. If your head is going to their right side, they will tend to guard their right side more. And so with this trick, your head is going to their right side, but your deadly punch comes from their left. ANOTHER OPTION: instead of throwing the wide right to the head, you could also throw it to the body.

 

Defensive techniques for inside-fighting

Remember how outside-boxing defense techniques were all about protecting your body? Blocking, parrying, rolling, slipping? Well INSIDE-boxing defense techniques are more about stifling his attack. Smothering, trapping, pushing, turning.

Smothering – This is all about being close. You’re not only taking away his space to punch, you’re also IN his space. You’re disrupting his stance, his balance. You’re not only where his punches need to be, you’re also where his body needs to be. You’re on top of him, you’re around him. You hogging up all the air he needs to breathe. Your presence isn’t only blocking his punches, it’s making him tired. Sometimes you’re right in front and smothering his vision, sometimes you’re more to one side, completely smothering one of his arms so he can’t use it. He’s so busy pushing you away, he never gets to throw a punch. Try to have elements of smothering in ALL your defensive movements on the inside. Maintain a constant contact on him to affect his movements at all times. Try smothering with your chest, head, or arms. And try to use less energy than him.

Rolling – Same way as you normally would roll punches except only you’re trying to be very close and all in his face. It’s like you can almost shove your elbow in his face when you do this. Your waist is walking into his waist and pushing him back. Again, try to use smothering as you roll. Lots of body contact.

Trapping – Put your hands on him. On his face, on his arm, on his shoulder, on his neck. Put your arms all over him so it feels like he has to fight through a thicket before getting to you. He can’t throw a straight punch because your arms are in the middle. He can’t throw a shot over the top because your forearms are always in the way. He can’t throw a body shot because you’re too close or too far or there’s always an arm in the way. Your hands are busy preventing him from punching rather than from trying to cover yourself. He’s so stuck trying to get untangled that he can’t throw anything.

Pushing – Again, we don’t wait. Keep pushing him, moving him around, until you figure out what you want to do with him. Now you have to be efficient with it, don’t burn yourself out. Just use the techniques I taught you. Turn him a little, step over, grab and hold, release and get to the other side. Throw punches when you’re ready and then start wrestling him again. He can’t throw if he’s busy wrestling with you. What’s another great moment to push? When he hits you with a good shot. Quickly grab his glove or arm or body, turn him, push, and walk away.

Auto-Defense – Have some automatic defense moves. Many boxers like to roll under after they throw a hard punch that gets blocked. For example, throw 3 or 4 hard shots, then duck and roll under twice. Maybe he’ll miss with 2 counter hooks over your head, maybe he won’t. Or after you throw a hard combination, pivot around him. Maybe he’ll miss a counter, maybe he won’t. If you’re tired, you can do a small pivot instead of a big one, that still makes a difference! Make up your own little safety angles that you retreat to on the inside. A little turn or tilt here and there can make all the difference on the inside and make an opponent miss. A little bit of automatic movement can help you stay safe when you’re tired. Try sparring a pro and learn all their tricks.

 

How to Escape from the Inside

Despite all the fun there is in inside-fighting, I can guarantee you won’t always enjoy it. Sometimes you want to have some breathing room, or some punching room. Or maybe you’re hurt and don’t want him anywhere near you. Or maybe he’s kind of strong on the inside and you want to try boxing him from the outside. Or maybe he’s the annoying kind of clincher that never lets go and the ref never calls it. Or maybe he’s a dirty fighter on the inside.

I’m sure you already know that it’s hard to run backwards for an entire fight. Some boxers make it look easy. They just run and run and run. But it doesn’t work when you do it. When you try to get out, you always find yourself up against the ropes. Or the opponent is always able to get inside on you. Your jabs don’t keep him away and you can’t seem to keep the distance between you.

The biggest tip I can give you: don’t try to go backwards. Learn to escape going forwards (right through him) or sideways (around him). It’s one of the best skills you can learn. And this skill will always be effective no matter where you are in the ring, you could be stuck on the ropes or in the corner and you will always be able to go through him or around him.

When trying to escape an opponent on the inside,
go THROUGH HIM or AROUND HIM, not away from him.

