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Boxing Footwork – Don’t Overlook the Pivot In Boxing!
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Boxing Footwork – Don’t Overlook the Pivot In Boxing!

by Fran on May 26, 2010

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About The Pivot In Boxing

Before you watch the video, I think it will benefit you to read these few points.  Keep reading....

The pivot is one of those often overlooked aspects of boxing.  The main reason that the boxing pivot is overlooked is that on the face of it the pivot is not a 'glamorous' skill.  The pivot doesn't for instance offer the potential for an explosive end to a contest as does a short range left hook.  Nor does the pivot catch the eye in the same way that evading an attack by using deft slips and ducks can.  So, if there's one thing I'd like this article to achieve, it's to provide proof that the pivot is the single most versatile skill that a boxer uses, providing options to unlock many an adversary.  So here goes...

Here's 3 examples of the pivot being used in a boxing match.  There are many more, but I think that these 3 are enough to win the case:

  1. You're taking on a boxer who closes the ground very quickly and pulls you into a short-range battle.  You're not very comfortable and your opponent is very strong and powerful, looking to use strength to push you back.  Use of the pivot allows you to cancel out the strength of your opponent by deflecting their line of attack without you having to retreat.  You are free to unleash short range shots without having to give way to your opponent's greater strength.
  2. You're taking on a boxer who's supremely talented on the retreat but doesn't offer the same threat on the front foot.  You can attempt to chase your opponent down, cutting off the ring, but you are aware that by doing this you'll be fighting to your opponent's strength.  So what do you do?  You take the centre of the ring, maintaining your position by pivoting to follow your opponent, and you are ready for the inevitable attack.  You are controlling your environment by using the simple pivot.
  3. You're fighting on the back foot, with an opponent whose goal is to back you to the ropes and smash you to within an inch of your life.  Given the intensity of your opponent's attack, you are aware of the potential for this destructive goal being achieved!  Solution?  Every time you feel the rope even brush against your back, you combine a pivot with a duck and spin away from danger, leaving your opponent to punch fresh air.

I could go on, the options are wide-ranging to say the least.  So I'll assume for now that you are sold on the usefulness and versatility of the pivot in boxing and are now eager to know exactly how to execute this warrior's stealth manoeuvre.  Check out the video, read the supplementary points below and let me have any questions via the comments option!

The Mechanics Of The Pivot In Boxing

To perform this gem of a skill, follow the steps outlined below:

To Pivot to the Left

  1. From the boxing stance position, push from the back foot (right) and allow the front foot to spin on it's ball.
  2. The objective is to shift our baseline (the line from the toe on the front foot to the heel on the back foot) through 45 degrees.  The front foot rotates on the spot enabling the back foot to move across the the left.  The stance is retained throughout the pivot.

To Pivot to the Right

  1. From the boxing stance position, spin the front foot on the spot and allow the back foot to lift.
  2. The same shift of 45 degrees takes place, only this time to the right.  Don't be tempted to allow your body weight to go over the front leg, your weight should remain central or on the back leg...as always!

Common Faults When Executing The Pivot In Boxing

Given that there are very few steps in executing the boxing pivot, the number of commonly identifiable faults are likewise few.  Well, actually, there's only one...but it's serious.  All elements of the stance must be maintained at all times throughout the move.  This means that you don't step across (with the back foot) and you don't allow your body weight to transfer to the front leg.

The short range left hook, the short range right hook are good shots to combine with the pivot.  In terms of body movement, check out the duck.

Hope you've enjoyed this article along with the video.  It'd be great to hear your thoughts, especially if you could nail other opportunities for using the boxing pivot.  Think laterally.  Could the pivot be used in a Muay Thai or MMA bout, or would holding and grappling take over?  Is the pivot more effective as an attacking tool, or a defending tool?  The floor is yours...

Cheers

Fran

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Tony Duncan January 10, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Just found the site, it’s excellent. Well done.! One thing about the pivot though. Thinking about the most common scenario of Orthodox vs orthodox fighter. Pivoting to your left, no issue. But pivoting to the right, is there a potential issue with you physically banging into your opponent or just getting too close whilst executing the pivot? Looking around the internet I’ve seen some people addressing this issue by moving their left foot to the right a small distance and then executing the pivot to the right as normal. What are your views on this? Hope my question makes sense.

