This guide will train you on the most important weapon in boxing – THE JAB! All great boxers like Muhammad Ali and Oscar De La Hoya can win an entire fight with the jab alone. If you want to be even just a good boxer (not a great one), you will still need a good jab.
BOXING JAB THEORY
What makes a jab special and what does the jab do?
The jab is quick, fast, and it sets up your shots. People with excellent jabs have calm and relaxed jabs that hit like a small spark of power and hit very accurately. Jabs can be made stronger by stepping forward, or using proper timing with proper footwork and effective angles. Your jab should be strong enough to stop your opponent in the middle of a combination. No more, no less. From there, your jab should set you up to throw your power punches. When used defensively, a jab can make space, keep your opponents away, and distract your opponent while you slide off the ropes.
TYPES OF JABS
There are many different types of jabs and many ways to use the jab in boxing. Below are a few ideas to get you started but it’s best to use what works best for you.
Regular – The regular jab or the standard jab is just that – a jab. To throw the jab from the basic position, step forward with your lead foot as you extend your arm out towards your opponent. As you recover your lead arm, the rear foot moves forward to return you to your basic stance.
Tapper - This is a light punch that is used simply to make your opponent put up his defenses to give you time to land a harder punch or to skip out of harm’s way. A tapper jab can be repeated multiple times. The main point is to use the tapper jab to get your opponent’s defenses up; meanwhile, you’re holding all your energy back for your big right hand since you’re not committing too much to the jab. You can even tap his glove, then throw the right-hand to his face. Or tap his face and right-hand to his body. (Often used by Bernard Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe)
Space-Maker – This is the same as the tapper jab except that you leave your arm almost fully extended so your jab is quicker but weaker since it lacks the distance to generate power. Leave your left arm almost extended, throw small jabs and push as you make space and keep your opponent at bay. The space-maker can be thrown multiple times as you circle around to your opponent’s right side. (Left-handers will do the opposite). An important thing to notice about the space-maker jab is that it’s mainly there to just distract the opponent. It’s very quick and flashy, not powerful, so you have to make sure not to pull your arm all the way back. If you’re throwing multiple tapper jabs, leave arm almost fully extending as you throw multiple jabs to keep your opponent busy. It is VERY important to keep an eye out for your opponent’s right hand since extending your left arm leaves you vulnerable to punches on that side of your head. Also, ALWAYS be moving around when you use the space-maker; if you stand still and stretch your arm you will get hit with the hard right counter. (often used by Kostya Tszyu)
Power Jab – This can sometimes be more of a left cross than a jab. A power jab gets its power from your legs, your body rotation, and your angle on the opponent. For the legs to generate power into the jab, you have to step forward. You have to step swiftly and powerfully without lunging. A lunging jab might be the perfect weapon to catch your opponent off guard but don’t do it too much or else you’ll get countered. The success of lunging punches requires perfect timing, NOT speed. For your body to power the jab, it has to rotate a little. The easiest way to rotate your body as you jab is to circle to your opponent’s right side, which is your left side. While circling, your upper body will have to rotate a little to give you a straight angle shot at your opponent. The movement alone will position your body to throw the punch at your opponent at an angle. Using this angle makes the jab even more devastating. The most important thing to remember through all this is not to telegraph your jab by cocking it back. (Often used by Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto)
The Double Jab – The double jab is exactly what it sounds like – one good jab followed by another. The effectiveness of this punch relies on your opponent anticipating a one-two combination (jab followed by right-hand). He’s look for your right hand after your jab but instead you catch him off guard with another jab. The double jab works well when followed by a straight right to the head or body. Another way to use the double jab is when you find yourself in a jab contest where both of you are trading jabs and trying to throw 1-2 combinations. If your opponent is throwing a 1-2 , your double jab should counter effectively. Your first jab will trade or nullify with his jab, and your second jab will intercept the right hand and score the point. If he throws a left hook afterwards, your right-hand follow-up should be able to intercept that and score as well. A double jab can be used while moving forward, backwards, or sideways. It’s also important that you punch hard enough to stun your opponent if he tries to throw a straight right. (Often used by Oscar De La Hoya and Marco Antonio Barrera)