Aside from all the wrestling techniques I’ve already taught you, here are some techniques you can use to put the fight at a distance again…

 

The Shoulder Escape

Try to escape through your opponent’s shoulder. Either you go OVER his shoulder, or you go under his shoulder. Maybe when he’s not punching you can jump over his shoulder and go through him—go THROUGH, don’t try to run around. And then also when he throws a punch, you could slip under and through his armpit to get through him. I sometimes call it “the armpit escape” because of this.

Is that all there is?! Is it that easy?! Haha, of course not. You’ll need a few tricks and tactics to make it easier. Ok, let’s start with tips for getting over his shoulder. One is to put a hand on his shoulder to help push it down or push it away or at least prevent him from punching as you try to go past him. Another thing you can do is jump over his shoulder. You may have seen some fighters literally jump or lean way back as they slide sideways past the shoulder while he’s throwing a punch with it.

Now what about tips for going UNDER his shoulder? My best tip, don’t try to slip your head under the punch or under the punching arm. Instead, imagine your head slipping under his shoulder and going through his armpit. This will make the slip much easier. Here, try this: put your head in his chest. And the moment he tries to punch, immediately slip your head through his armpit. It’ll be like the easiest thing you’ve ever done. Of course, this tactic is only meant for inside fighting because the punch can never really reach that space in front of his chest. When you’re standing further out, hell no, I do not recommend this tactic. Besides, when you’re on the outside, you’re slipping outside of his punch and staying on the outside, whereas on the inside, you’re slipping inside of his punch and going through him.

To slip through and under his punch,
slip your head towards his chest and through his armpit.

One of the most awesome tips I have is to try and put a hand on him. It’s one of the best ways to control where he can punch at you. Imagine if you had both your arms to yourself and now he can hit from all angles with his right hand. Now imagine if you had your left hand on his face or even resting or pushing at his right shoulder. Now his right hand either has to go around and over your left arm or it goes around and under your left arm. This cuts down the possibility of angles he can hit you with and makes everything much easier to defend. I know it’s going to sound crazy to leave your hand out there instead of bringing it back to your face but please try this. Watch heavyweight fighters who get tired a lot on the inside and see how they do it.

 

How to set up the shoulder escape

Setting up the shoulder escape can be pretty easy simply by changing direction and angles on your opponent:

Low-to-high – Bend your knees or crouch down slightly lower so he aims downwards, then jump over the punch. You’re staying low to bait him to aim lower and then you pick your head up and escape over the the punch in any direction you like.

High-to-low – Here, we do the opposite. Stand high to bait a high punch and then drop down and go under it.

Side-to-side – Keep putting your head towards your right side and bait him to punch with his RIGHT HAND in that direction, and then you escape by going to your left. It can also help if you push his right shoulder with your left hand as he punches. It’ll help tilt him off balance and give you more time to get away or even set up a counter.

Side-to-side using a pivot – You could also go to your right or lean towards your right and then when you see a right hand punch, you immediately pivot clockwise on your left foot to get out of the way. You can also lean back as you pivot to really get your head out of the way. Many pros do this. This tactic works best when an opponent reaches with his right hand and falls in.

Combination of the above – You could try crouching to your low right and then jumping up or lifting your head to your top left when his right hand comes. You could also put your head at high right and then duck your head to down left under his right hand punch. You can do the same in the other direction.

 

Other escape tactics

Get close and turn – Get close and turn him. Use a spin-out and then push him as you walk back. It’s a great one to use if he corners you and gets too close. You spin him into the ropes and push him back as you walk away.

Jab push-out – You may have had this happen to you. It’s really clever and doesn’t look like a push. You can also throw a jab to his body and push him back. Bend into your knees and/or your waist as you drop down and really push him with your fist. So it kind of looks like a jab but it’s really a push. It’s even better if he blocks because then his arm bone gives you a firmer surface to push.

Pivot to southpaw – In any given situation where you have orthodox-vs-orthodox, you can easily make a lot of space for yourself simply by stepping back into a southpaw position and leaning your head back. That would take your head to be as far as possible from his right hand. So how it works is this: pretend you’re getting bombarded in close-range. You momentarily turn southpaw by pivoting back or stepping back with your left foot to make some distance and then you can even lean your head back to be even farther away. As for the pivot, you can do a small pivot where it’s more like just stepping your left foot from front to back. Or you can do a big pivot where you actually swing your left foot all the way around so that you kind of end up on his side.

 

Inside-Fighting Strategy

When is the best time to fight on the inside?

