Boxing Techniques on the Pads

by Fran on September 5, 2012


Punch Pads and Boxing – Make it Real

Time for the next in my series of video articles looking at the boxing techniques using the punch pads. This is the 3rd article in the series and if you haven’t already watched the preceding videos, go and check out the 1st in the series Boxing Lessons on Punch Pads.

In this video I am working with Sean McArdle.  Sean is a real hard-worker and has been boxing for a few years now.  His technical boxing development continues at a pace and he’s always fun to work with on the pads. Again I’m just putting Sean through a 2 minute round in which I work on a few different aspects of boxing.

Here’s the video, then below are a few points about what’s going on both in terms of me using the boxing punch pads and the techniques that Sean is using.

The Punch Pads Boxing Lessons #5 – Firm Target

This is a little bit of a pet hate of mine. In all of my years in boxing, I have never, ever saw a boxer purposely smash his or her face into the incoming fist of the opponent. Why would they? Unless that individual was so stupid that they should not be allowed to leave the house unaccompanied, let alone clamber up the steps into a boxing ring, I can think of no reason why a fighter would do such a thing.

So, on the pads I would not want to recreate that type of ultra-reckless opponent because (maybe unfortunately) the boxers that I work with will never meet one.  So, I have this one simple rule. I hold a firm target, firm enough that the boxer feels the impact of the punch.  They will generate all of the true speed and power of the punch, I will simply make sure that a firm pad is there to receive it.

I know that some boxing trainers swing forward their padded hand to meet the incoming punch of the boxer.  Famously, Roger Mayweather, the trainer an uncle of the World’s best pound-for-pound fighter Floyd Mayweather, is often seen doing this in the run up to a big fight.  In front of the cameras he effectively plays ‘pat-a-cake’ with the punch pads. At the same time Floyd repeatedly informs his entourage how good he is, and his entourage respond with the appropriate amount of ‘you pay the bills Floyd’ adulation.

It looks great when Floyd works like this, but then most of what he does with boxing gloves on looks great.  Despite what Roger does, I think I’ll stick with holding a fixed and firm target.  Maybe I’m missing an opportunity.  If you know of any compelling reason why I could swing the pads forward, be sure to let me know in the comments section below.

The Punch Pads Boxing Lessons #6 – Opponents Fight Back!

Make it real.  That’s the principle of this post and in fact the guiding principle of my approach to the punch pads.  During a fight, an opponent can do any number of things.  At the most basic level they have the rather annoying habit of trying to hit you, so during pads I always send ‘shots’ the way of the boxer.  In this video with Sean there are two examples of me building in this principle.

At 0:06 Sean let’s go a nice crisp jab followed by a solid right cross.  The punches are sharp and accurate.  In response I swing my left hand towards Sean’s head.  This lets him know that he’s landed two nice scoring shots, but his head stayed where it was and so those good scoring shots he landed could be easily undone by the opponent landing at least one of his own in return.  When a fighter takes a shot their instinct is to throw one back.

A couple of seconds later the same thing happens and Sean drops in a nice simple duck to avoid the incoming.  So, it’s reinforcing that principle that after throwing your own shots it’s always a good idea to shift your head from the starting position.  It works especially nicely here because at 0:12 Sean, without prompt, goes with an inside slip to get his head away from that starting position.  That’s a lesson learnt.

Our second example demonstrates a slightly different approach in that I ‘lead off’ with the punch.  At around 0:30 I send out a jab.  OK, not really a jab, more a half-hearted pawing motion but I don’t really want to go with a full-blooded punch.  The reason I don’t use a full-on jab with the intent of landing on Sean is that the conventional pads I am wearing could cause a nasty eye injury and that would not be good, not good at all!  If I’m going to use solid shots I’ll put a sparring glove on my left hand and a pad on my right.  Even better, I’ll use a brilliant piece of coaching equipment called coach spar gloves, which are a half-way house between pads and gloves.

The point is that I am doing enough reinforce with Sean the instinct of reacting to the shot, which he does by blocking and counter punching with his jab and right cross.  It’s about developing that fighting instinct to see the opponent’s action and respond in the right way, instantly and positively.  After all, it seems a terrible shame to block the incoming shot and not capitalize by landing your own punch.

