Boxing Drills Cuban Style

by Fran on June 3, 2012

Develop the Skills with Boxing Drills

The recent article that I posted titled Boxing Drills – Tips for Success was very popular.  In it I discussed the importance of boxing drills and offered some tips on getting the right level of success from completing boxing drills.  Now I want to put some visual context around drills, and where better to find this context than the wondrous world of Cuban amateur boxing and more specifically a top coach; Professor Carlos Miranda.

I don’t speak Spanish, even though I wish I did.  However, that doesn’t matter.  Thankfully my lifetime in boxing allows me to roughly translate some of the key messages being put out by the brilliant coach who’s working with this crop of aspiring Cuban fighters.  The universal language of boxing I suppose.

The video of this run through of excellent boxing drills is about 9 minutes in length.  There is some repetition from about the 7th minute, so be prepared for that.  However, you can watch it all the way through then check out my observations below the video.  As usual I’ve put a time mark to make reference to the video easy.

The first thing to notice here is that we have a group of boxers who are all at different levels of experience.  Some of the fighters are clearly more experienced and capable than others, but this doesn’t matter.  Boxing drills can suit top-flight international fighters just as easy as they can suit absolute novices.

Boxing Footwork – The Root of all Greatness

We can get straight in at 0:17.  This first boxing drill is about maintaining control during aggressive, attacking boxing.  You can learn individual boxing skills.  But, success will only be achieved when you can combine these individual boxing skills in various ways.  It’s fair to say that the most basic and most important boxing skills to combine are punching and movement.  Being mobile and lethal with your fists will certainly help you along the way to boxing super-stardom.  This first boxing drill is about exactly that, punching and moving in a continuous stream of speed and ferocity.

Note the very controlled stance and look particularly at the distance between the legs.  No matter at what point in the boxing drill the boxer is, the distance between the legs should remain constant.  I cover this exact point in the video Boxing Footwork – Moving In and Out. In fact, if you want a basic boxing drill to work on then check out that video.  It’s simple but very effective.  Notice also that there is lots of slipping and rolling going on, both before and after punching. Lots of extra leverage for the punches and at the same time making you a very hard target to hit.

Boxing Drills Maximizing Attacking Effectiveness

At 0:37 our expert boxing coach goes to work.  And one thing, I use the word ‘expert’ in it’s correct context here.  This is a man who has spent his whole life immersed in the sport of boxing and has imparted a staggering amount of knowledge to his students.  I think that the word ‘expert’ is used far too casually.  Everyone’s an expert, especially on the internet!  This man is a true boxing expert, of that you can be assured.

Varying the angle and trajectory that your punches take to the target is a great way to build a high punch success rate.  In simple terms this is because if you say get smashed in the ribs with a right hook to the body, then naturally in that instant your defensive attention is going to switch to that area.  But, and this is the key, you may leave openings elsewhere that a good boxer will exploit.  This exploitation is built upon boxing drills.

In this particular boxing drill, the coach is encouraging the boxers to consider the benefits of combining left hooks and right hooks with left uppercuts and right uppercuts.  The uppercuts can land anywhere from the solar plexus upwards and the attack the vertical central axis of the opponent (the same central axis that is used during the rotation of the body when throwing the straight back hand/right cross).  The hooks attack the flanks; each side of the opponent’s jaw.  Think about it, if you land an uppercut under the opponent’s chin, it will lift their head.  This is when the hooks take their toll.  All of this achieved during a steady, controlled advance.

Turning Defence into Attack

At 1:10 we have an example of combining defence and attack.  If you can develop that capability, to seamlessly switch from attack to defence and back again, then you pretty much have it made.  The boxing coach here is using a variation of the defensive inside fighting blocks.  The defensive blocks are merely a platform to fire in the simple jab and right cross.  Effective defence is key in modern amateur boxing, with blocks being used often to stop clean punches landing.  A judge can only score a ‘clean’ punch, any doubt and they can’t press the button.  Blocks are great for creating that doubt.  Check out the the recent article Dealing with Counter Punching for more on this.

Boxing drills allow you to create these sequences in glorious isolation.  Drills allow you to nurture all types of boxing skills, developing that all-consuming need to make the skills work against a live opponent.  You’ve got to love boxing drills and all they stand for.

