Boxing Sparring for Beginners

March 12, 2011 March 12, 2011 by Johnny N Boxing Sparring, Boxing Training 421 Comments

There’s a difference between sparring and fighting. Fighting destroys you whereas sparring develops your skills! Want to get better without getting beat up? Learn how to spar correctly!

Boxing Sparring for Beginners



Training on equipment only develops your technique.
Training in the ring develops your fighting skills!

Sparring is probably the most important training aspect of being a fighter. Sparring goes beyond punching and defense. This is where you actually learn to fight. You get to see what works and what doesn’t. You find out exactly what needs to be improved. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for many beginnersโ€”they only find out how tough they are or aren’t. After seeing way too many boxers getting destroyed in sparring, it just hit me that most beginners don’t know how to spar!

You might have gone through this when you first started: You step into the gym, learn the basic footwork, basic defense, and all the punches. And then the question arrives, “When do I get to fight?!”

You’ve been fantasizing about it long ago, you’re just itching to punch anything that moves. You don’t care about sparring! You don’t want to “spar”, you want to fight! You’re tired of beating up the heavybag and now you wanna go Mike Tyson on somebody!

Or maybe you’re the different kind of fighter. You tried out boxing to conquer your fears and you fell in love with the intellectual part of it. You love the idea of having to think fast and make split second decisions. Boxing isn’t fighting to you, it’s more like a video game with you being the player.

Regardless of which fighter you are, the result is always the same. You get put into the ring and told to “just fight” the other opponent. Sure, they tell YOU to go easy but what about the other guy? You were going easy but the other guy hit you hard first…and so you had to retaliate. If you’re lucky, you were put in with a beginner that’s even worse off than you. He could barely defend himself and here you are beating up him just as you were told to do.

You might feel great about landing all those punches but one day you find yourself in his position. Your trainer puts you in with someone with more skills or size on you, and he likes to fight. This time is going to be different. This guy doesn’t care about you and will stop at nothing to destroy you. Taking punches as an inexperienced boxer is a lot less fun than you thought. This isn’t a Rocky movie anymore. Having heart means nothing. The harder you fight back, the harder you get beat up. Having to choose between getting beat and getting beat up is a tough decision to make. Unfortunately, it’s your opponent that has the power to choose, not you.

I really REALLY hate trainers that start out beginning boxers that way. Some trainers actually know how to develop a fighter from controlled sparring to full sparring. However, there are too many trainers that prefer the sink-or-swim method of testing a brand new fighter to see if he’s “got what it takes” to be a fighter. The sink-of-swim method, in my opinion, is a really messed up way to train someone. I blame the recent fall of boxing’s popularity on this practice alone. This is NOT how you train someone. Beginner skateboarders don’t jump off rooftops. Beginner gymnastics don’t start with a backflip to “test their potential”. So why are beginning boxers forced to prove a higher level skill without first being given the chance to develop their potential? Some trainers don’t want to waste their time with individuals that don’t have the natural aggression. I can’t help but argue that the same temperament that wins gym fights is the not the same temperament that wins championships. Any street thug can win a gym brawl using well-practiced backyard fight tricks. Enter the same thug into a Golden Glove tournament with his wild swings and over-confident mentality and I promise you a different result.

The practice of having young fighters destroy each other is stupid. These trainers aren’t just destroying the fighters, they’re destroying the sport.


Sparring is NOT fighting.
Sparring is to develop skills, not to determine a winner.

And therein lies the truth. Learn how to spar correctly and you will become a better fighter in much less time. Don’t waste time by trying to win all your sparring matches. Winning is easy…just keep doing something you’re already good at and do it against an inferior opponent. Sparring properly however, requires you to control yourself a bit and focus on skills that need more practice. Sure you might get hit but that’s what controlled sparring is for. Controlled sparring allows you to work on new techniques without getting beat up for making mistakes.

If you are losing the sparring session:
  • Don’t be too proud to admit to people that you need the pace to be easier and that you need the shots to be lighter. if you’re scared of getting hit, you need to slow down the pace. You’re not a sissy for requiring more time to get use to things. You have to give yourself a FAIR chance in the fight to learn. Getting beat up by someone more trained (or more natural at fighting) than you proves nothing more than that you can take punishment.
  • Tell your sparring partner that he’s too fast. Ask him for tips on what you should do…he’s the one fighting you, he may know you better than your trainer does! (It’s never too late to turn a sparring session into a friendly class.) Be humble and don’t act like you’re better than others (even if it’s true). Show respect and let people know that you appreciate their knowledge. Beginner boxers do not get better magically overnight without ever having to learn from more experienced boxers. Slow down the pace, so that your eyes can see EVERY microscopic detail about your opponent’s form, movement, and technique. At the same time, you will be more aware and able to focus on your own techniques and see where they might have left you open.
If you are winning the sparring session:
  • Do not be deustchbag. Give your sparring partner a chance to fight. This improves YOUR SKILLS in 2 ways. One is that you’re giving him a chance to learn, so he’s going to get better…which in turn makes you better because you’re now training with a better opponent. The second is that you WANT to spar with a confident opponent. Let him fight back and give him a chance to test you.
  • You want to spar against a more capable opponent, right? Then give him a chance. Don’t shut him out by over-powering him or using tricky moves that scare the crap out of him. Give him a chance to fight so that you have a live opponent that throws punches against you and tests your skills better. There is no need to show off against a beginner…doing that only impresses other beginners anyway.
  • Save your tricky tactics and KO power for competitions. Competition opponents are the guys you want to knockout and shut out of the fight. These are the guys you want to beat up and not even give them a chance to come back at you. Respect the sparring partners in your gym. They will respect you in return and always be willing to help you in any way they can. They may even give you some helpful tips since they are not afraid of you using them to beat them up.

I’m not asking for you to tie your hands behind and make things unnecessarily challenging for you. I’m simply asking for you to allow your opponent’s strengths to shine.

You always want the best out of your sparring partners
so that they may bring out the best in you.

Yes, I understand that sparring should at least mimic real fighting and prepare fighters for real fights but this higher level of sparring should only be for fighters that are USE to fighting. Beginners are nowhere near their fighting potential and their sparring intensity should be controlled as much as possible.

So you understand it now: Sparring is supposed to be easy and controlled so that both fighters get a chance to learn and improve. Here are some great basic sparring routines used by gyms to develop great beginner boxers! Take your time and enjoy each one. I’ve been boxing for years and still enjoy simple jab sparring by being creative and goofing off with my sparring partners.


Getting Comfortable In The Ring

Punching VS Trained Fighter

A great way to start off a beginner is to have him throw punches against an experienced trainer or fighter who will not punch back. Don’t pit the beginner against someone only slightly better. The beginner might land a good punch which challenges the other fighter’s ego into firing back. It’s better to put the beginner in with someone muuuuuuch better who can take the punch and defend without returning fire. Adjust the beginner on form, breathing, offense, defense, etc.

Shadowbox in the Ring

First time boxers aren’t use to standing face to face across another person. In this drill, two beginners will shadowbox against each other in the ring. You move around like a real fight, except you’re 6-12 inches out of range so nobody actually connects with any punches. This can be done with just handwraps on (good for warming up), or with gloves on so both of you can get used to the weight of gloves.

You’re not throwing just random punches whenever you feel like anymore. You gotta pay attention to the man in front of you. Respond to his punches as you throw your own. You have to move when he moves at you, and you throw punches when you see openings. This should be your first exposure to spontaneity in boxing training where you’re no longer throwing punches when you feel like (like you would on a heavy bag).

Catching Jabs

Here’s your first chance to practice making contact with each other, but very lightly. Move around the ring and take turns catching each other’s jab. Each person takes a few steps in any direction and then throws a jab as the other one catches. Be calm and smooth. Don’t worry about scoring. Pay attention to your balance, your stance, and form. Try not to get out of balance when you throw a jab or defend against one.

You guys are not supposed to hit each other hard, no “rocket jabs”. Both fighters are not allowed to get closer than arms length. The goal is to get use to throwing and catching each other’s punches. The goal is not to actually land jabs, so the fighters should be throwing easy jabs at each other to make catching easier.

5 Jab Drill

It’s like the catching jabs drill but now each boxer throws 5 at a time before they switch. This time you want to get a little more creative in throwing and defending against the jabs. Don’t always aim for the head. Try aiming for the body, chest, shoulders, or elbows. You can throw your 5 jabs anyway you want. 2 quick ones and 3 slow ones. Or all 5 thrown one at a time. You can throw the jabs anyway they want but you have to keep arms distance when you jab.

The defender can avoid the jabs anyway he wants. He can block with the right hand or right arm. He can parry if he wants, it doesn’t matter. The defender is also free to move entirely out of range if he wants and just let the jab hit air. As long as the defender isn’t jumping out of balance to avoid the jabs, moving in and out of range is a great boxing skill to learn.

Another good variation of this drill is to just throw 2 jabs at a time instead of 5. Each boxer will take turns throwing double-jabs at each other. The defending boxer has to catch the first one and slip or out-maneuver out of the way of the second one.

1-2’s (three punch maximum)

Both boxers are now allowed to use their right hand, but combinations are limited to only 3 punches. Both fighters will take turns throwing 1-3 punch combinations using a straight right if they wish. No hooks or uppercuts allowed. The defender is not allowed to counter, he can only block. This prepares both fighters to absorb right hands. Again, the power should be light!!!



Jab Sparring

Now the boxers are free to spar using ONLY their jabs. Again, no powerful rocket jabs allowed! The boxers don’t have to go back and forth taking turns anymore. They can attack and defend at will. Pay attention to form and balance. Make sure the back hand doesn’t drop while they are throwing the jab. Use offensive jabs, defensive jabs, and counter-jabs. Don’t just aim for the head, throw some at the body or even the other boxer’s guard to test his defense.

1-2 Sparring

Very light sparring using only jabs and crosses. Use only 25% power. But how do you define 25% power?! I’ll make it easy: your punches should be light enough that the punch doesn’t hurt at all if it lands flush on the face. The moment one hits too hard that an impact sound can be heard, there should be a trainer to immediately stop them and slow the pace down again.

The focus is on offense, not defense. Both fighters should be throwing more punches than moving and try to stay without punching range. They are not allowed to jump in and out of punching range. They are also not allowed to flinch. If you see one fighter closing his eyes, immediately slow the pace down again. In the very beginning, this pace can be frustratingly slow. Both fighters may even feel like they’re fighting in slow motion but it has to be done. It gives them a chance to really see what their opponents are doing. You want fighters to learn how to box using their eyes as opposed to using their memory and just ducking punches in anticipation.

1-2-3 Sparring

Same as 1-2 sparring but both fighters are now allowed to use the jab, cross, and hook. Again, very light and performed at 25% power.

Full Sparring

All punches allowed! Jabs, crosses, hooks, uppercuts, everything! Again, 25% power and controlled pace. Not allowed to move to use quick offense or quick defense. They are not allowed to flinch or quickly jerk their head out of range. If they missed the block, just take the shot (it shouldn’t hurt) and worry about the next one coming. No flinch blocking allowed! They are definitely not allowed to outspeed each other. Allowing 2 fighters to spar with speed very quickly becomes a game of power and then straight brawling not too long after.

Going slow is the proper way to work individuals into sparring and give them a chance to use what they learned, instead of them destroying each other like a bunch of wild animals.


How to know when fighters are going too fast or too hard.

They are hitting hard.

  • This is pretty obvious. If you hear a giant smacking sound when punches land, stop the session immediately and make them lighten up by just throwing touching punches again. Tell them to think of their punches as “tagging” each other instead of loaded punching.

They’re flinching (or closing their eyes).

  • Flinching is not a good thingโ€”closing your eyes in a real fight leaves you defenseless against punches you can’t see. Make sure they’re going slow enough that they can keep their eyes open and not flinch in anticipation. Keep slowing down the fight so everyone has a chance to see what’s going on right in front of them. Another way to keep fighters from flinching is to disallow tricky tactics. Everyone is supposed to just throw the classic boxing combinations. Lots of jabs with some right hands. No crazy uppercuts and long range left hook leads!

They are making panic movements.

  • This is the same as flinching but instead of with the eyes, it’s with the body. You can always tell if it’s a panic movement when you see a boxer jerk his head out of the way or quickly try to slap a glove away. Again, control them. Tell them that if they didn’t see the shot, don’t worry about it. Let the punch land and just focus on the follow-up shots which are probably more dangerous. Block what you can and don’t worry about the rest. Do NOT chase down every punch and try to slap or out maneuver every punch.

They spend more time running than punching.

  • There’s nothing wrong with moving and using footwork. The problem is that the fighters are probably going too hard or too fast and so they don’t want to engage much. For the sake of getting accustomed to sparring, you want them to be at arm’s reach more and work with each other. Instead of jumping in and out of range and fighting only one punch at a time, you want them to stay in range and fight in combinations. Again, they should be sparring so light that they can take entire combinations without getting jarred.

They’re getting tired.

  • If you’re getting tired and getting injured, you’re going too hard! You’re also not supposed to be scared! So make sure you’re man enough to turn down the pace where both fighters can enjoy sparring for 8-10 rounds easy. Even on days I’m tired, I can still go 15 rounds of sparring, work on techniques, and still have a great time in the ring. I achieve this by simply slowing down the pace. Every now and then I have to ask my opponent to slow down and he does it happily because he wants to keep sparring too! Remember…

Training on bags and mitts only develops technique.
Training in the ring develops fighting skills.

So if you want to become a good boxer faster, try to spend more time in the ring; but this will only be possible if you slow down the pace so that you don’t get tired too quickly. I think it’s so silly that people will train on a heavy bag for 2 hours and then completely gas out in the ring in just 3 rounds. That’s only 9 minutes of skill development! And they wonder why they work so hard yet make little progress over the months.

Don’t mess up a good workout by getting tired!

They’re not enjoying it.

  • The is the biggest error of improper boxing sparring, and boxing training in general. If you don’t enjoy sparring, you are not enjoying boxing! Sparring is the closest aspect to boxing-fighting, it’s truest form of the sport. You have to love sparring! It’s beyond winning or being tough. It’s about the skills, the technique, and the beauty of it all. Learn to love sparring…not because it’s manly but because you have fun even when you’re tired or outclassed or not having a good day. This is only possible by enforcing controlled sparring conditions.


Controlled Sparring Theory

Controlled sparring is what skilled boxers use to develop their boxing skills. That’s the secret. The best gyms I’ve seen spar softly. Sure, they might look like they’re going intense but they’re really not. It’s fighters who are comfortable with each other and trust each other to pull back when exchanges are won and so they are able to go a little faster and a little harder. However, their increased intensity is STILL controlled. They are not wailing on each other or chasing each other into the corners and trying to get a KO. They are landing beautiful combinations and avoiding many punches along the process. Their footwork isn’t panicky, it’s smooth and relaxed but swift when it needs to be.

Let me give you another reason why you don’t want to spar hard:

If you spar too hard,
you will tire prematurely and get less sparring practice.

Think about it. You can be foolish and burn all your energy in just 3 rounds by sparring at 100% intensity. Or you can slow down the pace so that you can work in the ring for 10-15 rounds easily. I’m going to bet all my money that the boxer that spars 10-15 rounds in one session (testing his skills) is going to get better faster than the one that only spars 3 and tests only his conditioning. Sparring is when you practice and develop most of your boxing skills. So you want to be able to spar as long as possible. Once you get tired, you won’t have the energy to practice your skills. The sparring simply turns into an endurance workout, which does nothing for your skills. Anybody can get in shape with just 2 months; developing boxing skills will take years.

Don’t try to win a sparring match.

Push yourself physically in sparring, but not the point to where you can’t learn anything. Develop your skills, correct your weaknesses, and get use to “fighting”. But don’t spar with the attitude of trying to “win”. When you’re a beginner without developed boxing skills, it’s too tempting to want to use anything other than skills to win. You might decide to rely on your superior endurance, or size, or that hard right hand shot. If you win this way, you’ll learn nothing. You won’t be any better after the sparring than you were before you got in there.

You also shouldn’t be trying to knockout your opponent. If you blow your opponent out early, your workout is too easy and you don’t get to work on the higher level skills. Defeat your opponent too easily and you will have only gotten a heavy bag’s worth of exercise. Give you opponent a chance to move with you and you benefit from a greater workout! Let that sparring become a dance, with both of you getting more and more comfortable with each other. Using more punches and using more movement. You want a partner who will get better and test your more so give him a chance to fight back.

The worst part about destroying a fighter in sparring is that you might have destroyed his spirit forever. This sounds cool in the movies but in person it’s horrible. Back when I was younger, I use to be the jerk that tried to destroy everyone. I don’t know what the hell was wrong with me but I made many fighters quit and I never saw them in the gym again. They might have loved the sport but they sure as hell didn’t enjoy it in the ring. Sure, boxing isn’t for everyone but I still feel terrible for making people quit a beautiful sport forever. Nowadays, I refuse to brutalize anyone in a sparring match and I’m very proud of having grown past that. I NEVER throw a punch above 75% power anymore, and the beauty is: I don’t need to anymore. Beating up sparring opponents using only power is a cowardly way to train. Just find anybody weaker than you and you will have yourself an easy day.

Now what if you’re on the losing end of a sparring match? Is your opponent being a jerk and just trying to KO you? He’s a coward if he’s doing that. Just stand up for yourself and let him know, or your trainer know that he’s going much too hard. And that he’s not giving you a chance to work. If you feel uncomfortable, just get the hell out of the ring. You do not owe anybody an ass-beating to prove anything to anybody. This is your health and your experience in the sport. If your sparring is taking away your ability to learn and enjoy boxing, you need to take responsibility and just step out of the ring. A real man respects his limits and accepts the responsibility to protect himself.

Sparring is a time for you AND your opponent to help develop each other’s skills by practicing real boxing moves in a real boxing environment. It is not the time for both fighters to try and beat each other up. Having an opponent close up his defense and run from you will not develop your skills in the ring. Give him a chance to work and be the best he can be, so that he may push you to be the best you can be. Save that “winning” attitude for competitions.

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Too sexy for my gloves March 12, 2011 at 7:08 am

Excellent article! I’m about 6 months into Boxing, love it, but have gone through a lot of emotional turmoil with the sparring thing. Why? Exactly what you’re talking about it. At 4 months my first round sparring was with an old ex-pro who just clocked me repeatedly because I wasn’t anticipating his counter. Result, I did get the idea I should work on my defense (duh!) but didn’t learn much other than that at the time, and I’m still haunted by that experience. I’m going to just take responsibility and control of my learning experience and demand the kind of learning you wrote about or walk away to another gym. I feel like I’m on Dr Phil. Ha ha!


J.J. Doublejs March 12, 2012 at 12:56 am

Johnny… I have been sparring with my nephew Andre’ (20 years younger than I) for about a month and he is not responding to the workouts. The last time we sparred he wouldn’t punch back so i ended the sparring match. He really needs to work on his footwork and hand coordination. I made a mistake and told him not to bounce around like a bunny and that has led him to over guessing his punches and moves. He is the same person i wrote to you about that couldn’t understand the difference between sparring and a boxing match. I have him looking at your videos and comments, but am now at a point where I think he needs a real trainer. What do you think? Talk at you soon, JJL (The other Johnny)


Johnny N March 13, 2012 at 11:59 am

JJ, it’s a common issue for beginners to hold back because they simply can’t see any openings. Perhaps you can start with just jab sparring so he doesn’t feel like he’s over-exposing himself. Putting him in a gym where he can watch others would be a great idea. Maybe he doesn’t have a visual yet of what proper sparing is supposed to look like.


J.J. Doublejs April 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Thanks Johnny…You were right again. Taking him to a gym and letting him see other people sparring really changed our sparring sessions. He has somewhat improved, but is now confused on wether he should be a southpaw or righty. We had a Boxing Match the other day
with three two minute rounds and he did OK ,but confused himself with the switching. Thanks again for your quick responses and your never ending support for us novice sport boxers. Talk at you soon, JJL (The other Johnny)


J.J. Doublejs August 1, 2012 at 5:56 am

Johnny… I …who am 5’10 have been sparring with my 6’5 nephew Adam. He and I are both southpaws and the sparring sessions were going fine( I was teaching him to box tall and use his reach) His Dad (who was once a boxer) watched us spar and advised Adam that it would be better for him to box orthodox. We had another sparring session and Adam was terrible, as he focused on trying to remember to stay in the right hand stance. What is your take on this? Now his Dad doesn’t want him to learn to box, thinking that his 20 year old basketball player will become a hot head bully. I have agreed to stop the sparring sessions and focus on Adam learning more techniques on the speed bag and heavy bag.I doubt that Adam was learning to box to become a bully, for I was the one that encouraged him to try, but must curtail the sparring sessions for Adam is his son. Talk at you soon, JJL (The other Johnny)

Dane December 19, 2013 at 6:44 pm

hey man great article.
im a army vet 3 years as an infantryman. and i hold a level 2 certification in army combatives.
i just started to take up boxing to keep my edge. now I’ve been at it for 2 weeks, now just to make it clear combatives doesn’t really cover boxing . its more kill the guy coming at you and grappling and chokes. well 2 days ago in my class one of the trainers throws me in the ring with this 17 year old kid. which 1. I’m not cool with since I’m 21. 2. he’s got 2 years experience. 3. i really don’t like getting made a fool out of in front of people.
well you can get what happened i to pretty much my ass handed to me. how should i feel? i feel like a pissed off kid. and this kid was show boating bad not looking at me while throwing a jab and acting like ALI. if you can explain to me or help me handle this situation it would be much appreciated


Johnny N January 8, 2014 at 6:44 pm

Don’t get in the ring with him no more. It’s not your fault other people don’t have the balls to face someone their own level. Learn boxing on YOUR terms. Get in the ring when you feel like the other guy respects you and your ability (or lack of it).

Andre January 13, 2015 at 5:12 pm

Hi Johnny!

I know I’m just a little over a year late on this article, but better late than never, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

Reading through the whole “destroying” thing reminded me of my very first sparring session in boxing.

I try to keep this short:

At the time I started to learn how to box I was already 21 years old. Boxing had never really interested me (as in a sport I would practice), but I did watch and somewhat follow it. I had been doing Muay Thai since the age of 13, but wasn’t really training much at that time, and some MMA and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from 17 to about age 20.

Then I watched the Rocky Balboa movie (not the old movie series, I had seen them all as a kid, but the one that came out in 2006) and for some reason I liked this joint so much I wanted to start boxing too. Ridiculous, I know.

I lived in England at the time (I’m originally from Austria) and signed up for the waiting list of the closest boxing gym. When it finally came to my first training session, I was already overly eager to get to do my first amateur bouts. I’ve had a bunch of Muay Thai fights, never any MMA ones though.

Already when I was doing Muay Thai I dreaded getting punched in the face, often flinched when a punch was about to connect etc. Luckily in Muay Thai you can use your legs to keep your opponent well out of punching range, and when he does get past them, you jsut take a step forward and start elbowing, kneeing and low kicking the guy, while he does the same or covers up. You then either move out again or clinch and keep going to work with your knees or you attempt to throw the guy. So there the whole being afraid of getting punched in the face never was that much of a problem.

I thought that I would quickly overcome this fear after 1 or 2 sparring sessions. After about 1 months of training, as I progressed faster than the other beginners, due to already knowing all the basic punches and mostly having to work on foot work and trying to stop myself from slipping back into a Muay Thai stance all the time (even after 3 months and my first amateur bout I was still mostly moving around the gym with a rope around my ankles, to my shame ;D) they finally let me spar with some other beginners who had started training ~2-3 months before I did.

They let 2 guys spar, one guy stayed in and then sparred the next guy, who would then stay in and in turn take on the next guy, who would then stay in etc..

As it was finally my turn, I was already very anxious about the whole thing, but definitely not in the positive sense. It was always the same pattern:

First they’d have a boxing stance and start jabbing at each other. As soon as somewhat hard punch landed it was usually on. Square stance or even parallel legged both feet looking forward and just windmilling at each other, landing windmill”hooks” on each others noses until the coach who “supervised” the sparring session made them break. Then whole thing start over again jab jab something bigger lands and voila.

So I get in there and for some reason I felt like it was not me doing the boxing. Everytime the guy opposite of me started to jab my jab shot out like in panic and not even 10 seconds into the match I was bent forward with both gloves in front of my face, not seeing ANYTHING and the guy just hammering away at my pathetic attempt at a “guard”, until he finally figured out that the gloves coouldnt cover my whole head and my arms couldnt cover my whole body….

The coach made us break and again about 10 seconds later I’m in the same position, frozen stiff and SCARED.

I’m pretty sure that out of pity he rang the bell for the round to be over long before the 2 minutes were over.

I walked out of the ring and mumbled that I was going to hit the bags again instead of partaking in the rest of the spar & switch session. The other guys looked at me with disdain, those who were still on the bags had seen some of my shameful display and were smirking at each other.

I was glad I got my first tattoo that week, as it gave me an excuse not to go train for about a week and a half. I was very close to never going back into that gym again.

At first I was ashamed to tell my girlfriend about what happened, as I didnt even really know myself. I had sparred before, Ive had fights before even outisde the ring (the latter of which is nothing I am proud of) and I couldnt explain why I was THIS frozen and scared. I finally figured out (at least I think so) why this happened, but thats another story, which I am not comfortable to share.

Knowing that I definitely wouldnt improve in that aspect solely through going through sparring after sparring session, as I was definitely an extreme case, I came up with the idea of having my girlfriend help me. We lived together, and I was way too uncomfortable to tell any friends about this or ask them for help in this matter.

I had extra pairs of boxing gloves, so I first went about teaching her how to throw a jab and a cross. Then I did blocking and dodging drills with her. First slow then ever increasing speed. Then we incorporated moving around with this. I then started to let her hit me in the face. First not hard (you might laugh, but for a girl she could punch hard and when she finally hit me hard she actually hit harder than some of the guys I sparred with in the gym later on, even though I was the smallest guy in there, and she was even smaller than me).

First I had her hit me only in the face and the bridge of the nose, then I had her hit me on the tip of the nose, as that was really my waek spot. Gradually increasing in power over the days. It helped that I trusted her 100%, otherwise I could have never let someone hit me in the face with my arms down.

SO after 2-3 weeks of doing this, gradually increasing in power each day, I finally got comfortable with the notion that my face is not made of glass, and that just like the rest of my body which had taken most beatings before boxing could also take hard shots. The best part was when she was hitting me square on nose and that eyes starting to well up feeling stopped coming on weaker every time.

When that moment arrived, and I felt okay with getting hit in the face, I resumed sparring at the gym. While waiting my turn I could see the others smirking, especially the bag guys (who either werent ready yet to spar technique wise, or they were some office dudes who originally came in/still were chubby and did boxing for fitness reasons and had no interest in sparring).

