Boxing Training – Sparring with a … Hula Hoop?

by Fran on March 10, 2013

Sparring in the Circleย 

As a follow up to the recent article on sparring (link at the bottom of this post), I wanted to give you a look at this very short video clip. It gives a demonstration of a simple technical sparring session. Here’s the video then below are a few key things to take from it.

This video is of two novice boxers taking part in a session of technical sparring. This session is designed to give you a feel for range. A gum shield is required even though the shots thrown are purely ‘touch punches’. That means that they land with no power. The rule of the sparring session is simple: Neither boxer is allowed to take their front foot from the circle.

So, what’s the object of this method of sparring? Well, it’s about being forced constantly into the strike zone. In a conventional round of boxing, you can move away from your opponent. You can create space and time to allow you to take a breather. There is no risk of being hit when you are out of range and so the mind can relax a little.

But in this type of sparring session, you constantly have to stay ‘in contact’ with your opponent. You can use the layback and the push away to make some use of long-range. But most of the time you’ll be at mid or short range. Being in that zone puts you on extra high alert. You will analyse the opponent’s movements and constantly scan for your own openings.

You will notice in the video that I did not film the top half of the boxers. I did this on purpose, it wasn’t just awful camera work. I want you to think through the likely goings on up top. To get your thinking started, below are some things to consider.

Technical Sparring Tips for Success:

  1. A tight, compact guard is non-negotiable. Loose hands at this range is bad news.
  2. Look to use the double arm block and the defensive inside blocks to stop the inevitable body to head shots.
  3. Use the lay back and the push out/push in to allow you to use a range of your own punches. Movements must be short and precise.
  4. Use the pivot to vary your angles of attack and lines of defence.
  5. When up close, look particularly to land body hooks behind the guarding elbow and uppercuts down the centre line of the opponent. A head shot is always a natural and effective follow up to a body shot and vice versa.

In case you don’t have a sparring partner, don’t assume that this is no good for you. This technical sparring session could be completed with only one boxer, and it simply becomes a neat boxing footwork drill.

As always, any questions or comments are gratefully received below.




Related Articles:

Sparring – Be Constructive NOT Destructive!

Floyd Mayweather Jr – Skills Pay the Bills

Fight Tactics – Range Finding in Boxing

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Tony August 11, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Hi Fran,

Really like this going to nip to asda and get some hula hoops lol, i use a similar way by using martial arts belts around the waist to prevent the fighter being able to create distance, and have to stay closer. but definatly going to try this as there is a bit of disipline having to keep your foot there, where with belts they have no choice.


Fran August 11, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Good stuff Tony. It’s intense stuff but they’ll definitely enjoy it.


jonvilla July 14, 2013 at 7:31 pm

I still don’t get why people were booing- during the 6th and 7th- the fight was exciting from start to finish. And then to read about the big wigs at HBO saying Rigondeaux is a “boring” fighter and nobody wants to see him. Could it be some “experts” just don’t know what they are looking at? Great job with the article Fran – fun watching along with the fight.


Fran July 17, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Thanks Jon. I agree, far too many in these positions just don’t seem to be able to look beyond the wham-bam of the knockouts. This was poetry in motion ๐Ÿ™‚


Paul Smith June 14, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Great to hear you are good Fran!

I know one shouldn’t rush genius and thankfully there is loads of knowledge on this site to keep us educated. It’s good to know that well has not run dry. ๐Ÿ™‚

As for the hard work, I understand. I was on a 6 week job that messed up my back a bit, but I’m ok now, thanks.

A man’s got to do, what a man’s got to do… do your thing coach…..we can wait for good news!



joaquin June 13, 2013 at 11:35 pm

just entered with the same worry as paul. glad everything is ok, fran. can’t wait for your next articles and/or videos.



Fran June 18, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Thanks Joaquin, I look forward to your comments on future articles ๐Ÿ™‚


Paul Smith June 13, 2013 at 1:54 pm

I hope everything is alright…..haven’t had any new articles in a long while.


Fran June 13, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Hey mate, nice to hear from you.

Everything is fine. Fact is I’ve being working incredibly hard behind the scenes doing some stuff. It needed doing with an estimate of about 4 weeks. It’s actually taken close to 12 weeks; so much for my planning capability!

Anyway, my commitment to making the site the best on the Web for boxing people like you remains as strong as ever. By next week I’ll have the articles flowing again and will be able to email you with some details.

Thanks for asking about me Paul, I appreciate that. I hope that everything is well with you.


Zoe April 24, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Great use of a hula hoop.
Im studying coaching at the moment I have taken part in boxing for a long time but this is my first attempt at coaching it. Iam looking for any advice on writing three sessions for two novice boxers?


Fran April 25, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Hi Zoe

Thanks for the question. For novice boxers I like to look to build basic aerobic fitness but really focus on the skills development. So a basic warmup then drills based upon the stance and some simple movement back and forward. Build into this the straight punches with the jab and the straight right hand. To get a good idea how to use and apply specific drills, sign up to the newsletter on the site and you’ll get a bunch of video drills to look at.

Hope this helps Zoe and good luck with the coaching. It’s different from competing yourself, but no less rewarding.


Brent April 9, 2013 at 8:12 pm

This is a great method – we did it the other day and varied it by one being allowed out of the circle from the 30 sec bell to the end of the round, while the other has to stay within and ‘keep the centre’ of the ring. Thanks Fran, my hula hoop investment was well worth the $3 haha!


Fran April 9, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Haha. Great stuff Brent. I like the final 30 second idea, I think I’ll pinch that one!


RUBBEN March 16, 2013 at 3:12 pm



Fran March 20, 2013 at 9:29 am

You’re welcome


RUBBEN March 14, 2013 at 3:17 pm



Fran March 15, 2013 at 9:58 pm

Never let your body weight go over the front foot Rubben (don’t let your nose go past your front knee).


Dave Waterman March 13, 2013 at 10:21 am

I like this, Fran. Gonna nick it ๐Ÿ˜‰


MickeyG March 11, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Will definitely use this tonite and this week. I did a similar exerciese but I made the cirlce with cones around the 2 fighters and gave them 1 full step in all directions – basically a really small ring to force more exchanges and quick thinking. The advanced students geared up and threw some good leather and seemed to enjoy it a lot too.
Thanks for the new technique fran


Roberto March 11, 2013 at 8:44 am

Hi Fran,

To take this exercise a step further…

If you have one of those “Poor Bob” stand up punch bags and tie one end of the rope around the base and the other around your fighters ankle, they will be able to hit full force whilst feeling what it’s like to stay in range and maintain defensive awareness.

What do you think?



Fran March 15, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Nice variation Roberto. Is the rope you use elasticated, like a resistance band?


Brent March 11, 2013 at 2:12 am

I”m certainly going to try this one!
I sparred today (im a beginner) after a one hour intense workout – our trainer says we should spar at this time to take the sting out of our punching…) and I found myself gassed out by mid way through the 2nd round – I think part of it was too much movement, maybe much of it unnecessarily. the other trainer stresses the importance of getting to know/feel out your range well so you know to only move as much as is needed to go in and out of range. This excersise may help with that (?)


Fran March 15, 2013 at 9:44 pm

This drill could very well help Brett. Just remember to have that solid double-arm block in place when you’re in range. Tag boxing is something I use very regularly towards the start of the session. It’s great for developing the feel for range that your trainer describes without relying solely on sparring.

Thanks for the comment Brett.


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