Boxing Combinations – Beware Bad Advice!

by Fran on June 12, 2010

Boxing Combinations – Complete the Jigsaw!

This article is one of the most popular on the site and I believe there is a good reason for this.  I think that people interested in boxing (including experienced fighters) are always looking for the edge when developing their boxing combinations.  In this article, I think that you may well have found exactly the advice you needed to provide that moment of inspiration for you to become self-sufficient in building successful boxing combinations.  At the bottom of the article, I have inserted links to suggested combinations in order to get you started.  I hope you find this article (and the links) useful and would urge you to leave some comments or questions and I’ll do my best to respond.

It’s interesting that when you surf the net, there are lots and lots of videos, posts, articles and websites that promise to teach you how to throw groups of punches, otherwise known as boxing combinations, like a pro.  There seems to be a common theme for these resources, and that’s the principle of issuing a number for a shot.  An example of this is:

  • 1-Jab
  • 2-Straight Right
  • 3-Left Hook
  • 4-Right Hook
  • 5-Left Uppercut
  • 6-Right Uppercut

I believe that having issued the numbers, the boxer should join them together in random order (or alternatively a coach may shout them) in order to build combinations.  This is not the occasional site that recommends this approach, it actually appears to be very common, go see for yourself!  Now look, I understand the principle of a numbering system, but I have some big, big problems with it!  Let me give you just a few reasons why I have a big problem with this system.  If you don’t believe that my concerns have any grounding, then ignore me and get memorizing those 6 little ol’ numbers!  OK, some concerns in no particular order:

  • The implication of issuing a number for each shot is that there are only 6 shots in boxing.  At time of writing, I have published advice on 13 shots…and there are more to come!  If you can apply AND remember a number for every one of our shots so far, then my guess is that you’re now reading this article from the canteen at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (you clever thing you!)
  • What about body shots?  I think we may need yet more numbers…..
  • What about executing ‘phased combinations’, where we sub-divide groups of shots into smaller groups by inserting body movements such as the slip or duck or elements of footwork such as a side movement or pivot?  This is a core principle of successful combinations!  By now, we have that many numbers that for all use they are we might as well be issuing Roman Numerals to shots!

Can you see how complicated (and unworkable) things get by restricting your thoughts by applying a rigid numbering system to combinations?  It stifles creativity.  It forces you to think in linear, predictable patterns.  My advice, ignore the numbering advice given by these sites (I won’t name them, but you know who you are!)  Don’t apply a numbering system.  Whilst the number system advice is issued in good faith, it’s not helpful and should be ignored!

So How Should I Develop Boxing Combinations?

What I’m not going to do here is say ‘Here are my Top 10 Combinations’, go ahead copy them like a robot.  In future articles, I will offer suggestions for combinations that work well, but for now I think it will be much more helpful if I recommend some things for you to consider when working out combinations:

  • An opponent will respond in a particular way to a shot (or threat of a shot.)  For example, the threat of a right cross to the body may make an opponent drop their left elbow to block the shot thereby leaving the left side of their jaw open.
  • At what range are you?  If you are at long range, then the opening shots of a combination will be different than if you are infighting at short range.
  • The bio-mechanics of a given shot, body movement or footwork element naturally leads you to consider a particular subsequent shot.   An example of this is that an inside slip provides great leverage for a mid range left hook.  It feels natural for a right cross to follow a jab.  Be fully aware of this urge to follow the bio-mechanics, but mix things up by going ‘against the grain’ as well.  Doubling-up on the same shot is a prime example of this as the second shot can carry more power than the first.
  • Don’t restrict yourself to thinking of combinations in terms of just shots.  The chances of creating successful combinations will be greatly increased by aiming to ‘join up’ shots with body movements, footwork and feints…be dynamic!
  • Learn the individual skill element and ensure that the mechanics are correct and that the common faults are not creeping in.  Use the mirror so that you can be your own coach!  If you perform each skill element correctly, then it stands to reason that the combination will be correct!  Go back to the skill articles on this site and reinforce them in your thinking!