I was scared as always, but not as scared as before. I didnt freeze up anymore. I didnt shoot out panic jabs anymore as soon as the other guy jabbed. I didnt start wailing away when a hard shot hit me. I tried to stay composed when they started wailing and tried not to wail back but instead concentrate on blocking as much as I could or firing short punches into the wide openings often stopping those wails mid motion or have it derail in a weird motion and bounce of my shoulders&arms harmlessly.

After a few more weeks of sparring, I jumped in on last note when a guy from the gym was supposed to have an amateur fight didnt show up (he had reasons). After the match, which I won on points, and am sure had the referee called breaks quicker then maybe I couldve even scored a (T)KO and if it had been a bout without headgear or 8 oz gloves I wouldve definitely scored a 1st or 2nd round KO.

I felt more proud after those sparring sessions and that win, and over coming my fear of getting hit in the face, then I had felt after any of muay thai fights or even a bunch of them combined.

After the fight the head coach of the gym told me, that him and the other coaches thought after my first sparring session they would never see me again. I stayed with the gym for the whole time I stayed in England before moving back to Austria again, and had a bunch more matches. During the time I stayed there, I saw MANY guys, who got destroyed in sparring against the more experienced council estate&pub brawler types never come again, which was a pity.. Many of them had not only shown that they quickly picked up on things, but also had great personalities.

Sure, boxing isn’t for everyone, but I think many of these gyms, who have this do or die / swim or sink attitude to filter out the “weak” who wont fight or trophies of the gym, should rethink their policies… some of those who appear to be weak at first, may conquer their fears and become an asset to teh gym. Or they might not. But why waste em like that, especially at a time where boxing loses more and more of its next generation to sports like football, basketball (Especially heavy weight division) and what not, where you already make money in college and dont have to do 80-90 amateur fights for free to get a decent foundation for a pro career.

And maybe they should opt to kick out those “fitness boxers”, since they already have waiting lists on joining and can then afford to be more “humane” in their sparring/filtering method.

Anyway… reading this article so reminded me of myself. Sorry for the long comment, but I wanted to thank you for all the great tips you wrote in it, as I want to introduce my nephew to boxing & maybe start training him so he at least has a foundation to defend himself with, if he wants to learn.

Keep up the good work!



dudeguy May 14, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I just had my first sparring session and I too had my confidence zapped. I got my nose and lip bloodied and definitely got hit with some punches that I thought were too hard.

I read this article before hand and asked the guys I was fighting against to tone it down and they were happy to oblige. Things got better after that though the damage had already been done. I too have to take responsibility and control of my own training, so I’m right there with you. Good luck Too sexy for my gloves, you’re not the only one.


Billy Tierney November 11, 2012 at 1:30 pm

If he hit you hard then hit him hard. Dont go stupid and chase him but be patient and calm anticipate and trust your fists at the same time dont worry if you do get hit just dont think about it your still standing so wait for the chance to make him feel it and keep that jab pumping when you know you can land follow up after it with straights, hooks, uppers.


erik June 4, 2012 at 1:28 pm

All your writing is solid gold. Thank you.
If I would have had a coach to teach me using your concepts and modalities ,for sure i would have been great.
20 years of peicemealing different teachings from different arts and teachers/coaches,only to find this now (I’m 46yr). Oh well.
As a coach now, your sight will be a valuable resource so that my students will not feel shorted as they look back on their training.
Again great writing no fluff all good stuff
Erik Lee


Johnny N June 5, 2012 at 10:03 am

If only we knew then what we know now…

Thank you for the kind words, Eric. Good luck to you and your students.


Jerome March 12, 2011 at 5:20 pm

so true
When I opened the door of a boxing gym for the first time, I was so exited! Until I did my first sparring session after 4 classes against a brute who broke me a rib with a heavy left hook whil my guard was too highh and my elbows not close enough to my body. Took me some times to find the gut to go back into the ring. I changed gym since, we are a group of 10, all over 30’s and we are here to have fun not to become a world champion. Of course some have a bit more troubles to control their strengh but you just need to shout a little bit and they slow down. My bad experience made me nervous about sparring for quite a while, like always find excuse not to do it (I have a big meeting tomorrow, my knee hurts…). But since I joined this gym I am so excited about sparring sessions because they are controlled and they did allow me to improve so that now I can get into a bit more intense sparring.


Seve March 12, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Good stuff;-)


peter March 13, 2011 at 12:18 am

thanks like always


Alex March 18, 2011 at 6:27 am

Very good article – opened my eyes to what I should belooking to get out of it,. Until now I was trying to land as much as possible and keep the pace as high as possible – assuming eventually that would make me fitted and better.

New approach starting tomorrow ๐Ÿ™‚


Gonzo March 20, 2011 at 4:28 pm
Johnny N March 22, 2011 at 1:17 am

Guys, your stories are all very inspiring to me. I’m happy to see individuals standing up for themselves. Weak or strong, we all have the right to enjoy boxing!


CB March 28, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Excellent article, starting boxing at 41 trying to get into shape, not to get beaten up this makes perfect sense.


James Baggett March 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm

I like this…
I am a rookie on my campus’s fledgling boxing team and quite a few of the team members are more experienced with me so when we spar I’m usually part heavybag…but things are getting better anyhow if you have any pointers for me please feel free to watch my link and comment.


Greg March 29, 2011 at 4:20 pm

How hard can you go on sparring if you are experienced?


Johnny N March 30, 2011 at 4:06 pm

@James Baggett

@Greg – it depends… if you’re a pro, you can pretty much go all out in sparring and still not get hurt and still be able to learn a few things. If you’re amateur level, you can spar at 70% level but it will still look amazing. Push yourself physically, but not to the point where you can’t learn anything mentally.


sloppy joe c April 16, 2011 at 2:21 am

incredible info
lots and lots of knowledge behind these words,very helpful and useful information,im gunna implement it in my game plan,stick to the basics and seek improvement well written


Brendon Coleman May 2, 2011 at 12:46 am

the artical was amazeing, i have been passing a local boxing club in my town for a few months every time i see it wanting to go in and try but i never do, but i think this artical will give me anough courage to walk in the next time and sign up because it is something i have alwase wanted to do but never was sure if i should.


Johnny N May 2, 2011 at 5:39 am

@Brendon – give it a try and have fun!


David B May 14, 2011 at 8:56 am

Great article.
Some great advice for sparring drills there. I have not done any sparring for years, but am planning of getting back to it with a local trainer next month.


Leo June 12, 2011 at 5:45 am

What does it mean to “catch a jab”?


Johnny N June 12, 2011 at 9:27 am

Leo, to catch that jab simply means to let it hit the palm of your right hand. Kind of like how you would catch a baseball.


Tim June 15, 2011 at 5:39 pm

First experience with boxing
I recently signed up for a ‘white-collar boxing’ event as an absolute rank novice. The group was a mixed of reasonably experienced to full novices like me. One of the participants ended up with a broken rib after a sparring session with the trainer within the first week. After 2 weeks of training, the trainer started us on sparring once a week. Sparring sessions basically consisted of everyone fighting everyone regardless of weight, height or skill. The sessions ultimately descended into a series of unstructured brawls with plenty of blood. The last fight last week ended with one of the fighters on the ground, blood everywhere. At that point, with 4 weeks of training, I decided the situation was dangerous and pulled out. Should I have stuck it out?


Johnny N June 15, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Tim, you did the right thing! Reading yoru story was painful. I can’t believe they let that happen. Any trainer that has to beat up his own students is not a real boxing trainer. There should have never been any brawling, blood, or any pain in the first place. I’m proud that you recognized the danger and got yourself out of there. People get seriously hurt (and sometimes kill) like that all the time in these white-collar boxing events.

Even little kids in amateur boxing gyms do 1-2 months of conditioning before they’re ready for hard sparring and hard competition!


Tim June 16, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Thanks Johnny. I really enjoyed the fitness/discipline aspect of the sport. I will find a gym/trainer that has more of an interest in developing the sport and people’s interest in it. I will certainly carry a level of respect for newcomers having understood how daunting it can be being thrown into the pit with no skill.


Johnny N June 17, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Tim, THANK YOU! It’s people with your attitude that will keep this sport alive for the serious as well as the casual athletes.


Ty June 21, 2011 at 4:13 pm

ur absolutely right that a beginner should be in a controlled spar then slowly advance. Cause when i spar with my partner would amp it up and i would tell him to slow down or lower the power. Eventually i got better in my skill of my combinations in a controlled spar. Thx for the info;-).


Dave February 13, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I got my nose broken in first sparring session and haven’t gone back this week to let it heal. Is this the right thing to do? When can I go back to sparring?


Johnny N February 14, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Letting a broken nose heal is the right thing (if not the smartest thing) to do. I probably wouldn’t spar again until it’s completely healed. Get a headgear with a facebar next time.


Eddie June 22, 2011 at 4:55 pm

great article!!!I am going thru the same thing right now where i have 9 months of training and i spar against guys how has been there for 6+ years!!! And this week the sparring turned out into a braul, my forhead and nose still hurts, and i am still pretty upset that i felt i should fight for my live in there. I did land some solid stuff (in desperation)but the other guy took me apart (not according to my trainer who said i did well). The trainer himself cracked one of my ribs 3 months yeah they say they dont want to spar me against the beginners.they keep on sparring me with the national champs etc..and those boxers dont like me putting on a good performance against them..any advice??;-)


Johnny N June 23, 2011 at 2:17 pm

@Eddie – it’s a tough call. If you’re being groomed for amateur competition, then the hard sparring will toughen you up very quickly. But if you’re already proved your worth and your trainer is still putting you into unnecessarily brutal sparring matches, it’s your responsibility to tell him the sparring is too hard to learn anything. Sparring should definitely test your physical capacity, but the important thing is to learn something. If somebody is getting beat up so bad they’re not learning anything, then the sparring is too hard.

It’s definitely possible to learn how to fight without getting beat up….in fact, I think it’s the only way to learn.


Some guy from Massachusetts July 4, 2011 at 7:56 am

Up until now your view of sparring and the general attitude toward sparring felt like the minority from my experience. I tried three different clubs around here a couple of years ago and the culture between trainers, sparring partners, and others at these was just to beat up on beginners and more or less embarrass them, which you’ve even admitted to succumbing to in the past. Turned me away from boxing, felt like there was no room to improve with a culture of athletes who just wanted to rub my inexperience and deficiencies in my face rather than help me get better, an attitude that at the time felt rather implicit and a given in a sport such as boxing. I haven’t gone back to it but reading this has at least made me feel a little less awful about the experience, haha. Good read.


Johnny N July 5, 2011 at 5:43 am

@”Massachusetts” – I hope you do get back to boxing someday and share the love. Thanks for the comment.


Luke July 7, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Beginning sparring
Hi Johnny, I read this on the train yesterday having left my second spar feeling very dejected. I’ve loved boxing since taking it up – the movement, the skill and the elegance of it have really captured me, but since sparring the reality has hit me.

In sparring I get panicky and move erratically and turn my head away – basically everything I enjoy about it goes out the window and it just feels very ugly and pointless. I think my trainer is pretty sensible; I don’t think he’s one of the reckless trainers you talk about. He just wants me to realise I can take punches (it’s not full power).

Iโ€™m finding it difficult to punch the other guy. Basically, itโ€™s meant to be reduced power and I donโ€™t really understand how Iโ€™m meant to throw fast punches without hitting him powerfully. Also my sparring partner is significantly bigger than I am, meaning that Iโ€™m constantly being pushed back, whereas he just marches through my lighter punches. Heโ€™s definitely more comfortable hitting me hard than I am hitting him. The result is about 30 seconds of me jabbing at him until he charges at me wildly and I end up basically cowering away from his punches forgetting any technique.

Anyway, Iโ€™m going to persevere because overcoming the fear and being able to maintain some control in aggressive situations is why I wanted to learn to box, so Iโ€™m trying to be happy that itโ€™s so difficult and demoralising. If it were easy Iโ€™d be wasting my money. I hope anybody else whoโ€™s just started sparring and feels the same will be comforted to hear that theyโ€™re not alone.

Finally, in response to how are you doing โ€“ I think youโ€™re doing brilliantly. No macho rubbish and masses of real expertise. Yesterday your site reminded me of why itโ€™s worth my continuing with boxing when I was feeling like there were better ways to spend an hour after a day at work than being punched in the face.


Johnny N July 9, 2011 at 5:35 am

@Luke – You can throw fast punches without power by relaxing your body as you throw the shot instead of tightening the body. Make sure your opponent is going light AND not so aggressive so you’re not overwhelmed by his power or aggression. It sounds to me like you got the heart for it and a good environment to learn boxing. I’m happy for you.


Keenan July 28, 2011 at 5:58 am

I think this is the best site for learning about boxing


Adam C July 31, 2011 at 5:17 am

I recently started boxing and i have attended 2 classes the first was a comlete blast : ) it was all conditioning and learning basic punches everything burned and shaked i pushed myself hard and got the best out of it however the second was all about sparring after half an hour of warming up we did 3 touch any combonation sparring while switching partners after a round and then king of the ring one clean punch to the body or head and u left the ring to be switched i could’nt see where the punches where coming from because everyone has atleast 3 months on me i tried to change my block but they didnt say oh your temple it open they just smacked me full force at one point i thought i would hit the deck after a left hook to a right upper when i got home my GF pointed out that my face was swollen quite abit i just laughed it off thinking it was normal but reading this i realised i learned nothing and everyone constanly complained becouse im a southpaw i will voice my concerns next time if nothing changes i will look for a new gym which wouldbe a shame because it is within my budget and i can’t really afford anymore than it costs


littlericky August 1, 2011 at 2:06 pm

First Time Sparring
Hello everybody: I really like this site. I’m 38 years old 5’6″ 170 who joined a boxing gym 3 weeks ago too loose weight, get back in shape and stop smoking cigarretts. Today I got my first sparring section with 2 different guys ( about 17-20 years) and they kicked my butt. I got tired after the first round and the second guy tried to knocked me out. I really like boxing and I have always followed boxing since I was a little kid. I have always wanted to practice boxing and spar but today was not what I expected and it was a bad experience for me. Hopefuly I will overcome this and spar again but I will give it a few weeks to get in better shape


Johnny N August 1, 2011 at 7:45 pm

@Keenan – thanks!

@Sparring – ouch! Ask them to take it easier next time or just go elsewhere.

@littlericky – Yeah, that’s a really bad experience. Nobody should be trying to knock each other out. Especially beginners! Sheeesh!


Keenan August 2, 2011 at 5:07 pm

hey man your articles are the best , I can fully understand everything you are talking about. By the way I just started my first boxing class today and after remembering some of your tips some people didn’t even know I was a beginner at first.


Johnny N August 6, 2011 at 4:15 am

@Keenan – that’s awesome. Hahaha.


Miguel August 10, 2011 at 12:23 am

I train with a good group of boxers with various skills. during sparring we generally go about 50-75% power and back off if someone lands too hard. My personal approach to sparring is to throw punches as around my maximum speed while being under control, but it dont tighten my fist or follow through so that i purposely land punches which are not even close to full power. I would like to know if you think that this is a correct approach or if I should throw with 50-75% speed also (i find it hard to land throwing punches slowly especially if my opponent is moving/throwing at full speed)?


aboverise August 10, 2011 at 1:49 am

i had this happen to me yesterday, i rencently started boxing and grappling at a gym. theres 5 or 6 of us in a seesion 1 of them is my size but has years of experience and 2 of them are big men one weighs 17st im 13.6st. one is about 16st well yesterday i put a headguard on for the first time (no one else wears one) and the 16st guy beat me all round the ring with power shots i was completely dazed seen stars and one point and after my mouth was full of blood. it really knocked my confidence i was enjoying it til then but the 2 bigger guys really have put me off. ive asked the trainer to put me in a different class with people my size now. worse thing is the guys in my lst last are my friends but if imention there going rough i get treated like im being a wimp. so now im moving to different class with people i dont know think im better off. if u catch any f them with a clean punch and they go on a revenge actack makin it impossible for me to learn. really down on myself with the whole thing now.


Robin July 9, 2012 at 4:31 am

That doesn’t sound right at all, at the very least the guys running the gym shouldn’t have let that happen.


Billy Tierney November 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm

If your serious about boxing then spar, if not go against others that just want to have fun. If your sparing you must be in the senior boxing (for people who are interested in amateur boxing) and we all want to fight amatur. If i was against you i would go easy but afterwards ask my coach to put me against a game opponent.16 stone feller is harsh. I don’t see why your against a 16 stoner feller whos throwing with bad intentions? thats wrong but if you man it out (if your serious about amateur) and throw combinations back thats the way forward. Im not patient enough to be sparing beginners if i was past that id want to at least be in there with somebody who dont mind a power punch.
Your never going to take as much pain sparing in local gym than you will if your fighting championship boxers and better yet professional. Stay calm and enjoy yourself, rid of your fear and bring out the warrior within you. Your body will get used to taking punches and you will progress fast and be making sure your out the way of punches.
Good luck to everybody whos stating boxing. Dont quit if you get hurt bad, you got to stick it out and time will tell if your made for it. Personally i want my opponents to fight like their fighting for a world title. The best way to progress fast is to throw hard punches and in no time you will be avoiding punches because your tired of taking them. If you been sparing lightly and go your 1st amateur fight against somebody whos had nothing but hard sparing then chances are your not going to be ready for him. In other words your going to get dominated so put the hard work in. Your in it for you, you should always respect every gym member but in sparing don’t go easy on anybody. If you joined boxing to get fit don’t spar, stick to conditioning classes and the bags and to everybody else whos serious about becoming amateur GO HARD OR GO BACK HOME!


King Lion August 10, 2011 at 2:02 am

@aboverise…..That is seriously messd up!

In situations like what you described, I think of what the Godfather of Soul, James Brown said -“I don’t know ka-ra-tay, I know ca-ra-zay!”

Personally if it happened to me, I’d tell him to quit it and if he didn’t, I’d kick him in the balls – HARD!

He won’t like it and may enough lash out some more, but you have already taken his ‘best shots ‘and at least now he will know that you won’t take his sh*t lying down!


saber khan August 10, 2011 at 2:27 am

if i could start over…
if i could start over, id practice:

1. keeping balance all the time, guard right, elbows in, moving side-side circling and diagonally
2. jabbing and throwing crosses that are proper, not totally fluff handed but not extending on them, looking to touch them
3. KEEPING A VERY CLOSE EYE on the opponent-sparring is scary, the heavybag mitts speedbag ropes double end bag dont hit back or wear gloves and a mouthpiece. so i would learn how to look at the opponent (this site has a great tech for where to look) and make sure no punches came that i couldnt see coming. if u see a punch coming and get ready to take it (there’s tech for that too on the site very imp) after 4 or 5 land-and some will land-u will realise it isnt that scary, u cant be hurt by those kinds of shots if ur head is held tight just before contact, if u learn to roll with the punch. u may even close ur eyes a few times or flinch but if ur neck is stiff and ur chin covered ur not going to go down
4, working on the defense all the time, blocking, slipping, bobbing and weaving, ducking, parrying and coutner jabbing, keeping that guard up the whole time
5. counterpinching with the jab, and throwing fast rights that at least land right with the left in guard position and on balance.
6. moving in and out and practicing getting to understand range, the range at which u can punch and he cant vs where both can punch and hit each other vs the range at which he can punch but u cant
7. living through the sparring session, not getting winded. its horrible to get winded i never experienced it early on but ive seen soo many ppl who didnt finish sparring 3 rounds proper just disappear from the gym in less than a month-probably closer to 1 week after the got to sparring level really. what a waste.

8. not focusing on power. it doesnt matter what style of fighter u turn out to be, boxing ability, defensive ability, counterpunching ability, going def-off and off-def, moving in-they dont make u a lesser puncher or a less big hearted fighter. and if someone thinks this is the chicken’s way out of sparring-this is the SMART way! power will come, look at the set of morons in boxng who God gave power to, in the old days guys like shavers probably the biggest puncher ever but with absolutely nothing boxers do, except wearing gloves and having his name on recently guys like naseem hamed who never really showed any heart, mayorga who obviously didnt care about how many defects he had. just cuz u turn off the power or dont focus on it doesnt make u a loser, it makes u smart. i think i felt proudest as a boxer when fighting guys like the crazily leech like jiu jitsu fighters. if i went in and just bob-weaved my weay to strike them with a close hook in pretty sure id be crying uncle under their god knows what locks and armbars. thankfully i was asked to spar with welterweights sometimes, i had a running KO record by then so it was agreed i would i try to box them they tried to whack me out ๐Ÿ™‚

it was amazing, fun, and probably what got me through jiu jitsu who can grab an arm or elbow fast (if u cant stun them with a fast punch) and taekwando fighters (who have lightning fast kicks). i had short arms so i would never be a great boxer, but i think i did my sport proud, only lost to a wingchun guy and he was just too fast really (the gloves were pillows ๐Ÿ˜› punchers just love that excuse, i was beaten fair and square that guy was amazing.

later on, i incorporated wingchunish punches the goom sao or something like that a blow to the elbow as a guy punches wonderful paralyzer. the double and triple jabs with 1 inch retraction and yet some mustard on the shot through foot weight and the torso. blocking heavyweight’s crosses with foot push on the downparry to the outside to give it power and lead the fly into my counter left hook. it always feels good to put a bigger guy on the floor.

after u got 60 rounds through, maybe taken 50 hard hits or more and feel good about your chin and know what style is good for you, feel free to mix it up more. but dont use power and go all out, when u dont still know what ure good at. if u have power it will be evident even fast taps will make your sparmate stop for a second. if u try to focus on power unless u luck out big time even good power will seem bad cuz u wont land proper or flush and only 10 boxers ever have 1 punch KO’s (first 2 to 4 rounds, on a totally dominant opponent). if u dont learn balance movement in sparring ull never maximise power and feel ur power is worse than it is. sparrings scary but imporntant and if u focus on whats important no one can put u down. and if ur itching to put something down heavybag all u want for the first 60 rounds (45 day-2 months).


Johnny N August 10, 2011 at 8:04 am

@Miguel – more speed and open hand (little power), would be the best for “learning sparring”. sparring slow is good for just building rhythm and learning how to see things. once you learn how to see EVERYTHING, then you can move up the speed.

@aboverise – that’s a sad story. I say spar with your friends and the moment they get too hard, you step out of the ring. some guys need to realize what they’re doing. And they don’t realize it until you break their rhythm by stepping out. If anything, it embarrasses them because everyone else can see they’re being jerks for beating up on someone smaller.


hektor August 10, 2011 at 9:25 am

Play sparring
Good article if you want to play spar and not take this sport up serious. Serious boxers do not learn sparring or take it easy on their sparring partners. You have to differentiate between the two. Individuals that want to take up boxing as a hobby of sorts or want to get a great workout would fit inperfectly with your statements in this article, but the many amateur, Olympic and professional fighters are all very serious when it comes to sparring and training. Take it from someone that has experienced and done it.


Johnny N August 10, 2011 at 4:54 pm

I’m with Hektor, you will eventually have to pick up the pace if you want to compete someday. That’s a given. Thanks for stopping by, hektor.


saber khan August 11, 2011 at 1:01 am

@Hektor, JohnnyN

I think we’re all agreed on the fact that ppl will have to get serious in sparring after they get their feet wet,

but I thot this was like beginners’ sparring?? And I can tell you starting out sparring scared, knowing the other guy wants to KO you will definitely make you trigger happy trying to knock him down, not caring what youre doing like leaving yourself open. Not good technique, though no boxer actually notices unless someone’s kind enough to point it out. but the fighter will always get scared the moment he feels he cant feel he cant hurt the other guy or gets hit and goes down, or gets winded. So definitely after 60 rounds if one wants to go to a proper level against guys and not just hang around the kiddy area of the gym the speed power has to go up, until its close to full-capability. But first 60 rounds ? Take it slow, prove to yourself your own brain that you can take shots with your guard (it takes the fear away cuz no beginner really knows what it’s like to be hit, doesnt wanna be hit, they have no idea what kind of chin they have). prove to yourself you can win a fight even if you get hit, that you can take a hit to throw your own. otherwise thats gonna be a VERY VERY limited fighter. prove to yourself you can have good technique and maybe you can stop someone for a second without going all out, because you’re concentrating on looking for opportunity, seeing the proper range open, using technique at the right timing and being accurate and hitting on a counter flush.. does worlds of good to one’s confidence regarding his own power.

Unfortunately I didnt do any of this ๐Ÿ™‚ my coaches were more `Kill to prove your will and **** the skill’ sort and so I knew the other guy wanted to KO me as soon as he could. I was always scared that some one was going to knock me down or do something embarrassing to me or I couldnt go for 4 rounds and would get winded :S But definitely after someone gets 60 rounds in, knows they can finish, knows they can avoid some shots, take some, throw some, they have to shift up to higher gears, coming up to the point where they know they cant go much faster or harder. then they will have to learn things like how to tactcically create a break by clinching or backing off during sparring, how to understand changing tactics during a fight, how to take advantage of others’ weaknesses, create and escape traps, get out of corners and finish off opponents, develop their own mind games and know how to fight their own voices and the crap good sparmates do to psych them out. No opponent will probably let them learn this stuff in an amateur or pro bout, and just hearing about theory on this stuff is useless if it’s not practiced in sparring over and over till it kind of automatically clicks on. And im defiinitely with hector and coach that no one will get there unless they step it up.


Shahin August 11, 2011 at 8:53 am

Very deep and true.
If only I had you as my coach, damn, why did I have to live in the UK……:sad:


rote February 24, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Funny you say that. I did a semester abroad at Reading University in UK and I would walk to the boxing gym and they had several trainers and a ton of people of all sizes/ages/skill levels. the trainers controlled the sparring and kept it from turning into a brawl, directing us to only throw jabs or lower the intensity or whatever. They were responsible and it felt like a organized sport.

I live in New Jersey and we have a couple gyms and fighters around Atlantic City and I’ve experienced mostly contrary to the more intelligent and sportsmanlike UK experience. My brother trained with Virgil Hill for a time and this guy supposed to be an all-time great had no respect, threw my brother who was pretty skilled but was basically new to sparring against a guy that has 30+ lbs on him and fought pro in mma and boxing and brawled like an mma fighter. This really did fuck with him for a while cuz he’d get up at 7am trying to be diligent for his former world champion boxing coach and he’d get thrown in there first thing in the morning and have to fucking fight for his life when it’s supposed to be a SPAR to get better. I think it’s great Johnny that you point out how this approach is terrible for promoting the sport to newcomers and that so-called trainers who think your first sparring match has to be a battle for survival to test your heart is an asshole. Clearly, being a world champion also does not necessarily make you a good trainer.


