A Boxing Slip – Avoid Punches with the Lay Back!

by Fran on June 18, 2010

About the Lay Back

I’ve been waiting a long time to post this article, as the lay back opens a whole world of opportunity for the boxer.  It’s a brilliant skill that acts as a conjunction to string together complex combinations of punches.  It is a skill that was used extensively by Muhammad Ali, particularly following his 3 year absence when he was less mobile on his feet.

The lay back takes the upper body from long range to the edge of range, allowing the boxer to deliver a consistent shellacking of an opponent whilst ensuring that any counters fall just short.  Whilst this is a simple skill to explain, ensure that you study the mechanics and video and in particular be aware of the 2 common faults.  Enjoy the video!

Mechanics of the Lay Back

The mechanics are very simple:

  1. From the boxing stance, simply bend the back leg.  This bend of the leg has the effect of ‘dropping’ the upper body out of range.
  2. The bend in the leg reduces, returning the body shape to the original stance and on-guard.

Common Faults with the Lay Back

There are 2 common faults as follows:

  1. Rather than the back leg bending, the boxer ‘leans back’ at the waist.  Not only is this method bad for your back, but more dangerously if your opponent presses the attack then you literally have nowhere to go!
  2. As the back leg bends, the left hand drops leaving a massive opening for incoming head shots.  It feels ‘comfortable’ to drop the hand…but don’t as it’s very, very dangerous (especially if you are backed to the ropes!)



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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Joshua May 21, 2013 at 3:06 am

Hey fran, Is there any way this can be adapted to a more squared up mma stance? I used to stand in your classical stance but when I started mma, I took a lot of leg kicks. So I switched to the more squred up stance. Im still bladed but not nearly as much.

I am finding now that when I bend my rear knee for the lay back im not getting much if any movement. I think its because im more squared up.

Any advice on this? Thanks!!


Fran May 28, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Tough one Josh. Your reasoning is perfect, both regards the reasoning for the squared stance and why the lay back doesn’t work terribly well with that more squared stance. I guess that this might on of those boxing skills that does not translate to kick boxing or MMA.


Matt July 21, 2012 at 11:07 am

So would you use this technique proactively as with slipping and rolling?


Fran July 23, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Yes Matt, but with a slight difference. You are more likely to get away with being reactive with the lay back because you are at long range and it is more passive, that is it is a defence that takes you away from the shot rather than to the side of it. It’s great to use in a double-attack though.

Cheers Matt


michael October 10, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I remember when i was only 14 in highschool when a stronger lad started picking on me. He went to punch me and i done exactly as you did in the video with the layback then quick two punch combo and put him on the ground. As a result he never bothered me again or anyone else for that matter, and i never had to defend myself in school again 🙂 love the website too, good work Fran


Fran October 10, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Thanks Michael. Also, I really do like affirmative action. There’s a valuable lesson in there to us all!


Dave I June 28, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Fran-I did a session on Monday where my coach introduced me to a variation ofn the standard layback.Given the name he used to describe it Im sure its familiar to you.He called it the “scouse layback”.Difference to the orthodox version is that the back leg actually moves slightly backwards giving more leverage for the counter.


Fran June 28, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Hey Dave. I haven’t yet had a chance to check out that other vid that you posted, but I will this week!

Onto the ‘scouse layback’, that’s the first time I’ve heard it called that! I’m hoping it’s because Liverpool boxers have put in some top performances over the years, and this little beauty of a skill get’s used a lot. I hope this is the case anyway! 😉

Your coach has done a top job pointing this variation on the lay back to you, where we effectively widen the stance for a split second then bring it back, allowing the upper body to drift out of range. Small movement, excellent results.

The scouse layback indeed! Good stuff Dave, I think that’s gonna be worth a video over the next few weeks.


eric June 7, 2011 at 1:56 am

hi Fran,
Thanks for the response and tips.
Really helpful stuff!!
I have been working on the suggestions at my training sessions for the past few days and they really seem to be helping already. The pivot worked great today in a sparring session, as did the block and counter hook suggestions. Both tactics seemed to slow things down a bit and let me keep a bit more control of the exchange, and then step out/back with the jab.
Many thanks and I’ll be subscribing to the site newsletter. Thanks again for a great site!!