Common Faults – Heel and Toe

At 1:35 we see the classic demonstration of a common fault when moving forward.  Obviously this coach is as particular about making sure that his boxers don’t ‘heel and toe’ as they move as I am.  This is covered in detail in the video post Boxing Footwork -Moving In and Out (at around 3:20), but I’ll cover the reason why it’s such a problem here.  If you move forward and you land the heel on your front foot, then you are neither in a position to throw effective punches or even worse to defend yourself by slipping, rolling etc.  A long time saying of referees in boxing is “Defend yourself at all times”, so make sure you are in a position to.  Being on your heel on the front foot is not the place to be.

Coach Miranda is eager to highlight this fault to his boxers, and he uses boxing drills to do this.  Boxers stay on the balls of their feet, it is what we do.  Boxing drills reinforce this principle.  Every second that you are facing a live opponent,make sure you are in a position to defend and attack…it’s the law!

Variety is the Spice of Life

My favourite part of the whole video happens at 3:50. It’s just sublime.  Coach Miranda demonstrates 5 basic boxing defences to an incoming jab (and he does so brilliantly I might add).  The boxing defences are:

  1. The block
  2. The lead hand parry inside
  3. The back hand parry inside
  4. The outside slip
  5. The push away (basically moving out).

After the defences have been demonstrated, the boxers are set to a session of what we call ‘Technical Sparring.’  Technical sparring is the method of taking boxing drills to the next step.  It is not full, open sparring.  It is sparring with some controls.  In this tech sparring, one boxer throws the jab, the other uses any of the defences demonstrated.

If you watch closely, you should be able to spot some of the defences being used.  I say ‘used’, some of the boxers are using the defences, some of the less experienced boxers are making enthusiastic attempts at the defences.  But that’s the beauty of it, learning in action, you just can’t beat it.  In fact, I could write a post on virtually every one of the pairs in the technical sparring session.   There really is lots going on.

I think I will leave it there.  A great Cuban boxing coach plying his trade by putting in place the boxing drills and technical advice that helps to develop the next generation of Cuban amateur boxers, quite simply the best in the world.

As always, questions and comments will be gratefully received below.



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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Donny Rucker April 14, 2016 at 2:03 pm

Hello I am Donny Rucker from the USA and I am looking for a team of professionals fighters weight from 147 to 225 I will come to Cuba to meet them and there trainers or coach I want to pay good fair money to be there promoter so email me, I am a promoter.


Vikash singh January 18, 2016 at 3:53 pm

I want to know about a boxing coach who give his service to india in a boxing academy


guy laieta March 15, 2015 at 10:13 am

Hi Fran. just wanted to update you on my fighter, Steed Woodall. He just finished his first year in US with 7 wins and no losses with 5 kos. he also learned the hard way about judging. He received a draw in a fight which everyone agreed he won. I warned him to have a bit more killer instinct and not trust the judges. He responded in his next fight with a first round stoppage. Everything i teach him, i always check your perspective, and so far, we’ve been spot on.God bless and thanks for your help…..guy


Fran March 24, 2015 at 8:44 pm

Hello Guy

Apologies for taking a while to respond.

Great to hear that Steed is progressing well. As you are well aware it’s all about the learning process and by the sound of it a valuable lesson has already been learnt. I would love to see video so if any of his bouts end up on YouTube do let me know.

Thanks Guy



AUBREY February 25, 2015 at 9:09 am

my name is Aubrey I have always been willing to become a boxer since my 4 years old. I tried to go for boxing school but due to finance I was unable to carry on. am in Midrand currently and am not sure if you have any SCHool closer so that I can come join you just for my self defense.
there is no any sport I love than boxing . please help me.


guy laieta October 18, 2014 at 11:34 am

Hi Fran, You continue to put out one great piece of work after another.I just wanted to tell you that my fighter,Steed Woodall went 5 – 0 the other night in his debut with his new promoter Lou Dibella.Keep up the great work.