Johnny N February 27, 2012 at 2:58 am

Really sorry to hear about your brother, rote. I hope he finds a place with more focus on boxing than fighting. Good luck to the both of you.


GirlBoxer May 20, 2012 at 4:50 am

Hi Shahin
If you live anywhere near Shoreditch in London I would strongly recommend Paragon gym. It’s where I go, and the trainers are amazing. Very much focused on building up your skills and strategic controlled sparring, none of the throw you in the ring and beat the [email protected] out of you to see if you can take it mentality. Really good skill level too, several ABA champs in there.



michael a August 12, 2011 at 9:45 am

i do karate too and i fear every lesson because i know it will be an hour and a half of pain. the black belts think that by hitting me to my breaking point ill get better and every time i punch they counter even harder so i just dont punch. its not helping my skills at all


sgt July 12, 2012 at 7:35 am

just leave the club. there’s lots of clubs out there dude.


saber khan August 12, 2011 at 1:08 pm


sorry to hear that. i thot karate matched colors with colors ? like blue with blue, brown with brown etc ? mind u i have no idea what karate practice is, but it was just a general idea we had, that people of lower levels had to PROVE they were so far above the brown belters that they could take on a black belt dan 1 or 10 or whatever, and the higher color belts would not fight a lower color belt because it was insulting for them to match up to someone inferior. im sorry if im totally off its just a feeling i got when seeing karate guys spar, i thot it was a very `colour-oriented’ society ๐Ÿ˜›


michael a August 13, 2011 at 2:33 pm

@saber khan

you are correct about the matching of colours during most exercises but for sparring, the sensei lines up the black and brown belts in one line and the others opposite and spar like that.i dont understand why and im scared to say something. the sensei always yells to the black and brown belts to “bring us up to their level” …but thats rather difficult when they have been doing karate for an extra 10 years!


saber khan August 14, 2011 at 1:27 pm

this is a totally meaningless post, just showing my respect
`I really REALLY hate trainers that start out beginning boxers that way. Some trainers actually know how to develop a fighter from controlled sparring to full sparring. However, there are too many trainers that prefer the sink-or-swim method of testing a brand new fighter to see if he’s “got what it takes” to be a fighter. The sink-of-swim method, in my opinion, is a really messed up way to train someone. I blame the recent fall of boxing’s popularity on this practice alone. This is NOT how you train someone. Beginner skateboarders don’t jump off rooftops. Beginner gymnastics don’t start with a backflip to “test their potential”. So why are beginning boxers forced to prove a higher level skill without first being given the chance to develop their potential? Some trainers don’t want to waste their time with individuals that don’t have the natural aggression. I can’t help but argue that the same temperament that wins gym fights is the not the same temperament that wins championships. Any street thug can win a gym brawl using well-practiced backyard fight tricks. Enter the same thug into a Golden Glove tournament with his wild swings and over-confident mentality and I promise you a different result’

man, its like we share the same mind-or the same ****ing first coach ๐Ÿ™‚

TBH some ppl do get successful even with crazy brawling, even in the Golden Gloves but only at higher weights (where rocking the opponent is a possibility). I was schooled that way, but i honestly wish i was trained with proper technique and such from the very start, cuz even now when i just shadowbox for exercise i find myself doing some dumb things never have been able to switch them off (throwing a left uppercut and always forgetting to bring it back as im throwing a hook or an uppercut with the right, instead cocking it with the left again). there are a few more, and it’s so impossible to totally take them all out if someone’s been ring trained by sparring with the sink or swim or as sam called it **** the skill kill to prove your will method, many fighters never seem to cut out counterintuitive things when they have their back to the wall. exceptions being guys like pac who i would respect solely on the fact that hes changed so much from a one fisted wild brawler who would go offbalance and into ortho stance every power left he threw at bantam and fly. roach is a heck of a coach i mean his father’s name rhymes with it ๐Ÿ™‚ i think u’ll go on to coach some big winners someday mr. JohhnyN if u decide to (but any coach who hasnt fought as a high level amateur or a pro i wouldnt trust even with their greatest ideas.)

btw coach any idea how i could get those little flaws out of my own moves ? tried everything from slow s-b-s sparring to drills just for those bits. but when im shadowboxing the automatic response kicks in (i have the weirdest looking 1-2-3-4-3-5-1- combo that kind of doesnt allow the right hook out im telling u i cant help myself :D) any suggestions ?


saber khan August 14, 2011 at 1:58 pm

correction and request for help
sorry i meant a 1-2-3-4-5-1 combo doesnt allow the right uppercut out it happens everytime i want to go throw the theoretical 1-8 combo. the whole set is 1-2-3-4-5-1-2-3-1-6-7-8 instead of the 1-8 really pisses me off, i have to stop the good rhythm and slowly practice the 1-8 combo and speed up over and over. then i can do it, but as soon as i switch to other sets and come back to this set SAME old 5-1 change.

this stuff definitely came from my sparring months cuz i was extrememly left heavy back then on counters and leads. i gave up throwing the right hook on a counter because sparring was so competitive, anything that didnt work had to be quickly tossed out mentally. i had really good success in sparring at a very unorthodox left hook to the head, body, shovel hook, even a left uppercut GOING TO MY RIGHT from any stance. i knew how to throw the right hook and uppercuts after ducking-weaving or slipping or bob-weaving to my right. but it never seemed to stop someone the way the right did. pretty sure thats where the habit of the overreliance on the left hand hand got programmed in its been over 10 years since i started sparirng and picked up this bad habit and havent been able to program it out ๐Ÿ™‚

i later did learn to throw the rights harder (tho still not as good as the left). but even after i did, let’s just say about 70% maybe 80% of the shots i throw after i go right on slipping bob/weave or duck/weaving are left handed shots, and if i try to force right handed shots- well u know it sucks the timings off there’s like a lag ๐Ÿ™‚ between the slip and the shot and i feel like the heavybag is going `dude u kidding me ?’ ๐Ÿ™‚ when i move to my left, i throw both hands equally well and equally frequently, no need to think. when i throw my left upercuts moving forward to finish my lower hand is definitely nowhere near my chin it dips below my collarbone and i curse myself just seems to have a life of its own.

other weird stuff:

when backing up and circling or diagonally going to the right, throwing a right lead i want to immediately duck-weave right and keep circling right, but often i turn southpaw and throw a right hook, left cross (which allows me to turn to an ortho stance cuz it kind of overextends and if it doesnt get me back to my stance i clinch). thats a good tip btw to advanced guys, as youre backing up its a good option to mess up opponents (and make them think u know how to fight both stances). but its not what i want to do, and i want my body to do what iiiii WANT!

i changed my mind i actually would love a suggestion. any body got ideas ? i got smacked in the right eye throwing a left shovel hook a day or so ago and my right eye is not black but the eye is swollen and paining ๐Ÿ™ any body


Johnny N August 15, 2011 at 4:56 am

@saber khan – your pre-programmed combos were ingrained from habitual sparring. Your body uses that response for a purpose and I’m guessing it’s because the combo served you very well in the past. If you want to mix in the right uppercut some more…try drilling in nothing but right uppercuts in your shadowboxing and sparring. Jab-RU-left hook-RU-left uppercut-RU!

As for the slow recovery…I’m guessing your body is off balance. It’s very easy to tilt forward or back more when you engage an opponent and so you’ll have to work hard on footwork to keep your body from leaning in too much. I had the same problem and fixed it by constantly stepping backwards and forwards. Go 1 up, 1 back. Then 2 up, 2 back. Then 2 up, 1 back. And 1 up, 2 back. (repeat several times) You will eventually find the problem and notice your body over-shifting to one side.


saber khan August 15, 2011 at 1:39 pm


yeah have tried the isolation 6 combos (3-6-1-7-6) but off a jab never did that ๐Ÿ™‚ 1-6-3-6-5-6 wow what an ugly combo but it sounds like the best option. yeah definiitely will try to put in a couple of hours into this over the next 2 days. ill get back on whether it helps out with the main combo in which i wanna throw the right uppercuts.. thanks coach good idea

im definitely more forward when im on offense as i get into range coach its part of my style but i fight with slightly more bent knees than the average guy so it isn’t a problem as it is for someone who’s standard upright stance. will work on the footwork tho, to see if it does do something (but i have to go left foot heavy when ducking/weaving theres no way aorund it)

will let u know how it goes coach


Johnny N August 16, 2011 at 6:19 am

@saber – yeah, let me know how it goes.


Hank August 25, 2011 at 10:21 pm

you are awsome Jonny!
I gotta talk with my Coach. Yesterday in my first sparring round I got knocked up really bad. It’s not the pain, or the embarrassament of hitting the ground in pain. It’s that I couldn’t use anything I have learnt so far, plus the smiling face of that idiot coach. When I saw how he took pleasure in my getting beaten up by his experienced son I wanted to hit him in his ugly face :/

Swim or sink.. well I’m gonna go back there, tonight and every night, but jeez it can’t go on like this, because as you say this is no way to learn!
thanks again Jonny


Johnny N August 27, 2011 at 9:57 am

Hank, I suggest you get another trainer. Sounds to me like he’s training you to be “feeder fish” for his son. I wish you the best of luck. Take care of yourself and find a trainer who cares about you more than the opponent he sticks you in with!


tried September 2, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Tried to be the better man
Hey Johnny,
I’m a novice/intermediate fighter who just joined a boxing gym. They made me spar another novice who couldn’t really control his power punches and was was pressuring me heaps. I tried to be good and just kept my punches light on his head and practised my defence and body shots.
Then the next guy they made me spar was the coaches son, and he didn’t hold back his punches either.. .problem was, he was a good fighter and I was pretty tired by now.. .I did ok for the first minute but he kept trying to smash my face. I tried to keep my punches light on him and the coaches watching were telling him to keep his punches light but he wouldn’t. He ended up giving me a bleeding nose that was pouring with blood.
I think he knew that I was punching light so he just took the advantage and came inside and tried to KO me… Man I was quite disappointed at the coaches for not stopping the fight after seeing my nose all bloody.. so I fought on because I didn’t want to be a wuss… but it was getting out of hand because I was now dizzy, bleeding and exhausted. I just stopped and walked out of the ring because there was no use and I didn’t want a broken nose.
They all said my fitness was the reason I got hit easily in the second matchup… .I agree, I’m so unfit.(and obviously my defense too lol). but still think they should’ve done something during the sparring match.
Something inside me wants to get fit as heck and go and spar that guy again and this time not hit him light, but make him feel some stinging jabs…. but something else is telling me to be the better man…….
What do you think?
(also is there anyway of getting an email notification telling me I’m getting replies to this comment?)


Johnny N September 2, 2011 at 4:39 pm

@tried – sounds like a really rough gym. I”m glad you got out of the ring. It takes balls to admit that you got no business being in there. Only a coward allows himself to be further abused by a bully. Work on your boxing and spar with guys that are going to help you develop those skills. Forget about the opponent who went to hard. One day it’ll happen to him and he will quit just the same as you did. Focus on yourself and your skills. Remove negative people from the equation.


Paul September 8, 2011 at 7:31 am

Taken up boxing at 40!
After my weight ballooned to nearly 17 stone a year ago,I decided it was time to do something about myself before I ended up morbidly obese.I felt like shit,I was drinking most nights eating crap and not doing any exercise what so ever.So I started running.Firstly round the block and then eventually upto 4 miles.I did that for about a year.Back in May a mate of mine suggested boxing.So I thought why not,it’s something I’ve always fancied so I took the plunge and went along to the gym for the first time.The sessions last an hour and half.We do pad work,skipping,bags,every type of exercise known to man and everyone gets the chance to spar for at least one round.You can work at your own pace,no one makes you feel like a wimp or an idiot if you mess up or get too tired.When I first started I have to admit I found it really tough,infact tougher than anything I’d ever tried before.I always finish the sessions dripping in sweat and feeling totaly knackered…which means I’m getting my moneys worth.Everyone encourages one another and nobody is there to try and knock you out.I’ve sparred a few times.I always manage to put in a few half decent punches,but usually end up feeling overwhelmed when an opponent throws a barrage of punches.At first I’d close my eyes a little and back off.I sometimes feel disappointed with myself that I’ve not shown a little more courage and stamina to watch the punches and counter them effectively.I’m always up for getting in the ring but I do get a bit tense and I have trouble relaxing,something my sparring partner and trainer always notice with me.I had terrible trouble controlling my breathing,although this has got better recently.Usually I’ll get a few punches in and then my mind tells me he’s gonna come back and knock me for six,so then I end up losing concentration and it all ends up going down hill.I do always come back from a sparring session thinking I missed opportunities like when the opponent didn’t have his stomach protected or when they’ve dropped their hands.I aim to move more round the ring,counter punches more rather than spending too much time trying to fend them off,keep moving my head more,watch for vulnerable points and focus on the shoulders.Hopefully with time the technique will start coming together and my confidence will improve.Some of the lads have been boxing since children,some 10 years or more,I see this as a benefit they are quite happy to share advice and help me improve.Does anyone else on here have trouble relaxing whilst sparing and controlling breathing?Does anyone have any tips to improve this?
I am determined to get to a half decent level in this sport,I don’t intend to enter any competitions just to have all round good fitness levels,maintain a healthy weight and be able to defend myself in aggressive situations.:o


Johnny N September 8, 2011 at 7:49 am

@Paul – I have an article here on “training your flinch reflex”. Please check it out, I think that’s what you need. So far, it sounds like you have a great learning environment. Trust me, you’ll get better in no time. Have your opponent go in slow motion and get used to seeing EVERYTHING he does. Not just his hands but his face, his elbows, his whole upper body.


paul September 15, 2011 at 6:25 am

training tip
@Jonny-Thanks for the tip I will check it out.Some great articles on this site.I’ve decided to get in an extra hour of sparring a week.I’ve spoken to the gym and they can offer me one to one coaching on ring confidence,technique,footwork etc.I think I need to spar more and get used to watching the punches and learning to counter and block them.My fitness has come on leaps and bounds since I started training it’s just a little confidence that I lack.I think getting used to a routine of sparring once a week along side the training classes should help me no end.I’m determined to get to a decent standard so I can enjoy my new found sport even more!


Johnny N September 16, 2011 at 5:02 am

That’s great. You have a good team that’s working with you on everything. I can see you’re making great progress. I wish everyone had what you had.


don September 24, 2011 at 5:32 pm

when i spar with my trainer he lets me punch full force and he just covers up. then when im tired he will go punching at me with medium power. is this a good way to spar? or he just wants me to develop my attacking techniques?


Johnny N September 27, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Don, as long as you’re learning and you’re not getting hurt, you’re trainer is doing a great job. Every trainer has their own special routine and their own way of teaching things. If you’re not sure what he’s looking for, make sure you ask him.


miguel October 21, 2011 at 7:20 pm

When looking for a gym n trainer how do I find trainer that will do controlled sparring instead of throwing me to the wolves. What I’m asking is is there a way to find out before I spar n get messed up. Cuz they all say its controlled but then u walk out with a black eye


Johnny N October 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm

You just have to work with the trainer and get a feel for who he trains and how he trains. If your trainer has 10 other amateur fighters, it’s probably hard sparring. If your trainer works with women and children, he’s probably easier. Watch his fighters and see how hands on he is when his fighters spar. Does he watch and give feedback? Or does he turn his back and work with other fighters? The easiest way to not get hurt is to tell him that upfront from the beginning. Also tell your sparring partner over and over again.


frank October 24, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Had my first ‘real’ spar today. It went well, our trainer is very good and although facing a bigger guy, it wasn’t full-pelt shots. Still, I got clumped with a good left as my defence was nowhere to be seen, and I walked onto it in honesty; at least I know I can take a fair whack without thinking, ‘I don’t want to do this’.
With hind-sight, I should have probably been more focused and perhaps a little more apprehensive than I was. Although it’s light-shots and with protection, it’s still boxing and your still getting hit, which may take me some getting used to. I need to work on my defence, as I still have a tendency to lose my shape when under attack.
Other than that, it went fairly well. I slipped a few decent shots (which is great when it happens), but couldn’t counter that well. Early days I suppose. Good job Johhny, this sites really helped me.


Johnny N October 25, 2011 at 4:12 am

Awesome work, frank. I always tell people…you improve very quickly at the 10/100/1000 round marks. Once you hit your first 10 rounds in the ring, you learn exponentially so much more. And then the next milestone at 100, and the next at 1000. With each milestone passed, you become 50 times better. Keep racking up those rounds and keep it controlled. You’ll be pro-status before you know it.


Paul October 28, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Now into my fifth week of one to one sparring training.I’ve gone from being exhausted after one round to getting through 6 rounds of continual sparring.I’m moving around a lot more and I’m not looking away from the punches anymore (which I’m quite pleased about as I used to end up turning away or start looking at the floor).I still need to work a little more on relaxing and breathing properly so I don’t waste energy.Tonight I took a body shot that winded me on my last round to the point where I was wretching,thought I was going to puke.Still feeling it a bit now.So I need to ensure I don’t leave myself wide open next time.My trainer said body shots are worse than head punches because once your winded it is very hard to keep going.I’m still enjoying the challenge and every session is always different from the last.My trainers seem pleased with my progress.I’ve also improved my boxing combinations on the pad work sessions.I’m now alot more fluid with them,instead of slow and robotic.So all in all still enjoying it and I actually feel like I’m making good progress.


Johnny N November 1, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Paul, going from 1 round to 6 rounds of sparring in just five weeks is incredible! You’re a crazy natural! About the vomiting feeling, you can avoid that by making sure you don’t have anything in your stomach. Even 1/3rd a cup of water will make you throw up if your intensity goes too high (I dare you to drink half a cup and sprint 100% for 15 seconds). It sounds like you have a great bunch of coaches, keep up the good work.


Deepak October 31, 2011 at 12:01 am

Brilliant Article…Im Six Months into boxing and Expert Boxing has helped me alot…Thumbs Up ๐Ÿ™‚


Johnny N November 1, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Thanks, Deepak! I wish you the best.


ZACK November 6, 2011 at 8:05 am

Hi Johnny, i am the guy who posted those comments in the Wild Card Gym article.

So I started training boxing in a local gym two weeks ago, I trained hard and everything was perfect. Those coaches are friendly and professional and some fighters there are pro and really good. Just like you did in your past, I am the only asian in the gym, all others are black.

So the coaches liked me a lot and really thought that I have some natural talents and power, so they let me fought in the ring for a all-out sparring yesterday. I sparred with two guys for one round each.

And I got beat up. : )

After the sparring when I chat with my opponents I found that both of them have fought for at least two years and are going pro!!! And I just trained two weeks = =!

You know when I step in the ring the first time of my life and put on that helmet, I found my body very stiff, can’t move and can slip punches like when I practice with the mitts, but only to get hit. And I don’t know how to predict their punches and how to counter them. I just threw the basic 1, 2 punches and found myself unable to hit my opponent a lot of times. Because I am tall (6 feet for 155 pounds) and nervous, I even forgot how to lower and weave my body to throw body shots. I still landed some good punches, but I knew I didn’t hur them at all. When I was training outside the ring with the mitts, I got really powerful right hand, but when people are shouting at me “throw that right hand” when I was in the ring, I felt it was really hard to find a chance to throw the punches because I knew I definitely would miss and got hit. During the fights I got a lot of hard head shots and one of the right hand really set a bell ringing in my head. Just like you said, got heart means nothing here.

Although I got beat up, I still impressed my opponents when they heard I only trained for two weeks. I got a headache for the rest of the day and had a painkiller pill to stop the pain at night. Now I feel a lot better, and was quite excited about my first sparring exercise.

But I don’t want to do it again before I learned how to properly protect myself and slip and parry and counter punches hahaha.


Johnny N November 10, 2011 at 11:04 am

Wow…you’re moving quick. Keep it up and stay away from those headaches!


Ben December 10, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Sound like my situation. I started about 2 weeks ago, but had down Muay Thai for about a year 3 years ago. Being 5,8″ and 165 pounds, I’ve heavier than 90% of the boxers at my gym. (I’m American, but live and train in Tokyo, Japan) so the only guys that are my size are these two ranked amateur champs. Both have been fighting for over 5 years.

So I get thrown into a sparing session with one of them because his sparring partner didn’t show up that day (I guess there are so few guys in Japan weighing in at the 160lbs – 170lbs range, that guys from all over Tokyo travel to different gyms to spar) Today, the guy was expecting to get some heaving sparring in with another ranked amateur, but he go the flu and didn’t show up, so the trainer (perhaps overestimating my experience level from my previous Muay Thai training) just told be to get in there with him.

And just like you I got beat up, and my bell rung a few times. I left the gym with a sore jaw and a headache, and feeling like I didn’t learn anything. But after reading this article and other comments, I’m gonna talk with the trainer and tell him I don’t need to be in those kinda sparring sessions until I properly learn how to defend myself and get some of the other basics down. I would still love to get in some light sparring, but I don’t wanna be going home with headaches, and feeling frustrated each time.

Good luck to you man!


Taisei November 10, 2011 at 1:16 am

Hi Johhny.
Is it natural that during sparring, I can only land 2 or 3 good punches? I’m not good at boxing and sparring is new to me I started it about a month or a month and a half ago. When I started doing it I could not land a single punch but now I’m at a level where my punch at least lands once.

Also, I started sparring after a year I started boxing, is this normal? I’ve never seen kids my age spar in my gym, I’m the only one. Fellas at boxing scene told me to change gyms because I am taking boxing seriously and a coach who refuses to teach me new things (uppercuts, defense) is not worth my time although he teaches like 7 year olds like crazy . Not insulting my coach but he focuses on the basics and I understand that. Throwing a proper one-two can pretty much lead to anything in the ring.


Johnny N November 10, 2011 at 11:01 am

Hi Taisei,

It sounds to me that your trainers are not really prioritizing you. Maybe you are too old and they prefer to train young kids who they believe will mold into better boxers. If they know you’re serious about boxing but still don’t have time for you, I would get training elsewhere. Sparring one year after starting boxing and not knowing uppercuts or defense is a really slow pace. Even if he only works with you on the basics, you should at least feel like he’s developing your jab everyday…not just leaving you to figure it out by yourself.


BD November 11, 2011 at 1:28 pm

I started boxing about 3 months ago. I am a 33 yo female in a gym with several guys in their 20’s. We have a guy with a fight coming up and the trainer let us newbies practice throwing punches at him. All he was allowed to do was move and slip. (This is his 3rd fight) I got a few shots in and the hits were solid. The other guys were just throwing bundles of arm punches and tapping him. Anyway, I want to know why I was having trouble hitting him? Was it because he was doing defense only and there were no counter punch opportunities? And I would also like to know of some good drills to increase punch speed and accuracy. We don’t really have a lot of sparring opportunities because the gym is new and most of the fighters are new to the sport. The one guy with experience has been training for about 2 years with a few fights under his belt.


Johnny N November 12, 2011 at 12:40 pm

BD, you can’t hit the experienced fighter is because he holds many advantages over you. He is used to seeing punches, feeling punches, and avoiding punches. Everything you throw, he’s seen before. he knows what you’re going to throw so it’s easy for him to get out of the way. As you get better at boxing, your body will move more fluidly and faster so that he’s not so easily able to avoid your punches. You’ll also learn better ways to get into position and setup punches. 3 months is a really short time so it’s no surprise at all that you can’t touch him. What your trainer is doing is a great opportunity for you to learn how boxers move. Later on, you will face opponents that move just as well as him and hopefully by then, you’ll know how to hit a moving target.


J November 11, 2011 at 7:09 pm

(BD) Go here it will answer the questions you need





J November 14, 2011 at 1:16 am

I Dont have the money to afford a gym at the moment, so i just study practice and spar for now. i show friends the basics and help them get better so i can approve as well. But i tend to find myself sparring the same exact person on a a daily basis. i come to realize that overtime i can approve on the chess match (mental state) but i come to realize since im sparring the same exact person i adapt to their styles and techniques. And they do the same. So if i have a parring buddy i like to work drills. such as one on defense and one on offense and we switch off rounds. Or work on distance, set ups, etc. I understand i need more people to spar to learn different styles. but could it benefit me by sparring the same person just to work drills?


Johnny N November 14, 2011 at 4:03 am

Hi J, keep sparring with the same person but create different rules for each session. Maybe one session you have a rule where neither of you guys can take a back step, only going forwards or sideways allowed. In another session, you have a rule saying combos are 3-punch maximum. In another fight, you have a rule saying that both fighters must throw 75% jabs. Work on different things. There are many ways you can train so that even the same sparring partner can improve your fighting skills in different aspects.


J November 14, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Ok cool. I have a friend that wants to lose weight (get a workout) and i need to improve my technique. So is there a way where we could both benefit? me on defense and him on offense?


Johnny N November 15, 2011 at 2:11 am

Spar at slow speed, J. Both of you punching and defending is the best workout for weight loss AND technique. It helps to run and do the other regular boxing exercises as well. Tell your friend to read my diet guide.


J November 15, 2011 at 4:01 am

I do spar at slow speed like you said in this article. not only has my form improved but rather. my set ups, combinations, defense, offense, landing, the slow sparring pace you explained really works. Freddie Roach would even say “I cant stand it when to boxers would spar and try to knock eachother out” practice is not suppose to be competition, in anything even besides boxing everyone has to start somewhere. thats a good idea that you brought up your diet im going to print it out for him since he doesn’t have much access to the internet.


Johnny N November 15, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Beautiful, J. I wish everyone would try that. Good for you. I’m happy for you. You’ll be amazed at how much faster and better you get.


J November 15, 2011 at 9:36 pm

i spar without head gear alot like for as long as i have been boxing i rarely wear head gear. Am i putting myself in jeopardy for long term? And is it a bad idea tgo spar with no head gear? Explain if possible please


Johnny N November 16, 2011 at 11:58 pm

Everyone spars with headgear. There’s no way around it. Boxing is a very serious sport.


J November 17, 2011 at 3:59 am

That explains why i was getting black eyes with 16 oz glove and no head gear, it also had an affect on my wrists messed them up. If it was a good idea not to wear head gears the pros wouldnt wear them in sparring but even the greatest fighters in the world wear head-gear. learning something new everytime i come to this site literally…..I send my appreciations to you in full John


Johnny N November 17, 2011 at 12:48 pm

J, the pro’s definitely wear headgear in sparring. There are a few that don’t from time to time, but they don’t do that regularly. You’re welcome, J.


J November 17, 2011 at 3:59 am

Thank You


J November 24, 2011 at 9:36 pm

when i spar my friend at 25% speed and 25% punch power. due to my experience in boxing im able to realize when im going too fast and control my speed. (when i first started i never knew how to control my power) beside that. since where punching so slow and light. he keeps walking towards me since the punches are not hard we eventually get too close, what do i do in a situation such as that?


