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:
- Out of range
- Edge of range
- Long range
- Mid range
- 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 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 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!
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.