Fran October 20, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Good stuff Guy. Sounds like you are keeping Steed very active, that’s a real positive 🙂


guy laieta October 21, 2014 at 6:45 pm

Thanks for kind words. My training philosophy and yours are very similar. Thats why when I’m teaching him something, I always look at your philosophy also. We’ll fight in England next year and I’m going to invite you out for a meal.


guy laieta March 15, 2014 at 9:21 am

Hi Fran, Steed won pro debut last night by unanimous score 40-35 with knockdown. The opponent clutched and grabbed once he felt Steed’s power. The kid had 13 fights, so he knew how to survive.Steed fought very well eventhough he was disappointed he didn’t get ko. Thanks for advice buddy. I’ll keep you posted!…Guy


Fran March 17, 2014 at 7:24 pm

Thanks Guy. Really happy that Steed got his victory. Great stuff!


guy laieta March 9, 2014 at 10:21 am

sorry for repeat email. my computer told me it didn’t go through….Guy


Fran March 12, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Not a problem! 🙂


guy laieta March 9, 2014 at 10:19 am

Hi fran. I never tire of this video. I have Steed Woodall sparring with excellent Cuban boxers,Quinones,168, and Yuniesky Gonzalez,175, in preparation for his pro debut on March 14th. We are blessed to have a plethora of Cuban stars here in Miami. I wanted your advice on how I can get Steed to box a little less tense. I spar him with these men often and he does amazingly well with them, however, he tires because of the tense manner he boxes. I’m thinking only more sparring and pro fights will give him the experience to relax, Your advice would be well appreciated.I have him competing as a middleweight now and I’ll surely email you how his debut goes. You’re awesome….Guy


Fran March 12, 2014 at 6:13 pm

Hey Guy

Nice to hear from you. It is a great video and like you I never tire of watching it. Good to hear that you have young Steed mixing it with such quality opposition during sparring, this is bound to pay off. As for getting him relaxed, I agree with you. In the short term it’s going to be slightly daunting however ‘confident’ he may be. The more time he spends sharing a ring with these guys the more relaxed he will become. He’s also away from home so that will have an effect. Plenty of positive reinforcement and continued sparring and he’ll click I’m sure.

Interestingly, one of my former amateurs has just got a 4-year visa. He’s off to Houston (he went there a few years ago) having signed with Lou DiBella. Yep, Brits going Stateside all all the rage!

Thanks Guy. Hope things go well at the weekend. Look forward to hearing about it.


guy laieta March 9, 2014 at 10:08 am

Hi Fran. I never tire of this video. In Miami we have access to the cubans for sparring. I’ve had Steed Woodall sparring with Quinones,former world amateur champ, and Yuniesky Gonzalez, another pan am gold medalist. Both men are bigger than Steed, who is a middleweight now. He more than holds his own with these men,however, he’s still fighting in a tense manner. All i can think of to get him relaxed is more sparring and experience.If you have advice on how I can relax him,I have great respect for your knowledge. Steed’s pro debut is March 14th and I’ll surely email you with the news. Thanks Fran, keep up the good work…..Guy


Fran December 7, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Hey Guy

Thank you for your kind words and my apologies for the delay in responding. Steed Woodall is a top prospect, very successful at amateur level and no reason why he can’t make the transition with someone like yourself guiding him. If you’re ever in Liverpool it would be my pleasure to meet up.

Take care


guy laieta December 29, 2013 at 10:26 am

Great,I will look you up because I’m certain when when we turn him pro this yr, we”ll travel to England. God Bless…..Guy


George November 25, 2013 at 1:33 am

Great post and great video Fran.

I have a question for you Fran.In 3:50 the cuban coach is using his lead hand to parry the jab.I usually hear that parrying the jab with the lead hand is really bad because that leaves you open to the cross and if the other guy tries a standar 1-2 combination he have good chances catching you.

Also check out this video of Badr Hari one of the best kickboxers in the world.

In 3:10 he parries the jab with the front hand he steps to the left to avoid the cross and comes back with a left hook to the face or to the body.

What are you thoughts on this kind of parry and countering?You think its risky trying that?If you can share some thoughts of you I d appreciate it.



gaz May 29, 2013 at 5:47 am

Good ‘ol Fran back again with the goodies. Ages since I was last on the site but really enjoyed this Cuban video. Question about protection…..When sparring and attempting a stiiff jab to opponent body(midrift), I place my right glove against my left side of face to protect. What is your stance on this? Do you like this defense? A respected coach I know told me to forget this defense. Another coach TAUGHT me this! What do you think Fran and am I explaining it properl?……Meaning(after I jab his body I dont want him to “straight right hand me to face so I open glove my right hand protecting leftside of my face).
Toronto Ontario


Fran May 31, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Hey Gaz

Nice to hear from you again, especially with a neat question like that.

