Infighting Thread – Right or Wrong?

by Fran on May 2, 2011

Hi there

I’d be really interested in any thoughts you have on this thread to which I recently contributed.  The thread is on Saddo’s site, and covered very briefly ‘infighting.’  I think that infighting is the epitome of professional boxing.  It is used to a lesser extent in the amateurs, but as a pro, a fighter must have strategies for being up close and ‘In the trenches.’  Funny enough, this was particularly relevant in the analysis that I published on the Khan versus Maidana fight.

Anyway, the link is below, and I’d be really interested in what you think of the opposing views of myself and the chap posting as Nikola Ganchev (don’t think it is the famous Nikola Ganchev who excelled in Bulgarian Folk Music as he died in 2001!)

Let me have any questions or thoughts.



PS – There aren’t enough hours in the day.  I’m still frantically editing the Boxing Training Foundation eBook and Videos…it sure is a lot of work, but great fun and I’m sure it’s going to be a fantastic addition to the MyBoxingCoach experience!

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Karl May 9, 2011 at 2:35 am

Only two things to add…

1) I agree that over-rotation is dangerous. You definitely don’t want to throw yourself off balance. But when Roach says “if the punch misses the elbow should hit”, I don’t take him to mean “follow through all the way so your elbow is where the chin is”. He may have been saying that, but that’s not the lesson I choose to take from his comment. For me, it’s a reminder that the elbow and fist must be traveling in the same line. Someone may assume that the elbow automatically follows the same line, but that isn’t true of course. If your forearm is NOT parallel with the canvas then the elbow and fist will travel at two different elevations, one won’t be behind the other.

What’s the big deal? Well, it allows the power to escape from the punch. Like a spear flying through the air, let’s assume an outrageous angle to illustrate the point – like 45 degrees. So our spear is flying through the air at this weird angle and the tip hits the target, it digs in and acts like a hinge, the tail continues forward and upward (or downward) in an arc. So a certain percentage of the force goes into the target through the tip and the rest is dissipated in other directions. If however, the spear is flying perfectly straight, all the energy has only one way to go – straight into the tip (or the knuckle!) and onto the target.

2) Bas does indeed teach minimal or no pivot in the lower body. He always wants you to keep your hips square with the opponent. You’ll notice the lines he has painted on the floor, two lines shoulder width apart. Compare this to Fran’s videos, he only has one line. Why the difference? Well Bas is a MMA fighter and all MMA fighters teach the same basic ‘square’ stance. This is very important for them because you can’t sprawl effectively from the boxer’s stance. When someone throws the hook, the natural defense – no matter who you are – is to duck under. For a MMA fighter, the next natural move is to shoot in for a takedown, which will have a very high level of success if the opponent’s hips\legs are in the narrower boxing stance. The second danger is ‘checking’ the kick to the lead leg. In the wider stance, you can easily check a leg kick, which is more difficult from a boxer stance. So that’s why he teaches this square-on style of punching, etc.

2a) One addition to the last point. If you watched the beginning of Bas’s video he’ll insist that a jab has no power in the boxing stance. Hmmm, not true, and even MMA guys are starting to realize it. Take GSP for example. After training with Roach to improve his boxing, he used the jab to great effect against Koscheck at UFC 124. In fact, he broke his orbital bone with this punch in the very first round.


Fran May 9, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Hey Karl. I think that 2a) makes it two and a half things to add 🙂

On point 1, I too definitely took that same lesson. It’s the same principle as other shots we’ve got on the site, the jab minus the ‘flaring elbow’ and the straight back hand. I really like the analogy of the spear, it sums up perfectly the sound reasoning for throwing the shots in that exact way. Some might say that the short range hooks for example shows the elbow travelling at a different elevation to the fist, the point is though that the elbow is following the fist to the target and therefore maximising the impact of the shot.