Johnny N November 26, 2011 at 2:42 am

Tell him to respect your power. Even if it doesn’t hurt, he has to learn how to avoid it and not just walk through punches as if they don’t hurt (even if they don’t). Make a rule where both fighters have to stay at arm’s reach and don’t get closer than that. Ideally, if he’s walking into your punches…keep moving around him. It should be a fun game if you find it easy to land. Try to work on your accuracy, instead of just hitting him in the face, try aiming right for the nose or the eye.


mark November 25, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Sorry if anyone has asked this already… I’ve been sparring now for about 2 years. I have no interest in fighting professionally, I just enjoy it. Lately I’ve been running out of gas quicker and I THINK it’s from body shots… Even though most of the body shots aren’t hurting me, could they be slowing me down and sucking the gas out of the tank? Round 4 usually is me getting beat on, seeing openings, and not being able to pull the trigger. Any advice?
Thanks everyone!


Johnny N November 26, 2011 at 2:44 am

Mark, body shots will definitely suck the energy out of you. It starts an internal bruise that grows inside your stomach and slowly takes away your ability to move and punch. Imagine a virus sapping energy out from your core. Even if the impact doesn’t hurt, it still affects your movement.

Speaking of which, have you tried doing more core exercises?


J November 26, 2011 at 2:09 am

I had that same problem mark, you need to relax and just let it flow. you said the body shots aren’t bothering you i got hit with a body shot, i literally could’nt breathe and my body collapsed i started gagging like crazy. it’s very important to get your conditioning in. long distance and/or wind sprint (short burst of speed)


Charlotte November 28, 2011 at 8:54 am

Well im 12 and im a girl; my parents make me go boxing.
There’s a girl there that I ALWAYS HAVE to train with and spar with and she really hurts me, and she’s alot more higher advantage then me.
What can I dont know what to be becasue I use to enjoy fighing but I HATE going now….


DAM November 28, 2011 at 12:36 pm

I don’t know if you speak french but ill take a chance,
Salut Charlotte!
Pour ton problรจme avec le sparring je n’ai que deux solutions .. ๐Ÿ˜›
Si t’es une fille qui fait ca pour le plaisir et qui n’a pas d’interet ร  continuer lร -dedans plus tard, je te dirais de simplement changer de partenaire pour le sparring ๐Ÿ™‚
Mais si au contraire t’aimerais peut-etre avoir un avenir lร -dedans, je n’ai qu’une phrase ร  te dire

C’est en s’entrainant avec de meilleur(e)s boxeurs que l’on s’amรฉliore …

En tout cas, j’espere que cela t’aideras ๐Ÿ™‚
Bonne Chance !


Laura November 28, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Hi Charlotte,

If you’re having problems with working with sparring partners or partner you should always talk to your coach and you should ask the individual sparring you to go easier on you, so you can learn and build confidence in the ring. Sparring people with height differences can always be a bit tricky, fortunately coach Johnny has written some fabulous guides under ‘Strategy’ and theres one written for us shorter folk on sparring bigger folk.


Johnny N November 30, 2011 at 3:54 am

Don’t get in the ring with that girl. Stand up for yourself and say, “I don’t like getting beat up. I don’t enjoy it and don’t see the benefit in getting beat up.”


KidFox November 30, 2011 at 11:05 pm

I swear, I tried explaining light sparring to a gym mate today. All he did was give me the look, like I didn’t know what I was talking about. I swear people just wanna run before they can even walk.


Johnny N November 30, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Some people will never understand that you can spar as hard as you want…and be as tough as you want….but it doesn’t mean you’re going to learn how to see the small details of boxing. It doesn’t mean you’ll learn how to see punches and counter opportunities better.

Good for you, KidFox.


J November 30, 2011 at 11:58 pm

i spar lightly i used to be a “slugger” if you cant find someone that is willing to go light and go through the motions maybe you can show a relative or a friend the basics, and get going from there. that way you can improve on timming, set ups, combinations, accuracy, etc, i used to spar about a year or so ago and just go out there and slug. but my body would only let me go not even five or six rounds and when i went with Johnny’s strategy i was able to do 12 rounds without hesitation. its better cardio wise and you get more rounds under your belt. do you agree johnny?


Johnny N December 1, 2011 at 12:04 am

I’m with you, J. It’s the best way for developing fighters.


J December 1, 2011 at 12:19 am

Yeah, would you like to hear something cool? i have a friend i sparred with, he was not afraid but he would tell me controlled sparring and with a beginner mindset i had no idea what he meant, so ill catch him. hard he would get me every now and then as well. before i discovered expert boxing i never truly understood the art of boxing. back to my story we will go slug it out but he would be afraid of my power i was developing slowly, but then i had him do light sparring explained to him 25% punch power 25% speed. kind of like slow motion. and i was amazed to find out how much greater of a boxer he was than me. when it came to an athlete i had that category, but when it came to fighting i realized he was a great fighter, since he was not afraid of getting rocked he would not hesitate to come in and throw his techniques and strategies, i was able to go to twenty minute rounds with him and i improved more in that forty minutes than i have in a week when i very first started. by going light we improved dramitcally. i like to do light sparring with boxers or experienced people do to the fact they know how to control their punch power lol. its amazing how much one can learn by going through the motions, my old football coach used to say “Its better to do it ten times right then a thousand times wrong” But i have a question. Is it possible for a brand new beginner to not know how to control their punch power?


Johnny N December 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm

It happens all the time, J. Beginner’s don’t know how to “touch”. Every punch they put in has all their energy in it. The good thing is that most of them don’t know how to punch so it’s not always a problem, but it definitely takes the fun out of sparring.

I’m glad you got so much out of the slow sparring. It was a breakthrough for me too when I first tried it. I went to a new gym and that’s how they were developing new techniques. Doing everything slow so that you could see every fine detail of movement.


KidFox December 1, 2011 at 12:59 am

Id think so, my friend clocked me pretty hard with a straight to the face. I told him he needs to go light, he said he was going light. Yeah, were gonna have to establish whats “light”.


Johnny N December 1, 2011 at 3:35 pm

What I do is tell two fighters to touch each other at the very beginning with their hands down. The rule is that if you discomfort someone with a direct touch, it’s too hard. Let them start with touches and as they develop their rhythm they can start going harder and harder and it won’t affect either of them because they’re fighting relaxed.


J December 1, 2011 at 2:03 pm

I used to do the same exact thing. he probably thinks light as in moving slow pace. just set tghe tempo how the punches should be thrown before you two even start


J December 2, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Johnny, ive always had problems with find my reach and distance, whats the strategy for that?


Johnny N December 3, 2011 at 4:45 am

Work on your footwork and establish your jab. Using the jab more will remind you of your reach and distance.


J December 3, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Sometimes ill do that and they will back up. maybe i should use a quick flicker jab?


Johnny N December 4, 2011 at 1:48 am

Great, let them back up and find a way to take advantage of that.


KidFox December 7, 2011 at 12:14 am

Should I clinch during my sparring sessions? Or is that something you just don’t do for practice?


Johnny N December 7, 2011 at 2:03 am

I clinch all the time, but I do it to get out of bad situations…I don’t do it to stall fights and be that annoying guy that nobody wants to spar. If the clinch happens, let it happen but otherwise try to maximize your time in the ring by fighting instead of stalling the fight.


Gordon December 8, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Hey Johnny. Do you have any favorite anti-clinch techniques? One boxer once told me that he would take a step back and throw 2 uppercuts to the head if he anticipated a clinch.


Johnny N December 8, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Hey Gordon, I have a slime-style of fighting sometimes and love to clinch opponents so I’m usually always the winner in the clinch. Here are some things you can try:

If you want to WIN the clinch – try to lay on top of your opponent. Put your head on his shoulder without leaning over. Try to weigh him down instead of letting him way you down. You can also try to make his legs work, keep spinning your hips to swing his body back and forth and make his legs tired.

If you want to BREAK out of the clinch – step away with one foot as if you’re switching to southpaw and pull an arm out at the same time. As you step away, you also pivot your body out as you rip your arm free. Leave the other arm in to control his body while you punch him with the free arm. The uppercut works too. Just throw it.

If you’re trying to AVOID clinches – try to jab or jab-push his head away. If he gets too close, pull his shoulder down with one glove or pull his elbow into you with one glove. This allows you to establish some amount of control over his body.


J December 8, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Johnny, I remember asking you if one person could be sparring to be a better boxer and the second can do it just for exercise or just to lose weight. But if the person thats only doing it to lose weight has no interest in improving his boxing ability can that be damaging to my boxing skills since im the one attempting to improve as a boxer?


Johnny N December 8, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Absolutely. You shouldn’t be sparring with someone who has no regard for technique. You’ll still improve but maybe not as fast.


J December 8, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Negativity rubs off off on people and so does positivity do you think so?


Johnny N December 9, 2011 at 4:29 am

Absolutely. You’ve got to watch out for negative people and negative energy when you’re trying to do something positive for yourself. Protect your future, J.


PAUL December 9, 2011 at 10:26 am

My boxing club has decided to keep sparring to a dedicated night on Wednesdays which is called fight night.Basically it is a class for competition fighters and people that want to start sparring.They won’t do sparring on the other boxing classes because some people didn’t want to spar.So I decided to give it a go.I think this will help me as I get to spar with different people instead of one of the trainers.I tried quite hard and did’nt do too bad but I do end up spending my time trying to fend off punches.I can’t seem to get myself moving much and when I start to get tired I end up taking punches to the face.If I go in with a positive alert attitude I enjoy it but if I go in feeling tired from the weekend or a bad day at work I feel it goes pretty crap for me.I seem to create too many openings for my opponents and the better ones get me every time.Can be a bit disheartening at times and can make you apprehensive for the next spar.One thing I feel I have improved on and that’s taking punches better and not taking my eyes off my opponent.With all the conditioning I can take body shots alot better and keep going,which I couldn’t do a few months ago.The fight night is quite hard going so I’m sure if I can keep going I will eventually improve.I may go for some more one on one training after Christmas with a view of improving footwork and counters.I think I will have to be stricter next year on what I eat and completely give up beer too.


Johnny N December 10, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Are you telling me you drink beer AND you spar? You’re doing great, Paul.


Gordon December 9, 2011 at 11:33 am

Thanks. I’ll give it a shot, Johnny!


Ben December 10, 2011 at 8:48 am

So glad I found this website. I recently started up boxing at a gym near where I live about two weeks ago. I had done Muay Thai for about a year, then didn’t train for about two years after recovering from ACL surgery. I’m 33 and the trainer wants to get me fighting in about 6 months, so I can get in as many amateur fights as I can before I turn 35, when I can’t compete anymore. There is no Masters Division in Japan (Where I currently live now)

Weighting 74kg (about 163 lbs) There are only two guys my size I can spar with. And both are national champs.

Maybe the trainer overestimates my experience level, because of my previous Muay Thai training. Because I has put into sparring sessions on my second day. I think because the two other big guys have no one else to spar with, I get thrown in there with them. And because I’m pretty built from years of weight training, the other guys overestimate my strength, or wanna prove something. (Most Japanese guys are not built like me)

After reading your article, I realized that I shouldn’t be doing the kinda of sparring I was doing. The last session (with the 3rd ranked amateur middle weight in Japan) I was constantly getting hit, and even got rocked a few times by some heavy punches. And I feared going heavier with my punches fearing retaliation from my opponent. Afterwards I realized that I didn’t learn anything other than I can take punches to the head without getting knocked down (yet.) It was only two rounds, but I left feeling more angry than anything else.

After reading your article, I’m gonna have a talk with the trainer and tell him that I want to move at a slower pace. I have barely gotten used to the footwork, and timing, and it’s not fun to come home with a sore jaw and a headache after only one week of training.

Thanks again, and LOVE the sight.


Ben December 10, 2011 at 6:09 pm

To add to my last post, how do you gauge how you much punishment you should be taking? How do you balance “being tough” and taking it, or knowing when too much is too much? I definitely think that a certain amount of pain is to expected, and that it helps your body get used to taking the punishment of boxing, but how can you tell what is the right amount for your level?



Johnny N December 10, 2011 at 6:49 pm

If you have to ask, you’re probably going too hard. Generally, sparring should not be so hard that you feel like you can’t (or shouldn’t) spar the next day. I’m glad you read my article because it’s unfair for you to be in there with those sharks. Not only is it unfair, but also unsafe. You could be seriously hurt before even given a chance to develop your skills and fight back. Those guys are cowards for beating you up…just my opinion.

Does that help, Ben?


Ben December 10, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Thanks for the reply. Yeah. I agree. I think I should be enjoying sparring, and learning more from it. Not just constantly being afraid of getting my bell rung.

After reading your article and people’s post, I have a better idea what beginning sparring should be like. I’ll definitely have a talk with the trainer next time I go in. Thanks again for your help.


- December 14, 2011 at 11:59 am

I’ve been doing boxing for a year and a few months, at like the 5th month, i was so good at boxing, we all thought it was natural talent, and then my coach told me to fight for the club. So after 7 months i’ve been training, and i lost all my talent.
I’ve been doing it for so long, and I’m no longer good at boxing, please help me.


Johnny N December 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I don’t get it. Natural talent doesn’t go away. You took a break and now you’re not good anymore?


- December 14, 2011 at 2:55 pm



Johnny N December 15, 2011 at 1:14 am

You get it back the same way you got it in the first place. Training regularly and believing in yourself. Work hard and you’ll be better than before.


secondsout January 21, 2012 at 2:52 am

Hi Johnny,

I have found this article to be quite inspirational and relevant to the situation I have found myself in. Im in my early 20’s and after a life of loving martial arts and boxing I decided to take it up a number of months ago. Ill admit that I am not a natual born fighter, but the prospect of becoming even decent as a recreational boxer excited me. I joined and did the usual things a beginner would do, I already knew a little of the technical side so I explored that further and learned and at the beginning really loved it.

After a while as you said, I began to get itchy for sparring and was excited about what I may be able to apply in a real time situation. 4 Weeks in that chance came and me and 2 other guys that were new (although not as new as me) were put in with two experienced guys that had been doing it for years, and told they would hold fire.

They danced around us, threw some meaningless jabs at the top of our head guards every now and then, and all in all it was a decent ice breaker. After a round of this we were then pitted against each other, where things changed. My first experience against an opponant of similar inexperience resulted in me tighetening up and eventually having my hands up while standing hunched over, receiving numerous uppercuts.

It was both embarrassing and confidence destroying. The only thing the trainer over seeing the ordeal said while it was going on was ‘you’re supposed to be boxing, you cant just stand there like that’, with a disappointed and confused tone to his voice.

The result of this was a bleeding nose and a pain in my front tooth everytime I moved my nose that persisted for 6 weeks.

I left that night slightly ashamed of myself for going into retreat mode so quickly in my first real interaction.

I have sparred twice since, once with a guy who stood still the whole time with his hands high and made no attempt to move, meaning I could only get shots on his gloves or the odd body blow – But this gave no real experience as he didnt make any advances or do much fighting back. And another time which went something similar to the first, against someone that expected a fight and rendered me covering up once more in the same fashion as before. The advice the other trainer over seeing this gave was limited to ‘stand this way when you defend’.

Ive came out of those 3 experiences being increasingly afraid of sparring and it has stopped me turning up on a few occassions. I still love the sport and would love to have even a fraction of ability, but the original excitement I had about applying it in the ring has left completely and been replaced with aprehension and fear, what makes things worse is perhaps that this particular gym is the only one available to me in my small area, so I dont know what my options are anymore.

I have taken alot away from your site and enjoyed the mental conditioning you speak of, assuming this was where I was lacking. I have built myself up to go back and have another go at things, but I dont know if this is misguided or not. I suppose if nothing else, finding your site and this article has taught me that the problem is Im not being given a chance, rather than Im just not cut out for it.


Johnny N January 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Many beginners feel the same way. It’s just so confusing when you just start boxing and don’t really have an understanding of how to go about fighting. You can learn all the moves and still never know what to do. The easiest rule is to try and hit your opponent…and you need to do this with someone will fire back. I would also suggest light sparring with a close friend. Little by little, you’ll develop your own ideas about how to box and you will refine them with real techniques and strategy.


don January 21, 2012 at 8:58 pm

thanks Mr. Johnny I dont know if this is out of the topic. Yes I did gain many friends by sparring light ones. Ang my eye speed has increased as well.

Im just new to taekwondo and it is just beside our boxing gym. I tried it and they had a “study sparring” it is a light kind of sparring too. BUt there is one thing that had bothered me, there is a black belt there and he is not our instructor. He sparred with me I thought it was a light one but when I punched him in the liver (straight shot to the liver) he changed his mood and gave me a spining back kick i got caught in the chin (head kicks was not allowed but he gave me one

My lips burst and my teeth are moving, blood was flowing in my mouth. This instance made me wanna quit this taekwondo. I wonder what the hell was wrong with him. I think it his attitude being a black belt doesent mean he must hurt others.

When I spar in boxing and Im up against weaker boxers, I tend to go easy on them. Well there is no glory on beating someone less skilled than I am just to prove I am great of better than them. I joined a martial art to learn and not to dominate everyone, but that I had new friends. I just dont know about this taekwondo stuff.


Johnny N January 23, 2012 at 10:48 am

That’s just sad. Unfortunately, there’s people like that in all fighting arts.


Aviator January 23, 2012 at 6:12 am

I’ve recently stepped up from a boxercise class that concentrates on core and pad work to a boxing gym…. I had done a trial class which was great so I joined and went to class on a different night!! Beknowing to me, this night is when the pros spared and there was no technique and full sparing with 5 min rounds (im only used to 2mins). Needless to say because of my big frame and my new face they really took it out of me. I had to stop 2 thirds into the sparing with two black eyes, nose bleed / bruising, cut lip and cheeks.

It nearly made me give up all together as I thought that’s what it was going to like all the time, but then I found out that most the fighters were eith pro’s or will be in title fights over the next month. So I sucked it up and went back the next day, where a different instructer was on hand to put me with the beginners, using floppy hands and concentration on body shots, which i really enjoyed as I felt that I learnt something and not get destroyed.

But I have learnt something from the first session and that is I do not want to get hit like that again and I will work on my defence 10 times harder than before. Also I really want to go back to that particular class to prove myself.


Johnny N January 23, 2012 at 10:48 am

WHAT?!!!! I can’t believe they let the pro’s take it out on you. That’s scary.


B January 29, 2012 at 7:15 am

I had my first sparring session yesterday. I’m a female and the guy I sparred is really tall with really long arms. I had trouble slipping his jabs. I couldn’t get in range but I did manage to get under him and land a few body shots. I had fun and look forward to doing it again and making some adjustments. I actually get to see some footage from the session on the local news. The station was there to promote our newly opened gym. Do you have any tips for shorter fighters? I’m about average height for a female (5’5) but I’m the only girl at the gym right now and all of my teammates are taller than me. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!


Johnny N January 29, 2012 at 9:49 am

Hi B, I have a guide on fighting taller boxers. Have you seen it?


B January 29, 2012 at 11:47 am

I just found the article about fighting taller fighters! That’s good information!


Jokulps January 30, 2012 at 7:52 am


I had my first real sparring session last week. It was terrible…

I’ve been training for 2 months only and I clearly know I’m lacking stamina. Really, this is my worst weakness. Though, I have well improved myself with skills and I’m not affraid anymore to take some shots…as long as my opponent controls himself as you describe above. After all, I’m still a beginner.

So why the fuck my coach put me with a OMG skilled boxer (7 years) ? Why now ? I can hardly launch my 1-2s correctly. Seriously, I thought I died. He wasn’t controling anything with his jabs or whatsoever. I read your article about “Sparring againt a bigger opponent” and that was the exact same situation for me. I did not learn anything : I didn’t manage to touch him even once. He wasn’t striking me like a shit but it was enough to make me feel bad…very bad.

And when I told him I could not breath anymore (seriously, imagine your heart is KO but your brain or even your muscles are ok), I just got a “I DON’T CARE, it’s not finished !” and the coach to say : “You’re just lazy ! WE DON’T GIVE UP HERE !”. Hey come on, I want to improve not get knocked out…

The good point is now I want to improve like never but this shit was fckin pointless. I’m thinking about leaving this club, should I ? What should I do if my coach puts me again with this same guy ?


Johnny N January 30, 2012 at 10:55 am

Jokulps, leave your trainer. He’s not looking out in your interests and you should move on. No good coach in any sport should throw his athlete to the wolves. Look at how Mike Tyson was brought up, Cus D’amato trained him hard but gave him many confidence boosters when it to fighting. Your trainer may be a tough one but there is no reason for him to put you in harm’s way and then force you to keep fighting when you can’t breathe anymore. His job is to work for you, not the other way around. Suppose you were being weak, he has to respect that. This is your body and your health. Check out other gyms and see how they do sparring for beginners.

I believe in hard training but only when you’re ready for it, not when it’s your first time.


Jokulps January 30, 2012 at 11:39 am

Thank you for your answer Johnny.

Btw your site is awesome. I wish I had a trainer like you !

What if I don’t find a good trainer ? I get the feeling that succeeding in boxing is more about being lucky to get a REAL trainer than good genetics…


Johnny N January 31, 2012 at 2:29 pm

What do you mean you can’t find a good trainer?!

*COUGH!* buy my ebook *COUGH!*

Hahaha! Ok ok. You can get lucky in boxing with anything…having natural power, having a great chin, a great trainer. Etc. Think about it like this: no matter where you are in life, you can always find someone you can learn from. When you’re finished learning all that you can from one person, move on to someone else you can learn from. Keep doing this and you will realize that your best trainer was always yourself. It just so happens to be that great trainers help you develop the best out of yourself. So get out there…surely, there is someone nearby you who knows even a little bit that you don’t.


Jokulps February 1, 2012 at 4:54 am

Ever thought to be a philosopher Johnny ? : )

I’m gonna try your ebook !


Johnny N February 1, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Sounds good, let me know how it goes. ๐Ÿ™‚


Dave February 13, 2012 at 10:18 am

I am 38 yrs old and keen to start boxing, mainly for some exercise, fun and confidence. Am I a tad passed it? Do you have any advice for someone close to 40, a tad out of shape looking to start a sport that many take up a great deal younger


Johnny N February 13, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Never too old, Dave. There are so many old guys in the gym. Many of them have the most fun because they have more control and respect for the art than the younger guys. They learn fast and use their heads. You are not too old at all.


Victor C February 24, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Hey Johnny!

Hope everything is going well with your life as well as your family’s and loved ones. I would appreciate it so much if you could give me some words of wisdom on how I should approach my sparring sessions. I’ve been only training for 7 months yet people in the gym keep on asking me when will I do my first smoker tournament. I’m not one to brag, but I feel like Neo on Matrix whenever I tackle a new sport, hobby, etc. Plus, I’m the biggest critic of myself, so nobody could tell me what I did wrong and what I need to work on worse than myself. You may call me an over-achiever, yet I don’t over-achieve when it comes to serious sparring. I got so used to light sparring that it made me feel I’m not elevating my game up when I do, so I added some spice, fun, and craziness to my light sparring sessions like doing the Ali Shuffle, moving in and out like Prince Naseem, Shufflin’ like LMFAO, and worse; criss-crossing my legs in the ring. Plus, I developed a close bond with the people in my gym that we end up not focusing on our techniques but trying to see who’ll land an “out-of-nowhere” angled punches while having a laugh, almost giggling everytime we give-and-take good clean angled punches. Although, when I spar with my instructors, I tend to be more serious, giving them their proper respect before they could even land a punch. I don’t know, I guess the way I was brought up (I grew up in the Philippines where we go by pecking order) molded this mindset of mine that I have to give respect to my elders, teachers, and instructors as well. They tell me to punch them hard, but I just can’t do it, for the life of me I couldn’t understand why, maybe because they became my instructor first before becoming my sparring partner. I would take some mean, hard hits from them but I couldn’t match their 60%-80% sparring, but in the back of my head I know I could hit them hard as well without the fear of them getting “red-eyed and nostrils flaring.” Please, shed a light on how my mindset should be on how I approach my sparring sessions, be it light and/or hard sparring. Thanks for your time and I sincerely appreciate what you’re doing here! I hope you’ll have a good life ahead of you! KEEP PREACHING!


Johnny N February 24, 2012 at 3:40 pm

There are 2 simple tricks I use to hit my opponent harder without doing too much damage, I usually do this against lesser-skilled opponents. You can try using the same light power but hit with more speed and more accurately. Another one of my favorite methods is to throw much harder punches but only at their arms when they’re guarding. Once I see that they can handle this, I’ll move over to their open spots. Maybe you can try this to build confidence in yourself. Ultimately, you’ll have to accept hitting an opponent if you want to be a fighter.


Paul February 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm

On my last two sessions sparring in the ring I’ve ended up on the ropes taking a bit of a beating.I seem to start off ok getting in a few nice head and body shots but I get taken by surprise and end up trapped on the ropes.Any tips to avoid this or to get out of these situations.Got to admit I felt a complete wimp after it and went home feeling a bit down in the dumps about it.I’m still going to keep at it as I’m determined to get better.Your advice would be greatly received!


Johnny N February 29, 2012 at 5:02 pm

If you don’t like to be on the ropes, get into the habit of always circling. If you’re going to run, run to your right which is circling away from your opponent’s power hand. If you’re going to be aggressive, run to your left which circles you closer into range. Nobody should ever run straight forward into the opponent’s power or straight back which gives up ground.

Try to use only these 2 movements and you’ll see how circling might be all you ever need.


Juan March 5, 2012 at 1:59 pm

I recently started boxing, and decided to try a sparring class. Found my first class a bit over whelming, sparred against a bigger guy and I kept getting hit against my forehead. I was wearing a head-guard, but could feel a thud each time he landed a punch, which caused me to cover up and look down at the canvas…I then just felt the punches coming and by the time the bell went felt really flat and terrified. I then started looking more into articles on the internet about the frame of mind that a boxer needs to be in when sparring. I noticed that I was throwing nice punches when doing pad work with an instructor or on the bag, but in the ring just felt like my punches were water and felt completely terrified. Its funny because the thing that suddenly change it for (in a very short period of time – 2 weeks to be exact) was reading about how to take a punch and how the brain reacts as a novice or a beginner. Once I could mentally grasp this concept and realised that punches will hit me and they will give me a strange sensation, I stopped being so tense and felt less threatened. Last Saturday, I was in the ring and sparred again. My opponent threw alot of punches and I simply remained calm, covered up, breathed and very importantly kept my eyes open and focused on his general kneck/chest area. I was able to move forward through his punches and started landing my own punches. He eventually tired himself out and I got him on to the ropes and was able to chop some wood:) Sparring tommorow again…and looking forward to it as theres so much to learn:)


Greg March 9, 2012 at 6:59 am

Yesterday i did my first full on sparring session against my trainer who weighs 210( i only weigh 155). i got in the ring for the first time not knowing what to expect. well i got absolutely demolished. i only landed 10 punches if that on him in three rounds. his punches were just brutal and at the end he literally hit me so hard that my body went horizontal. he literally knocked me off my feet. i was so gased out out by the second round that i could barely throw jabs. i am dissappointed in my self that i got worn out that quickly, i thought my cardio workouts like running 4 miles and jump roping for 30 min non stop would prepare me, but it didnt. my trainer told me the part of the problem was my breathing and thats partially why i got worn out so quick. i also found that i couldnt even throw combos without feeling very odd( i think this has to do with my footing.) even though i got destroyed this has definetly made me want to pursue boxing even more and eventually become an amatuer boxer. five min after getting out of the ring i wanted to get back in there even though i would just be a moving punching bag.


