Find Your Range – Fight Tactics Depend Upon It!

by Fran on June 18, 2010

Fight Tactics - Boxing Range Finding

All top boxers have an acute understanding of their position in relation to their opponent, often down to the millimeter. It appears almost effortless for the real champions to slip in and out of range at will, delivering shots with jaw-breaking power to an often bewildered opponent, and managing to evade the attempted response of the quarry. This 'feel' for range is something that can be engendered during training and is reinforced by repetition during drills, shadow boxing, bag work and sparring. Establishing the appropriate range, performing effectively at that range and transferring between the ranges is essential in successfully executing any chosen fight tactics.

Many of the skills articles on this site refer to 'range'. In this post, I want to explore how we define range and what are the properties of each of the defined categories of range. By writing this post, I am hoping to pull together some of the themes contained within the skills articles and offers some context to promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of the importance of range and how this impacts upon the options available (i.e. fight tactics) at any given point during a boxing contest.

In order to effectively describe the importance of range finding in boxing, I will use the following categories:

  1. Out of range
  2. Edge of range
  3. Long range
  4. Mid range
  5. Short range

Out of Range

There is no great mystery here. Being out of range means being far enough away from your opponent for neither of you to be able to land a shot. To provide some kind of benchmark, imagine your extended arm being the width of a fist longer. Anything beyond this we can define as 'out of range.' Being out of range means that you as a boxer are under no immediate threat. It also means that you are providing no threat to the opponent. By and large, being out of range too often during a contest results in a disappointingly dull affair.

Edge of Range

Being on the 'edge of range' is an immensely important concept. In many ways, being on the edge of range is what boxing is all about. In the previous paragraph, we discussed that 'out of range' we would class as being beyond the length of the extended arm plus the width of a fist. Being on the edge of range is anywhere within that thin band of the width of the fist. So, why is being on the edge of range so important? There are two main reasons;

  • Being on the edge of range puts pressure on the opponent. Putting pressure on an opponent allows a boxer to control proceedings, gaining a psychological edge on the contest, forcing the opponent to think about what you are going to do rather than what they will do.
  • A very simple move forward takes the boxer into striking distance for long-range shots such as the jab and the cross. This move in is short, explosive and efficient. The move is combined with the shot in order to increase impact and the boxer can retreat instantly back to the edge of range (or beyond) or alternatively continue the attack.

It is vital that the concept of being on the edge of range is clearly understood.

Long Range

Long range is the first 'zone' when within punching range. Rather simply, long range is the zone where we can deploy any of our long range shots. Being at long range should not be overlooked. It is in fact the 'bread and butter' of a boxer's repertoire as very often the majority of shots exchanged are at long range. Long range punching can have the effect of 'softening up' a target prior to unleashing the mid and short range punches.

As an example of excellent long range boxing, the video link below shows Thomas Hearns devastating performance against Pipino Cuevas in 1980. Cuevas was an extremely durable fighter, but Tommy's supreme long range boxing capabilities are simply brilliant. Notice how Hearns controls the action at long range with his jab, using deft lay-backs and slick steps to the 'edge of range' only to return to long range and explode high velocity right hand shots to Cuevas' head. Of course it is arguable that Hearns' possessed one of the greatest right hands in boxing history, but his supreme boxing ability and appreciation of range allowed him to deploy that right hand to it's fullest effect.

Mid Range

Mid range may be defined as the zone from the length of an extended arm (e.g. the jab) to the point at which a mid-range left or right hook would land. Any mid-range hooks and uppercuts are by definition moving into the zone of true 'power shots'. The short move from long range to mid range is the same principle as moving from the edge of range to long range i.e. short and explosive.

As an example of top-line mid range work, the video below shows Marvin Hagler's 1981 title defence against Fulgencio Obelmejias. Hagler controls the action with a range thunderous mid-range hooks and uppercuts in this highly impressive performance. Whilst undoubtedly a major factor in Marvin's victory is the relentless pressure he exerts on Obelmejias, much of his most devastating work is carried out at mid-range. Marvin's usual ram-rod jab is rarely used in favour of crushing pressure and well leveraged hooks and uppercuts...total devastation!