Most trainers will always tell you to stay at a distance. “Box him! Stay on the outside! Use your jab, use your skills!” And that’s exactly what many fighters do. They’ll never opt to fight on the inside unless they absolutely have to or they’re dead tired in the last round. That makes perfect sense to me. But then again, if you have a big advantage somewhere, why not use it? Some of the best outside fighters you know are actually great inside fighters, too. And while it’s easy to remember guys like Wladimir Klitschko, Andre Ward, or Floyd Mayweather potshotting their opponents to death, if you pay close attention, you can also see them outworking their opponents on the inside.

 

Moments I like to use inside-fighting:

  • against fighters who are anxious and tend to over-react, I make them punch themselves out
  • against fighters with poor balance, I push them all over the ring
  • against fighters who need space and speed to be effective, I smother them
  • against fighters who are frustrated by inside-fighting, I crowd them
  • against fighters I’m having a hard time boxing against, I disrupt their rhythm
  • against fighters who are trying to be pretty and staying away in the first round
  • against fighters who always throw hard punches, kind of fun to try tiring them out inside
  • against fighters who like to chase me, I use inside-fighting to push them off
  • against fighters who are shorter, kind of fun to lean on them
  • against fighters who only have one strong hand or even no strong hands, I walk right in
  • against fighters who are tall, I use inside-fighting to push them to the ropes
  • against fighters who like to run a lot, I like to trap them and wear out their legs and body
  • against fighters who like to counter, I smother them immediately after I land my punches
  • against fighters who get too close, I like to spin them off balance and counter to keep them away
  • against fighters who are already tired, I use inside fighting to exhaust them even more
  • when I’m tired or hurt and want to stall the fight, I clinch
  • when I can’t see or something is in my eye
  • when my hand is hurt and I don’t want to punch

As you can see, there are many moments where you can use inside-fighting. There are many moments where inside-fighting can wear out your opponent, frustrate him, or hurt him! You may be surprised at how many boxers hate fighting on the inside.

 

When to box, when to wrestle — (the intervals)

You will find that a lot of inside-fighting strategy has to do with boxing vs wrestling. At what point do you slip and counter, and at what point do you grab and spin? Sometimes you can do a lot of boxing on the inside, with lots of punching and pretty evasive maneuvers, with only a quick touch here and there to keep turning your opponent. Other times you want to smother your opponent and frustrate him, wear him out, as you do a lot of clinching and then break away only in sporadic moments to pop him in the face and then grab him again to annoy him some more. Other times you just want to slow the pace.

When you’re too close, smother him, then make space for a pivot or another wrestling move, then take away the space again when he wants to attack. When you’re too far, HIT HIM! It’s all about finding the interval that works for you. When do you punch and when do you wrestle? Some fights will be a lot of punching and then a lot of wrestling. Other fights will be a few punches, a quick grab, and then a few more punches.

My advice is to control the interval. You wrestle when he’s trying to punch and then you punch when he’s trying to regain his balance, and then repeat. He’ll never know whether to focus on his arms or his legs. When to breathe, or when to block. He won’t be sure when he should be pushing you back or blocking your punches or throwing his own punches.

 

The SECRET to Inside-fighting

The secret to inside-fighting,
is POSITION and PRESENCE, not pushing.

At some point, you’ll come to realize that inside-fighting is not about pushing and grabbing. It’s about putting psychological pressure on your opponent. And psychological pressure beats physical pressure any day. When you first start out, “inside-fighting” is a lot of tense pushing and wrestling on the inside. But once you start to pay attention to how the pros do it (and even better, you get in the ring with a pro), you’ll realize how clever they are.

First off, the pros are incredibly relaxed and possess an acute awareness of their own balance as well as their opponent’s balance. You will feel their presence all over you but they’re not actually pushing you. They’re simply in your space and making you comfortable. There’s SOME body contact but not all that much. They’re not really pushing you BUT YOU’RE STUCK. You actually feel trapped and can’t move. But then you look and it’s just because their forearm is touching you a little bit. This is the beauty of professional-level boxing. They don’t need much force, a little touch is all they need to spin you around completely. A little tap is all they need to send you flying off balance.

And then what happens when you try to grab them? Hahaha, they pivot away and you fall forward. Or they push your arm and you fall over past them. Or you throw yourself onto them and they somehow end up behind you. A pro can push you over so easily and yet you can’t seem to push the pro at all. I can honestly tell you that I am nowhere close to being this good. But when I’m in the ring with them, that’s what I feel. Or at least that’s what I THINK I feel, and that’s how I would describe it. If you ever reach that level someday, please teach me.