Pete March 9, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Eventually you’ll learn to relax while sparring. Your cardio is probably good.
Beginners tend to stress out and tighten up while sparring, and that takes all of the energy out of you.


Jonathan March 17, 2012 at 11:05 am

When I spar with my cousin at boxing we go to the same boxing GYM I can throw hooks and body shots etc but when I’m sparring with my mates in the backyard I allways finding myself getting the beating? Would you have any clue?


Johnny N March 17, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Maybe you’re not used to the brawler style because the guys at the gym are forced to use boxing technique.


Jacob March 19, 2012 at 3:44 pm

this website and its articles have all given me so much insight into boxing and for that i thank you! Im 17 and plan on starting boxing this summer, competitively, the closest gym that i would have any real trainers or sparring partners is atleast 45 minutes away but im willing to make the drive! this site has helped my excitement to get started grow and grow, thanks for the awesomeness man!


J March 27, 2012 at 4:28 pm

i remember the first time i sparred in the gym i asked at what pace and he said just go but light, i had and still have no idea on what punch power and punch speed to use


Johnny N March 28, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Unfortunately everybody has a different idea of light. Pretty much light is that nobody is getting hurt or dominated. It should feel comfortable. Everyone is a different level so the better guy or stronger guy always has to adjust.


Dom Timmons March 30, 2012 at 10:12 am

Hi Johnny,
I’ve been training at my local club for about 3 months now and I really enjoy it. I’ve been sparring twice a week for about the past 5 weeks and whilst I absolutely love doing of it I’m a little bit confused about exactly what I should be focussing on doing, like what should I get out of it apart from a quickly-learned lesson in keeping my hands up? I understand that’s a little generalised but just kind of, in general, what should I be looking to do? Cheers pal, brill site by the way.


Johnny N April 2, 2012 at 11:16 am

Try to hit your opponent without getting hit yourself. Some people need to work more on aggression. Others need to work more on defense.


J March 31, 2012 at 2:00 am

“Everyone is a different level so the better guy or stronger guy always has to adjust.” so does that mean the fighter with the less experience tries to take off the experienced fighters head off?


Johnny N April 2, 2012 at 11:17 am

No it doesn’t. It simply means that the more experienced guy is in charge of making sure no one gets hurt. If he’s truly the better fighter he should be able to control the sparring.


Paul April 11, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Went to fight night again last night.Went ok but I have this awfull habit of keeping both arms out (pushing).Usually this happens when against the better boxers.I don’t always realise I’m doing it.I’ve been told I’m doing it less than I used to but I keep being reminded about it from other lads when sparring.How can I stop myself from performing this awful habit?I feel a bit annoyed with myself.


Johnny N April 11, 2012 at 3:05 pm

I don’t see what’s so awful about the habit. If you insist on leaving the arms out, try learning how to use them better from that long range. Try lots of tapping jabs and also use your forearms to guide your opponent’s punches away from you. You can also try not having both arms out. Maybe just one arm out is ok. Maybe more jabs and wide left hooks. Or reach for some body shots since your arm is already out there.


Herve April 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm

very interesting article (and comments too by the way!) – thank you.
i’m boxing for 1 year with an instructor. I enjoy sparring with him – except that sometimes he doesn’t punch enough nor hard enough (in my view). But, reading your article, i somewhere understand why. He’s an 35-year old – heavyweight professional with no special background in trainig (i leave and train in haiti) and i’m a 47-year old – middleweight in (very) good shape (i have trained for more than 12 years in martial arts and kickboxing). We spar 3 or 4 times per week – 6 to 12 rounds in a row (depending on the intensity). What do you recommend to organize the sparring’s sessions to be the most efficient?
thanks for your advice.


Johnny N April 25, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Keep those sparring sessions relaxed. Use good speed but low power. Also helps to spar different opponents. It will force you to adapt to different styles and get a different mental & physical workout.


mohammed lukmon April 26, 2012 at 10:50 am

I really love boxing and i want to become a boxer, but i get really nervous about sparring, sometimes i’m so nervous i stop throwing punches. I have alot of power in my punches, but i did bad in my first 3 sparring matches because i get nervous. Could you please reply and tell me how to stop getting so nervous when sparring, i’m in real need of advise.


Herve April 26, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Lf you want to spar better, you first have to spar more.
like Johnny says : (1) find the good partner(s), (2) keep relax, (3) don’t focus on power and (4) try to have fun (perhaps the most important for me).
Hope it helps.


mohammed lukmon April 27, 2012 at 11:26 am

Thanks, it did help, you reminded me to have fun because i love boxing ๐Ÿ™‚

Johnny N May 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm

You can stop getting nervous by slowing down the sparring pace. You’re also a beginner so there’s no way you’re going to feel super comfortable with boxing right off the bat. It takes years to master these tiny details. Give it some time, Mohammed.


Herve April 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm

unfortunately it’s difficult to find people wanting to spar here.
I try to do something different on every sparring session : close-range fighting, long-range, throw specific combinations, defense-focus, etc.
Yesterday, I re-read your article and focus on your comment and I was able to spar for 21 rounds !!! Simply because i was focusing on being relaxed and using speed instead of power.
Thank you once again.
If you have other recommendations, believe me I will follow them.


Johnny N May 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm

You’re welcome, Herve! More tips on the way…


Laylah April 28, 2012 at 3:09 am

Recently came across your articles and I am pretty impressed. It’s not easy to find good boxing articles. I am an amateur boxer and have been competing for about 8 months now. My question to you is how often do you need HARD sparring? I spar at least once a week and I can go several rounds no problem, but whenever I get into a real fight I gas out. I’ve been managing to win, but during that last round (which for now is only the 3rd round) I am really just listening for that 10 second warning. I am still a novice, only 6 fights, so I’ve been telling myself its just the nerves, since I am not completely comfortable yet. For now I’m just guessing it’s all mental. Lately I have been trying to go all out when I spar so I will be ready for the same thing in the fight. I don’t understand how you can be relaxed and smooth during sparring, only giving 70%, and then all of a sudden get into the ring for the real thing and be able to give 100% every round. It can be a rude awakening when you haven’t trained to give a 100% and you try to do so in an actual fight. I do hard bag work, trying to throw at least 200 punches a round. I train 3 minute rounds/30 sec breaks and I only fight 2 min rounds with a minute break. Hopefully you get where I’m going with this…I am lost at this point. So again…my question…how often should you be having hard sparring?


Johnny N May 1, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Most fighters I know only do really hard sparring one day a week. The rest of the time, it’s relaxed 70% pace. You have to understand that 70% pace doesn’t mean 70% intensity. It’s still intense but the focus is more mental than physical.

I would definitely recommend for you to read my article on “training pace”. Let me know if that helps. Good luck, Laylah!


paschalis April 29, 2012 at 2:09 pm

i feel very lucky that i find you…
characters like yours are very rare.
i hope that i will stay here with you to earn some boxing skills but first of all i will try to learn from you the real meaning of boxing and all of the sports….HAVING A GENTLE SOUL,
and i see that you have it.
thanks again from greece.


G-money May 1, 2012 at 10:30 am

Johhny, great site. Can you do an article on your thoughts on the long term negative effects? Youโ€™ve obviously seen a lot of fighters in your day, how are they holding up over time? Proโ€™s vs just the guys who spar once a week for fun? Lot of us guys in our 30โ€™s (or beyond!) are kinda late bloomers, starting sparring and feeling the headaches, wondering if itโ€™s worth the health risks. Youโ€™re not a doctor, but so what, youโ€™re a man with first-hand observation. Just wondering, thanks bro.


Johnny N May 1, 2012 at 4:39 pm

This is a great idea for an article. It’s a very touchy subject to which I’m not yet sure of the answer but I did make many observations when hanging around the old-timers.


Mark May 2, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Another great article.
I’ll be suggesting a few of these beginner-drills tonight at the gym (instead of my usual beating). They seem to make a lot more sense for a noob like me.

Keep up the good work.


Puma Singh May 8, 2012 at 11:33 pm

ive been reading a lot of your stuff john and i have to say i really really aprecaite everything you do man. i have so much respect for what your doing and man you have so much knowlegde of the sport it is amazing. i started boxing when i was 18 then broke my left playing this other indian wrestling sport so i had to quit for a year then i started boxing again now im 20 and i really enjoy the sport and wanna give ameuter boxing a go. but i dont spar enough, its proabably because mostly every time i spar it only last 3 rounds of brawling usually. after reading this article i feel so stupid and now im defintly gonna spar lighter and more technical than trying to win. i used to try to win, not learn thanks man for everything really your like a boxing guru to me. your disciple puma singh


Ian May 15, 2012 at 9:42 am

Yes, 22 is too old. You are over the hill. Try lawn bowling instead.
lol, seriously. I don’t mean to tease, but there are a ton of us that begin in our 30s & 40’s and don’t feel it’s too late. I’ll be 37 in August and just starting competing in the amateurs in the 19+ division. I’m far from amazing, but physically I don’t feel my age is a hinderance to my performance. (although any thoughts of going pro are basically out the window).
22 is a great time to start. Many of us wish we started at that age. Good luck and have fun. You have nothing to lose…..except maybe a few teeth and brain cells. Ha ha. Take it easy!


newbie May 14, 2012 at 4:26 pm

is 22 to old to start boxing? ive been athlete all my life and back in high school/middleschool/elementary school i ran a mile in about 4-5 mins i also played football from age 12-16 plus i used to do a lot of fighting and boxing around the neighborhood but never had be trained and now im serioulsy wanting to do this


Ivan September 23, 2012 at 12:49 am

The N.Z light heavyweight (75 to 81kg) amateur boxing champion Sam Ripia started at 23 he is 28 now told me he wish he had started earlier as he will turn pro 1-2 years time but then he will be 30. Newbie you go for it as the rigth attitude is part of being a good boxer.


Greg May 14, 2012 at 10:06 pm

That makes sense, their are trainers that think because a kid is getting beat up or bleeding they are becoming a fighter, i seen a kid go in their spar hard and get rocked it didn’t make him a fighter he just hates to get hit and i personally think it weakened his heart, he learned how to take a hit before he learned how to actually fight, i was reading this “ikigai” article and it stuck out to me by stipulating that “A ‘do’ martial art is all about balance. As such, too much obsessing over violence and fighting can cause an unbalance, even in martial arts which are born of conflict. It’s good to take a step back sometimes and embrace the art of the art.” which completely supports your theory, their so worried about being able to see who his badder than appreciating the arts, reality is their is always someone bigger and badder, i guess they can feel good about themselves which bothers me because like you said ones pride and ego should be left at the door, should i be looking to take a trainer far in my career if he isn’t open to any new ideas? or hates to be proven wrong? (and when proven wrong gets frustrated) or doesn’t want to accept the fact that someone could know more or possibly be better than him about something? or in other words, “pride and ego” PLEASE I WOULD DEFINITELY LIKE YOUR OPINION AS WELL AS ANY ONE ELSE’S OPINIONS IF POSSIBLE, SINCERELY-GREGORIO


Johnny N May 17, 2012 at 8:28 am

Find the best trainer you can and work with him. There will always be disagreements but as long as you’re training under someone you respect, everything will be figured out ok.


John May 18, 2012 at 12:26 pm

This website is insane, I learn soo much here! yeah, I’m not sure exactly what to do in my situation. I spar with my friend, we both started boxing at the same time, and we’ve been going for maybe 5 months. He’s much faster than I am, with a waaay longer reach. So I usually take ALOT of punches from him to the head, and it’s not uncommon for me to get a bloody nose. I never complain. But then when I land a good hook to his head, he tells me to cool it. I don’t really know what to do. I think I’m too competitive with him.


Johnny N May 21, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Slow down yourself but tell him to slow down, too. Putting too much focus on competition over learning can definitely affect your learning rate.


Nancy May 18, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Thank you for this website. I am 62, female and just took up boxing. I have not ever been a sports person but I LOVE boxing (even though I am sore all the time now). I have a great trainer. After four months I just started to spar.


Johnny N May 21, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Nancy, I’m really impressed with you taking up boxing at such an advanced age and without prior experience in athletics. Your story would be an inspiration to so many young kids lacking that confidence. I wish you the best!


gregorio May 20, 2012 at 1:10 am

When you say as long as i respect my trainer Johnny do you mean as a trainer or as a person?


Johnny N May 21, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Respect as a person first, and then it’s easy to respect him as a trainer. Learn what you can and then move on when you have nothing else to learn.


jason tran May 30, 2012 at 3:27 am

Hey johnny I just has the most grueling boxing sparring session of my life…some people just don’t understand the mentality of LIGHT SPARRING…what should I do after to help me recover better and relax?


Johnny N May 31, 2012 at 11:36 am

Stretching at the end of each day and using cool down exercises like SLOW shadowboxing will help. You can also take an ice bath, etc (but I don’t usually do this). The more experienced you are, the more you can relax while sparring which keeps you from getting sore.


J June 1, 2012 at 3:21 am

Im going to state my opinion on this theory of sparring this brings out the art, by sparring this way you automatically lose speed and power, take that away what are you going to do about? i feel this brings out the true boxer because you cant rely on speed and power all the time, i feel that goes with martial arts period its not about clobbering the opponent the artful part comes from the way you move your body, and what it takes to avoid a punch, everyone needs to start somewhere, and i don’t think the human body was designed to box, nor any other form of martial arts for that matter, if i get knocked out in the first round in sparing i feel that we both lost two rounds of sparring, i am a steadfast advocate of every training session should at least learn something new, some can but its really rough on your body to constantly take hard shots, but if you go light that means the more rounds the more repetitions and hey coincidentally more EXPERIENCE! ๐Ÿ™‚ Mr. Nguyen and expert boxing are responsible for me falling in love with boxing and even martial arts ๐Ÿ™‚ THANK YOU


J June 1, 2012 at 3:23 am

I also would like to thank my team mates of expert boxing your comments are very beneficial as well THANK YOU LADIES AND GENTLEMEN


Chris June 3, 2012 at 1:19 am

Alright Johnny, nice to see you have this website going. I stumbled upon it through google when looking for sparring advice. I remember you because you were managing the BL. I only showed up once because it was kind of far and didn’t really mesh with my schedule. I know you can’t possibly remember me since I only showed up once. However, the club left an impression on me, so now I joined a boxing club and I am staying committed this time. The trainers take good care of the fighters their and don’t have the sink or swim mentality when it comes to training novices. Anyway, I just wanted to say, glad you have this website and keep up the good work!



jason tran June 4, 2012 at 1:42 am

Hey Johnny i had probably the hardest spar EVER and ill be honest this was probably my first spar where i got hit hard and is it normal to have a headache after? LIke its kinda scary cause I had it for a few days but its kinda like a pain in the back of my head that comes im not passing out or fainting but kinda scary….like its not serious or anything yeh? Would I just get used to it?


Johnny N June 4, 2012 at 10:55 am

Headaches are not good but unfortunately they happen a lot. I don’t want to scare you but they can lead to concussions which are bad in the long-run. Slow down your intensity so you’re not getting buzzed.


Nameless June 15, 2012 at 7:07 am

Thank you! this information is really good! I just started sparring a few days ago at my usual gym. I had been told I could be really good in the ring, but I had no experience. Turns out I start sparring these more experienced guys, and I end up overwhelming them. I could swear I tried to give them a chance to get into the fight, but they just wouldn’t go forward.

Is there a way I could tell wether Im crossing the line in sparring etiquette or not? I’m sure communication should be the answer, but I’m not so confident the feedback I get from my sparring partners will help me notice something wrong on my attitude in the ring. I’m a noob on this!


Johnny N June 19, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Do your job and spar as hard as your opponents. If you don’t see much coming back from them, back off a bit.


callum June 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm

hi johnny

i started boxing about 2,3 months ago and when i started the guy in the gym said grab some ropes and skip. then after half an hour of skipping he put me on the bags. Ive been going for three months and thats what i do every time i go to training and they never teach you anything just watch ou and tell you if your doing something wrong. Is that normal for a boxing club?


Vato Loco June 22, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Damn! “half an hour of skipping.” That’s a lot of rope skipping. Even top pros will generally do no more than 12-15 minutes non-stop. Can’t see why anyone should do that much rope skipping unless you’re trying to become the next Buddy Lee.


J June 22, 2012 at 9:05 pm

you make sense loco but the trainer probably trying to get him used to jump rope unless callum joined a commercial gym and they are after his money, which i hope that isnt the case :/. maybe you should still scope out other gyms callum but dont let your trainer know because it might be all bad


Johnny N June 25, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Half an hour of skipping is really not that much. I can do 20 minutes without even breaking a sweat (no exaggeration). I’m guessing he’s trying to increase your cardio before he gives you full on workouts. Regardless, the jump rope is a great exercise and can develop many things in your body. It’s a great exercise and pretty gentle on the body…many people can do it for hours without too much effort (assuming they have proper technique).


Vato Loco June 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm

It depends on the intensity level. If you’re going hard, skipping rope for 3-5 minutes is hard, but if you are just barely moving, well then you could go for 20-30 minutes. Just like running, you can run a fast 3 miles in 15-18 minutes and be coughing your lungs out, or you can slog along for 10 miles at an 8 minute per mile pace, and not feel much discomfort at all.


Johnny N June 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm

I’m talking about the average (non-showoff) intensity. Which is a good starting pace for beginners.


Mark K July 26, 2012 at 7:54 pm

I too used to skip non stop for 20 to 30 mins in the boxing gym without much of a sweat until I started using heartrate training where you take your age away from 220 and then calculate 80% of that which will be your desired heartbeats per minute you need to reach to increase your cardio fitness. This is a safe guideline some individuals could go to 90%. As soon as I increased my heartrate to my training number I broke into a instant sweat. Personally it took my fitness to a new level and it motivated me as I felt before I was only maintaining my fitness not increasing it. I only skip 15 minutes now max before bag work. If your goal is fatburning mainly then decrease the heartbeats to about 60% which you then can skip for hour if you want to. Skipping is a plyometric exercise which has a direct link to your footwork boxers cant do with out it and I beleive the faster you do it the faster your footwork.


malaparte June 23, 2012 at 12:22 am

I think you should leave the answers to JhonnyN, after all if I ask him a question I want HIM to answer. If he doesn’t, it means it’s better that way.
J, you didn’t even read the posts carefully or you don’t know what “skipping” means. If I got a problem with my trainer, or with anybody in any environment, I know I got to talk to him, that’s the way men understand each other. Aside from that I’m always looking for new gyms, and that’s JohnnyN advice.
Have a nice day, and thanks for the site Johnny.


J June 23, 2012 at 1:36 am

you meant jump roping man, i didnt mean to offend you i apologize if i did


J June 23, 2012 at 4:11 am

callum/malaparte i would like to rephrase what i stated i apologize if i offended you, but you said “thatโ€™s the way men understand each other” i completely disagree lil boy! age a boy or girl will become a man or woman eventually regardless of the decisions they make, i can find 50 year old men that would disagree with the statement you just posted here, just if all men and woman all thought the same we wouldnt be human well be robot instead, and you just contradicted what you said if you asked me more politely i would of stopped but since you want to be rude im not, i wouldnt be posting this if i didnt benefit others but reality is i have the utmost respects for Mr. Nguyen but he isnt the only one that boxes and he isnt the only reference i sure hope you change your mindset callum/malaparte because you are limiting yourself, you didnt have to come at me the way you did especially like an internet warrior, and i did reread the post skipping jump roping appears to be the same to me, honestly man if it really bothered you that much you should just ignore it, i didnt direct it to you in any offensive way, so no i will not respect your wishes, and please change your mental frame of mind, and please dont limit yourself, i have nothing but love for you callum/malaparte hopefully this post will help you and others become better people because i know it has benefited me by stating this…..


malaparte June 23, 2012 at 9:18 am

Hey man, I’m not callum!
I wanted to be as straightforward as possible in stating this ethic rule: you don’t circumvent a problem, you fight with it. That’s the great lesson I got from practicing boxing. In the ring you can’t escape or disappear in a corner, if you stop punching you’re going to get punched. As a man I can only think of myself as a strong and generous being, in any situation possible. If you skip confrontation (it might be your trainer, your wife, the guy who wants to rob you) you’re a loser, because you don’t give yourself a chance. So if I say “man” I mean in an ethical sense. And I wasn’t implying anything about you. I just thought the wrong advice you gave the guy had to be underlined.
I reply because it hurts me if you think i’m being excessive. Hey, your love is welcome, I got the greatest sympathy for you!
As for the rope I always “jump rope”. Thanks to you I learned in Britain they say “to skip rope”. That’s my mistake.
…All right …I’m sorry


J June 23, 2012 at 4:43 pm

its cool man just a misunderstanding


Vato Loco June 23, 2012 at 7:40 am

On a side note. If you really want to see a master at the art of rope skipping/jumping check out vids of ex-wrestler Buddy Lee on Youtube. Man that guy is a “freak” with the rope. Legendary trainer Gil Clancy who trained Jerry Quarry, Emile Griffith, George Foreman, Gerry Cooney, and others stated that “rope skipping” was one of the best exercises a fighter or anyone could do.


Johnny N June 25, 2012 at 3:33 pm

YEAUP! Jumping rope is actually one of my favorite exercises for developing punching power.


Vato Loco June 26, 2012 at 3:21 pm

How does skipping rope increase your punching power? I know you’re using probably all the muscles that are important in boxing like the wrists, shoulders, forearms, thighs, calves, heart, and lungs, etc., so there is no doubt that this is a great exercise for conditioning. I’m just wondering how it could increase someone’s punching power.


Johnny N June 26, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Excellent question ๐Ÿ˜‰


callum June 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm

its fine guys its probably just the way i say things because im from scotland so its a big mis understanding and hanks for the comments ๐Ÿ™‚


Vato Loco June 24, 2012 at 2:51 pm

I’m from America and I use the term “rope skipping” or “skipping rope” especially when I refer to a training exercise performed by boxers or say wrestlers. When I think of “jump rope” or “rope jumping” I envision those contest like they might show on ESPN of contestants performing various tricks with a “jump rope” or maybe something young girls can be found doing in the school playground. But you’re really splitting hairs on which term to use, no thang but a chicken wang, ese.


callum June 24, 2012 at 11:46 pm

yeah i do sometimes use slang words like, aye,naw,oot ect. But we do use the term skipping ropes


JC July 5, 2012 at 3:52 am

Hi Johnny,

This is a great article. When I started sparring in my gym I was eased in slowly. Experienced opponents were told to go easy and controlled, lots of rounds with just jabbing, then building up to any left hand shot, then both hands. It was really enjoyable and I could feel myself improving with each spar. This process was important I think because I’m quite light and pretty much everyone at my gym is heavier than me so I could’ve got flattened as a beginner if it wasn’t controlled. However, after my last sparring session I had a bad experience – several times that evening I started to feel faint, got a weird deja vu sensation and a sort of heightened sensitivity and felt like I was gonna pass out, which was cured by putting my head between my legs and letting the blood flow to my head. Worried me a bit so I’m gonna go to the docs next week and ask their opinion, but I’m worried it’ll come back when I spar again. I enjoy sparring and don’t wanna have to stop, but don’t wanna cause myself any health damage. Have you had any similar experience?


Johnny N July 9, 2012 at 11:17 pm

I think almost everyone at some point will have this experience in boxing. I would get it checked out because you don’t want this to be a regular thing.


JC July 10, 2012 at 3:58 am

Thanks, good to know it isn’t a unique experience!


Robin July 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm

This is all excellent stuff. I’ve done boxing technique classes with sparring now, what, all of four times, and the last time I got totally, totally overwhelmed by my opponent, in no time he’d boxed me into a corner and I was just panicking until I ran out of breath and that was it. Luckily, he was a boxer and not a thug and laid off. Total lack of defense skills when under sustained, fast attack, terrible breathing, no control over the adrenaline and some over-confidence from previous sparring partners – my asset is I’m tall and have range – plus he was just way more experienced – all added up to horrors.
Anyway, that was a rapid lesson that boxing is a steep slope with some bloody great walls in it, and it feels in some part like I’ve pugilistically pissed in the font – but to add another metaphor, I have to get straight back onto the horse, because there’s so much to learn.
It’s a great sport.


frank July 9, 2012 at 4:09 am

I can empathize. My first proper spar was a nightmare for all the same reasons. Since that day, I only spar with the right sort who are keen to build confidence and the skill set you need. I have to say, since I’ve started relaxing more my defence has vastly improved, and I look forward to sparring. It’s still controlled, however, and only about 50-60% of what could potentially come my way. Some of us just need more time to build confidence. The more I do it, the more I let go of the fear of the unknown.


Johnny N July 9, 2012 at 11:20 pm

I’m happy for you, man. Keep working with that boxer and keep asking him for tips. You’ll get there soon enough!


Jeremy Patten July 13, 2012 at 9:14 am

Yes i totally understand! My friend, who is a year older than me, kinda just started martial arts. When we spar, I overpower him in everything! Every thing to speed, power, range, skills, mindset, stamina, being able to take a hit, etc. Up ’til now I’ve trained myself pretty hard. Naturally he had the “lazy” type of life. I evolve myself around challenges. I give myself my own challenges simply just to strive myself to go further and further. When we train together, he usually gives up or just plain stops after 5 to 8 minutes when I planned the training to last at least 2 hrs or so with some breaks of course! It really irritates me a lot! I believe he won’t get anywhere if doesn’t stop being so damn lazy! So, I have 2 questions. How do I encourage him to work hard!? And how can I control myself to go “easy”? -_-


Johnny N July 14, 2012 at 12:39 am

If you really wanna encourage your friend, you need to let him train with someone who doesn’t make him feel like crap. No one is going to enjoy losing in everything. You might think that you’re training harder but he might be thinking that you’re just unfairly gifted.

If you want to go “easy”, go pit yourself against a superior athlete that’s going to outwork you in every way…and maybe you’ll end up looking “easy” like your friend did. Best of luck to the both of you; keep training hard and make sure you motivate each other!