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Fran January 13, 2015 at 9:53 pm

Good question Tony. You’re right, it all depends on range. At long range there is no risk of the clash. Depending on the subtle dynamics at close range you might want to look at the stance switch (even thought he pivot can also work). Hope this helps mate, and thanks for the compliments, well appreciated 🙂

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Anonymous November 17, 2014 at 8:40 pm

FRAN–this is something else…
You’re heart to share wisdom is no doubt a blessing from God.

You’re a beast.

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Fran November 18, 2014 at 9:14 pm

hahaha

Thanks, glad it helps. 🙂

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Anonymous November 17, 2014 at 8:38 pm

YOU ARE AMAZING FRAN! THANK YOU SO MUCH

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Robert September 10, 2013 at 3:09 pm

OK, let’s take a orthodox boxer. He (she) uses the left hand to jab and the right hand as the power punch. So the stance is that the left hand and left foot is forward. When the right hand is thrown, the body is turned (twisted) as the right hand punch is extended by twisting on the “sesamoid” of the right foot (this is the big bone right beneath the big toe). Thus, adding more power to the punch as it is coming from the chest or chin area and it should be executed in a straight line. The twisting of the right for to allow the body to be put into the punch is called “pivoting” into the punch. The left hand throws the hooks… the left foot pivots into the the hook to give it more power.

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Fran September 10, 2013 at 8:53 pm

OK, thanks Robert.

I think we will need to agree to disagree. To me you are describing one of the mechanical movements of any back hand punch i.e. an explosive thrust off the back foot (I coach no pivot of the foot, front or back). I would call it a thrust-rotate-punch. You seem to be calling it thrust-pivot-rotate.

Nice discussion though, thanks.

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Robert September 7, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Interesting video. However, I notice that he uses the term “pivot” to what is widely known as “side stepping”. i.e. he is not showing how to pivot but instead demonstrating one way of side stepping. To pivot is something different as it is used to increase the power of a punch.

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Fran September 9, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Hey Robert, thanks for the comment. I demonstrate sidestepping in this video. I would also class diagonal movement as sidestepping (there are videos on diagonal movement too. The skill in this video is how I coach the pivot, a key distinction being that the front foot remains in the same spot.

Could you expand a little on your definition on the pivot, I’m interested to try and understand.

Thanks Robert

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righen August 27, 2013 at 8:11 am

Having problem with pivoting i am ending up in square position after pivoting a lot or my feet are in line.. any drill to prevent this

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Fran September 1, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Righen. It sounds like the front foot is not ‘spinning’ on it’s ball as it should be. Really focus on dropping the weight back and allow a true ‘spin’.

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austin June 18, 2013 at 12:01 am

I just now read all that craperoo the posters sent in. Today’s ignorance of boxing history is appalling. Just look up the history of the NonPareil Jack Dempsey-George LaBlanche fight and you’ll read all about the real pivot punch and why it was made illegal. I couldn’t stop laughing at the seriousness of the demonstrator in the video. He didn’t know what a pivot punch was either.

As I recall when reading the description of the original first use of this punch, LaBlanche suddenly pivoted in a complete reverse turn with his arm and fist held straight out. Dempsey was taken completely by surprise. Bingo.

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Fran June 18, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Hi Austin.

Thanks for your comment and the history lesson that came with it. Most interesting.

However, the demonstration that I have given covers a footwork move; the pivot. It is not the ‘pivot punch’. You see, this video is not intended to be a history lesson. It is intended to convey the mechanics of a specific skill performed in modern boxing.

Lost in translation maybe.

Thanks Austin

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austin June 17, 2013 at 11:53 pm

I’m afraid you don’t know boxing history. The “pivot punch” was first used by a boxer named George La Blanche against NonPareil Jack Dempsey sometime in the 1880s or 1890s.. I used to read about it many years ago when a youth. It is a sudden spinning backhander, of the kind they seem to use in some MMA. It KO’d Dempsey, but they judged it was illegal so he didn’t lose his title.

THAT’S what the “Pivot Punch” is…. All that nonsense in the video is just that.