 

Different Styles of Inside-Fighting

Great inside-fighting skills are most often found in pro boxing rather than amateur boxing. Because inside-fighting truly is a finesse technique rather than athletic technique, pro boxers that have to fight 12 rounds will be far more likely to pick this up by necessity. They’re fighting longer rounds against stronger opponents, they have lighter gloves and no headgear. Amateur boxers are only going for 3 rounds and scored by points rather than by damage.

An athletic fighter is more often found, trying to make space and throwing hard punches rather than shoving around on the inside. You’ll see them hitting and running non-stop. It’s a tiring way to fight but for only 3 rounds, yes, you can do it. Now for pros, you really have to take your time. All opponents are smarter, you can’t just race your shots out there. There’s a bit more thinking involved and you have all day. There’s an energy-conservation mentality now. Even if you could throw lots of punches and land them, you have to be calculated and wait to land the ones that do the most damage…all while being careful not to leave yourself vulnerable.

There’s this impression that young, strong, fast, and dominant fighters don’t like getting close and risking themselves getting hit with a big punch. And so people think of inside-fighters as being only old school veterans, like a slower, lazier, fatter guy that likes to sit on the inside, letting his opponent wear himself out. And it’s true, you do have a James Toney who can just swim around on the inside and wait for you to present him all the openings. But there are also great young fighters too who do it well on the inside.

I truly hope that for the sake of boxing and respect for our sport that you get to face a professional fighter in the ring just once in your life. You have to see it and feel it for yourself to really know what it’s like. Their inside work is incredible. How strong and yet fluid and graceful they are on the inside.

For now, you can watch the greats at work by the modern miracle of Youtube videos. There are so many incredible examples to learn from that it’s hard for me to choose. For all that we know about outside-boxing, there is almost an entirely different world of fighting when it comes to inside-boxing. So many awesome little moves and tricks that are so subtle and so hard to see. You really can’t tell what’s going on unless you’re in there yourself.

 

The many styles of inside-fighting

I break down the many different styles of inside-fighting into 4 general categories—MAULERS, PUSHERS, STALLERS, and SLICKSTERS. This isn’t supposed to be a universally-agreed opinion; it’s simply my own personal opinion on how I differentiate between different inside-fighting styles.

MAULERS – are like Roberto Duran, Julio Cesar Chavez, and Ricky Hatton. I would say they’re very aggressive and very energetic on the inside. Lots of arm-trapping and pressure from all angles. Inside-fighting makes up a big part of their offense and overall fighting strategy. They love to attack on the inside. And they never let you rest in close range. Arms are very busy on the inside, always grabbing and pushing, and sneaking shots around their opponent’s defense. Their legs can also be quite busy on the inside. You may see some jumping around or quick pivots and step-arounds before unleashing deadly hooks on the inside. Maulers like to use their inside-game as a way of dominating lesser fighters, or even nullifying faster fighters. Maulers are very machismo and dominating.

PUSHERS – are like Floyd Mayweather, Evander Holyfield, Bernard Hopkins, and Andre Ward. These guys are all about position and presence. They love to push their opponents around the ring. They’re often found pushing and punching at the same time. They’re very calm, it’s not a frantic scramble to land punches. Unlike the maulers, the pushers are not trying to overwhelm their opponents on the inside. They simply clinch, push, and throw a couple shots here and there. Many pushers like to use their inside game to frustrate punchers. Pushers are very calm and thinkers.

STALLERS – are like Muhammad Ali and Wladimir Klitschko. These guys avoid fighting on the inside at all costs. Anytime their opponents get close, they simply tie up their opponents’ arms or lean on their head. They have no interest in trading punches, or even trying to wrestle. They’ll simply hold down their opponents, and tire them while waiting for the ref to break them up. You might notice tall fighters doing this a lot against shorter opponents. It’s a subtle way of punishing an opponent for going inside. Many stallers use their inside game to take a break or simply force the fight into a longer range. Stallers are very patient and annoying.