There are lots of suggested boxing combinations on this site, along with an explanation of why they are effective and what to be careful of when using them, so waste no time and check them out!  Here’s a few to be going along with:

I hope I’m not coming across as bad-mouthing these sites, I’m just eager that as an individual you have options that you may select based upon sound reasoning.  Boxing is a technical sport that requires a basic framework of learning upon which a creative mind may build a whole range of effective boxing combinations.  If you think I’m talking utter garbage or alternatively that I may have struck upon something here, please let me know in the comment box below.  If you are feeling observant, check out the article on the old man doing some heavy bag punching, you may spot some of the boxing combinations that are on this site.



Related Video Articles:

Boxing How To Guide – Straight Body Shots

The Lay Back in Boxing

The Left Hook at Short Range – The Mike Tyson Special

Bob and Weave – Roll With the Punches

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

C Aris May 4, 2017 at 9:21 am

I really love this site. Thank you so much for your insight. Can you give any tips to aspiring coaches about how to develop combinations with their fighters. For instance, would you start by teaching them 2 punch combos, then 3, then 4 then start incorporating slips, feints, footwork as explained in the article.


Fran May 7, 2017 at 7:23 pm

Hey there, thanks for your kind words. Nice question. I do tend to work with 2 and 3 punches in succession using feints, laybacks, slips and footwork to ‘join’ the punches. So, a 6 punch combination might be 2 shots, layback, 2 shots, side step, 2 shots. Make sense? Keeps it simple and is usually quite effective.


Robert dela Cruz November 9, 2013 at 4:50 am

1- Jab
2- Right Straight
3- Quick Hook
4- Right Uppercut
5- Left Uppercut
6- Beat Down


Fran November 10, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Hey Robert

Is the ‘quick hook’ a left hook and the ‘beat down’ a right hook? Where to these names originate?



Anonymous May 15, 2015 at 4:27 am

Left Hook Beat Down Overhand Right


Robert dela Cruz May 15, 2015 at 4:31 am

Left Hook Beat Down Overhand Right


Robert dela Cruz May 15, 2015 at 4:33 am

Quick Hook is the Left Hook Beat Down is the Overhand Right


ROBERT DELACRUZ July 9, 2011 at 11:02 am



ROBERT DELACRUZ July 9, 2011 at 11:01 am



ROBERT DELACRUZ July 9, 2011 at 10:59 am



ROBERT DELACRUZ July 9, 2011 at 10:58 am



ROBERT DELACRUZ July 9, 2011 at 10:58 am



ROBERT DELACRUZ July 9, 2011 at 10:57 am



ROBERT DELACRUZ July 9, 2011 at 10:57 am



Tim Sinese May 19, 2011 at 12:08 pm

There is no short cut to learn how to box,boxing is a tough sport and takes many hours in the gym over months and years ,so my advice to you as you scout the inner net looking for boxing tips ect. is just find your self a good usa certified boxing gym,and a trainer that is the right fit for you and practice,practice,practice.


vamshi September 6, 2010 at 5:18 am

are there any articles for southpaws and for orthodox boxers when fighting southpaws? i am a southpaw and find it really difficult to work out these combos when fighting an orthodox guy.


Fran September 6, 2010 at 7:32 am

Hey Vamshi

I’m currently writing a short report on exactly that! Watch this space!