Short Range

There is no doubt about it, short range work is intended to be based upon power. Short range boxing may also be known as 'infighting' and is a true skill. Many boxers can work quite happily at long and mid-range, but short range work provides higher risks and is generally more physically and mentally tiring. Whilst the shots delivered at short range are intended to deliver maximum power, they are also designed to maximise the protection afforded to the boxer. Throwing wide, arcing punches when up close is ineffective and leaves many holes in the defence. Again for the purposes of a benchmark, short range is when the opponent is up to the distance of a mid-range left hook away; its real head-to-head stuff and not for the fainthearted!

In terms of an example of supreme short range boxing, you might be surprised that I'm going to use Floyd Mayweather Jr's 2001 defence against Jesus Chavez. The Mexican opponent clearly favours infighting and likely went into this contest under the impression that he must keep Mayweather on the inside...how wrong he was! For a boxer renowned for his flashy long-range skills, Mayweather demonstrates his unique array of skills by destroying Chavez with hooks and uppercuts that travel only inches, even in the face of some real rough-house tactics from his foe. The phrase 'The guy has it all' was surely coined for Floyd Mayweather Jr!

Understanding the categories of range is very, very important. This site will build upon these categories in order to provide a structured framework that will assist developing the capability to move between these categories of range with maximum effect and minimal risk. Devising fight tactics for a given opponent and executing these tactics to deliver a successful outcome relies upon a boxer understanding and being comfortable with range.

Cheers

Fran

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

alexander August 14, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Hi Fran, I’m with Wendy re Hitman Hearns. What an impressive video, what a Jab, could die for that. Wow. Never mind the right hand. I tried imagining how I would have countered that (my fantasy) if I was facing him. What strategy. Run, slip, go under – hang on -probably just lie down me thinks. My gym boss, has a signed pair of Tommy’s trunks hanging in his office, I could see myself hanging onto them, as I ingloriously slipped to the canvas, awesome. Alexander.

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Fran August 14, 2015 at 10:23 pm

Hey Alexander.

The “lie down” strategy sounds like the one I’d apply. He was deadly wasn’t he, and wonderfully artistic in a terrifying way.

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arthur July 17, 2015 at 9:01 am

here’s a great infighting vid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaUrm26VQh8

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Robert Mulliss April 27, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Hi Fran, I just wanted to say thanks for what you have done. Really informative, key concepts explained well. I just have to perfect them now

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Fran April 29, 2014 at 7:59 am

You’re most welcome. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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tawa June 12, 2013 at 1:36 am

i’m doing some modify Muay Thai kickboxing,watching those video its help me alot for understanding the different punch can be throw from different range.I being practice it at the dojo the punch that throw from different range and its help me alot to push my opponent back,now i am not worry about throw kicks all the time,because my opponent worry about my hands now,thanks Fran for your coaching style,I really like it and i see a different in my mid range and short range distance,cant wait to show it in the next coming tournament.thank you Fran.

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Fran June 18, 2013 at 7:53 pm

That’s great Tawa, thank you so much for taking the time to post your thoughts.

I hope that you can use some of the skills here and I’ll be interested to hear how things go!

Thanks again.

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Roland May 10, 2013 at 7:01 am

“Short range boxing may also be known as ‘infighting’ and is a true skill. Many boxers can work quite happily [and] long and mid-range, but short range work provides higher risks and is generally more physically and mentally tiring.”
I spotted a typo, don’t mean to be a hater or anything, but just pointing it out. Thanks Fran !
Roland

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Fran May 10, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Thanks for the heads up Roland, fixed it.

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eric May 5, 2013 at 5:50 pm

By the way,Can you please tell me about some of the best ab exercises you would recommend?