SLICKSTERS – are like James Toney, Miguel Cotto, and Joan Guzman. I call them slicksters because they love finessing the fight, with very clean and smooth movements. They do have old school boxing skills but they use their inside-fighting skills to AVOID wrestling on the inside. If you watch James Toney, he is as comfortable as anyone on the inside but he’s not trying to grab. He likes to slip and roll, and throw counters. He likes to keep it a punching fight by not grabbing. Same goes for Miguel Cotto, he likes ducking and dodging and making space for his punches. He doesn’t like to be touched at all. What happens when you try to put a hand on Toney or Cotto? They both kind of roll through and push you away. They don’t let you make any contact with them. Slicksters are very clean and slick.

MAULERS – Duran, Chavez, Hatton.
PUSHERS – Ward, Mayweather, Holyfield, Hopkins.
STALLERS – Ali, Klitschko.
SLICKSTERS – Toney, Cotto, Guzman.

 

My Favorite Inside-Fighters in Boxing

 

Roberto Duran

One of the most legendary boxers ever to have existed! Incredible skills at any range, at any weight class. You’ll have to read his life story to truly appreciate what he’s been able to do in the sport. Great chin, tenacious non-stop aggression and relentless pressure style. He’s something like a piranha, he latches on to you and you can’t get him off.

 

Evander Holyfield

A solid strong heavyweight built like a brickhouse who could push and punch with anybody on the inside.

 

Bernard Hopkins

No surprise here. Typical old school fighter with all the old school tricks. Feinting, stalling, baiting, potshotting, and LOTS of inside-fighting.

 

Floyd Mayweather

Known for his supreme outside-boxing skills and defense, he’s actually a very well-schooled boxer with many old school tricks. On the inside, sometimes he’s boring, other times he explodes. The finesse thing about him is that he’s always calm as hell.

  • Watch him bully Shane Mosley around on the inside with many clever guarding positions, pushing and hitting, and just overall frustrating Mosley. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H35TyMPH4Zo
  • You can see him manage the same against another inside-fighter in Ricky Hatton. Many textbook leverage positions and tactics. I’m not as impressed in this fight because of Mayweather’s size advantage.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJrCY2qwhgI
  • Look how calmly Mayweather ties up Maidana’s arms on the inside. He simply, and very casually, puts his left arm up and over Maidana’s right arm and that’s it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19MgtqszNJI
  • Watch Floyd push his sparring partners around and also see how he uses his hands on the inside. Also notice how his footwork is very calm (almost lazy) as he’s seemingly walking around. He’s not jumping around on the inside like a rabbit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVieMMlqTMk
  • Check out this move against Canelo @ 22:54. https://youtu.be/qWiOX5Epoxg?t=22m54s He sticks his left arm out and goes over Canelo’s right hand and grabs/traps his head!

 

Ricky Hatton

You can see him mauling in any of his fights. Lots of energetic footwork and a frantic pace set on his opponents.

 

Muhammad Ali

Known for incredible hand speed and footwork. What’s he like to do? Throw jabs and right hands while retreating backwards from his opponent. When he’s in mid-range, he’ll throw fast flurries. But up close, he liked to clinch often. I think that’s why many people called him boring. He ran from opponents and when they did get close, he was a shameless clincher.

  • Watch him tie up Joe Frazier in a very slow, calm, casual manner. No panicky rush. No anxious tense movements. Simply come in and tie him up. Inside-fighting can be made calm if you have this kind of presence and while it doesn’t look like it from the outside, it’s actually very effective. You can simply lay your weight on any fighter and wear him out with this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMOIWWyNHJs

 

Julio Cesar Chavez

One of the greatest Mexican boxers ever with all the typical Mexican boxer attributes—great chin, resilience, body punching, endurance, and of course, aggressive fighting style.

 

Miguel Cotto

A great example of a fighter using inside-fighting skills mainly for being defensive or surviving. He typically prefers to fight from mid-range with his clean boxing skills and steps in every now and then to dig the left hook to the body. Later in his career, you can see him wrestle and push a little more on the inside but he still prefers to move around and box on his feet rather than stand flat in the trenches.

 

Andre Ward

He’s actually well known for his inside-fighting ability. He’s a very solid pound-4-pound champion right now. Known not only for his outside boxing ability and veteran-like guile, but also his strength on the inside. He’s quite subtle, not flashy, and at the same time, dominant at all ranges.

  • In very similar fashion to Floyd Mayweather, you can see him pushing and punching on the inside against Carl Froch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQJWRhJL6wg
  • If you can find it, look for footage of his fight against Chad Dawson. Great example of his inside-work there.