On the 2nd point, since starting up the site I’ve had a chance to get involved in some discussions regarding the differences in the MMA and boxing style (including a particularly memorable exchange with Jeff Joslin, top guy and very smart when it comes to working someone over!) The differences in the stances are perfectly understandable. My one fear would be though that if others in MMA follow GSPs lead and get in some top boxing coaching advice, then the increase in punch power combined with those little ol’ gloves is going to lead to some terrifying KOs! Who knows, the MMA guys may even learn how to throw body punches as well. Joking by the way you MMA buddies!

Cheers Karl. PS, check your email.


Dave Waterman May 8, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Just got home from work and got the first opportunity to watch Karl’s links.

It’s interesting that on the one hand we have Freddie Roach arguing to follow through with the hook (something I’m not comfortable with and await Fran’s thoughts on this with great interest).

On the other hand we see Bas Rutten clearly demonstrating driving the hook home no further the centre line, and making the point I made above that if you do follow through an opening appears in the area of the floating rib.

Prior to Bas Rutten showing us his hooks stopping at the centre line, he argues that there should be no pivot from the lower body when throwing the hook and the power should come from the upper body only. I would suggest that in this demonstration he is, in fact, pivoting but beginning the pivot from the hips rather than starting with the feet.

I wonder whether Karl and Fran might agree with an idea that to be ultimately effective a hook to the body might be mechanically different from to a hook to the head in the same way that a straight punch to the body has different mechanics than a straight punch to the head (unless we are teaching Olympic style, electronic point scoring boxing where all one needs is a punch to land in the target area, on the knuckle part of the glove).

To develop that idea, I would argue that the most effective straight head shots are those that are thrown to ‘snap’ as the fist is turned over on completion of the punch. I think that this delivers the power most effectively to the head due to the physical make up of the head’s attachment to the body via the neck (and trapezius).

Likewise a hook to the head, when thrown with maximum torque through the legs, hips and shoulders, so that the hooking arm follows the body, would be most effective if the ‘snap’ were achieved by stopping the punch at the centre line as it connects with the head (no decelleration, just a very abrupt stop to deliver the snap).

Now if we consider a body shot, straight or otherwise, if it’s executed as a head shot, the ‘snap’ will be easily absorbed by the body as it’s a solid mass rather than a large object connected by a smaller link, as in the head.

So to execute an effective body shot, straight or hook, we have to ‘dig’ them home to impart the power deeply into the target. This is where I can see following through with the hook being effective.

These are just my thoughts and something I was beginning to develop in my own training and in my coaching of others. Please pick them apart and tell me I’m talking rubbish if you think so.


Fran May 8, 2011 at 9:22 pm

You know, I wondered where this thread would take us, and I have to say I’m not at all disappointed with the quality and depth of thinking that’s gone on here. It’s really good stuff that I’m sure it will help any number of visitors immensely! Anyhow, although there are many areas of possible discussion here, there are 3 issues to which I would like to contribute; The ‘knuckle’ issue, the hook and how much to rotate/’punch through’ the target and hooks to the body.

I think that us all, Bas included, are in agreement on ‘knuckle placement.’ When I see a shot land, I want the full ‘face’ of the fist landing. This by definition means that the middle knuckle, being the most prominent, will bear the brunt of the impact, although the glove and bandaging will disperse the force across the fist. Interesting to note that the majority of hand injuries that I’ve witnessed over the years have been to the 1st, 3rd or 4th knuckle of the hand or their supporting meatcarpal; possible evidence of a shot landing at an angle rather than flush? Karl, your research and opinion on this seems to me to be right on the money.

With the issue of punching through the centre line, I find myself kind of finding some centre ground. My view from the Freddie Roach tutorial is that there is in fact some over-rotation. The over-rotation for me is of the body, and shows itself by the shoulders going ‘past’ the centre line. So, when throwing the left hook, My view is that the shoulders (a split second before the shot lands) are aligned with the opponent. The fist arrives that split second later, and I think here is where we can have some ‘punching through’ the centre-line that would enhance the overall power of the shot without giving rise to unnecessary defensive issues. My worry about over-rotating, aside from the valid one of leaving the opening to the body, is one of going off-balance. We are relying on the shot landing to stop us going off-balance. It’s about risk/reward I suppose, and in the amateurs maybe there’s a more risk-averse approach. So, the fist can punch through, but not the shoulders, if this makes sense!