Brian July 29, 2012 at 9:52 am


Love your articles!
I’ve been boxing for the last 5 months. My trainer starts all the beginners with sparring on day one so they know what they’re getting into. My first few months were spent getting my ass kicked; I kept going back and forth about quitting and I’m glad I decided not too. I’ve found by putting myself out there, sink or swim style, I quickly gained enough skilll to keep up with guys who have been there longer. It’s so much fun that I get a buzz that lasts for days! The price I’ve had to pay, however, is a reoccuring sprained rib. Are minor injuries like this common?

Thanks again,



Johnny N July 30, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Sprained rib is bad. Injuries are common for serious athletes but the smartest ones know how to stay away from injury so that they’re always ready for a fight. (Especially when you’re an amateur that fights every weekend.)


Brian July 30, 2012 at 10:02 pm

I’m serious about boxing, but I’m not an amateur fighter. I’m 40 years old and fighting guys half my age about two or three days per week at the gym.

How does one box yet avoid injury?


Johnny N August 3, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Warm-up properly and stay within your limits. Push your limits only when you really need to, like in competition.


Tonytiger August 3, 2012 at 11:51 am

Thanks for the article. I’ve just joined a club again after being away from boxing for a few years. I had my first sparing session last week and was very guilty of just trying to ‘win’. I relied on repeating the same punches and movement for five rounds just to stay ahead but I didn’t really get anything out of it. I think I’ve lost the confidence to relax and take a few light punches (and humble pie) in order to really practise in the ring. This was a good article for me to read to help reset.


Sanjay August 12, 2012 at 12:29 am

a week ago i got hit in the chest pretty hard and had not felt much pain in the ring or even the day after….. it was later the on when the pain slowly increased when i breath in or move a lot it was stronger but now its almost gone.. been about a week….. the doctor said that its chest wall pain or costochondritis but not sure if its true he only did a quick check up…. the weird thing is i only remember getting hit in the middle of my chest but now the left side of my upper ribs or left chest is hurting when breathing in ddeeply…..sadly had not been doing stuff for a week….. and as i said the pain late and increased and is now decreasing…. i want to get back to work…… should i wait….

did anyone else experience this…. is this normal? or was the other guy simply too strong and my chest couldnt keep up with it? oh man… please help i need to know if others have this pain too because lots of people spar eryday

what did you do about it?

this actually happened before in wrestling when someone hit my chest really hard…..

yupyup….. thanks for the help



Johnny N August 15, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Do some stretching and give your body some time to recover. I don’t think it’s so serious but be careful.


Sanjay August 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm

thanks homes!


Gazza August 12, 2012 at 11:42 am

What an absolutely excellent piece of writing. I would also like to point out, if I may (and if it hasn’t been said somewhere on your site already), that the information you’ve give here is invaluable to any type of striking martial arts. I’m a practitioner of kempo, and have been practicing varying types of karate since I was a child. I am now in my late 20’s and only now realising the value that is in the art of boxing. As part of kempo, we’ve been working on boxing sets and starting to get into sparring more and more. The information you have presented here is spot on with what our instructors say, and has helped me so much in wanting to be a part of this brilliant art form.


Johnny N August 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Thank you, Gazza. It’s an honor to receive respect for our “limited art” from other martial arts.


siddhant August 14, 2012 at 12:51 am

hey johney,how can i improve my eyesighting bcoz i am not able to see more punches while sparring


Johnny N August 15, 2012 at 1:54 pm

More focus mitts and more slow sparring. Those are the best ways in my opinion. You need to give your eyes a chance to see everything.


aka August 14, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Hey Johnny,

I’ve got a question about sparring and the way my gym conducts it.

1) I’m a beginner to the sport, I’ve been picking up quickly, but when I get in the ring, I’m not nearly as good as I expected myself to be. This is obvious I know. Is it normal to feel discouraged? I feel like a piece of shit every time, cause I get housed, mind you by more experienced guys. Does it get better with experience and will I get better with every time I spar from here on in.

2) I’ve been sparring here and there with coaches at my gym, and other boxers and beginners. My first real sparring session was with a coach and he went harder than I expected him to go. I felt like he was just bullying me to tell you the truth. The last time I sparred was earlier tonight against another coach, and I did much better because I’ve been practicing, and I did pretty well until I got gassed considering the guy has boxed since 2004. He still went hard semi hard though. The question is should my gym be conducting sparring this way? It’s not to the point where I get a black eye, and after the sessions I want to improve so I practice even harder. They seem like cool people, but I don’t know if they really care for me improving or if its just an ego thing with some of them. Is this my ego thinking i’m losing and I suck, or is it them?

Sorry about the length but I needed some advice. By the way, I your website has helped tremendously especially for my confidence and determination in life, not just the ring. Thanks!


Johnny N August 15, 2012 at 1:56 pm

It’s normal to feel discouraged, that’s how you know you’re being pushed to your limits. With that in mind, find a way to work with more helpful sparring partners that give you a chance to learn. Being tough and getting beat up is a part of being a fighter…but at some point, you will have to learn something and not just get beat up. Find a new coach or new sparring partner and find a way to make learning possible, not painful. Last but not least, give it some time…you will get there!


BigG August 15, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Hi Johnny,

Think you have a great site and give good advice. Liked this article very much. I have been boxing for about 9 months now and this article really was poignent to me yesterday. I thought I’d share my experiences regarding this topic.

I’m a 6’5 275lb heavyweight and have very few evenly matched (size-wise) sparring parters. I’m slower handed/footed than even the couple of 230lbers we do have at my gym. In general I am not very aggresive and tend to stick & move. I am fairly enthusiastic about boxing, but really not looking to go amateur. I try to control pace and distance and try to learn as much as I can to find openings in my oppenent’s defense.I am happy to spar with anybody as long as they are not crazy short and light. Most of my gym consists of 170-190lbers. Now I have new criteria for my sparring partners though- CONTROL!

I sparred with a more experienced 170lber yesterday who was so fast I couldn’t hardly react. I took quite a few hits that were decently hard (for a 170lber). I was getting frustrated though and after one particurarly stinging hit and asked to slow things down. It didn’t really happen and I eventually just stopped sparring with him. I didn’t have anything to respond to his speed except more power than he could handle, and thought better of going there. I think you are giving great advice here, sparring is about learning – you are not owed an ass-beating nor do you owe anybody else one.

This is a beautiful sport, but comes with responsibility. If your sparring partner’s jaw gets broken they didn’t just slip and fall on your fist. Save it for the fight. “Protect yourself at all times” sometimes also applys to not stepping in with someone you know has either the lack of control or respect to spar properly with you.

Thanks Johnny for a great website!


Johnny N August 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm

I’m happy for you, keep working!


Mike2012 August 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Hi I have just came across your site what you have said here is brilliant. I have been going to a boxing gym for nearly 3 months now it started out amazing one and one training my fitness was poor but gradually it’s got better. The gym I’m going to is pretty well known and has some very good trainers from what I can tell. I had never been to boxing before joining this gym and they now have me sparring every lesson twice a week. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been caught with clean heavy shots over and over I think my defence is poor and it’s frustrating and a bit scary knowing I have to spar again Monday. I keep going don’t give up and try my best I just don’t get why they have me sparring when I’ve only been going 3 months and this is a good gym. You have some great advice on here il take as much of it in as I can. Mike


Abigail August 31, 2012 at 10:53 pm

I’ve recently started doing Brazilian jiu jitsu (I know not boxing >.<) which has lead to me also starting MMA training, I absolutely love it but the only issue is I can't spar well. Your site has given me heaps of tips/information and has also made me see that some of my partners force me to have to spar completely defensive or make me have to run. Their punches are way to powerful and their combinations much too complicated for me to be able to defend against. I've mentioned to them that they are sparring too hard yet they continue to do this I think to "toughen" me up.
I was wondering would it be a good idea to starting kick boxing to catch up to everyone in the class and if you had any advice to help me keep up with the partners I spar with since they have no intention of slowing down for me.
Another thing I saw mentioned was to not spar with people who are; how should I put it? arrogant/egotistical? If I don't spar with them I most probably won't be able to spar with anyone else since most guys in the gym (I think) might be put off hitting a girl in the face. Since no other girls come to my class. =P Sorry long comment.


Johnny N September 4, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Tell the other girls to go easy on you so you can learn. Protect yourself and keep developing yourself in other ways and other drills if you don’t want to get hurt. Maybe check out other gyms that have other girls your size. Don’t get in the ring if it’s not benefiting you.


Steve September 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Totally agree with this article. My first time sparring my trainer put me in with some kid two weight classes above me that couldn’t exactly control the power of his punches. It was supposed to be “light” but after his first jab landed I had his number. It was more of a fight than a sparring session. Needless to say it was a useless session, all that happened was I got some injuries that set my training back and I didn’t learn anything. Not enough trainers really understand how to pair up their fighters properly when they first spar and that’s when serious problems can happen.


Ivan September 22, 2012 at 11:45 pm

Great site I have been involve with a new boxing club (going 7 months now) as a trainer, we run it out of our church with the ring sitting in the conner lol we take kids off the street and dont charge as yet. We had one sons dad sparring our kids and I had to tell him to tone it down and who the trainers were. But recently the head trainer has let in a x pro with that old-school style to help, has more of a ego then a passion for the sport. You are dead right about the sparring I dont like seeing people getting hurt and leaning nothing but fear my three catch words are Discipline Focus & Direction.If theres one thing that I can teach as a trainer that is confidents as a few words like “good boxing tonite” or “well done” can mean alot to a kid.Once again great site as I am using it to upskill.


Johnny N September 23, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Thanks for sharing the sport with the community, Ivan. It’s definitely a lot of fun to see everyone improving.


El Tiburon September 28, 2012 at 12:57 am

How do you find a good gym & trainer? A few years back i joined a local gym and they threw me in with the wolves they told me to spar 100% with hard hitters and thry always left me leaking in blood & i would tell the trainer and he would force me to spar thay heavy he said spar like a man or get out we dont like sissys here and i would never learn anything during sparring i was focusing on surviving the round because they wouldnt let me step out. The point is they seemed all proffesional when they got me to sign up but in reality there were very agressive people with big mouths. The other only local gym is their rival gym. Im thinking of giving it a shot.


invertedcomposer October 2, 2012 at 6:05 pm

So I am sparring with my friends, all they seem to want to do is get a good brawl out of it, l0l. but anyhow, i plan on fixing that – mainly because if it’s a brawl they want, ill give it to them good. Which to me is completely pointless. So is it ok if i let them go full out while i work on technique going at a slower pace? What i do to practice is to take a good stance, let them play the aggressor and i just sort of defend, keep pumping the jab to practice jabbing while trying to pot shot with the openings created. but i feel like because their pace is at their best, i cant really help them out with pointers if all they are trying to do is win the “fight” without trying out anything new.


Johnny N October 7, 2012 at 2:49 am

If they’re going full pace and you’re going slow, that means you’re probably better or much bigger than them. That won’t help you develop any skills. At least find someone your level or better than you so that you CAN’T go slower than him.


Boxer Mctavish October 5, 2012 at 2:38 am

Great advice by the way. Im new to sparring and when opponent comes at me i back off into the corner and then end up with my head down getting pumelled untill i call time (it is a safe enviroment) but it annoys me that my automatic reaction is this, please help.


Keitharino October 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Instead of backing up, try to circle. When he charges in close, pivot to the left or the right. Really hammer in your footwork; it’s literally the foundation of every other technique.


Johnny N October 7, 2012 at 2:49 am

Slow it down. It’s impossible for you to do/learn anything when the pace is too fast for you.


SohailA October 7, 2012 at 9:43 am

Hi Everybody I’m a Beginner at boxing and I need some Tips about Power and speed.


SohailA October 7, 2012 at 9:44 am

And im only 11


Apollo October 23, 2012 at 1:48 am

Yo Johnny your site is awesome, all the great articles are so well written and it’s obvious you have a great passion for boxing and helping others.

Amazing article I took a lot away from it. I’m turning 25 in December and I started boxing a couple of months ago, I eat really well don’t smoke and don’t drink, my conditioning is good although my technique is rusty. I had my first sparring session today and my trainer put me up against really good fighters who took it easy on me to show me the ropes, I got hit pretty hard in the head and body and I felt very overwhelmed when being attacked. I did three rounds and didn’t really hold my own but it was a fantastic experience never the less.

My question is, is there any one exercise that will make me better at defense? Or do I just have to spar consistently to get better? I go to the boxing gym for an hour a day, do sparring on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I have plenty of time.

Any advice would be awesome, even from any of you who have experience in the field!



Johnny N October 23, 2012 at 1:12 pm

There can never be one exercise. But if I had to choose one, it would be slow sparring.


Apollo October 23, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Thanks man,

How do you reply to everyone on every single thread? It’s amazing and good to see you put so much into the site ๐Ÿ˜›

Cheers Johnny


Tran Bronstein October 25, 2012 at 7:55 am

Bro, thanks so much for your fantastic and informative website in general and especially writing this. It is absolute truth and I have been trying to drill this into the facilities where I train to virtually no avail.

The last facility I trained at made the rather serious error of throwing in two actual professional level competitors — one in MMA and one in Muay Thai — into the sparring. I watched that class go down from 17 regular sparrers to just 6 in a year’s time. Gee, I wonder why. Could it be because the MMA guy injured 3 people because he wasn’t pulling his shots?

I was actually getting better and would’ve stuck around with it except that I got into an acting class that took place the night after and the headache after sparring from getting hit all the time made it hard to memorize my lines. I’m looking to get back into it now but there’s limited places to study in Toronto so I’ll have to check them all out carefully.

For the smaller guys who wrote about bigger more experienced boxers hitting them hard. I’m one of those smaller guys and I also train in Krav and Judo. When a bigger more experienced guy brings all his power and strength, he is bringing all his tools to the ring as far as I am concerned and that’s no longer sparring — that’s a fight. Well, when I’m in a fight I bring all my tools as well. If a guy wants to take my head off, I hope he likes being down on the ground and getting sharp elbows to the face. Fortunately, it never came down to this.

The only time I ever had a serious problem with someone hitting me too hard, I stopped boxing him and just kept shooting in for a clinch, letting him know I could toss him if I wanted to just as he could take my head off if he wanted to. He realized what was going on and why I kept clinching him, he apologized and we were totally cool after that.

Another time, one guy hit me once way too hard and actually snapped my entire head back. He had the respect to stop and with a concerned look on his face and asked me if he was hitting me too hard. He was, but because he gave me respect and concern, I smiled at him and just told him “Don’t worry, that was a good lesson for me to keep my chin down.” We exchanged a glove tap and kept going. He pulled back on his power and I kept my chin tucked in.

Even in bad places, I find that it really comes down to the decency of the person you are working with. For my part, I pull my punches so much my sparring partners have actually repeatedly asked me to hit them harder, funny enough. : )


Johnny N November 5, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Thank you for sharing this. It’s important for beginners to understand what is and isn’t ok.


Leo October 25, 2012 at 11:27 pm

Hi Johnny!
I’ve been boxing for 10 years and I love the sport. I don’t do it super regularly, just spar once a week, and some bag work on another day. Really love sparring. This is a really great article! I’ve been searching for something like this for a long long time. It describes all the emotions I went thru in my 10 years from fear, the need to win, relying on power, wasting some sessions cos I’m too tired and sparring too hard! I’ve been the d-bag that bullied beginners; I’ve also been on the receiving end of other d-bags… So I totally understand what you’re saying.
But this article really realigned things for me. I’m actually sparring tonite so I will remember all the great tips and advices you made here. I’m sure it will make it a lot more fun, and I won’t be exhausted in just 3 rounds!
Thanks heaps!
Best regards


Brian October 27, 2012 at 5:42 pm

I am learning a lot from this site and the youtube video series. Thanks for sharing your skills. I have a question though. When I spar should I be aiming all my head shots at the chin? I am a taller guy and sometimes when my opponents have their chin tucked well and their guards up it is harder to hit. I could easily pop them in the nose or forehead but I thought that may be improper in a sparring match. I know that I don’t want a busted nose.

So where should I be aiming?


Johnny N November 5, 2012 at 3:40 pm

You aim wherever you want. There’s nothing “improper” in a sparring match except respect.


krishna November 14, 2012 at 6:06 am

thanks johnny. i used the chasing technique in a sparring match. ur advice realy helped. thanks again man u r great.


krishna November 1, 2012 at 4:21 am

I have been boxing for six months now. mitts and pad workout is fine but when it comes to sparring, i cannot land any right punches. they all go waste. what should i do?


krishna November 1, 2012 at 4:22 am

right as in my right hand punches


Johnny N November 5, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I have a youtube video for this:


EmmArr November 12, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Good god, Johnny! Your website is a proper treasure trove for amateurs like me! I’ve been doing MMA for 6 months or so now, and the boxing discipline has always been my favourite. I was introduced to your website via this article, and by now I’ve read almost every article that you’ve written! This is a great resource, it taught me that I’ve been sparring all wrong, and how to do it right. A very big thank you from across the globe in Pakistan.


Jamie November 14, 2012 at 9:39 am

Hi, I have sparred a few times and 9 times out of 10 my nose cuts/bleeds a little. Its obvious I have a weak nose. I have seen the headguards with the nose bar. Are these any good? also is it fair to wear these every time I spar? I don’t want to appear soft but going to work in an office after the gym with dried blood on my face is not ideal. Lol . Thanks


Johnny N November 16, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Pros wear them so I don’t see how you would be considered soft considering that you’re getting in the ring. C’mon now, you have a duty to yourself to protect your body.


Alex T December 8, 2012 at 11:04 am

Nice and detailed article, i also wish i knew the difference between sparring and fighting when I first started. I don’t strictly do boxing, but kickboxing and muay thai but the principle is still the same. I walked into the gym for the first time 4 years ago. I sparred at the end of the lesson, with one of the guys who was quite experienced(but did not abuse it). I basically went all out trying to beat him up…in the end he knocked me out….I was a big idiot and I can only imagine what everyone in that gym thought of me, and even to this day I feel so ashamed(not for getting KO’d, but for being a dick). But anyway after a few months I got into the sparring spirit, and it’s been all good ever since. Your absolutely right,nobody goes home happy when spars turn into brawls, and there are people I simply avoid pairing up with or sparring with anymore, because all they care about is hitting or kicking me with their whole power, just to feel good about themselves, I’m bobbing my head around throwing a few jabs lightly and taking it easy, and suddenly out of nowhere BAM!!! a big ass extended hook smacks me in the face lol.

I’ve also been concerned about headshots but I never really got protection for it. Every time I try one of the gym headguards, my slip suddenly amounts to nothing, as my head is suddenly bigger. Do you use headguards?


Johnny N December 11, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Yes, I ALWAYS use headgear. It’s what I preach.


Dan January 3, 2013 at 10:33 am


I spar with my brother who has a considerable reach advantage, 4 inch height advantage, and about a 50 pound weight advantage. I’m not sure that any of that matters, but I can’t seem to find any opening when I spar with him, so I get discouraged and don’t throw any punches except for the occasional jab. I can’t seem to get within striking range without getting battered, and I don’t believe I’ve ever found a way to land a hook to the head. My goal is to try to slip his jab and hit him with a body shot, but I can’t seem to do that fast enough. Finally, I get angry, charge in, and it becomes a brawl. All technique is lost, and I feel as though nothing is achieved. It’s as though there is a complete disconnect between the techniques I practice on speed, reflex, heavy, and body opponent bags versus when I spar. Where do I start to fix this mess?


Johnny N January 5, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Start by working with a trainer who can corner for you and give you feedback on things you’re doing. You’ll need a lot of skill development to overcome your brother’s huge advantages.


rei from the philippines January 5, 2013 at 1:17 am

hey johny, i have been reading your articles for almost a month now … and wow, they have improved my training a lot. i suggested your philosophies and methods with my coach and he was really surprised and impressed.

i am leaving this comment in here, because just like everyone, i always have had great fun in all the martial arts ive trained, except for the sparring portion. there is always someone out there who just wants to KO a 200 lbs 5’7 guy like me… and eventhough i avoided it, i always leave the training sessions bruised up and humiliated.

i normally train very hard, and i dont have a big ego, so it came to the point where i dont suck as much anymore, and i dont get beaten up, because i can brawl with most of the guys in the gym (most do not train hard, so they dont have the endurance to brawl).

i just like what you said here because eventhough i have always known it inside, having you say it just drilled the words in my head – “you spar to learn … not to win… not to get beaten up … not to beat someone up”

reading this, i am now very choosy of my sparring partners. i make it a point to be a good sparring partner, and always ask/request a partner to not hit too hard or go too fast. when i was younger, instructors would beat me up helplessly to show off and i thought it was normal…, but now, i have more self respect especially after reading your article, i now have the right TO WALK AWAY from a crappy sparring partner.

thanks johny, i read and reread a lot of the stuff here.

and oh, i would also like to add:

i would only fight tournaments:

-if i am confident i will win (it means ive trained hard)
-if i am getting paid


when i was younger, instructors would force us into tournaments without giving us a choice… now, i have something to tell them if in case that situation comes up again


Johnny N January 5, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I’m happy for you, Rei. You would be a great coach for young fighters.


Ab January 10, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Johnny I am trained in boxing and my roommate in college is getting tired of being bullied so he asked to help him train. I didnt mind at all but I can’t get him to remember any lesson I teach him wether its just how to punch correctly or something a bit more complicated. Also when we sparr i would either hols back 90% or just 50%. When i hold back 90% i slowly move around letting him hit me and would tell him about hus technique or looking for openings but it doesnt go through his head and he just focusses on strength. When I go 50% he complains im going too hard but I would hit him once every ten punches he hits me. It doesnt hurt me but i want him to be ready to block or pull back once he finishes his punches. I really am stuck on what to do at this point, and is it my fault or his or both? And what should I do? Thanks a lot :T


rei January 10, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Ab (hope you wont mind that i give a little input):

back when i was training in martial arts, i have seen that kind of behavior, and i also have exhibited that kind of behavior in jiu-jitsu (basically, not using my training and analyzing moves too much in the middle of sparring).

i think your room mate is still scared, and would need more time with the focus mitts rather than sparring. if you do spar, give him easy preset moves i.e. you jab, while he parries and jabs back (johnny discussed this in the article).

at least that kind of approached worked for me, hope it would work on your room mate … cause it seems like hes been training in boxing less than a month, and doesnt have preset moves to rely on


Ab January 17, 2013 at 6:15 am

Rei thanks for the advice (i don t mind at all).
I think you’re right, because he looks lije he doesn’t k ow how to handle the situation given so ill try giving him some preset moves before sparring .
Ill let you know how it goes


Johnny N January 23, 2013 at 11:11 am

He might need help from a boxer trainer or someone with more training experience. You guys should also try slow sparring. Holding back the power won’t do much if the speed is too intense for him.


david January 22, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Hey, ive been sparring for about 3 months and boxing for about 5, i was wondering if sparring with a weaker opponent has an effect. im 16 and i only spar with a 12 year old boy but when i first started i would spar people my size and i would do okay. now that ive gotten used to the 12 year old i dont have to throw punches hard or work on foot work or movement and when i spar people my size i feel like my punches arnt like they were before and i just get beat up. Do you think sparring with the 12 year old has something to do with my performance? I feel like im a worst fighter than when i started. ive sparred with the 12 year old for about 2 months.


Johnny N January 23, 2013 at 11:12 am

If you’re not developing well, you’ll have to do something else. Switch up your sparring partner and see what happens.


Sid February 1, 2013 at 4:51 am

hi,ive been boxing for about 2 months,i recently started doing hooks and uppercuts,about a week ago i had my ulnar nerve popping when i jab,more when i hook,much like the one when u do a overhead tricep workout,i dont have pain,but i can definitely feel the tingling sensation along the ulnar nerve from the elbow to the palm and the little finger,so ive stopped for a week and then started,it was fine on the first day and now the nerve issue came back,was the rest not enough? or is it because i start shadow boxing sometimes without warmup or stretching exercises,any help would be appreciated,thanks a lot.


Johnny N February 6, 2013 at 10:09 am

Try hitting with the first 2 knuckles of the your hand, not the last 2 knuckles. Check out my guide called “How to Throw Straight Punches”.


Sid February 1, 2013 at 5:07 am

Or is it my handwraps?


Johnny N February 6, 2013 at 10:10 am

You can try wrapping your hands like I do. But I think it has more to do with your punching form.


BG February 7, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Yeah this was a great article, I’ve been training and sparring against my trainer for around 6 months and he’s been exactly as you described, he teaches me a lesson with small to medium shots when I drop my hands and encourages me to go all out and absorbs all my efforts easily without deflating my confidence.

I’ve been sparring a new guy lately who thinks he needs to have power in everything and has landed some big hits on me which is a new experience, not sure how I feel about it, mixed emotions, you can easily control him by pumping the jab in his face as has he doesn’t have much defence but it has made me weary of his loose punches, hmm all a new experience I guess, I would feel bad hitting him as hard as he hits me because he’s new to sparring but not sure how he would feel being asked to tone it down, to be honest I don’t really know how hard I’m hitting anyway, can only guess really.

Excellent article ๐Ÿ™‚


Bubba February 18, 2013 at 12:47 am

Hi Johnny

this article is so awesome and so enlightening I am currently training up for my first thai fight this year and I have been made to spar this person who has had numerous fighting experience but is very wild and agressive they just smash me all over the place into chairs, boxing bags, ect I stand there cowering with my guard up for most of the sparring sessions whenever I try to fight back it just looks and feels very scrappy as my trainers have also told me…I have only sparred this person 4 times and already Im ready to quit because of the nerves, embarrassment and fear, ๐Ÿ™ ….I have very recently told my trainers that I will not spar this person anymore so hopefully they are still keen on training me…….


SocialDistortionFan February 20, 2013 at 3:16 pm

A good beginner’s sparring drill at the gym I trained at was to have the partners alternate offense and defense. Example: 1st round Fighter A only works on offense, Fighter B only does defense, then the next round, partners switch. It’s done controlled/light contact, and I feel like it’s another good way to get new people accustomed to sparring.


Nicky P March 17, 2013 at 1:22 am

Hi Johnny,

if some boxer possessed punching power, would they would have to spar at a lower intensity compared to their opponents?

Say if boxer A had punching power. If his sparring intensity was 60%, wouldn’t this equate to something like 80% for the typical boxer as his punches pack more steam?

I would love your thoughts on this as my gym has one guy that packs a punch who knocks down a lot of people due to his power. It doesn’t seem like he’s intentionally going 100% though, as he is pulling his punches.


Johnny N March 21, 2013 at 3:27 am

Well, boxing is competition. And so you’re supposed to use your advantages. You can’t expect a powerful punch to throw soft. And you can’t expect a tall guy to bend down more so his opponent can hit him. Then again, you should always play to your strengths; it’s good to mix it up and force yourself to develop other skills.


Ss April 1, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Good articles. I think I read all of themlol and all of them helps out. You have good ideas for boxing. I am a 16 yr old who isn’t in a boxing class but planning to join one. I usually go boxing with a few friends in the backyard but I always seem to back out after my opponent goes on a rampage of jabs hooks and crosses even uppercuts. I also seem to barely hit him. I can’t slip punches, only slipped a punch four times in a sparring match but ended up getting punched by another. Now I’m getting better at not backing out but I still suck. I’m not like a beginner newbie but a beginner who sucks as I have a little fighting experience. But the experience I hav comes from a few street fights( only trying to defend myself as I do live in a bad neighborhood) and a few spar sessions with friends. I watch boxing fights a lot and want to compete lol which is probly just a foolish idea as I am way behind. Anyway should I join a boxing class? Also I’m about 130 so should I do weight training to get buff and strong or do more cardio? I’m wondering cuz I’m pretty skinny but I have done weight training before? Will this affect my boxing anyhow? Also some advice for not backing out would be great. Anyway thanks for the articles and videos.


Johnny N April 2, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Go to a boxing gym and start there. You’ll learn some real techniques from guys with many years of experience.


David April 9, 2013 at 5:42 am

Hi Ss

There is nothing wrong with being light in boxing. If you think of boxing as a sport, which of course it is, then that means you get to compete against other light guys, who are less likely to put you in hospital. In the lighter wight classes boxing is faster and more like fencing than wood chopping.



Coco April 5, 2013 at 6:21 am

Sir Johnny,

This article struck me because all the things you mentioned (i.e. going too fast, showing off, trying to win, flinching, retaliation of force on force) are actually true. Moreover, I can clearly see it even in my gym. I, myself, experienced it. Even though I TAP my sparring partner’s face with jabs and straights, sometimes or most of the time, they reply with hard punches to the face or the body. I manage to slip/evade on most of the punches, but if the strikes hits, it was like a round sack of rice thrown at my face.

But what leaves me in question is the sparring approach of my instructor towards me during sparring.. When I spar with him, we just TAP each other with strikes, but this is different. He just keeps on moving forward like a complete zombie that even when I deliver my techniques towards him, he just keeps on walking forward and hitting repeatedly at me as if he does not have any nerves to feel my tap-strikes towards him.

Even if the sparring is fully controlled and injury-free, I can actually feel getting torn apart because he just doesn’t stop, and he keeps on delivering strikes like a zombie ignoring my strikes not even avoiding it. UNTIL, I won’t be able to move progressively, be trapped in a corner, and I’ll become trapped in a very stiff defensive mode.

It’s annoying. What can be your piece of advice, Sir Johnny?


David April 9, 2013 at 5:32 am

Hi Coco

I prefer light sparring but when you are in the ring with a thug, you sometimes need to give them a good reason to stay away and think twice about throwing that follow-up punch. I remember my trainer telling me once – “use your right, they will respect you more”.

As for zombies who just want to keep closing and don’t mind taking a few jabs to the face if it means getting inside for that delicious hook, I try to concentrate on my footwork and just make sure that I stay away from them. All those long-range jabs add up to a lot of discomfort (and points) after 3 minutes.



Johnny N April 11, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Your trainer’s trying to force you to fight. So it looks like that’s your only way out. The thing is he’s seeing it as successful training because he’s able to force you to fight. Whereas you’re seeing it as a failure because you’re forced to fight.


Alexander Lee Calpo April 23, 2013 at 11:57 pm

Want to be a boxer! I Have Faith and enough confidence to show that i am willing to commit and persue my life as a boxer. Need help getting started~~~~~~ If there are offers, I am Fighting material wanting to put my self out there. I have a facebook, and my name is Alex Calpo, If needed to get a hold of me.


Johnny N April 26, 2013 at 10:03 am

Good luck to you, Alex. Follow your dreams.


Alexander Lee Calpo April 23, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Age of 17. nearly 18


Alexander Lee Calpo April 24, 2013 at 1:20 am

Actually the only proof i can give is, Youtube my next fight. It will be within 2-4 weeks. its pretty hard trying to find fight people you dont know.


Brent May 5, 2013 at 1:22 am

I’ve been sparring for maybe 2 months now and tbh, I’m struggling with confidence when it comes to sparring – I started out good and enjoyed it but after 3 body shots (over the 2 months) to my left ribs, my body is sore 50% of the time and its affecting my confidence .
I seem to be able to take head and torso shots well but those rips just kill me! 1 of the 3 batterings resulted in a cracked rib and the other two were severe internal bruising (from what I can gather-after a day or 2 the pain shifts around to my back..)
The irony is that I’m in the best shape of my life and do plenty of core/ ab work, skipping, mitts, cardio and heavy bag but for some reason my ribs seem just plain weak!
My trainer is old school and I think he just sees this as part of the ‘toughen up’ stuff that just goes hand in hand with the sport. Maybe he’s right?
I love the sport and the training but my ribs want me to quit!


Johnny N May 6, 2013 at 12:13 pm

You’re still a beginner so you can’t expect your body to hold up against such abuse. Getting injured is a clear sign that you’re going too hard. Everybody is different and everybody takes a different amount of time to adjust to things. What’s “too easy” for one person might be “too much” for another. The point of training is to make you the best you can be….before taking on steep challenges.


Jared May 9, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Hey Johnny,

First I just want to say thank you for everything you do, your website and advice has helped me more than I can explain. Ive always wanted to really box, but being a good football player, I haven’t had time. Now that school is out, Ive gotten away from college ball and have gotten a chance to get in the gym. Today was my first day sparring, a thrilling ride to say the least!! I took a couple of shots though. nothing too bad, but enough to keep my head ringing with a headache 8 hours later.

Is this something my head will get used to a little bit? Or is it time for my defense to step it up??

From being a quarterback I’ve taken my fair share of hits and have gotten 1 or 2 concussions. I hope that isnt too big of a concern.

Thanks for everything


Johnny N May 17, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Go lighter and slower especially if you’re a beginner. Avoid the headaches as best as you can.


Bill May 20, 2013 at 2:16 pm

This article is absolutely superb, I really enjoyed reading it and some of the comments here. I have wanted to try boxing for sometime but I have always been turned off by the brovado and chestbeating etc – I have no time for that sort of carry on. Really great to read about boxing for what it really is – a sport of incredible skill, and one that I would like to learn a lot more about. After reading this, I will be doing my reasearch on my local gyms until I find one that does it the right way. Kudos good sir.


Johnny N May 24, 2013 at 1:19 pm

There are definitely good gyms out there that have complete respect for everybody in the gym. Good luck to you, Bill.


Mahy May 25, 2013 at 10:03 am

Hi Johnny,
Thanks for the great articles and very useful comments and tips here. I started boxing not too long ago; about 5 months. I’m 40 year old Persian girl in an incredible body shape and love love boxing. Do you think it is too late for me to dream about being a good fighter in the future…??!! I do not want to quit just because I’m not 20 year old. My passion for boxing is unbelievable; I have socmany dreams about fighting almost every night. It’s crazy but true. I need your words of wisdom and suggestions, please.
God bless,


Johnny N June 2, 2013 at 11:59 am

It is never too late. You are in shape and ready for boxing! Go for it. I’m behind you. ๐Ÿ™‚


Bruised May 29, 2013 at 4:57 am

I am a 21 yr old female who has just taken up boxing. Im boxing out of an all male gym and am finding it difficult to keep up. I give it my all and dont want to be treated any different to the guys, however, when sparring I feel like the guys are actually going harder at me then they do with each other, Im frequently coming out of the gym with black eyes and bruises because I feel like these blokes are fighting full force. Things will be fine, I’ll land a good hit and then all of a sudden they get aggressive and pound me, one guy (110kg south paw) trod on my foot and then hit me hard in the face. I absorbed the blow copped a black eye and a bit of a headache and kept sparring….
Its ruining my confidence, and ruining my enjoyment of the sport. How do I bring this up with my trainer so he doesn’t start to treat me differently or r think less of me?


Johnny N June 2, 2013 at 12:05 pm

This is painful to read. This is not how a gym should operate. Tell you trainer but also take a look at different boxing gyms and see if you can find a better environment for learning. Getting beat-up doesn’t help you or even the guy hitting you.


Bruised June 2, 2013 at 3:07 pm

I talked o my trainer, he didn’t really seem to fussed, sort of just laughed it off.. I am going to try out another gym today with an all female class. Hopefully there will be less EGO there.


Johnny N June 2, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Yes, find a new gym and trainer asap. A trainer that doesn’t care about you is dangerous!


Jim June 28, 2013 at 2:13 pm

I read down to where a poster asked if 38 is too old. I just sparred for the first time at 50.
Your site really helped me to prepare. I still managed to hold my breathe over half way through the first round.
This is a mma and Muay Thai gym, we agreed to straight kickboxing, and no knees, nor elbows. He’s one of the trainers/fighters, and he goes 150 mph all the time when he fights, so I definitely had the jitters leading up to the sparring, not knowing what he was going to do. Fortunately, he scaled back. Afterwards, I felt like I didn’t do anything right. No timing, reach was off, and it did not feel like a chess match, more like a blur. I can see how easy it is for most to be down on themselves. Fortunately for me, after 3 rounds, he said, “I liked how you kept coming forward the whole time”. Man, I’ll tell you, I never thought a complement could mean so much. Now I can’t wait, 2 more days for the next sparring.
I realized too late to make sure the gear is on properly before getting in the ring. He was waiting for me in the ring as I tried to get their gear to cinch down… shin guards, cheap gloves and head gear, all too big, and spun around as I fought… I’m 5’5. Even my hand wraps stuck to the gloves velcro and pulled them apart as I fumbled putting the gloves on, and had no time to fix them. It’s a lot to take in at once being in the the ring for the first time, and it sucks when you don’t feel comfortable with your gear.
I bought my own Title gear last night. Fits great, at a cheap price…I feel ready now. I plan on warming up in the ring, just to get a better feel next time. Get use to that mouth guard being in too.

Johnny, I wish I could go to my maker knowing I did as much for people as you. Thanks for saving my a**.


Johnny N June 30, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Awesome story, Jim! Boxing has quite the learning curve.


crystal July 2, 2013 at 12:25 am

Having recently been introduced to my birth family, I am lucky enough to have discovered I have three brothers who all grew up of them went semi professional in Las Vegas. Having done a bit for Muay Thai for a year (and having to quit ๐Ÿ™ ) I am quickly becoming obsessed with boxing, and am lucky enough to have my eldest brother (the one who went pro) tell me I have it in me and if I am willing to take it seriously, he will train me…even telling me that at 36 I am not too old!! We have had a few sessions so far, him teaching the techniques of the jab, cross etc, footwork, blocking..most of which I am horrible at, but as with anything time and practice will make it better. I have been studying this site for about a week now and just wanted to say thank you for all the hard work you have put in to this, it is such a great resource for anyone interested in boxing…in any capacity! Guaranteed besides my brothers, this will be my go to for tips, advice and motivation! also my goal is, win or lose, I want to get into the ring just once and have a fight…just to say I did it!!!


Johnny N July 3, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Good luck to you, Crystal!


Gent July 25, 2013 at 5:09 pm

My boys go to boxing three or four days a week. Their coach runs a nice clean gym, but he almost never lets them spar.They may spar once a month. Also they rarely punch on the mits. They spend most of their time doing shadow boxing, heavy bag and jump rope. Is he wrong? Yet we go to competitions and he expects them to preform like pros.


Johnny N July 26, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Fighters should definitely be sparring more than once a month if they’re expected to compete. Even slow sparring or light sparring will benefit greatly. You can’t throw them into fights without giving them a chance to practice beforehand.


H.C August 13, 2013 at 1:22 am

Excellent article man.

Really touches on some subjects that feel a bit like unspoken issues in a lot of gyms.

One thing I’ve wondered though – Given that a lot of gyms use quite basic head gear which is fairly open faced, do you think a better quality head guard with more protection would help instill a bit of confidence in someone new to sparring? I’m thinking a good quality mexican head guard with reasonable face coverage. The more protected someone can feel, the more they can focus on training instead on worrying about being hit!


Johnny N August 13, 2013 at 4:56 am

Headgear and protective equipment can never replace the security of confidence. Fighters need to be trained properly with effective moves and then, and only then, will they be confident and truly ready to step into the ring. Progression should be slow and methodical. After everything is done right, then yes, having protective equipment is helpful. The moment protection seems to be priority, you have to wonder if the pace is too high and the learning environment is compromised.


bharat August 13, 2013 at 9:31 am

Hi Johnny,

I am Bharat, from India. This is very good article. I am practicing Muay Thai Kick Boxing for some time as hobby and for self defense. I did spar once in the absence of my teacher. And the other guy thrown a full power left hook to my jaw and kick to my face. I was afraid since then, and started only doing it for fitness,shadow boxing a lot, this increased my speed but i am missing the practical thing… . Later i realized that with out sparring and drills there is no way i can learn kickboxing and apply when ever needed(for self defense).

This is very good article. I came to know more about the benefits of sparring. I will go back to my gym and spar in controlled environment in presence of my teacher.



nick September 12, 2013 at 2:54 pm

this is a good article. Have to admit it applies to me. I started in a gym this summer and I;m sparring now, but usually the same guy who got a lot of weight on me and he always goes full out. Result is I’m spent after two rounds. Its intimidating me now and I’m dreading sparring which kills me. Its an aggressive place and I’m not good at speaking up for myself so I have a problem asking for more controlled sparring. Not sure what to do, I love the sport and want to keep it up but I’m feeling like a heavy bag and wearing me mentally down. NOt sure if I should look for another gym because I’d like to stay there. Any thoughts are appreciated


Johnny N September 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Learn how to communicate, start looking around, or don’t get in the ring. At the end of the day, fighting is a tough sport, and you need to be tough to do well in that environment.


raphael September 13, 2013 at 1:36 am

thanks! I know what to do know, i’ll say “ok dude, boxe alone, i’ll go drink some water”. I practice grappling, and suddenly decided to give a shot at MMA/boxing. Guys hit to strong no matter what. The coach keep telling them to slow down, I ask my partners to slow down, and yet they keep hitting hard.

Result? I stopped boxing/MMA and went back to grappling only. I learned nothing. When boxing i get hit, when grappling in MMA I don’t strike, and yet mostly win. In MMA sessions, I just get hurt, my grappling does not improve, nor does my boxing.

I now know that I just have to find the guts to say “No! No sparring with you! I’m scarred” and choose my sparring partners! Thanks a lot for that!


Johnny N September 26, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Good job standing up for yourself, Raphael.


Todd Bronnert September 14, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Great article! Great guy! and Great advice! im new to boxing 4 months and have been sparring 1 month now….for some rason i just want to learn everything and do it all at once…..when sparring i loose site of the taging….you get hit so you want to hit back, its hard to keep it at a good pace sometimes but someones got to the be the bigger man and just say hey lets take it down a notch…


Mason September 21, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Thanks for this. Me and my friend who weighs 40 pounds less spar often and we needed some advice. We’d normally beat the living hell out of each other then i would ease up and let him start making more moves. It wasn’t proper sparring but my endurance has shot up a lot. Hopefully with more controlled sessions we can work on actual fighting than simply reflex and stamina.


Jo October 7, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Johnny, I’ve been boxing for a few months now and I’m not good with sparring. It has nothing to do with skill. On the bag, mitts, etc I’m good. But when I spar I lose all my skills it seems. My coach says he thinks it’s just a lack of confidence in myself. How can I get over this slump?


Mister T October 20, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Just a thought, are you imagining you’re fighting an actual person when on the bag or mitts? Because if you’re just going through the motions of hitting a static object and not putting yourself in the fighting mindset, when it comes to a target who can move and fight back like your coach says you’ll have no confidence as your mind doesn’t recognize this situation, even though your body is trained for it. Try to imagine you’re smacking a threat in the face when on the mitts next time, or you’re hooking a dudes body on the heavy bag and your mind will be prepared when in the ring ๐Ÿ™‚


Johnny N November 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Go slower. Take your time and don’t push up the pace until you are comfortable. What you’re experiencing is completely natural.


Aman October 20, 2013 at 8:43 am

Hey i missed my sparring session today cuz I had a swollen lip and didnt get any good rest is it ok to have done this?


Mister T October 20, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Rest as much as you need, if you dont feel like sparring on any given day thats fine, BUUUUT there’s a fine line between rest and lazy buddy just bear that in mind, missing one day isnt gunna kill you though lol


Johnny N November 8, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Of course. Why spar if you’re not feeling up to it. It’s important to take a break when your body needs it. This is the only way for your body to heal and come back strong for you to train at 100% again. the more beat up you are, the more of a break you need.


Mark November 12, 2013 at 6:05 am

Hi jonny I posted a comment on here a few weeks ago about my son who’s just started out and got bashed up on his first sparring session since then things have got a lot worse i took him to another gym but the same thing happened but a lot worse the boy he was sparring Against Basically punched my boy all around the ring he did one round and came out with tears in his eyes he asked the boy if he would go a bit lighter and slower which he said ok but on the next round he hit him even harder !! He came out crying this time then the trainer wanted him to do a third round with the same boy but my son wasn’t up for it . Last night I took my son again but soon as he went into the ring he couldn’t do it and came Straight out he has lost all of his Confidence and wants to stop which will be a shame because before this he was getting better and enjoying it . Is there anyway that you can Suggest on how to build up his Confidence again
Many thanks


Johnny N December 13, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Hi Mark, I answered this on your other posts. I hope you got it.


Ruth December 12, 2013 at 11:52 am

Loved this article, really taught me a few things, Ive been kickboxing for a few months now and recently joined the fighters class, we spar with multiple partners of all sizes and all of the others are more experienced than me but are really helpful, giving tips and pointing out where i could improve, one guy stopped to ask me did i realize that i was dropping my right hand every time i jabbed (i hadn’t realized at all lol). Problem is that there is one girl who always goes way too hard and I always get hurt when I spar with her, the first class it was a kick to the groin! The trainer has told her off a few times but he hasn’t got eyes in the back of his head either. Last night i took a hard hook to the head that left me dizzy so after reading your article, i have decided not to just try and toughen up and take it (like I had been). Next time she goes hard I will tell her its too hard and if she continues I will walk away. I’m a beginner and don’t have anything to prove!
Thanks again


Johnny N December 13, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Ruth, you’re a strong woman! Good for you.


math December 21, 2013 at 3:02 am

i dont think sparing is the most important training but focus mitt work is the most important look at sergio martinez he dont do to much sparing


Danish January 5, 2014 at 1:00 am

Hey Jonny!

I am 30 years old from Indian ethnic background. I lives in Australia now and always wanted to learn boxing. I have joined GYM here in Canberra who teaches boxing as well and actually my Coach is Australian National Champion 2012. He is pretty good at what he teaching and I enjoys every session of boxing. I have only started learning boxing 6-8 weeks only now and have done few sparring session with my coach until last week and It went well. but yesterday I attended our Gym’s sparring session for the first time and got beaten up really badly during the session and My body is so sore thatI can’t open my jaws properly, massive headache and neck ache and also my right eye is painful. But my other gym partners told me that I need to work on my blocking (defence) but I did well too and didn’t gave up.
My question to you is do you think I am too late to learn boxing now asI am already 30 Years old and I should not be serious about boxing any more. Would you be able to give me any example where you have trained or developed any one who is 30 years or over in age. Please help!!!


Johnny N January 8, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Slow down your pace, Danish. There have been many people I know who trained at 30, 40, or even 50 years of age and eventually learned how to hold their own with the youngsters. Take your time and you’ll get there when you get there. Focus on learning, not winning.


Not the next Ali January 25, 2014 at 5:05 pm

What can i say that already havent been said?
Fantastic read.

Yesterday i had a bad sparring experience, my second time sparring after starting muay thai a few months back. I froze up and just gave in, probably didnt even last two minutes. Went home ready to quit. Demotivated and depressed.
Then i read your article and managed to man myself up enough to go back today and i managed to stand my ground. Walked out of the gym feeling very good about it.

Thank you very much Johnny, for bringing me a second chance at martial arts.


billy the kid January 27, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Nice article!

I’ve been boxing for 6 months and spar for about 4 months.
Most of the guys happen to outweight me since im around 66-70 kg so im used to fight bigger guys and they are kind enough to give me some space when things get ugly.

Today we had an “all out session” and i happened to get in the ring with a guy that weighted over 100 kg and was way taller than me.
He really started to throw hammers left and right and continued to hit me in the corner until i fell down from a cross in the solar plexus… I got up and he continued to fight full power. His punches made me fly around even on block and he had absolutely no respect for getting countered because he could always brawl and land a bigger punch. To make things worse the ring was split in half to allow another pair to spar ( i don’t want to think what would have happened if it was split in 4).

My trainer stopped us and said i did well but i felt like gaining nothing from it.
Right now i don’t think i can ever handle those gorillas but i really want to become better even if it goes the hard way. I would rather not spar with that guy soon though.

Since you are a little guy too, have you ever experienced the same problem?


Johnny N February 12, 2014 at 2:18 pm

I’ve definitely encountered the same problem many times in training. Actually I’m pretty sure almost everybody has, except for heavyweights.


[email protected] February 11, 2014 at 9:45 am

Great articel!

This is how you should learn sparring and how I want to learn it!

I box since about two month and I really enjoyed it until I did my first sparrings. I did now about 15 rounds but its always the same: I am getting countered and hit all the time and in the meanwhile i am so stressed out when it comes to sparring that i cant enjoy it all. The trainer in my gym is a really nice guy and for a sure a great boxer but i think a unexpierenced trainer (and there is also a bit of communication problem because of the langauge). Furthermore, when there is sparring day all the guys are coming to fight and and not to do learn sparring or to do any sparring drills. So long story short I am looking for a other gym….Can you recommend any boxer gym in new jersey near newark?

Thanks a lot!



Johnny N July 15, 2014 at 10:00 pm

I don’t know the scene out there, Martin but I hope you find a place you feel comfortable with.


Alexis May 4, 2014 at 8:09 am

Hey Johnny,

I’ve been reading your articles religiously and I’ve incorporated 100% of it to my training. My trainers are ex-fighters but they aren’t very technical – they just hold the mitts up for me most of the time. Well, when I started sparring, I took your advice and didn’t hit too hard but my partners rarely (if ever) go at less than 100% when sparring.

I sparred people with smaller gloves than mine, and I still went easy on the power of my punches but the moment they get me with something hard, I’ve also trained myself to restrain my emotions and continue boxing. Imagine getting hit with 12oz gloves with full force from beginners. Ouch.

My trainer saw me do this the other day and he got angry at me for holding back my punches. He said the other guy was peppering me with solid shots on smaller gloves and he could see me just tag my opponent with light shots. He said if I don’t hit harder, he won’t let me spar because I’m not defending myself.

Any thoughts?


Johnny N July 15, 2014 at 10:02 pm

I agree with your trainer. You gotta hit harder or find somebody who hits lighter. The fight has to be fair…if you refuse to make it a fair fight (especially if it’s to defend yourself), you shouldn’t be in the ring.


Melissa May 10, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Hi Johnny, thanks for another great article, it sounds like the way I’d like to be trained. I’ve just started training for white collar boxing and had my first go at sparring this afternoon. I really loved it and just can’t wait to do more but had a big problem with being overloaded trying to avoid blows, use my jab correctly and straight rights. We were also receiving blows to the body and having instructions shouted at us so lots to take in and think about. We only have 11 weeks in which to train so I don’t think we can enjoy training as you recommend so I need to work out how to cope with so much going on. Everything I learnt goes out the window in sparring! Do you think that this is something that will abate as I get used to sparring? Thanks so much! Mel


Johnny N July 15, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Yes, you will get better with time. It’s normal for beginners to be completely overloaded with information, hahaha. Everyone starts out the same. With time, you start to do many things naturally and then you won’t have to worry about so many things.


Kyra May 14, 2014 at 6:23 am

Absolutely amazing site, Johnny! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and your talent to break down really complex stuff. I have been following you for years now and just hope that you keep going.

I have a question on sparring: last time I sparred this girl approximately my weight. We have both a couple of years of training behind us, but are quite inexperienced in sparring (at least this was just my observation, since she trains elswhere). After a couple of rounds of controlled sparring, she totally brawled me, went forward aggressively in a full sparring and also went quite hard. I could run away from the most shots and spoil her attacks most of the time, but she did catch me a couple of times. At that point they didnt feel like the hardes shots ever, but when I came home, I started getting a headache, got sick and had to throw up. After sleeping, everyting was ok again.

Is this dangerous and should be avoided at all costs? Was I supposed to walk out of the ring as soon as I realized that shes not controlling her power? Or are light concussions after a sparring “normal” sometimes? (Say, If you got caught with a few hard punches when sparring) Does anyone else experience these symptoms?

Please, I would be really grateful for any comments or advice, since there are only perhaps two girls in my gym who understand and can do slow/light sparring, although theyre beginners. Everyone else either thinks that you should fight in a sparring or they – if you tell them to go lighter – dont seem to be able to control their bodies. So the choice for me is ether hard sparring or none at all. Both choices seem to not really improve my boxing. *Help*


Johnny N July 16, 2014 at 2:42 am

Getting a headache and throwing up afterwards is a serious thing. You may have suffered a concussion and should probably take it easy for a while. And yes…walk out anytime that you feel uncomfortable and put into unnecessary danger. Change gyms/trainers if you have to. This is your life and your health. If your trainer won’t look out for you, then find another one that will.


eliezermel May 14, 2014 at 8:40 am

Before I share my my 1st sparring session experience, let me thank Jonny and all of you for your contributions to the boxing communityt; This site has been a priceless morale builder. So here is my story…I’m 32yo and for the past month ive been working out, doing footwork; basic punches and defense. In that time I’ve asked the coach about sparring (half wanting to get in the ring, half testing if he has my safety in mind) but he’s said I’m not ready. I appreciated the gesture. Well, yesterday he let me spar with a smaller guy (about 25lbs). He told the fighter to go easy on me. I have to honestly say, I did not enjoy myself one bit. I was very excited about getting to this point, but as soon as he caught me with his jab I instantly felt deflated. Thoughts liike, I didn’t even want to play this game anymore; or boxing is definitely not for me, flashed through my head. It’s discouraging because I’ve been slowly developing a gradual love for boxing over the last 6 months which led to me taking it up. I definitely have that “fear of God” in my veins when thinking of going in the ring. That’s where I’m at now, and I want to keep at it and push through. BTW one of the coaches record my first round for me…id be glad to share it.


Johnny N July 16, 2014 at 2:43 am

Great experience! It’d be great if you could share your story and first round on our Facebook page. I’m sure it would be motivation for many.


ismail June 9, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Hi Johnny i dont understand your article you say sparring is only %25 power but if i watch Mike tyson’s sparring match i see Mike tyson use his all power to knock out his oppenent please say something


moose June 10, 2014 at 11:47 am

Mike Tyson was an asshole.


Johnny N July 16, 2014 at 2:44 am

This article is about “sparring for beginners”. I’m pretty sure the sparring match you saw of Mike Tyson was not when he was a beginner.


Juan July 6, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Well my first sparring match was last week and everyone at my gym has been wanting me to spar since i got there ive only been training for, four months i only sparred with 25% of my power while my opponets qhere going full force ๐Ÿ™ needless to say i almost knocked one out though i did not go for rhe kill as this is just sparring and the other one had like 60-80 pounds on me I still made him cry… all my trainers and people at my gym think o did good but idk i think i could still improve on my reflexes cause i could see all the oppenings but was too slow of a puncher to act on them (also the two people i sparred against have more experience and are both in a higher weight class than me.


Joh4 July 25, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Sink or swim.
I’ve never been in an actual fight.
I did not even take any training, had anyone teach me, or even watch youtube videos before.
I am completely out of shape with no training.
I decided to try a free boxing session.
I am 5’3 at 124lbs. Extremely low body fat too, everyone thinks I lift, which is funnie but back to the topic.

Ran to the gym ( from my house ) and was only taught the step left jab. I shadowboxed the 1 punch for 15 minutes. Which I got one feedback, then I never got another to see if I was improving. Had to hit the heavy bag with only stepping left jab for 15 mins. He told me to jab and walk left. By now it was hard to lift my left hand as I had the gloves on the whole time.

There was no gear. Then I spar and get pummeled by a taller ( I literally had to look up ), heavier girl ( made me look like a twig ). I took too many light jabs to count but she landed at at least 10 good right hooks to my chin. I couldn’t breathe nor think, NONE of my jabs landed and I ate at least a combo of 2, mostly 3, for throwing my left jab. Then I’d walk left into her right hook. The coach said throw my left jab ( I refused ). I couldn’t lift my left arm to guard, breathe, or hold my body upright after the first round. But my ego said I had to land one good punch. I landed 2 very weak but agile body shots the 2 rounds.

I landed one good right overhand to her temple right before the second round ended. That one punch cost me 6 hits. The coach laughed through the whole thing until he realized I literally couldn’t stand straight or lift my left arm anymore.

Since I could no longer stand correctly, he decided to give me another sparring partner for the next 3 rounds. My new sparring partner was a huge, intimidating, and experienced boxer. He waited for me to rest in our first round and picked up his pace as we came to our third round. He taught me that I should pivot. I actually caught him with a few of my rights in the third round. He kept saying I had a fast right. It just felt natural for me to throw a right hand when I was totally out of my range. He taught I should actually walk right ( away from the right hook ). How to roll with punches instead of fighting them. I shall forever hold my second sparring partner with respect.

I am now seeking another gym.


Johnny N October 10, 2014 at 10:47 am

I’m very sorry for what you experienced and also grateful to that experienced guy who decided to teach you rather than beat you.


Tanner L July 29, 2014 at 12:56 pm

I am thinking about trying boxing, I am a member of a weightlifting gym, but there are no BOXING gyms in my area, do you have any suggestions on some beginner practices that I can do without a boxing gym? Perhaps at my regular gym or at home? Thanks. -Tanner, 6’4″- 165lbs


Johnny N October 10, 2014 at 10:47 am

Check out my boxing workouts and do what you can with what you have.


Desiree August 15, 2014 at 5:50 pm

I know this post is old, but it really helped me tonight. I started boxing a couple of months ago just for something different to do, and as a way to release a lot of anger to some recent life events in a controlled/healthy way. I thought things were going great. I was having fun.

Then, this week coach tossed me into the ring for sparring. No sooner than I had my mouth guard in, did I get my first blow. But I kept going, and things seemed fine. Then tonight I was tossed in again. Well, I immediately got dealt a heavy blow square on my eye/nose – knocked me to my knees. The physical pain hurt, sure, but it was the humiliation and feeling of incompetence in the ring that hurt far worse. I left the gym feeling pathetic, like I wasn’t good enough for this (…never mind that my opponent was a more seasoned boxer and almost twenty years younger than me – she’s 16, I’m 33). It wasn’t fun anymore. It was something more serious and sobering now, and I wasn’t sure I was ready for that. I felt like… well, like it was because I was a weak old woman and that was that.

Google brought me to your post. “Sink or swim.” That’s what happened to me. That wasn’t “controlled sparring” and I don’t feel I was even remotely conditioned properly into get in the ring yet. I’m disappointed – almost heartbroken. I was really starting to love boxing.

It’s hard as a woman to get into this sport, especially at my age. Most people assume you are doing it to “get fit,” but I don’t care about that. I just wanted to release some anger, gain back some control in my life, and have a little fun along the way. I don’t know where to go from here.


Johnny N October 10, 2014 at 10:53 am

Keep training and just know that part of the pain comes from your own ego of having expected yourself to be stronger. I’d chalk it up to being a great experience in realizing how you feel about yourself and how critical you are of your own abilities. With that said, getting beat up is not fun and I don’t blame you for feeling like crap.


BackIntoBoxing_ August 31, 2014 at 8:19 pm

I’m recently starting out… I had a course of sessions and then my coach puts me In the ring with 2 maybe 3 years experience so after reading your article I told my sparring partner if he wouldn’t mind toning it down just a little ( because I’m new to this sport) and he completely agreed he said he has read
This article too and was proud of me for taking responsibility. I’m glad I joined boxing again. Before this I had a horrible experience… I was just starting out, and without any training on foot position, how to throw a punch, etc.., I was immediately put in the ring with a 17yr old I was 14 at the time and I was terrified of my partner he was atleast 130/140+ lbs and I was about 90/100lbs , not to mention he was way stronger than me, taller than me, and had a couple years experience on me. Anyway when the match began I was confident, I threw a couple punches lightly and he took them waiting for his chance so I backed up and gave him a chance like the article says and I was destroyed. First of all the person I went against held no punches back,I ended up with broke 2 ribs 1 on each side if my body, a bloody/broken nose, a busted lip, and lost the will to continue and so I quit. The worst part was the fact that even when he knocked me out he still preceded to sit over/onto of me and continue to punch me in the face. Any advice, comments, concerns?


BackIntoBoxing_ September 1, 2014 at 8:03 am

For about a minute or so after but I’m back into it now.


Johnny N October 10, 2014 at 10:56 am

WOW….whoever that 130/140lb guy was, that was horrible. Disgusting act. I can’t believe that happened.


JRTEXAS September 12, 2014 at 2:16 am

Good stuff, thanks! But you spelled douche bag wrong. Haha.


Saleh September 20, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Hi Johnny,

I had started Muay Thai mor than 10 yrs ago but I hurt my back 4 yrs ago and since than stop all Muay Thai training. Recently I started back with the sport which I really love.

My question is if I right kick at the side of the opponent and he manage to catch hold of my leg, what will be my next move?

Appreciate your reply.



Johnny N November 25, 2014 at 12:37 pm

I have no idea, I never did Muay Thai.


Eric October 2, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Your article was really cool man. I had a hard time sparring for a while I do mma but try and develop nick diaz’s style of mma. hes a really good boxer and inspires me to want to develop his style of fighting. how can I spar without fainting. I have a hard time with throwing a punch and keeping my chin down I either punch with my head in the opposite direction of my punch or I expose it too much. what should I do? and another thing how can I get kids comfortable with sparring are there any type of maybe games they can play that can have the same idea of sparring. in jiu jitu we have a yoga ball and have 2 kids from each team try and take the ball to their sanctuary. the kids go at it and its just like having a match in jiu jitsu they just seem to be distracted by the game. do you know of anything in that nature at all.

thank you so much for reading.

– Eric R.


Johnny N October 10, 2014 at 11:03 am

Hi Eric,

It’s a bit hard for me to give you an answer without first seeing your technique. But my guess is you need to have a little more weight on your front foot to help you keep your chin down. Also, don’t try to pull the chin down, try more like pulling it into your neck.

As for getting kids comfortable. I know plenty of games but it’s a bit hard to explain in a comment box right now. That could definitely be a future Youtube video.


C.Simpson October 22, 2014 at 4:17 am

Good article
Hi I am 17 and have been boxing at this gym for about 1.5 month. My first sparring was week 2 and I went about 50%, it was hard to get to terms that it was not a real fight for anything and I was getting worked up and then holding back. That sort of broke the ice. But the next time I sparred next session I went with some 6’4 guy – I am barely 6ft bare feet and the same weight. Unknown to me , one of the better amateur competitors in the gym had told him to go hard on me and we weren’t wearing headgear. So we started off fast and light like 50% maybe it was ok, but then he picked up the pace and power when he saw some openings and I found myself being hit by a series of straights. So I ended up cursing and trying to hook him against the ropes with body shots and I was taking loads of hits and was becoming too worked up to do anything with any technique. Any advice for preventing a similar experience and what to do if it happens ?


Johnny N November 25, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Read the article above and stick to it. It also helps to have a good coach to look out for you in case you can’t do it for yourself.


falken December 9, 2014 at 9:30 pm

after about 4 weeks of training my coach asked if Id like to try sparring. He put me in ring with a national champion boxer who was very mature and not an ego thug and he said he’d go easy on me and explained how much he sucked when he first started. However my coach said he was not going to give any advice and I just had to go for it for 2 rounds only. It was a sink or swim moment – however- his sink or swim motive was not to see if I had potential or good aggression. It was to strip me of my pride and ego and false myths and beliefs I held about myself and boxing.

So I bounced in full of bravado and keen to go knowing my bag work has been pretty good. Plus the sparring partner was a lot lighter than me so I thought he’d be a push over. None of my punches landed, my footwork was everywhere and I copped a beating. Not a hard beating, but it was a constant deluge that I could not move away from or see or defend. Second round I did not have the stamina to keep my hands up and copped more head shots.
When I got out the coach said “its hard in there isn’t it?”
Results – my pride was stripped, my respect for sport and other boxers grew and I became teachable.
So I think a short sink or swim can be good if the motives are right. Now I actually want to learn and take on board the advice of others and have learned that anyone can perfect (or hold their own) technique on bags and mitts in due course, but true boxing is a real skill. It is not like other sports that you can wing a game once you’ve learnt some rules or have other team members carry you while you develop.
But what you have written is really good advice. I have sparred numerous times now, I still suck but I am getting a little better each time.
I would also be interested to know if you think new people should focus on fitness and stamina before skills and technique or skills and technique first and then the fitness. Are there pros and cons to this?


Aidan December 14, 2014 at 4:53 am

Im 13 years of age and this christmas(uk) i will have been boxing for 2 years and ive recently been moved to the adult session as i am of a big frame//shoulder size//height and anyway i know sparring better people will only make you better and i can see significant progress in myself, anyways due to my height and size i tend to be a heavy hitter, walking them into the corner, taking the punches like a sponge and all that but one of my biggest flaws is speed and i was wondering if you have any thoughts on how to improve my speed specifically my dodging and hand speed
Many thanks mate


Leo masvidal January 31, 2015 at 11:24 pm

So , my names Leo . I’m 16.5 & I was getting picked on by the jocks at my school. They never hit me but they have come very close. I took up boxing to geometry defend myself against them in case of any situation. Anyway I sign up at our local gym and was doing ok. Right up until the instructor put me in the ring to spar.
I’ll admut I was nervous but I remembered what your post said and talked to my sparring partner before hand. The instructor told me to stop being a sissy. And assigned me to spar against another person. Before I could explain that this was obviously my first time and to try to slow things down just so I could get the hang of it. He rings the bell, and my opponent just starts wailing on me. Hard punch after Hard punch. I waited for the bell to ring. But that took way to long. Out of fear I threw a wild punch and it connected. I was able to knock my opponent to the floor, but when he got back up. I was terrified. My arms and hands were heavy, I couldn’t breath, itt was like being a dear on the head lights. He came at me and all I could do was watch. He threw the hardest punch possible and I don’t remember what it’s called but all I know is that when I was finally able to move and bury my face in my hands . My opponent went right under my guard and hit my chin so hard. Again stunned I layed on the floor and couldn’t do anything as my opponent sat there and began to step in my stomach until I was gasping for air. And the instructor just sat by and watched. I quit the gym. And have tried another gym and have had a way better experience then I did before.

Anyway did I make the right decision or was my last instructor right? That I should tuffen up and stop being a sissy?


HJ Zhang March 12, 2015 at 1:39 pm

Thank you , your article helps me a lot!, and make me feel better that I can continue my boxing
I had the second sparring with another newbie guy and he threw his punches very hard. I feel like I got nothing from that sparring session except trying to survive the round. Then, he complaint that I punched so light like a pussy. And when I get home, I lost all confidence about boxing.
Maybe next sparring, I have to choose another guy.


John Glenn April 1, 2015 at 9:59 pm

Hey, Johnny i just started boxing 6 months ago and so far i like it, i train 3-5 everyday for 5 days of the week, i been doing this for a month an last month i sparred for the first time i was scared,nervous, an shaky i felt scared an all the training i did i forgot so i tried to brawl but that didnt work he slipped most of my punches an i got tired an i lost but today i sparred for the second time an i felt terrified i didnt know why but i slipped more punches an i got better but i was holding back 70% i dont know what to do to avoid getting scared i dont mind being in the ring its just alot of stuff goes through my head an im always thinking an it messes me up can you tell me what i need to do? Im fixing to get a double end bag, would that help me?


raiden April 21, 2015 at 9:06 pm

hello coach,
It was a good article on sparring. I Need a help from u.
S during my mitts and heavy bag work i can throw my power
punches. But s soon s i came at sparring or real match
i failed to throw those punches, my punches became like
touching punch less power, unable to put body weight on
my strikes. Can u plz tell me the reason or advice for improvement


louis May 25, 2015 at 6:36 pm

Yellow Johnny,
I am boxing now for 6 months, together with my twin brother. Lots of years ago we did kung-fu. I did do sparring contents then. But now at the boxingclub there is a guy That always comes foreward headhunting with jabs and right hand direct combo’s. He always tries to run you down with hard shots, never punching relaxed making it a contest and is only focused on winning. The instructions given before the sparring
( keeping close and hit soft combinations for example) are forgotten as soon as the timer rings. My question is how to spar against Him? I am 68 kg, 1.76m, I’ve got power from weighttrainig. He’s 1.80m and 85Kg. I am stronger with the upperbody, but he has his weight comming forward together with the punching straight combo’s. He always does the same thing with slight variations on it. I had in mind asking the trainer to keep watching during sparring.
love your site, watching and reading we ever i can!
Green from Holland, Louis


louis May 25, 2015 at 6:44 pm

sorry for my typing must be; hello Jonny
greetings from Holland
love your site


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boji September 11, 2015 at 10:45 am

well jony can you give advice:I am still a beginer (i have 7 or 8 weaks training)but I realy try hard
I put 2 or 3 times much efort in training then the others and still when comes to sparing i feel like sandbag
the harder i fight the worst I got beat up i’m confused


DJ October 9, 2015 at 3:37 am

Yes, it happend to me also! ๐Ÿ™‚
I am training in this gym in Germany…and until yesterday (it was my sixth class) I was learning the basic stance, jab and a straight right to the head and body and how to hit the heavy bag…mainly in front of the mirror, on the bag and in the ring three different times punching the mitts and punching at the trainer as he was parrying.
What happend yesterday is that the trainer said now I should try to defend his counter 1-2’s after mines. And I started punching at him with 25% of the full power, eager and waiting to learn some defence at last. But he was throwing back a lot heavier. After a while I had to stop him and told him it is to early for me, and that I’ll him to break the defencive moves down for me, he showed me some block/parry kind a movement out of a high guard and started to punch at me again. By the time the second round came about I was getting tired not use seeing them punches coming at me and hard…started doing the ,,panic movements” you described…and he punched me then on the top of the head…and then feinted the left hook to the body and throwed it to the head, partially landed…I was laughing thinking on Maidana and Broner fight, and it goes deeper..he threw 1-2 -2 and landed the second right flush on the jaw…because I was slapping his punches away ans not keeping to my thight high guard. I just grinned at him, feeling happy that I took those punches, that was also something I did not know, if I can take it.
After the sparring I used the positive thinking techniques and made conclusions for the future…not slapping or evading…just keep to Winky Wright guard and learn how to counter out of that same guard. And also, I controlled myself, not going crazy and wild to give him back..but also think that in the panic-state I was not able to counter him at all,
An hour after I had a mild headache and felt that shot on top of the head deep in my neck somewhere and the left side of the jaw hurt also. The first class of defence. Should it go that way?
But yeah…what do you think about it?


menith rahul January 8, 2016 at 11:56 pm

This article has given me the confidence to take the classes! and the comments with their own experience is awesome as the article is!
thank you.


Stew April 1, 2016 at 10:25 pm

Fantastic article Johnny!! I can’t agree more with everything you say. I run a Muay Thai club and follow the same approach with all students. Very little can be learnt through hard sparring on a regular basis for both beginners and advanced. Fighter are unable to practice new skills or refine their preferred techniques whilst worrying about getting injured. Thanks again for the invaluable information.


Aj May 31, 2016 at 10:52 am

Hate this article. Lol reminds me of all the people who tell me sink or swim. I’m 30 years old I started late in this game but I love it. I can throw big shots, brawl and turn it into a fight but sometimes I just feel like I’m talking to a brick wall with sparring partners….even my younger bro who’s 20 and boxed from a young age gets happy beating me except when I take him to my other mate who’s been boxing 18 years and say sink or swim now….Lolll but young guys generally learn quicker too at this gym it takes me longer to learn new things (I feel like simple things are harder to make sense of sometimes I’m boxing) . I love being a technical brawler who boxes his way in then moves to the sides and around but sometimes I just turn into this shot for shot kinda guy.

Wish I started this game in my younger years, I think I could a been a champ because I understand the theory and even some the physical and mental side of it so well…and learning when your older without a coach is like tryna swim in the deep end when you can’t even swim.

But il carry on. I need to get into an amar it club and try find some good partners.


Triple B June 14, 2016 at 7:53 pm

Great article. I googled “Should sparing be full force while training.” It occurred to me that the Coach at my gym brings his students from another gym to beat up on less experienced fighters. I’ve been training since I was 12, and am now 36. Since I’m older, I’m a great deal slower and my stamina isn’t what it used to be either. That being said, my experience landed me in a fight with a evenly matched opponent according to weight and time in the ring. He started when he was 6 and was 17. His stamina and power were remarkable, but I noticed that he closed his eyes when giving his all. He is a registered amateur and I am not, but no matter. He came at me full force, and since I told our coach that I would not hit at 100% because I wanted to work on technique instead of anything else. However, I felt badly when my opponent came at me too strong. I got frustrated and began hitting back as hard as I could. In the end, neither of us learned anything, except that now I feel I must go in the ring next time and try to destroy the kid. I don’t like this idea. It seems to me that if he is doing this every day he will not make it to a professional career without brain damage. Please advise me. Also, how do I approach this subject with the Coach who told me before the “Sparring” match that my opponent shouldn’t be in the ring if he can’t take getting knocked out when ever he steps in the ring. I didn’t anticipate that he was that serious. I feel as though he is not looking out for his fighter, nor the sparring partners at my gym. What should I do?

Thank you for writing this article.


Cahoonas June 25, 2016 at 1:56 am

Lovely article, I find many clubs have amazing camaraderie between the rookies that have just trained together for some time, you get to see who spars with consideration and who are the loons, obviously asking upfront for slower and easier pace makes more sense. What we all as readers of this probably wish is that the loons and trainers that haven’t read it would just read it. Maybe someone should make a poster with basic sparring tips. But then I doubt those clubs would even give it wall space.
Well I love what you’ve written and love the sport. Well done. โšœ


Newbie July 11, 2016 at 4:32 pm

So, I had my first sparring session today….. I’ve been training for 5 1/2 months. I’m 37 years old, 6’4″, and 250 pounds. I’m probably a natural cruiserweight since the last time I was in pretty good shape, I was about 215 pounds still with a little chub. I started boxing to improve my body and I have always been fascinated with the sport.

Anyways, my first sparring session was against a guy with a 6″ height advantage (you read that right, that makes him 6’10” about 260-280 lbs) and probably at least the same in reach. He had obviously better skills and conditioning, but I didn’t ask how long he has been training.

My coach said we would work only straight punches for the first two rounds. The first round was the jab only and the second was the jab and straight rights. No uppercuts or hooks until round three.

It went about as well as can be expected considering the height, reach, skill, and conditioning disparity. I basically spent the entire first round blocking, slipping, or eating jabs while mine mostly fell short of their mark. I did get some body jabs and some to the face in. I was probably outlanded 2-3 to one by some stiff jabs. He was kind of machine gun punching and moving back the whole time.

Round 2 was a repeat of round one although now that I could use my right and set up combos (only jabs and straights), I was probably only outlanded 1.5-2 to 1. I was heavily winded after round 2 and decided to bow out of round 3 since I was sucking wind hard (I made the rookie mistake of tensing up and forgetting to breathe with my punches and while defending and all the slipping and bobbing took it outta me).

Coach said he wanted to work straight punches to work on my slipping, counter jab, head movement, etc. My whole idea was to slip the jab and close the distance and then unload hooks and uppers to the body. Didn’t make it there. Was I intentionally served up or is this a legitimate training method? Thinking back on it, it seems like rounds 1 and 2 were completely against my favor being the much shorter fighter with less reach. Anyone ever heard of this? What’s your take?

P.S. The other guy is a former pro athlete, but not in boxing. Now I really feel for Tyson Fury’s opponents…..


Johnny N July 11, 2016 at 5:16 pm

It’s a typical scenario. In boxing, it’s darn near impossible to find someone exactly your size, weight, height/reach, age, athleticism, skill, experience. There is always a mismatch of some sort and if you’re new to boxing, it always seems to be against you. Work hard, stay humble, and keep the sparring light until you can hold your own. You’ll improve much faster than you think and by the 6-month mark, you’ll feel like you can whoop anybody on the street.


Newbie July 12, 2016 at 11:27 am

Thank you for your reply Johnny and thank you for all the time you dedicate on your site! I have found it to be an invaluable source of knowledge. I just wanted to get some feedback because the situation seemed atypical from what I have heard or seen. Also, maybe my ego was a little bruised getting slapped around by the Klitschko’s bigger brother for a few rounds, but I am back to the gym today to work on what I have learned needs shoring up! Thanks again ๐Ÿ™‚


Boxing Fan July 24, 2016 at 9:54 am

This article has been a great read like all of them on this site. I boxed once a week for about 6 months before my first spar. That was the beginner class stage where you work with an instructor on the pads and he concentrates on teaching you proper punching technique basic blocking/ covering while throwing shots and a big emphasize on breathing. At that stage in training you arent aloud to spar you dont even see it in class. The closest you get is a few mins ring time with an instructor who doesnt hit you but only holds the pads and gets you use to being in a ring with someone and moving about. Its surprising how differnt it is hitting pads in a ring compared to on the matts its a totally differnt feeling. Then progressed to the intermediate class and the training went up a notch. Sparring is going on in the background and you work much harder on heavy bags etc. One of the more experienced boxers approached me about a spar and i jumped at the chance, i couldnt wait i was so excited its unreal i just couldnt wait to get in there id planned everything in my mind and i knew what i was going to do… so i thought ๐Ÿ™‚
I asked about the terms of the spar before going in there so i knew what he was expecting and he said i could just go after him and he would work on his movement dodging and blocking. So round 1 and were off i threw a few jabs done some tricky movement then cased him down and threw some nice combinations, one of them in particular i opened his guard and threw a shot to his ribs and he nodded to me for that.Its worth mentioning that although i created the opening i didant hit him hard there. Probably 25% power just so he knew id got him ,i could see he was making an effort to bring me on as a fighter so i didant want to try and hurt him, i decided before we fought i would only hit with 25% power on any punch unless he hit me with something harder. We carried on like that for abit then i felt a thud… hed given me a jab back. As obvious as it sounds what a game changer it is wen all of a sudden you cant take any risk you like cos your going to get punished it certainly slows you down abit lol. We did three rounds and it was a great experience i landed a few good shots and he caught me with a few solid jabs and seemed to easily navigate my guard, at the end of it i was exhilerated to have experienced that its one of the best feelings i can remember, i felt like i had done well and he said he enjoyed the spar but hed given me a few things to think about for sure. I respect him for that. At this point i can symphasize with anyone who has had a differnt experience, for my first spar i would have got in the ring with anyone, anyone atall but you just dont know until your in there how outclassed you will be by a better more experienced boxer. Cos as it turns out my sparring partner used his jab and his jab alone to keep me at bay for the 2nd and 3rd round of the spar. I couldnt believe it i hadnt even noticed.


Johnny N July 25, 2016 at 10:49 am

Great share, I wish all beginners had your experience. The common one is for beginners to get absolutely destroyed by the wolves.


Rob Charteris July 25, 2016 at 12:23 am

Such a lot of true things said. Slow sparring has to be the best way to learn and most importantly it doesn’t teach you how to pull punches. Fast light sparring or semi contact is detrimental to fighting and I have personally seen people used to semi contact pull punches in a street fight because this is how their muscle memory was trained. Much better to train contact and take the force out by controling speed than focus punches on the surface.


. September 26, 2016 at 11:25 am

can you do it with a friend instead of someone else ?


Abhinav December 20, 2016 at 3:13 pm

I find your article pretty good for the techniques which I can, maybe when I do Spar session again, put in use.
I have been learning boxing since 2 months and most of the time it’s cardio and then boxsack.. so in order to put the combinations and different things I have been learning, I decided to go for sparring. Although this didn’t end up the way I wished. The people in the ring have been learning boxing for over 9/10 months and been involved in sparring sessions before. I could make it out with their techniques and movements. After 3 30 secs rounds with different partner and getting hit( which is pretty normal), I quit the session. Since i felt like i can’t learn anything because these guys already are in advanced stage in comparison to me( beginner). And at this point I guess your statement about staying in comfort level totally fits. I m keen in learning and improving myself, and wished therefore for a slow session, I hope the trainer helps me learn the techniques of throwing punches ducking, countering in the next session. It is somehow is very unfortunate that the trainer believes in feeding the stronger.


Johnny N December 21, 2016 at 10:38 am

I’m sorry to hear about that, man. Also guys that are around the one-year mark are not often skilled enough to have control. Maybe could help to spar with even more experienced guys (like 5 years) and they will be able to go easy on you to help you learn.


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