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Chris January 7, 2013 at 11:32 am

Alright there coach. I’ve spent some frustrating days in front of the mirrors trying to nail down this seemingly simple manoeuvre. I’m a southpaw so when I pivot to my left I’m pushing off my front foot (right foot ) the problem is that I can’t maintain the stance. If I pivot without throwing any shots I can keep the stance pretty well but if I pivot and throw shots the stance goes to pieces. What I find myself doing is pulling the lead foot back rather than actually pivoting off the ball of my front foot in order to keep the stance. Any ideas? Or is it just keep working on it? I do pivot quite well to my right as long as I take fairly small steps.

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Fran January 8, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Hello Chris.

Nothing to worry about. When you are pivoting to your left you are better throwing the shot at the start and/or the end of the pivot. Throwing the shot during the pivot is very awkward unless you are at short range. Pivoting to your right allows your to work the lead hand during the pivot, not so well the back hand.

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Dan October 22, 2012 at 12:15 am

Hi Fran!

Such high quality tuition as always.

I really love going on the retreat against an aggressive rushing opponent and using the pivot in combination with a long range lead hook, I got the idea from you in another article (im a southpaw vs orthodox fighters)

This works a treat on fighters with less reach than me as I can connect to their head and they cant reach my head.

The only problem ive found is Im not sure how to use this method against aggressive fighters with longer arms than mine, because I cant long range pivot lead hook their head but they can come forward and jab /cross my head or if they miss due to my pivot I cant land on their head, only their gloves/arm at best.

Should I scrap that cuban boxing trick for longer ranged fighters or am I doing it wrong?

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Fran October 25, 2012 at 9:23 pm

If I were you Dan I’d draw the lead with a lead hand feint then fire the shot and pivot instantly. Many assume that because you give height and reach away your only option is to get in close. Not true in my opinion. Get smart with feints at long range and you can remove their reach advantage. I’m sure that will work well for you.

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Matt October 5, 2012 at 10:10 am

Hi Fran
As a southpaw I think this is one of the most effective tools in my arsenal. Because of the relative position of lead feet and the way that the jabs nullify one another it is a great way to set up an angle for a counter right hook over my opponent’s lead. I often feint with the jab, anticipate their left jab, side step and then pivot to my right and shoot a long range right hook over their jab. It doesn’t always land, but it puts me in great position to attack their exposed left side.

I have to admit, though, I don’t often pivot off to the left. As a southpaw I feel that it would direct me towards a right cross. Are there any circumstances in which pivoting left would be appropriate against an orthodox boxer?

Thanks

Matt

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Fran October 10, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Hey Matt

Sorry for the delay.

You’re right to be cautious using the pivot to your left against a southpaw for exactly the reason you state. Using it at short range doesn’t pose the same risk though.

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Dr. Erich Glavitza September 12, 2012 at 6:48 am

Great article, working on pivots (both sides) is very important …for me a very underrated part of footwork; watch Pernell Whitacker and his near perfect pivoting to his right ….and hooking and jabbing his opponent through the universe
I love your lessons
regs from Vienna
Eric

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Fran September 13, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Thank you Eric.

Nice tip for people to watch Sweet Pea, he was a true artist.

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Ali June 9, 2012 at 2:21 am

i need some advice you see i love boxing and been watching for quite some years now i decided to actually start boxing i have different styles in mind but which stance should i go with thats my question? i am a right handed fighter so i should fight orthodox but i feel comfortable in my southpaw position and i am having problems to decide please can someone reply and guide me to some help break it down for me plus whats the big deal with soutpaws people allways seem to favorite them over the orthdox? everyone has weakness’s wether your a soutpaw or a orthodox but people allwasy seem to brag about the soutpaws whats it so special about? i might be a switch fighter but still need a dominant stance please anyone got any ideas that would be helpfull thanks alot

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Fran June 10, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Hi Ali

thank you for the question. If you are right handed then box out of the orthodox position. Why not sign up for the site newsletter on the main page (http://www.MyBoxingCoach.com). You’ll be able to get a copy of the report Southpaw V Orthodox Explained! There’s lots of information in that about this exact issue.

Thanks Ali.