Also Worth Noting…

Having pointed out a couple more lessons on the punch pads, there’s a couple of things that Sean does that I really want to point out.  The first is the fantastic right uppercut to the body at around 0:54.  It’s a great technical shot, with the little drop of the knees and the superb drive off the back foot to rotate the hips.  Really classy punch very well executed.

The second thing I’d like to point out is Sean’s brilliant use of the pivot.  Check out 0:57 where Sean pivots to his right after delivering a solid right hook to the body and then at 1:01 he pivots left off the same punch.  This is really reassuring as a coach to see the boxer do this because it tells me that Sean’s thinking about both defence and opening up good angles of attack at the same time.

Finally is the double attack at around 1:44 where Sean throws the one-two drawing the response from me and reacting with a lay back followed by a right-hand/left hook.  The double or ‘phased’ attack is one of the key boxing techniques that underpins successful amateur boxing for me.

As a bonus (for me anyway), I’ve spotted some stuff that Sean and I can work on together to improve, but that’s between him and me :O)

Any comments or observations, be sure to let me know below.



PS – if you want to check out the final article in the series, go look at Boxing Lessons on the Focus Mitts.

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{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan March 23, 2015 at 2:13 am

When holding focus pads for really hard hitters-the jabs, crosses and upper cuts aren’t a problem-but the hooks I can’t take. Am I doing something wrong-such as holding at the wrong angle-or perhaps I just shouldn’t be holding for people who can hit so hard? The only thing I’ve figured out so far- so not to injure myself-is to let the pad go with the flow of hook. Just wondering if there is a “trick’ to this. Thanks


Fran March 24, 2015 at 9:30 pm

Hey Susan

Most people get more power into their hooks, especially back hand hooks.

Question. Is it that you get pain in your elbows or shoulders or the pad/arm simply goes ‘out of control’? I tend to find that offering a little resistance to the incoming shot provides more control and manages the impact slightly better. Time the pad onto the hook if that makes sense?


Chris V June 14, 2014 at 11:06 pm

Great demonstration and article. Thanks a lot for this!


Fran June 18, 2014 at 6:46 pm

You’re welcome. Thanks Chris.


Dan Lucas May 6, 2014 at 9:23 pm

I agree with what you say about coming out to meet the punch with the pads. I’ve seen large, strong coaches who come out with the pads and “hit” the oncoming punch of young amateur boxers. It may seem like a light tap for the coach but, combined with the oncoming force of the boxer’s punch, can easily hurt the untrained boxer’s hand or wrist.


Peadar November 29, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Hi Fran, haven’t been on your site for a while and for the life of me I cant think of a good reason why. Love it, forgot how good it is. Love the pad work videos. Hope you make many more. You have a great style of incorporating a bit of everything and making it look easy and fun for the boxer at the same time. Good job. thanks.


Fran December 7, 2013 at 8:26 pm


Glad you like it Pete and thanks for the great feedback. I’ll put pads videos on the to do list. Thanks mate.


Matt October 10, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Hey Fran

As you’ve been based around the Merseyside fight scene for many years, I wondered if you’ve ever heard of Brian McCaffrey? He’s my uncle. He boxed professionally in the 60’s and I believe fought a fellow Liverpudlian, Johnny Cooke, for the British Welterweight title in 1966 I think, after which he retired. He then opened ‘Brian’s diner’ on Stanley Street in Liverpool in ’67 and it was closed down about 1999.

Just wondered if you had heard of him, he hasn’t told me much aboout his fight career.




Matt October 4, 2012 at 10:15 am

Hi Fran

Do you think there is any value in these online resources?




Fran October 4, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Thanks Matt

Anything with Jeff Fenech in is worth listening to, especially the boxing techniques of pressure fighting. He was so impressive at that style of boxing. So there are lots of tips to pick up but they are for the more experienced boxer and would need to be carefully considered as part of an overall boxing style. Good stuff though.


