To an average person, boxing may just look like two guys hitting each other. The reality though, is that boxing is a beautiful and complex sport with man intricacies. It is a violent chess match where moves must be made in split-second calculations. Its a mental battle, and a physical one, its an art and a science.
Boxing often gets left out of the martial arts discussion due to the perception of its limited nature, and mistakenly so. In fact, boxing is one of the martial arts that has the most to offer in terms of a variety of styles. Over the centuries that boxing has evolved, so have the fighters and the styles they use to beat and bewilder their opponents. In this article, were going to dive into the different types of boxing styles, what fighters have used them successfully, and how to beat each style.
The Different Boxing Styles
Styles make fights, but if youre going to be a successful boxer, then you want to make sure you are able to fight every style out there. Let everyone else get caught up in the pattern of a style that they are comfortable in. What you want to know is master a bit of each style on top of your own, in order to be able to change the pace and rhythm of the fight depending on the style of your opponent. Youll have to know how to fight pressure fighters and how to fight defensive fighters.
In this breakdown though, we will go beyond the typical defensive and offensive fighters. Because each of those have many different styles within them. What we will do is discuss the actual style, rather than its goal, and talk about how to beat these opponents that follow these styles.
Traditional (Textbook) Style
The traditional boxing stance is what you will learn at first, and many fighters learn to use it for the remainder of their career and master it. This truly is one of the most risk-free styles out there without compromising offense. It is truly a superior boxing style that is well balanced. Some boxers who epitomized this are Miguel Cotto, Tito Trinidad, and Ceasar Chavez Sr.
The pro of this style is it makes defense easier and makes it hard for you to get caught off balance. The downfall is it makes it much harder to explode if youre really trying to put someone out. Because everything is balanced, it makes it harder to use momentums of counters and shift the level of power or speed you deliver. However, that doesnt mean you cant deliver fast knockout blows, it just doesnt allow for too much flexibility due to its reserved nature.
How to Fight a Textbook Boxer
The best way to fight a traditional fighter is to do non-traditional things. A lot of boxers usually fight their style better than other styles, because they know how it operates from the inside out. With traditional fighters, you want to do things that are outside the box.
As an example, after the right hook, most boxers expect you to throw your left next to or get out of the way. Instead, throw two right hooks and watch the second one land every time. IT will be too late to adjust their habits at this point.
Look for other things to do like throw punches in unorthodox angles and put them off balance (literally) in order to make them uncomfortable and incertain in their defense. Get close, push them around, and make it rough.
Another good thing to do is to bait them into opening up. Plant yourself on the ropes purposely and see what they do the first time. Look for the holes, and the second time you go on the ropes, take advantage of them.
Philly Shell Boxing Style
Made popular by a young James Toney, and made famous by Floyd Mayweather, the Philly shell is a very effective style for the defensive-minded fighter and counter puncher. It allows you to cover your chin with one shoulder and your power hand while allowing your lead hand to cover your body, and stay out of the line of sight for trickier and harder to predict up jabs.
Its one of the best styles for counter punchers because it allows for laser-like precision without the anxiety of getting hit. Its very compact so you can focus on counters without worrying too much about getting hit. It makes slipping and sliding away from punches super easy if you get good at it, the problem is that its efficiency takes away how much you can put into your punches. Whereas the traditional stance is a good balance of defense over offense, the Philly shell is very much a defensive-minded stance and can take away from your offense. This is why its only a part of Mayweathers or Toneys arsenal.
How to Fight a Philly Shell Fighter
The philly shell is a very hard style to fight because they give very little openings and only open up when you open up for a counter. Because of this it can be a game of cat and mouse depending on what strategy you want to take.
The first way is to get really close and get rough with them. Youre going to have to set shots up by doing pattern combos 3-6 times in a row and then randomly switching it up. For example, you want to shoot the right hook over the top, then left hook the body. Keep throwing this combo back to back while youre on the inside. Once you notice theyre brushing off the shots good, you know they are getting conditioned to that combo, that’s when you want to throw that same right hook, but this time come up with the left uppercut to the head or the left hook to the head. You want to keep setting up different shots in this manner on the inside, being really aggressive and frustrating them into trying to get you off of them by opening up, and countering them in the process.