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Dave October 27, 2011 at 1:21 am

One easy way I can see using this is pretty simple- opponent jabs, slip to the outside of said jab, pivot and throw a full blown hook to the target of choice.

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Fran October 27, 2011 at 7:28 pm

That’s a good approach Dave. You could even draw that opponent’s jab with a feint or your own jab. Simplicity is a fine thing in boxing.

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Ivan October 16, 2011 at 7:06 am

The pivot is a a fundamental skill, very effective unless it becomes a pattern, in which case it can be “predicted” and intercepted with stunning effect – Wlad Klitschko against Chris Byrd for example. On the other hand, a well timed pivot with a left hook counter – Mayweather against Ricky Hatton – would be a textbook maneuver, the famous “check hook”. Some say that pivot punches are illegal in boxing, but “the pivot punch” that was banned was the spinning back fist, what could be wrong with a legal punch after or during the pivot you demonstrated?

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Fran October 17, 2011 at 10:19 am

Hi Ivan. Good comment.

The pivot punch is absolutely legal in boxing, and in fact is a highly regarded and effective skill. As long as the shot lands correctly (i.e. knuckle part of the glove), then it’s legal. The back hand I think was banned because of the potential for causing cuts because of the stitching of the glove.

I was going to put together an article on the belief of many that body shots are not scored in modern amateur boxing. I think that your clever comment may very well have expanded the scope of that article.

Thanks Ivan

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Ralph Thompson October 18, 2010 at 7:30 am

great post thanks

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svenjamin June 1, 2010 at 5:48 am

Yes, I definitely noticed that your pivots were 45 degrees instead of a full 90 as I think I have usually been instructed. I think a full 90 is rarely done in practice though, and the inclusion of kicks makes it even more difficult to escape when backed against the ropes.
The clinch throw Lerdsilla used is a combination of pulling back and pivoting that is fairly unique to Muay Thai.
The longer range “pull and pivot” is as you suggest, augmenting their commitment to forward motion. Is there a regulation in boxing that would prohibit this technique? Off-balancing and then striking an opponent is rated pretty highly by the judges in Thailand, though not so much in the states.

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Fran June 1, 2010 at 9:18 pm

There are quite strict rules regarding holding an opponent; in amateur boxing it’s not tolerated at all and the boxer will be disqualified after maybe 1 verbal and 2 official warnings (point deductions). The use of a feint when backed to the ropes can often make an opponent over-commit, thereby enhancing the effects of the 90 degree pivot (and the subsequent opportunities provided). The 45 degree pivots are used extensively during infighting and are more subtle but no less effective. Excellent observation of comparisons, thanks very much for your invaluable input!

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svenjamin May 30, 2010 at 3:52 am

I think pivoting is pretty widely used in both mma and muay thai for similar reasons, although your movement looks especially economical. I will work to emulate that.
Pivoting while clinching is a pretty critical technique in muay thai (though not seen as much in mma). At outer clinch range, pivoting while cross-pushing on the back of the opponent’s head is an effective way to evade a rushing opponent while throwing them significantly off balance. In close range clinch work, pivoting is also used to off balance the opponent. If done with the right timing, they will find themselves diving straight to the floor.
Good examples of both of these techniques can be seen in a recent mt fight in Thailand. Check at about 8:46 and 11:50. You can’t quite see the footwork, but you can infer it from the sharp twist in Lerdsilla’s hips: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xbqf0g_singdam-kiat-moo-vs-leudsila-chumpe_sport
I’d like to work on using pivoting more defensively to deal with very aggressive opponents (my weakness). A jab-pivot/cross is one of my staple offensive techs.
I’d love to see more footwork posts, but everything you do is interesting and helpful.

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Fran May 31, 2010 at 7:25 am

Nice exmple of the use of the pivot in Muay Thai. Interesting to note that both examples of the pivot involved full 90 degree spins, and the fight was pretty much in the centre of the ring. A boxer is more likely to use the full 90 degree pivot when backed to the ropes because when the opponent knows that you can’t retreat any further, then the attack is likely to be more committed/aggressive leaving the attacker vulnerable to the pivot. In both your examples, Lerdsilla ‘pulls’ his opponent toward him, I guess that this recreates the attacking commitment of the boxer. Interesting parallel.

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