Paul Smith September 29, 2012 at 3:45 pm


Thomas supposedly gained his ring knowledge fighting no-holds-barred matches on the amateur circuit that encompassed Arizona, California and Mexico.
He was also a military navy boxing instructor. His experiences came from an obscure, but very real part of Americana, that included, bare-knuckle prize fights, carnival tough man fights, wrestling, boombattle championships and many fights during the depression times.
According to him, “During my prime fighting years, money meant more to me than gaining recognition or winning titles. In the Depression years, when world champions begged for non-title fights and fought for $500 or less, I was averaging $1,000 per fight in side bets, and I never had to fight more than a round or two….During that period of time, I picked up around $100,000, while some of the champions and title contenders were near starvation.”
Officially, Thomas has won world championships in wrestling and boombattle. Unofficially, he claims a number of other world titles. They include: boxing 17 rounds in one afternoon when he was five years old; fighting 19 opponents a total of 73 rounds in one day of carnival competition; sparring 82 rounds with 51 opponents in one navy workout session; defeating 106 boombattle opponents without taking a single rest period; meeting and defeating 36 wrestlers in five consecutive hours of carnival competition; crushing 20 boombattle foes in 15 minutes when he was 55 years old; and his documented record of 10,000 boombattle-wrestling-boxing bouts.
He doesn’t claim it as a record, but it’s a good bet that the 53 years he had been an active ring competitor is an all-time world record.
Iwill say that his book is my all time favourite when it comes to learnbing boxing and I have found many truly effective techniques and lessons with it. When I read about the Stonewall Defense, I immediately recognised the Mayweather style and needless to say, it proves to me that ‘Champ’ Thomas knows what he is talking about.



Matt September 29, 2012 at 10:28 am

Hi Paul

I looked into that book by J.C. ‘Champ’ Thomas. Much of what he says does has a slight ring of truth to it but upon careful consideration, and consideration of other ciritics, it seems as though his anecdotal style, coupled with some far-fetched claims and the fact that nobody seems to know who he is, places the validitiy of this book as a serious boxing manual in some doubt.

Do you know who he is or what his credentials are?

Have you ever heard of him, Fran?


Craig Casey September 15, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Cal Thomas has written quite a few underground books, his stonewall defense is old school and does work.

Hardest part about it is the jab with your left hand lowered. It takes years of practice to get it down, but once you have practiced it and used it in every scenario, it is hard to take punishment.

Flyod has done this and turned the stonewall into a gold mine.

I saw him last night against Alvarez and he looked much faster than the mexican. He has natural and developed speed and timing. Amazing.

Alvarez royally screwed up by trying to outbox the worlds best. Never fight the other guys game! He should have cut off the ring, driven Floyd into the robes and punished.


Fran September 17, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Great comment Craig, thanks. I think I’ll look into Cal Thomas, he sounds like he has some interesting views.

Agree on Mayweather. Don’t see anyone below middleweight bettering him.


Paul Smith September 28, 2012 at 12:44 am

Regarding the so-called “Philly Shell’, I have heard it described in a book by J.C. “Champ” Thomas, titled ‘How To Be an Ass-Whipping Boxer, as boxings ‘Stonewall Defense’.
It is based on stance, glove positioning and strategic counter punching. “Champ” Thomas claims it is the finest defense in boxing and seeing how it has worked for Floyd Mayweather, I have to agree.
The use of the ‘Stonewall Defense’ is great to help in the defeat of your opponents and avoid taking punishment while under their attack, because at the same time it sets them up perfectly for your strategic counter punches.


Paul Smith September 28, 2012 at 12:02 am

Greetings Fran,

As per usual you have given us some quality instruction with this series of techniques on the pads.
I have also noticed that you were asking about possible missed opportunites with regards to the Mayweather style mitt work exercises and thought I may be able to shed some light.

The above video clips are from an old VHS tape entitled ‘Mastering the Mitts’ by John Brown.

In Roger Mayweather’s segment of the tape, one can see Floyd’s uncle using his very familiar ‘pat-a-cake’ style mitt work with a very inexperienced young lady. What I have been able to understand from the clip (the audio/video quality is poor, but earphones will help) is that these unique type drills are for improving muscle memory for use in counter punching and defense against punches from close range. They are, in effect, very fast manoeuvers designed to improve a fighter’s instincts and are far removed from simple child’s play.

