Boxing Terms

A Nearly Complete Collection Of Boxing Terms

Take a few boxing lessons and you'll quickly pick up the basic boxing terms, some of which describe types of punches, some of which describe strategy or technique, and some of which fall into the category of slang.



As far as boxing terms for the different punches are concerned. The basic punches are the jab, the hook, the straight right or straight left, and the uppercut.

The jab is the most used punch in a boxing match unless both contestants are brawlers or infighters. The jab is delivered from the chin on a straight line to the target, the target usually being the opponents head. While a stiff jab could be considered a power punch, most jabs are delivered either to keep an opponent from coming in to close, to upset an opponents timing, or as the lead punch of a combination. A combination is a sequence of punches, usually mastered during training, consisting of something like a jab, hook, straight, or two jabs followed by a power punch. The purpose of a combination is to deliver two or more punches in rapid succession, not giving the opponent time to set up a defense, or to counterpunch.

A soft jab is sometimes called a pitty-pat punch and may be used in amateur bouts where landing punches pile up points even though the punches do little damage. Some boxers rely almost exclusively on the jab, hoping to outlast an opponent to the point where power punches can be used in later rounds. Throwing soft jabs is often referred to as pawing.

Two other punches are the bolo punch, an exaggerated uppercut, which can be effective though often used more for show, and the haymaker, a powerful punch which is easily telegraphed and usually gives the other boxer ample time to block, evade, or counterpunch.

When two fighters are fighting at very close range they are infighting. In infighting, hooks and uppercuts are the main punches thrown, jabs and straight rights or lefts tend to be less effective, if possible at all. Some fighters prefer infighting, while others prefer to box at distance where the jabs and straight punches are more effective.

A counterpunch is a punch thrown in response to an opponents punch and is usually thrown the instant the initial punch is avoided or blocked, an instant in time where the opponents defense are weakest. Boxers who prefer infighting need to be effective counterpunchers to succeed.

Fighting toe-to-toe could be considered infighting, but the term is more commonly used when two boxers are face to face at close range and neither is willing to back off or yield. Toe-to-toe fighting can quickly degenerate in to a slug fest where technique sometimes goes out the window. Such slug fests can be quite exciting and entertaining.  A slug fest which lasts for several rounds, or a fight where there is plenty of action, and perhaps a few knockdowns by both boxers is called a barnburner.

Another name for a right handed fighter is an orthodox fighter. A left handed fighter, or "lefty" is called an unorthodox fighter, or a southpaw (a term having its origins in baseball). Most fighters are right handed and most do not like facing a left handed or unorthodox fighter as everything that's been taught appears to be happening as a mirror image.

In a long bout, a good boxer will often rely heavily on body punches, usually hooks to the rib area, with the goal of wearing the opponent down and causing enough pain to make the opponent drop his guard. While the knockout punch to the head is exciting, it is often preliminary punching to the body that makes a knockout punch possible.

Some fighters use a peek-a-boo defensive strategy or a strategy of going into a shell, absorbing punches to the upper head and shoulders which cause little in the way of damage and serve to tire the opponent out. Floyd Patterson and a few others excelled at the peek-a-boo strategy while Muhammad Ali was the master at forming a protective shell with his rope-a-dope strategy.


Boxers do their thing in a ring, which obviously isn't in the shape of a ring. In the early days of boxing, bouts were held out of doors, often in the nearest cow pasture, and the spectators crowded around the fighters in a ring. Exactly when the ring became a square, and whose idea it was, isn't certain. In the modern boxing ring, each fighter has his own assigned corner, where he's attended to by his cornerman between rounds. The other two corners are called neutral corners. If a fighter knocks his opponent down, the fighter must go to a neutral corner before the referee can begin the count.

The glory days of boxing were more than likely the years from the 1920's through the 1950's where title bouts were broadcast on the radio, and there were also fights broadcast every Friday night. The announcers could describe practically every punch, and could make even the dullest boxing match somehow seem exciting.