 

Wladimir Klitschko

Nothing flashy here. Every time he gets close, he simply stalls the fight by taking a break on his opponent’s neck. It’s deadly effective. Imagine a 250lb heavyweight leaning on you every chance he gets.

 

James Toney

He can fight on the inside and he manages to do it without grabbing with his arms. He doesn’t wrestle. He’s just staying pretty, slipping, rolling, and sliding off shots. Always finding a way to make room on the inside for his punches.

 

Joan Guzman

A very fast boxer with good power and great boxing skills. All-around fighter with offensive and defensive skills and very fun to watch. It makes a lot of sense that he doesn’t like to wrestle and would prefer to keep his hands free because he has such fast hands. I’m guessing he figured it was more rewarding to punch with them than to wrestle with them.

  • Watch him stay pretty inside his Philly shell defense against Humberto Soto. He doesn’t really reach or grab his opponent very much. He likes to just sit in there slipping and rolling and boxing his way back out to outside range. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cn1crQ-eEbg
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31 Comments

Nick September 26, 2016 at 1:22 pm

Awesome article, Johnny! The best I have ever read about inside fighting.

What do you think about “left shoulder to opponent chest” stance for inside fighting? Like philly shell.

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Johnny N September 26, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Thanks, Nick. The “left shoulder to opponent chest” is a good mirror position to neutralize the fight and stall from. This is usually a transition position for me, as I move from here in order to attack and then I come back into this position to close up the middle and stall the fight.

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Nick September 26, 2016 at 3:52 pm

You, too.) Literally just yesterday I read an old boxingforum24’s topic about inside fighting for tall. Some user is offering this stance:

========================
Keep in mind, I am 6’3″ tall, boxed at 156-178, years ago when I was very tall for my weight.

When you turn that shoulder inside, you take away his right hand because it is now behind your back. When he reaches to get to you with his left hand to the body, hit the right uppercut. When he tries to hook to the head, right uppercut. These are natural and open counters- the motion he makes to throw his left hand makes them so. And you have taken his right hand out of it, right?

So you throw the right upper-cut, then a left hook. Now you are back where you started, in good position. A nice move, from in close, is the right upper cut, left hook. Then use your right hand on his left elbow to turn him, pivot out, come back with a right hand left hook.

But you can go on for days. In close, you can pull his left down with your left and land a right. Or grab his left shoulder with your right hand and spin him into a left hook as you pivot to your right.

[…]

Get your shoulder into his chest, don’t let him get low. You will take his right hand out of the game, he won’t be able to chop at you with the right hand. If he does, duck your head behind your left shoulder.

In close, a high left hand is pointless. Your left shoulder protects you- get in real tight. Use the left arm to cover your stomach, keep the right elbow tight to cover your liver. Learn how to shoot a real short real tight right uppercut and a short hook behind it.

That action, those punches, is all on your feet. Keep your feet under your shoulders and you’ll be able to punch short, hard, and fast. If your feet get wide, you can’t do it.
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Johnny N September 26, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Very well-written. I agree with all of it!

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Alberto November 4, 2016 at 5:24 pm

Hey johnny i just wanted to write you and ask you a question I’ve been signed up with USA boxing for 3 years and never got a fight I am feeling hopeless because I know I should’ve been some where with my boxing career I am 25 my first fight was at 22 but it never happened because my opponent had a cold sore and the other event the year after got cancelled I feel like giving up sometimes because I know I could’ve had lots of fights in my career and I feel I have lost opportunity do u think I can still make it as a pro is my question and biggest concern I know I’m good at what I do but I feel like giving up because I’ve been doing this for ten years and feel to old for some reason now I can’t stop thinking about the opportunities I lost because of this gym I was at I feel as if they wasted my time please get back to me as soon as possible and thank you

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Alberto November 4, 2016 at 5:30 pm

I forgot to mention that I am at a new gym now but these thoughts of hopelessness keep clouding threw my head please e mail me your oppinion and I also do know pros that got into Fighting there first pro at 27

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Johnny N November 7, 2016 at 10:14 pm

Start signing up for fights! Get into another gym and find a new coach if you have a hard time finding fights.

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George Chris September 26, 2016 at 3:01 pm

Johnny, thank you SO much for all your great work through the years! As a person who’s taken up boxing in the last year, I find myself constantly referencing your articles for how-to, tips and all-around knowledge. This is absolutely priceless to me and I hope in the future your work is looked at in the same weight and admiration as Jack Dempsey’s Championship Fighting.