I like how Roger teaches the young lady about the use of a lead right hand punch and then shows her defenses against the possible counter punches that an opponent may throw in response to it. He teaches her some insightful amateur and pro pivot and range finding moves too. By the end of the second clip above, she is a vastly improved defender and very fast puncher on the focus mitts and looks not to different from Floyd when training with Roger.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Fran September 30, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Hey Paul

Firstly, my apologies for my delay in replying. The day job has been keeping me pretty frenetic of late but after Wednesday my output on the site should be increasing, can’t wait!

These videos are fantastic, there’s a wealth of stuff for all of us to learn there. A truly smart boxing trainer giving some excellent insights. I really like the routines around countering the body shots and the simple use of blocks and punches in a seamless manner. I have certainly picked up some stuff to use in the gym. The with the shoulder block I think I’ll go with the full defensive left-side block, but this should have the same result and shouldn’t interfere with the all-important flow.

I’m going to watch these at length Paul and may even do a series of posts based upon what’s there. Great stuff, thanks so much.

By the way, I’ll be looking up the Champ Thomas book for my Kindle, sounds like it’s well worth a read.

Thanks Paul


Fran October 1, 2012 at 8:00 pm

I really do approve mate, really good vid. Thanks.


Matt September 25, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Hi Fran/Dave

Thank you for your comments on the shoulder roll vs blocking comment, they were very valuable. Do either of you agree what he says about how the block impairs vision or forces you to take the impact of the shot?

One potential weakness I have sometimes found with the shoulder roll defence that the video doesn’t mention is that if you overturn the lead shoulder (which is quite easy to do), you can completely stifle your counter cross as your shoulder is in the way and it has to come from too far back.

My personal opinion, and I say this with far less experience and skill level as you two clearly possess, is that it is a good technique to use in certain situations but I completely agree with what both of you have said, that the fool-proof fundamentals are far less riskier to employ and believe that they should be used as the default boxing style if you like.

Another thing I have noticed is that although this type of defensive technique is most often associated with Floyd Mayweather, I have seen several fights where he uses a more aggressive style with a high guard, particularly against southpaws, to greater effect than the shoulder roll technique. One case in point is his fight with Zab Judah. This is interesting as it highlights, in this instance, the advantages of the double-arm block/high guard over the cross-arm defence of Judah. Notice how Mayweather walks Judah down and comes over the top of his low lead with hooks and crosses, particularly from 6:00 onwards:

Do you have any opinions on this?

As regards what you mentioned Dave about the confusion it could cause if it was a southpaw vs orthodox scenario, the coach does explain how a southpaw/orthodox would use the shoulder roll if facing an opponent of the opposite stance if you are interested:


Dave Waterman September 29, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Hi Matt,

I’d agree that employing a lead arm block against a right cross results in a momentary loss of vision. But it is only momentary and the limitation is mitigated by the opponent’s commitment to the shot and your own ring awareness. As for having to absorb the power of the shot, that’s true but the power is absorbed by the defending fighter’s arm with his body set in a very stable position, so it’s not something that will break a fighter down quickly.

But as Fran has said, there are other options in defending against the right cross. One of the defences I like to teach is the lead hand parry coupled with a pivot on the front foot. It leaves the defending fighter in a position to counter to head or body, very much like the position the coach achieves in the second video you posted where he uses the duck and pivot against the ortodox right cross.

In that video we can see how the shoulder roll/Philly shell employed in a southpaw v orthodox engagement loses its potency and I believe that’s why Floyd Mayweather uses the shoulder roll to a lesser degree against southpaws like Zab Judah, seen in the first video you posted and it’s a contention that Mayweather has trouble with southpaws.

My biggest problem with the shoulder roll/Philly shell is that it reduces the jab from a fast, ramrod straight punch fired from the shoulder to something that’s little more than an annoying flick thrown from the waist. That’s why the fighter’s toolbox needs to be chock-full of other skills to accompany this stance if it’s employed.


Fran September 29, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Hey Matt.

I’ve read Dave’s comment also and watched the two video links, thanks for posting them.

Mayweather is an immensely clever fighter who’s versatility marks him out from any of his peers. He suits his approach to the opponent and here against southpaw Judah he goes for a straightforward double arm block, as you say. What else he does though is use his left hand in all kinds of unconventional ways. Contrary to the belief that the right hand is the be all and end all for an orthodox against a southpaw, Floyd shows us that the left hand is the winner. He constantly has it working to stop Judah using his.