Body-Jab – This jab is thrown to the body. While it may not be strong enough to do damage to the body, it can distract your opponent and force him to drop his guard while you punch to his head with your right hand. (Often used by Shane Mosley and Arturo Gatti)
The Counter Jab – This move is done with precise timing and works best when you’re swift and relaxed. If you tense up or act like you have a counter, it won’t work as well. Here’s how it works: when your opponent throws a jab, you immediately, WITHOUT flinching your head back, stop his jab with your right glove, and then step forward and hit him directly in the face with a hard jab. Make sure your head is back a little in case he follows up with a hard right hand. If he lunges with his jab, you can also take a step back as you block his jab, and then quickly step forward to strike him with your own. Sometimes, people don’t expect you to counter so suddenly after retreating. (Often used by Erik Morales)
WAYS TO COUNTER AGAINST THE JAB
Unfortunately, a good jab will be hard to defend against. A jabber can be very difficult to get inside against, and at times downright annoying. Fighting a good jabber can be frustrating in amateur bouts since points can be scored even for ‘weak’ punches like the jab. Listed below are a variety of several ways to counter a good jab.
Change Distance – One way to defend against the jab is to keep moving in and out of striking range. Boxers who often use the jab are usually very aware of the distance between themselves and their opponents.
Right-Hook – This counter is effective against tall boxers or boxers who leave their head upright when they throw the jab. You can easily beat the jab by coming straight in with your body, bringing your head to the inside of the jab and throwing an overhand right to your opponent’s head. It’s a devastating counter and one that leads to many knockouts if your opponent doesn’t see the right hand coming. Again, the right-hand over the jab is one of the most devastating punches in boxing because it exploits your opponents’ blind spot.
Parry to Straight-Right – This counter works best against boxers who throw a lazy jab or like to push a jab and leave it hanging out there. This counter-punch also works well when the other boxer tires and takes longer to recover his arms. All you have to do is tap down on the opponent’s hand, parrying it slightly down as you quickly come forward and throw a straight-right hand right over it. This counter requires you to be on your toes and have your body leaning slightly forward as you see the jab coming.
Never Flinch – It is important that train to prevent the flinch reflex when the opponent’s jab is thrown. If you do that, it would be very easy for him to time your flinch movement, fake you out, and land a big punch later on.
WAYS TO SETUP THE JAB
There are many theories to properly using the jab aside from the methods I’ve listed above.
End with a Jab – Most fighters like to end their combos with a big right hand. The problem is that if you miss, your opponent could easily counter you. There’s an easy fix for this: end with a backstep jab. As you finish your combo, see if he’s going to lunge after you. If he does, pop him with a jab as you step back with your rear foot and leap away. The jab scores an extra point for you but also defends you from his counter right hand should he come after you.
Jab Up and Down – That’s right. Jab to head, throw to body. Jab to the body and throw to the head.
Light-Hard – Throw a light jab to his gloves and throw a hard jab through it. Throw a light jab to the body and hard jab to the face. Or throw a hard jab to the face and follow it with a quick light jab to keep his defenses up while you throw a hard right hand to the body. You don’t always have to throw a light jab, you could just fake a jab instead.
Jab-right fake-jab – Throw a jab, fake a right-hand, and jab again.
Jab- step back-jab – Throw a jab, step back out of range as he misses his counter, and quickly come forward with another jab. Sometimes, you can be so fast that he doesn’t expect it. Other times you can time it. Follow up with hard shots if he’s vulnerable.
The jab clearly is the best weapon in boxing. It can hurt your opponent, defend you from a right hand, create space for you, push your opponents away, and even tear flesh off your opponent’s face. Practice it and use it. A good method to train would be to put little pieces of tape on your punching bag and jab at it to improve accuracy. As always, I welcome other great jab tips in the comments section.