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Nick September 26, 2016 at 3:29 pm

Well, in my top3 “Championship Fighting” only on third place:

– “Boxing” (Naval Aviation Physical Training Manuals)
– “Boxing” by Edwin Haislet
– “Championship Fighting” by Jack Dempsey

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Johnny N September 26, 2016 at 6:10 pm

I really appreciate the comment, George. It’s definitely taken a lot of work and personal growth to write the most helpful guides that I can. Very glad to be of service.

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Viswanathan m September 26, 2016 at 8:53 pm

Very useful article, Thank you.

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roso September 27, 2016 at 7:15 am

Thanks, Johnny, for the priceless information you put on this website.
I have a question: In many of your articles and videos I came across a phrase “give up the ground”. English is not my mother language. Could you please explain what it means? Thanx

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Johnny N September 27, 2016 at 11:15 am

To “give up the ground” means that you don’t try to hold your position. Many fighters for example will quickly run and move away when their opponent comes forward. And the opposite phrase, “hold your ground” means that you stay in your position and you don’t let your opponent force you to move back.

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roso September 27, 2016 at 11:46 am

thank you

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Negus Taylor September 27, 2016 at 2:35 pm

I’ve been reading your suffer for years and I will say this is one of the best articles you’ve written! Very great! Except there is one thing I disagree with. If you have two fighters the same weight class and arguably same weight, the shorter guy is going to have the advantage. The smaller limbs allow for greater power from compact punches. Especially when you’re in extremely close range. And also the lower Centre of gravity gives a bit more play when it comes to manipulation. The main advantage a taller person has is the ability to rest their weight on a shorter guy (which is huge) but the maneuverability is harder when you’re taller. Your list of boxers is outstanding by the way, but you’re missing the king, someone who made a career on infighting. Prime Mike Tyson. Early in his career tyson had the stamina and movement to keep up with the demands of infighting… later on he didn’t have that. But still I lived your article, it’s good that some people out there understand what it takes to effectively fight on the inside.

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Johnny N September 27, 2016 at 2:57 pm

Thanks for commenting, Negus,

I used to believe in the idea of shorter guys having the advantage on the inside but I’ve seen changed my mind to the opposite. This isn’t to say that shorter guys can’t do well on the inside but all things equal, I would say taller beats shorter. It’s true that shorter guys can probably get more power into compact punches and that they probably have more muscle mass but I don’t feel that alone can negate the tall man’s advantage on the inside.

You can read my guide on “How to Beat a Shorter Boxer” for many reasons why. Klitschko is one perfect example. As you can see in my guide, taller guys can clinch and lean, and can attack from more angles at their opponent (downwards with straights, sideways with hooks, upwards with uppercuts), whereas a shorter fighter can only attack with straight or hooking shots. A great advantage is that in close, the tall fighter’s head is more out of harm’s way than the short fighter’s head. The lower center-of-gravity argument is also void when you apply my pushing technique.

I feel Mike Tyson was never an inside-fighter. Sure, he punches in close-range but alone does not make him an inside-fighter. There are numerous videos on the Youtube showing this. He doesn’t wrestle on the inside or really do much work, there, and he often got tied up on the inside. He prefers mid-range where he can land his devastating punches. And when you look at his body, it’s easy to see why…inside-fighting doesn’t favor him because he’s a smaller shorter opponent with less body weight. He would always lose trying to push around a bigger fighter who weighs more.

To add further, inside-fighting is more often an old man’s game because it allows for finesse and skills and allows an older guy to take a break against a younger opponent. Younger fighters prefer distance where they can dominate with their speed and athleticism, and also not risk getting hit by a tricky old guy’s counter. I could you could make a distinction between aggressive reckless inside-fighting (Ricky Hatton) vs clever finesse inside-fighting (Bernard Hopkins).

Either way, my comment isn’t to take away from your opinions but to give light to why I stand from a different viewpoint. Thank you for commenting.

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DucNH October 3, 2016 at 7:44 pm

Finally, you wrote about this. I have been looking for this guide for a long time. Thank God, you wrote it. I’m not a boxer, but, you know, almost fighters should learn boxing. And when I had to fight with some fighters that have longer kick range, or longer reach, I had to try to get closer to counter his advantages of longer range. Sometime worked, sometime not. But now, with this, I can learn more about inside-fight and improve my skills. Thank you.