And this brings me onto the 2nd link. Again the coach makes very valid points about the dynamics of the southpaw versus orthodox, but I think these points are the key ones of that particular counter. They are good tactical points as opposed to being ‘the way for a southpaw to smash a southpaw.’ If these moves are used more than once, an opponent will spot it and will overcome it. How would they overcome it? Well I’d think about showing that jab and bringing in the right hook at the same time, whilst the southpaw turning from the jab.

So the only criticism I would have here is that it’s maybe presented as a strategy rather than a solid tactical action that can be used now and then. Again though, some good food food thought there Matt, thanks.


Matt October 10, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Hey Fran

Thank you both for your insight on this, its very eye-opening. I believe that in such a sport as this its good to get as many opinions as possible.
You’re absolutely spot on about that rear right hook against a southpaw using a shoulder roll technique as they roll away from the left hook.
I also think that this coach may prefer the shoulder roll as he is quite tall. As a shorter exponent I find that the top and back of your head is quite exposed when using this technique.

This leads me onto another interesting point about style. I was once trained by a very ‘old school’ trainer, looked a lot like Mickey from Rocky, who advocated an old school style. Instead of placing the hands at the side of the head he taught us to place the rear hand directly in front of the chin or lead side cheeck and the lead arm extended out in front in a line, basically like a Ray Robinson style or Bernard Hopkins.

Do you have any thoughts on this old school style? Is it more effective than the more recent ‘peekaboo’ technique?




Fran October 11, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Hey Matt

Good question.

There’s no rule to say that a boxer can’t alternate between both. I have seen many boxers vary the way they hold their basic guard. The Eastern European fighters often had a virtually fully extended lead arm but would often switch. Different methods can work at different times against different opponents. FOr modern amateurs I like to see a high guard when in range. The pros having more rounds to work with are more likely to mix things up.

Cheers Matt


Matt October 19, 2012 at 11:00 am

Thanks for the feedback on that one. I often wonder why the traditional style went out of fashion, so to speak. I personally believe it has all the potential benefits of the shoulder roll (as you stay behind the lead shoulder and use it for defence) without the one massive weakness of having your lead hand low down.

Do you think its true that what many boxing experts say, that the old school fighters of the 40’s and 50’s, like Willie Pep, could whoop any of the champs of today?

My uncle who fought in the 60’s recently commented that in his day he had 30+ fights before fighting for a British world title, which was quite common then, but nowadays fighters are having world title shots with only 20 or so professional fights.



John September 21, 2012 at 8:53 am

Hi Fran, I was wondering if you could help me with an annoying problem. I have been boxing for 5 years now and I take great pride in being technical and having a very solid fence with a careful style.My sparring partners frequently comment that I am difficult to hit.
However recently I have been sparring with some very awkward opponents with less experience than me and huge holes in their fence that, try as I might, I cannot exploit.
Neither are naturally gifted, but one possesses good hand speed and the other decent power. I am getting very frustrated because they make fundamental mistakes like exposing their chin, having this rear hand too low and a poor stance in my opinion. However, they have an annoying habit of being able to avoid my shots by leaning back or turning their head a by at key moments. I take painstaking effort to make sure my guard is high and tight and have good fundamentals. However this one bugger keeps landing left hooks on the back right hand corner of my head that I have no way to feed against because they come from so wide an angle.

Would these be considered scoring shots? Finally is there any piece of mind you can give me on this one? It is starting to make me really lose confidence that these less experienced, technically flawed partners are getting the better of me when I have persistently dedicated myself to good technique for 5 years.


Fran September 25, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Hey John

Thanks for the question. Look, don’t get too down about this it’s not as uncommon as you might expect. The first thing that you need to do is relax. This might sound simple, but there are lots of levels of relaxation. The first is level is to think about what you do rather than what they do. So, don’t seek to look for obvious opportunities like that chin that’s hanging out there. The very best way to focus on your work is to think about the angles that you are throwing your shots and how you can generate your own angles. A great way to do this is to feint with one hand and strike with the other. Particularly effective is a feinted back hand (right cross) followed by a simple jab. When you start landing shots like this it will force your opponent to come to you and will make them more vulnerable.