Fran June 11, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Eric, great stuff. Really glad these couple of pointers helped. No doubt the guys you spar with will come up with counter measures over time, but you get the same amount of time to develop your thinking. It’s all good! By the way, really like the ‘slow things down a bit’ statement, really good sign that.


eric June 1, 2011 at 2:56 am

Hi Dave,
Thanks for the advice. I will definitely take a look at both article’s and video’s and spend some shadow boxing time on them both !!And hopefully get them ingrained for sparring. I am new to the boxing gym I go to and the class/training is full of more experienced boxers than me . . more than half are amateurs. Most/all of the time I feel i am playing catch up in a big way. On my own time I have been going to the gym to work on fundamentals and basics . I don’t get any one on one time really.. a few quick correction’s but that’s about it… this site has been my “full time” coach/trainer 🙂


DAVE I May 31, 2011 at 11:58 am

Eric-Just read your post-Fran will be able to give you a betteranswer than I can but two things spring to mind.Have you got a coach than can can advise if your executing the layback technique correctly?-secondly have you looke dat Frans advice on pivoting as a a defensive measure?-Hope that helps


eric May 31, 2011 at 2:50 am

Hi Fran,
I just wanted to say thanks for all the info in this site. It is really helpful and educational. As a novice boxer these video’s and articles have been an amazing resource for me and helped me fix/improve a lot of my techniques.
I have a question that your advice would be greatly appreciated.
I have been sparring about 2 months and am a novice boxer. I have recently been having some problems (with more experienced boxers) on dealing with fast charging offensive attacks. 4 to 5 punch combos with my opponent moving in quick to cut the distance and punches coming from all angles. I usually seem to slip/dodge the first few and then really get the brunt of the last few. I try to get some counter punches in but am usually to slow or inaccurate and usually cop a few more. I do my best to dodge,slip,evade, step back but many times this causes me to look away..and well you know what comes next.I feel like I move too much or not enough? If that makes any sense? Do you have any suggestions on drills/ things I can do on a bag, shadow boxing or when I spar?
Many thanks


Fran June 4, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Hey Eric

Thanks for your kind words, and I’m really happy that you find the site helpful. I hope this continues to be the case as you develop your boxing style. Apologies for the delay in responding, I’ve been in the glorious Highlands of Scotland with my family for the last week, it’s one hell of a lovely place!

Dave has pointed out some good stuff for you to consider, and I’d like to expand a little on his contribution and give you some other things to think about. I suppose we need to acknowledge that there’s never going to be one answer that solves a problem like this, the solution is always going to comprise a number of skills and tactics that you can practice during drills, shadow boxing and bag work.

Firstly, think about the saying “Prevention is better than cure.” Even against an experienced opponent, you will have a reasonable chance of preventing that opponent from settling into a rhythm that would lead to these aggressive attacks. Make sure that you keep your jab working, fast, controlled and regular. If you can double the jab up and use some feints, mores the better. When you double the jab, make sure that you don’t leave the upper arm extended in between shots, full extension and retraction for each shot. This is as important on the retreat as it is on the attack. It’s about maintaining the spar at long range (Dave’s advice on the pivot works really well here, as does the lay back e.g. jab – lay back – one two.)

OK, so what about when the opponent gets around this? The laws of averages says that an experienced boxer will overcome this, say one in every three times for argument’s sake. When you know that the guy’s got the steal on you, a really effective way to stop subsequent shots landing (straight and hooks) is to combine 3 types of block. Check out these articles on the double arm block and defensive inside fighting. Combine these with one or two short hooks, then get back to long range (or stay up close if your confident to do this.) Little tip, when you protect against hooks on your right side (as an orthodox), you’re in an ideal starting point to let a left hook go. Try it in front of a mirror, you’ll get the point.

I hope this helps. Don’t lose heart, you will improve…just keep on keepin’ on! By the way, I’ll be sending some mobility drill videos to everyone who is signed up to the site newsletter, I’m sure these will help with your slips, rolls and footwork. It’ll be a couple of weeks or so, so make sure that you’re on the list.

Cheers Eric.


DAVE I March 18, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Seeing you demonstrate the layback reminds of the exercises I did at an ABA club in Manchester last autumn.It was a session on conter punching and countering the counter where we used the layback technique.Really good technique to learn I must work on it as Im one of those who has a tendancy now and then to bend my back which is bad technically and doesnt do my back any favours.
Cheers for the vid. Fran.


Fran March 21, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Hiya Dave, sorry for the delay in responding (mad busy putting together some stuff to email to you all.) Anyway, the lay back is an absolute gold mine in terms of staying in range and punishing an opponent double attacks. Economical and something that can be executed in the blink of an eye. That fault though that you mention, really common. Not good for a bad back, but also makes the boxer very vulnerable if the opponent piles through the defences as you have nowhere to go! Thanks Dave!


Dion November 15, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Excellent Videos, Fran. Clearly explained, i’ve only just started boxing at the ripe old age of 35!!! Keeps me fit, but it dont half hurt, lol.

These Vids will definitely help me when doing sparring, just wish i’d started years ago.


Fran November 15, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Hey Dion

You’re never too old mate! Enjoy your boxing and invest in the technical aspects of the game…it will pay off! Thanks for the contribution.


Bill August 10, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Very good site! Well explained and fits with everything I learned at the gym. Don’t go to the gym now but use boxing for daily workout.
– thanks Bro


Fran August 10, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Glad you find it useful Bill and I hope you continue to visit!



Paul August 4, 2010 at 7:26 am

Great website! Your videos are very informative with great illustration.

I can’t wait to work more sweet science into technique.

Thank you.


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