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Fran May 9, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Conventional sit ups (twists etc) for the upper abdominals and leg raises for the lower abs.

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eric May 5, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Great videos.Who ever picked those videos as examples for the lesson deserves a focking raise.Job well done.Those rounds were electrifying to say the least.

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Fran May 9, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Cheers Eric

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Mike March 4, 2013 at 10:56 am

Hi coach Fran,
First of all, congratulations on this amazing site. There is a wealth of information here. Every lesson I read I am taking something useful away. One question I have on the close range fighting. I noticed both Hagler and Mayweather using the lead elbow and shoulder at close range both to smother shots from the other guy, to force space when they want to make some room and sometimes even to position the opponents head for a shot. Is this standard tactics for infighting or just something that comes out in the mix? Assuming its legal, it looks like a very useful tactic to deploy at close range.

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Fran March 4, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Hello Mike, thank you for the comment and the compliments on the site.

Absolutely in the professional ring those type of tactics are applied, and Marvin and Floyd were masters. It’s part and parcel of the professional game even though forearms and elbows are technically illegal. In the amateurs though the referees won’t let this type of stuff go, certainly not if it’s obvious. We have to be a lot more discrete about the ‘how’ and ‘when’ to use these type of tactics.

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PrinceRudyNasim February 21, 2013 at 11:18 am

Can you direct me to a few great drills for developing the long range?

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Fran February 22, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Hi there.

Try the article on Tag Boxing. Work with a partner and you can develop the feel for range. Also, sign up for the free boxing mobility drills if you haven’t already.

Hope this helps.

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Wendy Eriksson February 18, 2013 at 11:57 am

Firstly….Fran, this is a really great site. Your undying passion for boxing shows in the care and effort you put in to presenting your material so that readers can truly understand and learn!
In the first clip, the long range is just so perfectly illustrated! Hearns does have an excellent right, but what about that jab?! I breed pythons for pets, and I’ve never seen a punch so exactly imitate a snake strike before. Just when ya think you’re out of range, bam! an aggressive snake will effortlessly bridge the extra distance to connect. Hearns jab is exactly like that!
In the second clip Hagler was so obviously in control all the way thru….but hell, how TOUGH was his opponent??? Hagler’s like “Can ya just go down already”??
In the last clip Chevaz really came across like he was fighting himself more than Mayweather………he literally wore himself out! Mayweather’s just like a big old mobile heavy bag, and when he cuts loose there is such a lot of power in his punches. One volley he gets off there are so clean for that stage of a fight – really awesome.
I learned a LOT from watching these fights and learning about range from you. Thanks – you’ve clarified so much for me 🙂
regards,
Wendy

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Fran February 18, 2013 at 10:06 pm

That’s great Wendy. Sounds to me that you’ve picked up everything you need from that article. Well done.

Incidentally, as well as being known as “The Hit Man”, Thomas Hearns was also known as “The Motor City Cobra” for very obvious reasons 🙂

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ironmitts January 24, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Coach I know you have been told this before but I have to say it again BROVO. Wonderful explaination and coverage. The best money I could have spent to help my fighters is from your program.

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Fran January 25, 2013 at 9:19 pm

That’s a really lovely comment Mike, thanks so much. It’s especially rewarding when it comes from a fellow coach.

Cheers mate.

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joe January 21, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Hi Fran just want to say thans they are a great help I am a boxing coach myself and its great to get a few tips on how to improve my boxers tecnique I have been doing your drills for two weeks now and have seen a huge improvement already.
cheers

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Fran January 24, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Hey Joe

Thanks for the comment mate. Love the idea of this stuff being used with young boxers, great stuff mate. And to be honest, as a coach I learn plenty myself via the site. The Russian coach for instance, and the fantastic Cuban coach at work. Just class.

Thanks Joe. Hope the site continues to help you do your work in improving the boxers.

Cheers mate.