The other strategy is to play a patient game of chess and make your punches count. This takes intuitiveness and boxing smarts to pull off. Basically what you will be doing is a lot of quick strikes and feints to determine how they react to you throwing certain punches. For example, if you notice they are shooting the right over your jab, or doing a pull counter over your jab, then youve got the perfect setup for an overhand. Keep getting coutnreed and sliding the jab off, then step short on the jab and shoot the overhand right down the middle before the jab is extended all the way. This way you catch them right at the moment they shoot the right. To see an example of this watch the last five seconds of round 3 in Maidana vs Mayweather 2.
Peekaboo Boxing Style
If you noticed that I mentioned Mike Tyson more than anyone else in this book, you knew I was going to cover this eventually. The peekaboo is a style developed by Cus DAmato and is not a style that is built for everyone. If I have to be honest, it almost seems like it was made for someone like Mike Tyson. A short, but strong guy, who can pack a punch. The peekaboo is definitely for the offensive-minded pressure fighter, but one who looks to take minimal damage on the way in.
In a phrase, its counter punching offensive strategy. The stance can look similar to the traditional; stance, except shoulders and hands, are higher with a slight lean forward and more bounce on your toes and knees.
The goal is to pressure your opponent with high intensity, forcing them to throw a punch into a counterpunching opportunity for you as you are already on the way in. Its the perfect style for shorter fighters because, with shorter fighters, there are two moves for you to land a punch against a taller opponent. The step in and then the punch, which is easier for a taller man to see coming. With the peekaboo style, it constantly puts them in a retreat mindset and puts you a step in, forcing them to commit and opening them up for a powerful blow.
The downfall of this style is that it is a very taxing style. It can gas you out fast so you will need to be in tremendous shape. It also constantly puts you in the line of fire so you have to perfect it in the gym in order to avoid paying the price.
Ricky Hatton is the only other fighter whos done it well outside of Mike.
How to Fight a Peekaboo Fighter
Most guys that do the peekaboo are confident in their power and their chins. What you want to do is to steal their condense in regards to other aspects of their game early. FRustration will be the name of the game here. Make them miss, make them pay constantly in order to steal their momentum early in the fight. These guys thrive off momentum, theyve got the personalities of freight trains and just want to break everything in their path. Your job is to kill that momentum.
What most fighters do when their opponent charges at them is get on their bicycle and start running backwards, matching their momentum in the opposite direction. What youre doing is falling right in their trap. They will force you to throw a punch off balance, and be able to move much faster forward then you can move backward, and boom, one good connection and youre off your game.
The worst case for these guys is a brick wall. Stop them in their tracks by stepping into them and smothering them. This may sound counterintuitive, but you want to meet them on the inside, land a few good blows and send them on their back foot. They will fight hard to change the momentum to a forward path, your job is to keep smothering them. Put your guard up high and smother them as soon as you see them ready to throw, countering them on the inside and pushing the back. Do this the entire fight and watch them wear out mentally and not be able to fight their way. Your hard opponent will turn to a regular one at best.
The Mongoose Boxing Style
The Mongoose is a well-balanced style, leaning towards defense slightly. A few modern fighters have used this style successfully like Terrence Crawford (sometimes) and Andre Ward to name a few. You can tweak it to be more offensive or more defensive simply by shifting focus but what it does is create good opportunities for you by distorting the opponents range. You put your hands out in front of you slightly more than the traditional style. This creates an illusion of being closer to hit then you are. Then when your opponent overextends, your hands are right there for the counter, without your head being in the range of their punch.
The mongoose is one of the few animals that can deal with a snake’s speed and outfight it as a result. This is why I call this style the mongoose because it is one of the best styles to deal with fast fighters. The distance management and the smoke and mirrors effect of messing with that distance for your opponent makes their speed stop short and creates opportunities for you to observe that speed without it having to hit your face. The downfall here is its hard to really put it all into the punch, but like with any defensive style, a good accurate shot can put anyone out.
