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Different types of boxing punches not only have different names but are assigned certain numbers. If you ever walk into a boxing gym during drills, you may hear the coach calling out different boxing combos like “1-2-3” or “2-3-6“.
While it may sound like he’s brushing up on his math skills, the coach is using numerical shorthand to indicate specific punches. Each number signifies the punches he wants to see, from which side, and in what order. Here we’ll demystify punch numbers and give you a solid intro to some of the basic types of punches in boxing.
The Basic Boxing Punches (1-6)
Traditionally, there are 6 different types of boxing punches, 3 from the lead hand and 3 from the rear hand. Keep in mind “lead hand” and “rear hand” don’t necessarily mean “left” and “right.” While this is the case for fighters who use an Orthodox Stance (right-handed), it will be reversed for those who fight Southpaw (left-handed).
Stance and Punch Numbers
How do you know which boxing stance is best for you? The majority of boxers use their dominant hand as their rear hand. If you’re right-handed, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and take a step back with your right foot. Angle your upper body so that your left shoulder is facing towards the front.
Tuck your chin and imagine you’re looking out “through your eyebrows.” Now make two fists and raise them to your face, right beneath your eyes, to establish your “guard.” