How To Fight Tired

August 19, 2010 August 19, 2010 by Johnny N Boxing Training, Mental Training 30 Comments

Every fighter faces total exhaustion in the ring someday. Instead of panicking and getting beat up, you can learn how to fight tired and box your way through exhaustion.

How To Fight Tired

Fighting tired is one of the toughest challenges boxers ever have to deal with. The challenge is more mental than anything. You can train your hardest everyday of the week and somehow still manage to get tired in the ring. It’s discouraging and psychologically damaging to get tired in the ring and know that you might not have enough energy to keep your opponent from beating you.

So what does it take to keep your mind mentally strong and carry you through the body when your body has failed? Read on for some training and fighting tips to help you fight tired.


Stare Your Opponent Down

I see beginner boxers looking away all the time when they get tired. I’ve seen it happen in the ring and also on the heavy bag. The boxer gets tired and starts to become disengaged. His body language tells you he’s discouraged. The first sign of the boxer becoming disengaged in fighting is when he starts to take his eyes off his opponent. He starts to look away from his opponent and maybe towards his corner, spectators, or the clock. For whatever reason, the boxer looks away from his opponent and shows a lack of focus or interest in fighting.

So what should you do when you’re the one getting tired? Stare down your opponent. Look at him with focus. If you get tired while hitting the punching bag and you’re just moving around it to kill time, don’t look away from it. Focus hard and stare down the bag just like you would with a live opponent in the ring. Stare him down with the intent of hitting him! Let him know that you may be tired but you’re still definitely willing to fight. It’s ok to tired physically, just don’t get tired mentally!


Walk Don’t Run

This tip should be obvious but for some reason many fighters haven’t caught on to yet. Whenever you’re tired, don’t run or jump around the ring looking for an escape. If you run from your opponent, he’s definitely going to chase you and tire you out faster because now you have to run even faster. It’s ironic but many inexperienced fighters actually speed up the pace when they panic and waste even more energy trying not to exchange punches. Instead, you should just calmly walk around the ring. It slows down the pace, relaxes your legs and allows you to catch your breath.

If you’re real clever about it, you can walk slowly around the ring while staring at your opponent and act as if you’re trying to bait him into a big counter-punch. If you’re lucky, he’ll fall for it and back off of you to see what you’re going to do. It’s an awesome tactic that has saved me from time to time.


Throw Some Feints

If you don’t have the energy to throw punches but you want put your opponent on the defensive, just throw some feints. You can use a hand fake by quickly shooting your jab arm forward a few inches or pulling back the right hand as if you were going throw a big right cross. You can use a foot fake by quickly stepping towards his ground and making him jerk backwards in surprise. You can also exhale quickly as though you were throwing a hard punch. The best times to feint are when both of you are standing toe to toe in the middle of the ring each waiting for the other to strike first, or when your opponent is punching you. A clever feint can scare him and make him jump back in fear of being countered. The top level professionals are masters at using their body language to fake out their opponents. If you don’t have energy to commit to real movements, throwing feints are a good way to get your opponent off you.


Final Thoughts On Fighting Tired

The sport of boxing is forever characterized by endurance and exhaustion. To ever be a good boxer, you will have to eventually face the challenge of fighting beyond your limits. Your body will be pushed beyond a point of exhaustion you never thought was possible. Spiritually, you must have the heart to dig deep inside yourself and find energy you no longer have. Technically, you must find ways to fight without exerting energy. If you can do this, you will have successfully learn how to fight when you are tired.

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nev August 25, 2010 at 12:31 am

Any specifics on going on the offensive while tired at all, feints & general conservation are great but any tips on striking while tired (if exists) would be helpful too


larry November 16, 2011 at 10:48 am



tony August 25, 2010 at 5:26 am

hi nev. i want to give your my opinion,based on my experience.
the thing to many people does when they are fighting tired,are running like theyre crazy around the ring,to stay away from their opponents,because they get stressed,and are afraid to get knocked out,and it also just takes what you have left of energy in your body,and your legs…. the best thing you do,is to make shour that you take control of your brathing.hold your guard UP.and when you move,you want to take short steps.if you take long steps you will be twice as slow on your feets,and so on.. so make short steps,breath,and stay calm.and block punches with your guard. and try to just let your hands go nice and smooth.dont try to throw power punches,and dont try to hit as fast as you can ether.if you stay relaxed,and just let your hands go,the punches will still be fast and hard. the biggest thing that makes a boxer get xtra tired,when they are allredy tired,is that they throw punches with all the energy they dont have..hope this helps you.and its really not a spesific punch you want tho trow when your tired.just make shour thath you let your hands go when u see a opening,and dont just throw punches thath you think will land. hope it helps you..tony


Johnny N August 25, 2010 at 2:40 pm

fighting back when you’re tired
I’ve seen some coaches that will suggest for you to start throwing single punches at a time. To me if you want to go on the offensive, try to walk him down with a high guard. You have to bait him into throwing combinations at you. He probably is since you’re tired and so you just have to land some counter-punches. Running away will not work unless you have a long jab and he’s afraid of your power. You also need to mix in lots of feints. So that you’re able to scare him without wasting any energy by throwing real punches. Feints will buy you time and the moment he doesn’t take you seriously, you can land a big shot and make him cautious again.

Another thing you should do when getting tired is to just close the distance. On the inside, you don’t have to worry about him moving around too much and making you miss and tire out even more. At the same time, because both of you are close the punches he lands on you will be less painful.


Ilyas Sanchez May 14, 2015 at 12:37 am

I’m fighting on Sunday , so reading this with interest , took this fight on 4 days notice and at 2 weight divisions below my usual.


nev August 28, 2010 at 6:42 am

Thanks heaps tony & johnny, sounds like in general its best to go into counter-punching/self defence mode, definitely appreciate the specific pointers will keep them in mind


Jess February 17, 2011 at 7:46 am

Controll the Ring
Something I always found useful when I was boxing and something I stress as a coach is control of the ring. If you get tired try to control the centre of the ring. If you can control the centre you control the pace of the fight. If you can get the centre you can save your energy by making your opponent move around you. All you have to do is stay relaxed, turn in a tight circle and be ready to counter punch.


Johnny N February 17, 2011 at 12:56 pm

@Jess – very solid tip. Definitely one of boxing’s most basic commandments! Gotta fight those guys matador-style!


medilo April 7, 2011 at 2:06 am

laban ng laban
fight till the end……..


MARIO G. May 11, 2011 at 7:13 am

my name is MARIO, i have around 3 months training boxing , i like it a lot but i am also a big fan of bodybuiling and i just want to know if will be ok to combine 1 hour of training in the weight room and another one of boxing?? i love both of the sports but boxing really motivates me to train harder, hope i get a good suggestion from you!!!



Johnny N May 12, 2011 at 10:54 am

@MARIO G – I’m a huge advocate of not lifting heavyweights or doing any bodybuilding if you’re going to do boxing training. If you want to improve your boxing performance, you’ll stop lifting weights immediately and stick to boxing-related exercises. If you feel that the weight lifting doesn’t affect your boxing negatively, then just keep it up. Sooner or later though, you will have to train more like a boxer if you want to become a really good boxer. 1 hour of weights + 1 hour of boxing is intense! You’re a monster!


Jeni July 9, 2011 at 1:30 am

Boxing vs Bodybuilding @Mario
Hey Mario G~ You really do not want to gain significant overall muscle mass if you intend on boxing. Like you, I have tried to do both, and various combinations of both, and it’s not as if the training itself in terms of ‘hours” was too much, it was that found it a challenge to work towards two oppositional goals simultaneously. If you look at any pro-bodybuilder you’ll see a physique that is a beautiful ‘form” but it lacks function.Training like a bodybuilder is about working towards an aesthetics-based goal. However, boxing is 100% function. Speed, power, endurance…all the things Johnny talks about in this website.
If you have to incorporate weights into your boxing workout, focus on muscular endurance training. There appears to be no general consensus on the weight training/boxing issue, but I’m guessing that if you personally define your overall goals more clearly, you may reach a conclusion that the journey towards “bodybuilder” and the journey to become a boxer require two separate roads. GOOD LUCK!! 😀


polute August 26, 2011 at 7:44 pm

I did 3 rounds on the mitts and then I had two rounds of sparring today. First spar I’ve had all year. I was sooooo puffed out. I could see gaps in his defense but couldn’t get my body to do what I wanted because I was so tired. After each round, I took a knee and was breathing heavily. What’s a good workout routine for getting fit in the ring?


Johnny N August 27, 2011 at 9:55 am

@polute – have you tried the EASY Boxing Workout yet?


curtis c January 6, 2012 at 3:56 am

stare down? I’ve heard of Joe Frazier, Sonny Liston and Mike Tyson do this during weigh in’s and the ref’s instructions. So giving my opponent the devils glare will improve my fighting game? But would it help my stamina ? And wouldn’t this contribute to beating a opponent with psycology too?


Joe January 30, 2012 at 2:26 am

I have a question if someone would pls help me with this…
How do you know when a fighter is knocked out on his feet??
I’ve heard a fighter is unresponsive when their knocked out but could it just be exhaustion that’s keeping him from being responsive??


Johnny N January 30, 2012 at 10:39 am

Being unresponsive is one way to know. You can tell he’s out on his feet if he looks a bit dazed and/or doesn’t seem to be paying attention to the fight. Exhaustion doesn’t make you dazed.


Joe January 30, 2012 at 2:31 am

For example, How many of you have seen this movie called “48 hours” w/Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy?
There’s a fight scene between them where at the end of the fight scene, eddie murphy is getting punched 4 or 5 times in a row and appears to be too tired to punch back…or is he knocked out on his feet?


saber khan January 30, 2012 at 5:08 am

a guy who’s knocked out will not respond to anything sensiby, then wont know where the opponent is sometimes, and his legs will be wobbly and look like they are drunk..a guy who’s tired, will not have his legs wobble though they commonly may fall when trying to throw a big punch. guys who are tired will be breathing with the mouth open and stand with knees straight, may even toss away the boxing stance. they wont punch and may not be able to hold up their guard, but they can hold themselves upright.

among the pros who train for consistency like crazy, it’s impossible to tell a guy who’s knocked out from one who’s tired because muscle memory just makes them stay in the right stance even when theyre in disneyland upstairs. only way to tell is looking at their eyes and seeing if they are focused or looking into the distance (which refs and ringside docs do)

the best way to fight tired is to spar when extremely tired, get used to that feeling. adding this to the end of very heavy boxing workouts makes a huge difference. starting with doing shadowboxing for 3 round when absolutely dead tired with 30 sec short breaks. then defensive mittwork 3 rounds with 30 sec breaks, then counterpunching mittwork, and finally sparring with your trainer using methods like johny’s.

move slowly keep at least one glove up (depending on other guy’s power hand), use shoulder defense, keep eyes focused, dont breathe thru the mouth (its a DEAD giveaway and will invite oppoents to attack). try and counterpunch and if you do want (or have any energy to) throw lead punches throw at the body. it takes far far less punching power to hurt someone in the body than it takes to hurt them in the head unless they are glass chinned. do not ever let someone counterpunch you when tired, which is what skilled smart fighters will do (if youre tired but not hurt). feint, but throw punches as well. clinch clinch clinch hold behind the head use a few elbows, stay away from slipping rolling. pivot instead of moving in angles.