How to Fight the Mongoose Fighter
The Mongoose is very much like the Philly Shell, they want to keep you at a punching distance and pick you apart. They also keep their hands closer to you so that you misread the distance and try to get to them and miss, and theyre right there to pick you apart. What you want to do is be the guy that lifts the curtain on the illusion by getting up close and elminiting their advantage of having better distance management.
Another way to beat them is to bait them. Let them shoot the punches first and work on cutting their combinations off.
The most successful way to beat them will be combinations that involve 3 or more punches. They are working parrying and countering. If you come with fast combinations, they will try to block it but eventually will be overwhelmed and try to cover up or counter, and thats where you can find your opening.
The Roy Jones Boxing Style
Roy has many styles, but what he is best known for is having his hands down, with his right hand slightly up but still below the chin and relying mostly on head movement to do the work for him in terms of defenses. He was so fast that he would blind you with his speed and isnt worried about coming back at him because even if you did throw, you couldnt see where you were throwing and he would just use his insane reflexes to get out of the way. A few other fighters did this on occasion but very few did it as consistently as Roy, the only other fighters that come to mind are Nassem Hamed and Sweet Pea Whitaker.
This style has a huge upside to put you in a counterpunching position because it invites the opponent to swing on you. To most opponents, this is a sign that youre defenseless. This is the perfect style to practice intercepting counters. However, this styles biggest downside is that it takes years to master before you can do it without a big risk of getting knocked out. Offensively, it has a huge advantage because the relaxation will increase both your speed and power.
How to Fight the Roy Jones Fighting Style
Theres a 99.9% chance that if a guy comes out with his hands down he has ridiculous speed. So the last thing you want to do is to take the bait and think that if his hands are down youre going to knock his block off, because youd be falling right into this guys trap. Instead what you want to do is to jab them to the chest, hit them in the shoulders, go to the body often and throw off their rhythm. After youve got them off balance just a few times, then you can start feinting a ton to see how they are reacting to your punches. The reason you want to wait to feint is to give them something to worry about. Continue doing work to their torso and let them dip and slide left and right while you learn their timing. Eventually you will be able to know exactly where they are headed after you throw certain punches.
Baiting them into a counter also works well because its hard to move your head mid combo, so that is when you want to catch them. You also want to work on punch delays. Rather than throw the one-two, throw the one, feint the two to see where they move their head, and finish it in the direction they are going.
The Window Boxing Style
This was the first style I learned to fight with. Any time we started taking too much damage in the ring, our coach would yell window!!!! and it was an automatic reminder to reset, and all of a sudden the punches would be hard to sneak in and wed be clear of the opponents defense. Much like the mongoose, this style creates the illusion of you being closer, but here you put your palms out forward, which makes it easier to quicker parry your opponents punches and counter them.
Like any defensive style, this doesnt allow you to really put all the mustard you have on your shots. Ive put down quite a few opponents using it, but its harder to get maximum capacity. However, it does help you be more accurate, which is all you really need to stop someone. The closest thing in the professional circuit that I saw to this style is Oscar Delahoya in his prime and Roy Jones Jr when he puts his hands up.
How to Fight the Window Boxing Style
Fighting a traditional boxing fight is the way to go against guys who do the window. They are literally looking at the window, like snipers, waiting for you to pop up with a mistake, and then they will shoot to precision. They are not combination punchers for the most part but look to land the perfect one or two shots. They are capable of combos, but will most likely not throw them in the center of the ring.
The reason you want to go traditional against them, is because that would leave the least room for mistakes for them to counter.
As you do this, youre going to want to faint a lot of straight punches and turn them into hooks, as they will try to take the straight. Think of the way Maidana threw a jab to the body at Broner that turned into a left hook to the head on the way and knocked him down. Thats the kind of stuff you will want to do with style while staying tight
Rollie Pollie Boxing Style
Rather than try to explain this one visually, Ill just say this: Heavyweight James Toney. Despite the name, you dont have to be round or heavy to implement this style. In fact, Canelo Alvarez often uses this. All this is is a style that doesnt use too much footwork, but relies on torso movement for defense where it almost looks like the torso is on a swivel. This styles biggest advantage is the leverage it gives you on your shots and the ability to focus on heavy movement by eliminating the focus and energy on using your legs too much.