Without seeing the spar it’s difficult to know what’s going on. However, as well as the tip above think about another option. Aim for the chest. This isn’t nearly as slippery as the head of a novice who is bounding about like a Mad March Hare.

Don’t lose faith in your skills, just vary your approach a little more starting with lot’s of feinting to unsettle the opponent and make your openings.

Hope this helps.

One more thing, make sure that your range is right. If the opponent is using a type of lay back, make sure you go in with double jabs whilst moving forward as this helps you close the range really safely and effectively, always a good option.


Fran September 17, 2012 at 11:31 am

Like you Ivan, I believe that Roger Mayweather and FLoyd combine to put on this ‘shop window’ display for the build up to the fights. I’m convinced that in the privacy of a closed gym session the pad routines are much more functional and specific to the upcoming opponent. I like the showmanship, glamour and bravado that Mayweather brings to the ring. And let’s face it, he has not yet failed to deliver and I don’t really see anyone on the horizon likely to push him in that direction.


Dave Waterman September 15, 2012 at 5:37 am


I hope you don’t mind me I offering a reply with my thoughts on Floyd Mayweather’s defence. In answer to your question, Gary, yes, Floyd really is that good. He is one of a number of very skilled boxers who fight with their hands low and it’s a technique that’s based on reflexes, timing and range awareness. It draws the opponent in allowing the boxer to slip, layback, duck or any of the other defensive techniques Fran demonstrates within this site, then fire off counters. Floyd is the archetypal counter puncher.

He also fights employing a guard known as the ‘Philly Shell’ where the right hand covers the jaw and the left hand is carried at waist level protecting the mid-section. The left shoulder covers the left side of the jaw and the boxer rolls off of oncoming punches leaving him free to fire counters with the right hand.

If there is to be a criticism of Floyd I would say that it is a career long aversion to taking a punch which is demonstrated by a distinct lack of examples of where Floyd has dug in and traded with an opponent. This, coupled with his sublime skill, is precisely why you don’t see Floys getting hit often.


Dave Waterman September 16, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Floyd, not ‘Floys’…..sorry….2 inch mobile screen in a tent in Scotland….


Fran September 17, 2012 at 11:32 am

You’re very impressive on that 2 inch screen Dave. I’d chuck the thing out of the zip up door if I have to type anything more than a sentence or two!


Fran September 17, 2012 at 11:27 am

Hey Dave

Quick question mate. I’ve spoken to a number of guys who have worked in Philly gyms for 30 to 40 years. To a man, none of them had heard of the Philly Shell before going on line. The research I’ve done suggests that it’s an invention of the game creators at EA Games and their Fight Game series.

My question is, would you ever coach any of your guys in using this type of defence in the amateur ring. Forget about sparring here, I’m talking fast and furious competition?

Any thoughts?


Terry September 18, 2012 at 9:45 am

Hello Fran,
I’ve sometimes wondered about the term Philly Shell as well. I’ve seen fighters over the years using what we called the cross smother type of defense without it been described as anything other than that, but the term has come into use quite a bit these days. Two Australian world champions who used it to good effect were Lionel Rose and Johnny Famechon both very smart boxers.I remember Lionel boxing a felllow in Melbourne who hailed from Liverpool named Allan Rudkin Fran.He boxed all the good ones from that era including Rose,Harada,Olivares.I think he passed away last year.Do you remember him at all?He was a tough little rooster.
Regards Terry


Fran September 19, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Hey Terry

Alan Rudkin is a massively famous boxer in Liverpool and to the knowledgable in the wider boxing community over here. He’s often referred to as the best British fighter never to win a world title despite coming very close. The guys you mention were what stopped him! He died a few years back, but even in retirement you only ever heard nice stories about him. He was apparently a really friendly and affable man. A credit to the sport as they say.


Dave Waterman September 18, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Hi Fran,

The Philly Shell reference is one that seems to have come into common usage to describe what I’ve heard termed as simply the shoulder roll. I remember the term being used here on your site by one of the commenters responding to the James DeGale article. I’m not sure where it started, or where I first heard it. I spend in inordinate amount of my time (too much probably) reading about and watching boxing; and none playing video games, so I’m pleading not guilty to acquiring it from a video game 😉

But to answer your question: No, I would never teach this form of defence to my amateur boxers. I think it’s very important to learn the basic skills, and learn to execute those well, before developing alternatives. As has been said often, the best boxers are the ones that can do the basic stuff very well. The stage at which an amateur boxer might develop alternative skills such as the Philly Shell would be long after leaving my tutelage.