and my favorite method when tired was to turn southpaw and try to get the opponent to beat me in the front foot outside war. many many many fighters probably most think the right hand is the only weapon against a southpaw but that’s dead wrong. still since they think so you only have to worry about one hand this way, mainly anyway. it’s a different look and makes many guys uncomfortable. their footwork slows down. in southpaw stance you can see the right coming far better and land quick right hooks of your own. the modification to make is to right hook in a 20 degree curve so theyre going up to down like the reverse of a shovel hook. that clears the left shoulder of the opponent and is much faster and easier to land than his left hand. if he doesnt do the same with his left hook you can defend against him all the time by shouldering and rolling with his punches. and to stop his right hand, simply keep one hand up, counterpunch with right jabs and hooks and feint feint feint.

most important, dont get into a foot outside war, dont try to cut him off just backfoot pivot with him. it takes far less energy and prevents an opponent from getting the advantage. most orthos never face southpaws who do this because southpaws are always trying to emphasise their left cross. as an aggressive mid-inside fighter i myself had a hell of a time against southpaws who weren’t looking to be aggressive and moved to their left rather than my left. they were moving away from the left hook making it easy for them to rolling with it and i cant get an angle advantage against them. the only way to get an advantage was to feint them into moving to my right and then throwing a lead right.

if someone’s out, it’s just training and luck that helps them. being KO’d cold once myself i can tell you there’s nothing you can do about it, i didnt remember anything from the 2nd round to when i woke up. it was a KO4. ive heard muscle memory helps but its never been tested. id say clinch and pray silently and keep trying to find your opponent. and have a good cornerman who will stop the fight if you have no chance of winning life is more than a single bout


Gil February 3, 2012 at 9:39 am

@ Mario..I know your post is a year old, but I wan’t to stress again what Johnny mentioned about heavy weights. As someone who did both bodybuilding and powerlifting, I swore I would never stop lifting weights. I have learned, through experience that heavy weights and boxing don’t mix, and that is just my own opinion. You have to remember that the larger your muscles are, more oxygen will be required to supply them, thus tiring you out quicker in the ring. That hour you spend lifting could be dedicated to working on your skills, shadowboxing, etc.

Save for some light dumbell presses and movements with hand weights, I do mostly bodyweight excercises and in a fast manner. They are more natural and easier on your joints, unlike heavy weights. If you still want to lift, simply use super light weights for high reps and steer clear of isolation excercises. Just my .02


Johnny N February 4, 2012 at 3:49 pm

THANK YOU, GIL! Help me spread the truth.


rei January 10, 2013 at 8:31 pm

one of the strategies i employ when tired are:

1.) falling into my punches. i give out a big hook punch and just dive into my opponent. sometimes i eat a body shot… but its a lot better than getting combinations landed on me

2.) put both of my hands down ala kickboxing champ, rey sefo, and stare at my opponent hard, hiding signs of exhaustion. this usually makes the opponent cautious and its enough to give you breathing room, sometimes he makes mistakes too. it is however, very risky, especially if the opponent is very confident

for the most part though, when you get yourself that tired, you are gonna get beaten up lol …


Lightsout May 6, 2013 at 6:03 am

If you want to be a good boxer,

Watch “JAMES TONEY” he is the perfect practitioner, period..


Johnny N May 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm

He’s one of my favorites!


Thivanka Perera December 12, 2013 at 7:21 am

“Spiritually, you must have the heart to dig deep inside yourself and find energy you no longer have.” Great line, and so true. Will keep this in mind!


Sff August 12, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Hi Nev, i have recently come back to boxing after an 18 month absence, everything is going well and im pretty close to competing again but my upper body is to stiff, im a inside pressure boxer and need to have good upper body movement to slip punches, what advice would you give?


Johnny N October 15, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Read my articles on slipping.


rajakarthick August 31, 2015 at 3:32 am

hai johonny your article is excellant


Aj June 24, 2016 at 4:44 am

Slipping is an on itself, where’s this article. I just need to spend more time on the slip bag. Slipping with hands up abit harder too…especially if your tryna move forward. Bending at the legs constantly is ALOT of effort. Some people emphasise too much on…I might aswell sit down lol even when slipping you get guys tryna throw low shots hoping youl slip down into em but sometimes you just gotta slip/duck right under those too. Getting punched on shoulders is a good way to control opponents too if they are evasive


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