In terms of body shots, the mid-range hooks on the site are not particulary effective as body shots. My approach is to extend the short range hook to mid-range, slightly lowering the trajectory of the shot and combining with a slight duck to keep to a minumum the time that the hand is away from the guard position. So, why is this? Well, I like to think of a point deep in the centre of the opponent’s torso, somewhere near the heart. The hooks should land travelling up towards this point, meaning that the force of the shot will travel through as much of the opponent’s body as possible (ideally a taking in a big chunk of the liver!) The text-book ‘palm-down’ mid-range hook as shown on the site will travel across the body and will have less chance of having the desired effect (unlike when it lands on the jaw.) In the amateur code, it’s difficult to know how easy it is for a judge to score a body shot, but as I say to the boxers that I work with, if the judge don’t score it, your opponent certainly will! So Dave, your thoughts here about the ideal body shot again in my opinion are spot on. We ‘dig’ them in, something that I think our american cousins refer to as a ‘shovel hook.’

Great contribution fellas. Not only will it help other visitors to the site, it’s really helped me develop some thinking here and I feel some body-punching videos in the pipeline!


Dave Waterman May 7, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Another interesting and very involved post, Karl. I think the points you’ve illustrated are all very valid and I wouldn’t even begin to question any of the eminent sources you’ve used.

However, I’m interested in Freddie Roach’s recommendation for following through with the hook, and indeed the coaching you yourself have had in this (I’m afraid I’m working purely from the text of your post as I’m using a phone internet connection and can’t open the links, so excuse me if I assume something that’s explained within the links).

I know many professional fighters follow through with the hook, Mike Tyson having been a classic example (I remember someone saying in an article that if Mike’s fist missed when he threw the hook you’d be sure of the elbow connecting unless you took evasive action). But I’ve been taught, and been instructed to teach novices through the ABAE Awards Scheme, that when throwing the hook to avoid punching past the centre line. The reason for this is that if you pass the centre line and follow through, it takes time to return to the ‘on guard’ set position and leaves a significant undefended area around the floating rib that could easily be exploited.

I wonder if Fran could comment on this. Maybe it’s a ‘by the book’ coaching protocol in the amateur code?


Karl May 6, 2011 at 3:36 am

Hi Fran and Dave,

Thanks for your kind words! They’re very much appreciated. But now you’ve encouraged me to leave yet another long comment!

Fran, those are good tips for power training. We could keep adding and adding to the list of things to keep in mind couldn’t we. Here are two more things…

1) Freddy Roach says that if your hook misses your elbow should hit the target. No, he doesn’t mean fight dirty. That’s just his way of crystalizing the point you made in your mid-range hook video, namely, you need to have your forearm lined up behind your fist.

2) In the same video he talks about follow through. One of the trainers at my gym gave me a good tip. She said throw the hook and let your head turn with your shoulders so that you end up looking in the mirror beside the bag. Try to end up with the head and shoulders square to the mirror. Do this four or five times to get the feel of rotating through and then go back to proper hooks with your eyes/head staying towards the target. Follow through is important, otherwise we begin to decelerate before the end of the punch, this takes a lot of power out of the shot.

Dave, I’m glad you mentioned the ‘last three knuckles’ comment. That struck me as very odd. I do remember this sort of thing coming from some of the ‘light strike’ forms of Karate, but to be fair, fighting greats like Jack Dempsey have taught the same thing. In his book Championship Fighting, Jack describes the ‘power line’ as going from the shoulder to the pinky finger. (you can view it here – – and read chapter 9). This approach is very old fashioned and I would even call it dangerous. For myself, any power shot landing away from my middle finger will produce a sharp pain. If my pinky lands first I get it in the bones of my hand, if my pointing finger lands first I feel it in my wrist. Maybe I have weak hands?! But I don’t think so, I think it’s a matter of a boxer’s punching power.

It’s well known (scientifically, not anecdotally), that boxers are on average the hardest (hand) strikers of any combat sport. Elite fighters can punch – literally – twice as hard as novices. In fact, the oft-cited 1985 study of British heavyweight Frank Bruno showed that he could generate an astonishing 1400 pounds of force in one head shot.