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Johnny N October 4, 2016 at 1:31 pm

Hehehe…it’s been so long!

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hajime no ippo October 10, 2016 at 3:02 am

Great article sir!

I think inside fighthing is more pro-ish than amateur or oympic boxing. Because outfighthing seem to require more athlethicism and explosive power to me. Would you agree with that idea?

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Johnny N October 21, 2016 at 9:02 pm

Yes…inside-fighting is more of a pro skill. You also have to understand that pros care more about damage. Amateurs care more about points. As an amateur, you might have a great inside-fighting game but the judges might not score it favorably over an out-boxer with flashier shots.

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Chris M. October 20, 2016 at 8:00 pm

So I got my butt handed to me the worst I have experienced yesterday and it was by a very aggressive taller guy who wanted to just end my life fast and hard. My coach told me after that he wants me to practice inside-fighting and develop those skills. I thought “I wonder if there is anything on expertboxing about it?” First article bam! Meant to be, the boxing gods have willed it. Thank you sir!

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Johnny N October 21, 2016 at 9:03 pm

I wish you the best, Chris. Let me know how part 2 goes.

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DucNH October 24, 2016 at 12:02 am

Hello Johnny Nguyen,

It’s me, Duc again. I have some questions and suggestions, hope you will answer and tell me your decision. First, in the martial art that I’m training – Vovinam, we have to fight with body armor, so do you think that should I do body shot and how to shot effectively (through the body armor). Second, could you please add English sub to the videos above? My friends and I are Vietnamese, and some of them can’t read English, then I think if your videos has English sub, then I can translate to Vietnamese and help my friends train. Beside, I think adding subtitle to the videos will help everyone have not-good-listening-skill understand the experience in videos. And third, could you make a video about different types of left hooks? Because I want to see the real ones to know how to do it properly. Thank you for read my comment.

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Johnny N October 31, 2016 at 8:49 am

Hi Duc. I have no experiencing punching through body armor so I wouldn’t have anything else to advise except good punching technique. As for adding English subs, that would be a great idea but not something I am prioritizing at this moment. I will put it on my to-do list and hopefully somebody can do that in the future. As for videos of different types of left hooks, I think I do have that but spread out into multiple videos and articles rather than neatly condensed into one. Perhaps, I can do an overall video in the future. Thanks for the suggestion.

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Danny Thiara November 24, 2016 at 12:12 pm

Hey Johnny I had a question for you. So recently I got an injury to my left middle finger knuckle (I’m orthodox) and I could feel this grinding sensation under that knuckle and got it checked out at the doc and got an X-ray and an ultrasound down but the X-ray showed no broken bones and the ultrasound showed some soft tissue swelling and the doc said to rest it out. So I did rest and the grinding sensation went away and I trained one day and it felt okay and I went back the next week and I felt pain when I hit the heavy bag. The grinding sensation is gone and I don’t feel pain on a daily basis and have no restrictions in the mobility of my hand or fingers everything is normal except when I hit the bag that middle knuckle starts to hurt again. Do you have any idea what this injury may be, please get back to me as soon as possible. Thanks.

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Johnny N November 29, 2016 at 12:53 am

You need to wrap your hands better and perhaps even stay away from the heavy bag for some time until you are completely healed. The pain that you feel on your knuckle…is that muscle pain? Or does it feel like a joint pain?

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justgreatnessboxing December 16, 2016 at 7:04 pm

hey love these video part 1 all the way to part 3 i just wanted to say please dont stop making expert boxing videos keep them going iv been following you since for ever and i get scared if one day i long in and find out you stoped making the expert boxing videos …. LETS GO CHAMP chaaaammmmp champ activated

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Johnny N December 17, 2016 at 8:06 am

Thank you for the kind words. I am definitely going to continue making videos…I have a huge announcement coming up soon. 🙂

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Brandon December 18, 2016 at 7:34 am

Inside fighting is my favorite kind of fighting. Nice article!

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Ben January 4, 2017 at 7:18 pm

Will you be taking down old articles?

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Johnny N January 5, 2017 at 5:29 pm

No, I won’t, Ben. The “Archives” was simply an idea from way back in the days because somebody requested I do that. I haven’t had too many requests for that since then and so I won’t be doing it anytime soon.

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