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Brandon Green October 20, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Hello

I am very impressed by your analysis and in-depth explanation of the various ranges and their attributes.I am a short armed person and would like to learn to fight inside. I am 5’10” and at 225 and strong in the gym(weightlifting) i think i have the potential to “devastate” on the inside. In any case thank you.
Brandon Green

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Fran October 25, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Thanks Brandon. Get your skills right and I’m sure you’ll achieve your goals!

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Jason Wright August 20, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Also, how did Obelmejias keep on his feet as long as he did. That’s the most incredible beating w/o going down I’ve ever seen.

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Fran August 23, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Fully Oby was as tough as they come.

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Jason Wright August 20, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Great info as usual. In that Hearns fight though it seems like Hearns had 8 inches (at least) of range on Cuevas. Cuevas looked like a t-rex. How do you deal with an opponent like that?

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Fran August 23, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Hey Jason.

Good question. You checked out the Boxing Style Analysis of Marvin Hagler article? He deals with both Tommy Hearns and the equally towering Willie Monroe and uses 2 different approaches. Well worth checking out. Thanks for the comment mate.

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Glicerio Jr. October 26, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Hello, Jason, I am one of the new subscriber of Coach Fran. I really admire this site. My opinion is, Cuevas used the wrong fighting tactic against a taller foe. He kept backing far from his range. While as I see it, Hearns is a stronger puncher, Cuevas could have minimzed Hearns’ power punches if he is at close range. Tyson’s system is the best example for me in dealing with Hearns’ fighting style.

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Nobuki July 10, 2012 at 1:21 am

Thank you for this website and sharing your knowledge! I just found this today. Starting today, I’m hoping to be able to teach myself boxing to a pretty good depth of knowledge and skill. However, I do not have anyone to spar against and I cannot afford a punching bag. I will try out shadow boxing and use household objects to help me learn my range, but is there a way to help me figure out opponent’s ranges without a sparing partner? I hope you can find the time to reply to this. Thank you again for all these amazing videos and information.
-Nobuki

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christopher February 9, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Hi coach Fran. Thanks for the words of wisdom and useful insight. Slipping with the legs works wonders! However, sometimes when I slip to the outside and move forward, I seem to be out range, espcially when the opponent is taller. I’m quite short myself. What am I doing wrong?

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Glicerio Jr. October 26, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Hi Fran… I admire your in depth explanation of boxing technique and tactics. It’s great… I would like to share a comment on Christopher. Friend, Christopher,.. whether you use inside or outside slipping, the key is quickness. This is achieved, however, through good boxing experience. But if you are facing a taller opponent, slipping and counter-attacking may not be successful. My opinion is use the “riposte”. This means avoiding the punch while throwing your own punch at the same time. Imagine the Jab coming, you slip outside as you throw your own jab to the head or body. Or you can also slip inside while throwing your right straight to the body, or overhand straight to the face.

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Demetrius December 17, 2011 at 9:21 pm

hi thank you for your great work. while I only have 2 months of muay thai, people are findind me more elusive and sneaky, thanks to your footwork, feinting and combo lessons. ~Hollywood Florida

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Fran December 19, 2011 at 8:33 pm

You’re welcome, thanks for the comment.

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Akos August 20, 2011 at 3:44 am

I have been boxing for only 5 month but your site helped me understanding a lot of the basics. Great job.
Thank you.

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Fran August 20, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Thank you Akos

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Clayton March 14, 2011 at 10:40 pm

I really appreciate the depth of knowledge you provide, especially based upon example. I have studied Japanese Martial Arts(Isshin-Ryu, and Shorin-Ryu Karate) for a number of years. I used to watch boxing when I was in the military and was always fascinated by the techniques used during a contest. Your site definitely gives me a solid foundation to start my boxing training. Thank you for your time and effort.

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Fran March 14, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Clayton, you are most welcome my friend, and thank you for the kind words! Be interesting to know whether you spot any patterns common to your martial arts skills. Thanks again

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andrew nunn September 8, 2010 at 10:54 pm

that was fantastic thankyou for your help.

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