That said, one of my lads began using the Philly shell in sparring a couple of weeks back. I stopped the session and asked him where he had picked it up, to which he just grunted, let him carry on with it but advised against using it in live competition. I’m not sure what a ABAE referee would make of it. It certainly nullifies the sharp, crisp execution of the jab and that’s one reason alone for it being a skill that should be left to those that are paid for their craft.

Some of the more experienced guys that train in the gym have spent years in gyms and rings with all manner of coaches and have developed their own styles. As much as I wouldn’t teach a novice amateur what we might refer to as advanced or alternative skills, neither would I ask the experienced guys to return to the basics, and in any case, many of those could teach me a thing or two.


Fran September 20, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Haha. I can’t believe that you haven’t got an Atari in the corner of your living room with a bunch of classic 80’s titles. ‘Philly shell’ does seem widely used and like you I call it the shoulder roll. Also like you I don’t actively coach it for pretty much the same reason. It’s also a bit dodgy in the amateurs because it’s almost designed glance blows away from the jaw and off the head. In the amateurs that could still count as a scoring shot.

What you said about working with the novices and the open class boxers and the different approaches we need to have with both, it’s a great observation mate. That’s the art of the amateur boxing coach and it’s a hell of a balance to strike.


Matt September 23, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Hi Fran/Dave

I was reading your thread here on the shoulder roll and its value to amateur boxers as opposed more conventional techniques and I wondered, in that regard, what your opinion would be of this video made by a respected boxing coach in LA on the subject:


Dave Waterman September 25, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Hi Matt,

Before I comment I’d just like to say that creating something of value is worthwhile and to be commended while being a critic is the easiest job in the world. The coach in the video clearly knows his stuff and has taken the time to attempt to impart his knowledge onto those accessing his material.

So that said, my opinion of this particular instructional video is that it could have been a little more polished and choreographed. The assistant, when asked to perform a shoulder roll, is really just turning away from the shot and blocking with his shoulder rather than allowing the oncoming shot to glance away. This is partly due to the coach simply slapping with a mitt rather than demonstrating a gloved, right hand coming straight down the pipe and partly due to the assistant being unfamiliar with the manoeuvre.

We also see the coach demonstrating the manoeuvre in a orthodox v orthodox stance with his assistant in the first half of the video. Then we see him alone in the southpaw stance in the second half (which I suspect is his natural condition). This might cause confusion as in a southpaw v orthodox engagement it would be a difficult manoeuvre to achieve.

What this video does achieve well is to demonstrate why the shoulder roll (or Philly Shell) is something that should really be for the professional code only. As Fran has already said, if the shot glances off the shoulder and strikes the head, it may be counted as a scoring blow. Also, if the boxer were to turn away from his or her opponent to the extent we see the assistant doing so in the video, he or she would probably receive a warning from the referee for turning his/her back.

Fran September 25, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Dave makes some very good points Matt. I, like Dave, like this coach. He is a boxing man and has clearly learned his trade from the ground up (unlike many contemporaries). In short, the roll is just something I wouldn’t really coach. I’ve always saw it as a defence of last resort, when you see the shot coming and you can’t push away, block or slip. Any port in a storm when a shot is incoming. But like Dave says, the pros may make more use of it.

In terms of defending the incoming right cross (from an orthodox), I would always hope that slipping is employed as a key part of the defensive tactics. Letting the shot whistle past is always preferable. There are also other lead hand defences that can be used, not just the simple double-arm block as demonstrated here.

Thanks for the link Matt, very useful aid to debate.

Gary September 14, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Very good demonstration Fran on using punch mitts with the correct technique. I also like how you always keep yourself moving.
With regards to any Mayweather training drill, I am suprised to see he is not hit more often. No matter what he practices his hands are always kept low, especially when working inside with Roger. Is he lucky or is he just that good.