svenjamin June 23, 2010 at 12:41 am

I do use the numbering. To use a different analogy, consider learning, well, numbers. Children learn what us math types call the “natural” numbers. For most people, the rational numbers (all quotients of integers) and maybe even the real numbers are all they need. And operations like addition and multiplication are learned on the natural numbers. But for a mathematician, those number sets are just basic examples of abstract objects called rings and fields, which are collections of elements that satisfy any binary operation fulfill a certain list of properties. But we certainly aren’t about to show up at an elementary school and tell the already math-phobic teachers there that they are being too specific with the natural numbers, and ought to teach children to think at a level of abstraction that isn’t usually reached until the end of an undergraduate math degree!
The point I’m trying to make is that people learn best if they have a simple framework, and then adding additional modifying principles than being immediately instructed in all subtleties of a subject.
The numbering system isn’t intended to be exahaustive. It’s a taxonomic starting point. They divide punches into left and right planes of motion. Beyond that, it’s understood that there are multiple ranges of each, and that this should be adapted to the situation. It is assumed to be a high technique, it is relatively easy to add an extra syllable ‘low’ when necessary.
With combos, it is again to be stressed that the series of numbers is a way of remembering a pattern, and that this is very useful for beginners. But a good instructor will emphasize that it is the principle and the pattern that should be learned, not just the sequence of techniques. A basic jab-cross-kick to the ribs should be altered on the fly to a jab-cross-knee to the ribs according to range.
But when doing padwork with a familiar training partner we often complete omit talking: the hitter reacts to the pads, or the padder to the punches.


Fran June 26, 2010 at 7:19 am

Hey Svenjamin

Great comment (it is clear and I do understand your main point, although some of the subtleties are lost on the likes of me!), sorry for the delay in responding. I’ll keep this short. I accept that a numbering system may provide a framework to learn from,and I am a big believer in the fact that maths underpins most of what we do in life (in particular music). I feel though that learning the stance and footwork, shots at 3 ranges, and body and hand defenses provides the framework. I prefer for my boxers to be more free-thinking and fluid when putting together skills passages (including combinations), even at the early stages of their boxing career. However, I do use numbers during padwork, but only to signify how many shots the boxer should throw; it’s the position that I hold the pads that dictates the type of shots (I may shout ‘2 and 3’, and the boxer knows that I want 2 shots, then some kind of defensive action e.g layback, duck etc, then 3 shots.) Again, great comment and thanks for the input!


Karl June 14, 2010 at 10:22 pm

When I first began, I was taught to ‘punch by the numbers’. However, this was by the secondary trainers who handle all the beginners. Once I began to work with the head coach, all those numbers went out the window and I’m glad they did.

For one, training becomes more realistic. Instead of him calling out a number and having me deliver a punch, he simply held up a focus mitt to represent an opening. My brain had to recognize the opening and deliver the appropriate punch. Those brain circuits need to be developed just like your muscles and lungs. We all need to train to fire off punches, blocks, slips and foot work by instinct. With that in mind, numbers become a hindrance. At least they do for me.

To continue the music analogy, I’m finding that the rhythm of a combination is dictated by the two bodies in motion and not a third piece of sheet music. It’s like Jazz, not Bach. What you do depends on the moment.

As I said, when I first began I would punch by the numbers. I would practice a 1-5-3 combo on the bags over and over. Or a 2-2-7. Then I would carry these little gems into the ring and what would happen? The first couple of times it would work fine. But your opponent can memorize numbers just as easily as you can. It didn’t take very long for the experienced boxers to pick out the ‘tune’ I was playing and have their fists waiting for my head to appear exactly where I said it would…. two rounds ago.


Fran June 14, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Thank you for your input and I do understand your point. If you feel that it works for you, then that’s fine and you should carry on. I like your analogy in that it is the shots, body movements and footwork skills that are the ‘notes’. This said, I’m not sure that a musician would for instance label the C Major scale in C=1, D=2, E=3, F=4 etc. The musician would label C as C, D as D etc. and would be specific about the intervals between the notes (which is the key thing) and therefore the relationship between these notes. The musician would also use a whole range of scales to fit in with whatever style of music he/she wants to play. I feel that adding numbers just provides an additional layer to learn and doesn’t actually enhance the learning process. We can agree to disagree my friend.

Thanks again for you views and good luck with your boxing!

Take care


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