Frank Bruno study…

Compare this to an average Karate punch of around 325 pounds and we begin to understand why “they” can afford to fiddle around with knuckle placement while we cannot. I think most power boxers would quickly break their hands if they punched full force without the benefit of modern gloves and wrapping. Even fully gloved and wrapped fighters break hands (Hearns vs Hagler). The best way to avoid this is to always impact with the biggest\straightest bone – that’s the middle finger. As I said, “light” strike forms of Karate will allow/indulge different theories, but the heavy hitters in the Kyokushin world are very clear.

Bare knuckle fighting great Bas Rutten on “which knuckle”…


Dave Waterman May 5, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Like Karl I can only disagree with the contributor, ‘Nikola.’ I’ve spent a while wondering if I’ve got his suggestions wrong. If there’s something lost in translation from practical to written. After all our sport lends itself to the practical rather than the theoretical…a picture (video) paints a thousand words etc.

I can only summise that I’ve read Nikola’s comments correctly and he argues for an ‘elbow up’ hook at mid and close range.

Right, bearing in mind that to achieve this the hand has to follow the elbow, practising Nikola’s suggestion demonstrates that a large opening of the target is created before the punch is thrown. A recipe for disaster.

Fran’s recommendation of elbows nailed into the body and leaving only to allow the hand to move a minimal distance to achieve a close range shot, makes obvious sense.

Then I have a problem with Nikola’s ‘outside three knuckles’ thing. Surely this is an eastern martial artist thing?

In the competetive ring does the essential hand taping not create a complete punching surface? Certainly in the pro ranks where I’ve heard it argued that fights are won and lost on the taping of the hands (not using the Margarito ‘Manos de Piedra model!).


Dave Waterman May 4, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Wow, Karl! Excellent response to Fran’s post. I intend on replying myself but just not yet. I’m on a come down from a boxing show last night. BTW, your points are far from beginnerish, IMHO.


Karl May 4, 2011 at 3:06 am

Well Fran, you say that the elbow should stay close to the body for short-range hooks, and your video of the mid-range hook shows that the elbow should come up and the forearm should become parallel to the canvas. Nikola suggests that it’s “exactly the other way around”. I don’t agree with him at all and I think you are showing the correct approach for both punches.

Funny you mention this topic, because I’ve been spending the last week working on my left and right hooks. It’s a complicated punch that allows a lot of faults to creep in.

In my non-expert opinion, one should never raise the elbows at close range. Close-in fighting is about hand speed and tight defense. Elbow raising in this situation short-circuits both.

Tight defense primarily means having your armour perfectly in place. That means arms in the proper position, tight to the body.

If you raise your elbow and try to throw a mid-range hook at close range, as Nikola suggests, you created a huge opening on your side, an opening that will be too large to close if your opponent throws something at your body. You just won’t have the time because the distance your elbow needs to travel will be too large. Also, raising the elbow at close range opens up ‘uppercut alley’, an undefended pathway from your belly button to your chin. One of the trainers in my gym is an expert at exploiting this hole in the defense. Once the elbow is up it becomes hand speed vs elbows speed. Ie, can he get his hand into ‘uppercut alley’ before I can get my elbow back to close it off. Usually I can’t. Why? Because while the punch will take a split second to execute, I only have 10% of a split second to close my defense. For all close range punches there is no such thing as blocking them in the last split-second, no, you must block them in the first part of that split-second or else the punch is already past the effective portion of the block. Lastly, raising the elbow at close range gives the opponent a golden opportunity to duck under the punch and change the angle of attack.

All that being said, I find that the hook is dangerous to throw if you cannot do damage. Damage is the first part of your defense when you retreat after any shot. It’s like a straight back hand to the body. You MUST do damage with this shot in order to get out safely, otherwise the opponent will be able to respond too quickly and you will take the counterpunch.