Fran September 17, 2012 at 11:25 am

Hey Gary

I agree with Dave, Mayweather is simply that good. He is as good as a fighter as I’ve ever seen and I don’t say that lightly. He combines all kinds of skills and techniques as well as amazing physical and mental attributes that build a supreme fighter. All this being said, there is much of what Floyd does that is very specific to the professional ranks and would not necessarily translate into the amateur code with any success, Dave’s reference to the ‘philly shell’ being a case in point. Not only is the stuff specific to the pro’s, but most couldn’t actually get away with it.

Oh yes, Floyd is that good.

Thanks Gary.


Dave Waterman September 12, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Found this vid on Youtube of the fantastic Kevin Mitchell. I wonder whether a coach could absorb the undoubted power in Kev’s punches without catching them?


Fran September 13, 2012 at 8:43 pm

He’s absolute class isn’t he Dave. Thought he was amazing against Murray, some of his defensive skills are sublime.

Good pad session this too, boxer and coach know each other inside out and there’s some really well thought out combos and angle changes. Top stuff mate, thanks!


Ivan September 12, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Hi Fran,
Things look better with this lad, he seems to be enjoying it and you don’t mind it either. The session looks seamless and it must have been a treat for Sean.
There is stuff to work on and I’ll mention just a few things concerning the basics. Defensive discipline is important (I realize off camera sessions may look different), and the chin has no business pointing in the direction of the punch. Shoulders could be your chin’s best friend, don’t let them drop comfortably.
You know his range at least as good as he does and hold the mitts at a good distance. After a good jab he hurls forward too much, leaning in, curbing the rotation and letting the back shoulder “fall behind”.
Even so the guy seems to carry enough smack. However this should not fool him into neglecting caution. Slap them now and then if you have to like you almost did in the very beginning of the clip.


Fran September 13, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Thanks Ivan. I saw Sean out on his run earlier and urged him to check out your comment. Some good observations, very constructive and helpful.


Dave Waterman September 12, 2012 at 9:25 am

Hi Fran,

I enjoy your pad videos greatly and have pored over them endlessly to improve my own skills. The point you’ve made regarding Roger Mayweather’s pad sessions and in particular his, and other coach’s, tendency to meet the oncoming shot with a forward moving mitt is something I’d like to discuss.

When I was tutored in taking students on the pads I was told that this was the correct method as it took the sting out of the shot and prevented overuse injuries to the coach. I can appreciate that position as I’ve experienced the jolt to elbow and shoulder when I’ve failed to hold a firm target for a ‘banger.’ Nick Okoth is the biggest puncher I have experience of and I make sure I wear heavily padded mitts whenever undertaking a pad session with him. After five or six rounds of pad action with Nick I know I’ve had a work out myself and admit to catching his punches to take the sting out; not in a Roger Mayweather style, but enough to keep my elbow joint in place.

Also, catching the oncoming shot creates a satisfying crack of leather meeting leather. The problem arises when the coach goes further than taking the sting out of the shot and swings his mitt forward to such an extent that if the boxer feints a shot or misses the pad the coach’s hand flies toward the boxer. I think I’ve probably been guilty of this in the past and realise my over exaggeration in catching the punch if there’s a miss.

Thanks for these videos, Fran. I’ll continue to use them to improve my own skills.


Fran September 13, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Good comment Mr Waterman.

You make a very good point on the potential for us coach-types to suffer those injuries to the elbows and shoulders. I occasionally suffer that same jolt you talk about, usually with long range shots. It’s interesting because I put it down to me mis-timing the shot. There’s definitely some ‘catching’ going on from me swiftly followed by relaxation of the arm.

Funny thing is, the worst injury I’ve had on the pads is a broken ring finger on my left hand, the result of a misalignment of my pad and the incoming hook. Still got the deformed finger joint to prove it. Suffering for our art eh mate. Funny enough, the boxer I was working with when I broke my finger is the subject of the next video. He’s a good kid and is great to work with on the pads.

Hope things are going well mate and thanks for the coach’s contribution, always very valuable.


Fran October 25, 2012 at 7:42 pm

That’s a big answer, one for a full post. Boxers box far less these days. Even in the 80s Mike Tyson fought every 3 weeks for 2 years. It was a much tougher sport back then but consequently a more dangerous one. The age-old question though isn’t it, maybe I should select a few fantasy fights and do an analysis.


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