The downfall is you have almost no footspeed, so its better suited against an opponent that doesnt fight on their backfoot too much but rather come and get you.
How to Fight the Rollie Pollie
Since the weakness is footwork, the biggest thing here will be creating angles with your feet and head movement. Think of Lomachenko and Manny PAcqiou as they circle their opponents mid combination.
You will want to turn these guys constantly and not give them a straight line to shoot at. What theyre looking for is to get you to commit and shoot straights, hook and uppercuts down the line. Never throw more than two pouches before getting out of the way or creating angles because that’s the game these guys play.
They want you to believe that they are stationary targets in order to catch you mid-combo. They are extremely good at getting in between shots and are master pot shotters. Pounce in and out constantly never settling in as they will beat you at that game.
The Brawler Boxing Style
Brawlers usually have one thing on their mind, and that is to take one and give one, or rather, give the illusion of trying to take one while they dish out punishment. This is usually the style of fighters that know they are going to be the harder puncher in the ring 100% of the time. Guys that come to mind first are guys like Arturo Gatti and Joe Frazier. With these guys you will usually find their hands are slightly below their chin or at their chest, pressing forward with head movement, getting ready to clock you by confusing you with side to side movement. Jack Dempsey was the first one to really master this.
The downfall is that this is too offensive-minded of a style. It puts you in a position to exchange, and if you are the harder puncher that may be good for you, only if you can draw the other guy out into a firefight. However, if you cant then you may get picked apart with potshots.
How to Fight Brawler Fighting Style
If youre going to fight a brawler, you need to be extremely well conditioned because you will have to fight a perfect fight the entire time. These guys have one goal in mind and that is to take your head off. They will be looking to exchange with you and they are most masterful at that so you want to stay away.
Your job will be to constantly feint and draw them out into exchanges that arent happening. Make them think youre going for multiple shots and get out of the way before they are completed. Make them miss enough to begin hesitating on the exchanges. This is best done with jabs, feints and lots of head movement. Stick to one shot at a time until they notice they no longer reply to your second to third shot feints.Then you can start posting on more than one punch, and still, not every time. Your goal is to frustrate and wear down these guys, but you want to stay in the safe zone for the entire length of the fight, weather its stoppage or a decision.
What you dont want to do is get reckless, especially if you have them hurt. These are the type of guys that go on the attack when hurt rather than defend. A bit like Shane Mosley, everytime he gets cracked with a good shot (in his prime) he looks to crack you right back.
Fighting a brawler is a game of precision and patience.
Studying is Important
One thing you want to make a habit in your boxing routine is the studying of fights. You want to study the greats, as well as your sparring matches, and the fights of your training partners. In act, you want to study every fight you watch. Fights should no longer be for entertainment for you but instead a class in session. Look for gameplans, look for mistakes, look for positives and borrow things from other fighters that you can add to your encyclopedia of knowledge. Rather than be in awe of your idols, think about how you can beat them. Make sure you watch every fight you can get your hands on and analyze it. Look at what the winner did right and wrong, and do the same for the man that lost. These days subscriptions like DAZN and ESPN+, as well as Youtube make it very easy to watch classic and modern battles. Get to work!
Know and Practice Every Style
What makes a complete fighter is the ability to fight in any way. In order to beat every style, you have to be able to fight every style. You can have your core boxing style, but you want to be able to fight any way you have to in order to win the fight. Thats what made Floyd Mayweather special. He had his core style, but there was no place in the ring he wasnt good at, and no style of fighting he couldnt do. He can walk you down, and he can make you chase, he can counter, and he can attack, he knows how to do it all in the ring and you should do it.
The way to do this is to practice different ways in sparring. Everytime you go into that ring to fight, set a goal of the kind of style you will work on today. Maybe you will want to work on your pressure fighting and train the peekaboo, or maybe you want to hang back on the ropes and counter off the philly shell. Whatever it is,practice and this will give you insight into the kind of mistakes, weaknesses and strengths each style has.