In order to do damage you must develop enough torque. The easy\amateur way to produce torque is to wind up and loop your fist way back so it swings around like a baseball bat (cricket for you Fran). This technique will score high on the torque meter but it’s terrible in boxing because it’s very slow and obvious. Any boxer with a minimum amount of experience would love to face an opponent that throws these slow heavy haymakers.

The boxer way of producing torque is to use the mid-section as a spring. The lower body “loads” the spring, the mid-section absorbs that power and releases it immediately into the upper body, namely the shoulder girdle and the arm. The problem for us beginners (I include myself of course) is that this “spring” is not developed enough and we loose a lot of energy in the transfer. Imagine twisting a towel as tight as you can so it’s all torqued up. You’ll notice that it takes a lot of twisting to get it to “max load”. Now release one end and see what happens. You get a very short twist of energy and then it just kind of goes limp and lifeless. The beginning boxer’s core is like that towel, inefficient at energy transfer. The seasoned boxer has a core like a solid block of rubber. He doesn’t need to turn and turn it like a towel to reach that “max load” point, instead, the windup is very short. This means he can load and release very quickly. But the main thing is, this block of solid rubber is very efficient at releasing ALL the energy that was put into it. This is how I think of it anyway. The legs and hips load up the core, they put torque into the system. When max torque is reached the spring is automatically released and it snaps the upper body around.

So if you want to improve your hooks you must first develop your core. Lots of sit ups and leg raises, lots of twisting medicine ball drills. Even jumping rope must be done with the core tightened and engaged in the activity. We need to get rid of those limp towel tummies and chisel out some solid rubber cores!!

LOL – trust me, this is the abbreviated version of how I think about the hook! I better stop there.

What I consider to be good examples…

Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker

0:27 – Short\almost mid-range hook.
0:36 – Tight short range, followed immediately by…
0:37 – Nice mid-range.
1:37 – Pure – short range left hook.


Fran May 5, 2011 at 9:59 pm

Hey Karl

Great to hear from you again. The technical challenges of throwing ‘correct’ hooks are as you say significant (I agree with Dave by the way, if your opinion is ‘non-expert’ then it’s doing a bloody good impression of being expert!) I really like the reference to ‘uppercut alley.’ I’ve never heard this description, so your trainer has done a top job of characterizing the concept. The short uppercut to the body is amongst the most difficult shots to defend at the best of times. This is the reason why renowned body punchers (think McCallum, Barrera and Duran here) see the uppercut and the opponent’s ‘centre of mass’ to be a marriage made in hell. The Roberto Duran Analysis article shows him using this principle against Hector Thompson. So yes, ensuring that you can minimise the movement you need to make when throwing shots up close is vitally important.

Onto the ‘power’ aspects of hooks, and again, you’re spot on. Hooks up close are intended to deliver maximum power with minimum effort. They are intended not to just land, but to smash into the target with reckless abandon! Your description of the torque requirements and how the power is generated from the legs and transferred through the body perfectly captures the sport-specific aspects of fitness. As part of any continuous, structured boxing training regime, strength training in it’s various forms and flexibility work is of paramount importance. The ‘Ton-Up’, specific weight training and flexibility work involving static stretching are massive contributors to ‘core strength.’ Great job in getting this point across Karl, it’s the ‘grunt work’ that has to be done to get the benefits and I’m sure that visitors to this site will find real value in your words..

Just to make a further contribution to the strength training thing, I like to include the heavy bag or in particular a maize bag. Stand at very close range without leaning on the bag (the double arm block being all that there is between you and the bag.) Use only short hooks and uppercuts (3 to 6 inch shots,) ducking slightly for body punches. Being about power, the boxer must focus on explosive drive from the legs and the torque of the upper body to deliver maximum power onto the target whilst minimising movement as such. Focusing in this way for a 3 minute round really targets the punch-specific muscle groups, from the forearms, triceps and pecs through the lats and back muscles right down to the calves. A real ‘strength’ focused round as opposed to falling into the trap of simply throwing wild bombs!

Great comment Karl, a real classic, thanks again!

PS – Sweet Pea sure liked the outside slip before those big back hand hooks…that was one smart, smart southpaw!!!


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