I struggle to think of a reason why a coach would tell you to forget this type of defence. It’s something I do coach, but usually just with the lead hand work. It kind of restricts your ability to throw your own follow up straight back hand, but it is a really slick defense. I often say to the boxer that he is “closing the door” on the jab response from the opponent. Just be a little careful on the long range left hook counter to the right side of your face. It’s low risk, but worth considering. Also, don’t allow it to become a permanent feature of your style.

Hope this helps pal.


stephenbullough May 10, 2013 at 1:19 pm

These guys truely understand the meaning of hard work…


Fran May 10, 2013 at 7:26 pm

You are not wrong there Stephen!


Begue May 9, 2013 at 6:24 am

Hi Fran

Nice video and very instructive. Can you give me a link where I can download it.


Fran May 10, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Hi Begue

It’s on YouTube. I believe there’s software out there that can be used to download from YouTube, you could try finding something like that.


Ivan June 5, 2012 at 1:49 pm

One can immediately draw parallels between this Cuban specialist and the Russian coach in the Russian style drills post. Both are offering their wisdom without enforcing it but both insist that you need to do things confidently with serious intentions. When the Cuban coach demonstrated the left jab-left hook combo, he said one can either win a fight with it if it’s done confidently, or one can simply waste it and give it away if it’s done half-heartedly. Just like the Russian coach insisted that a counter should be thrown with confidence in order to land it.
Another beautiful piece of advice from the Cuban coach was that one should not only use a different attack every time, but a different defense each time as well. This is what the 5 basic boxing defenses at 3.50 were all about. Varying your defense each time is even more important than variety in offense. The bottom line is that patterns work against you in boxing (we’ve mentioned that before).


Fran June 6, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Always good to have people tie together the related aspects of the posts Ivan. That point of confidence during execution is vital to grasp. Practice the skills, improve the execution and build the confidence. That’s what boxing drills do for us. Really enjoyed putting a focus on these coaches, just great to watch them and learn every step of the way.


Karl June 5, 2012 at 3:36 am

The gym in your video has been on my radar for a while now. I may even pay them a visit this coming winter. The only thing that held me back LAST winter was the prospect of the language barrier. We have some spanish speaking boxers in my club so I’m still hoping to recruit a couple translators to go with me. Nice article Fran. Brings a fresh/informative perspective to a great video.

BTW – the video in your clip is available from a number of places. Some of the originals (from TeamFFA) have subtitles.
(boxing and comments starts at 3:48)
(coach’s comments start at 1:27, the 5 basic boxing defences to an incoming jab you note above is subtitled at 2:32)


Fran June 6, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Karl, that trip I’m sure would be fantastic. The ultimate learning experience.

Great couple of clips there as well, really good to get the translation. I like that principle of being able to do it all, to not pigeon-hole yourself to be particular type of boxer. Great stuff, well worth a watch to those who enjoyed the post.

Thanks Karl.


DavidW June 4, 2012 at 7:03 am

Nice post Fran. I’m guessing that you either prepared it before or created it in your retreat in the Scottish Highlands?

I agree, the coach demonstrating simple defences against the jab at 3:50 is great. You can imagine him progressing to practising the defence then throwing the counter shot. I remember Q Shillingford almost mirroring Coach Miranda in this (although Q made me pay for throwing a competition speed jab at him when he wanted to demonstrate a block).

I’ve been moved by this video to include some of these group activities in my own coaching sessions. I thought about it when you posted this video in isolation of facebook a couple of weeks ago, but with your text here it’s brought Coach Miranda’s session to life.

Thanks, Fran.



Fran June 5, 2012 at 9:22 am

Hey Dave. Yeah I had the post half-completed before I left, finished it off on arrival here. It’s a top vid and I’m glad there were some bits that you could use within your own sessions. By the way, on the Q thing, we’ve all been there and the prices paid can often seem rather excessive when compared to the ‘crime’. The coach is boss though, a valuable lesson for us all! Cheers mate.


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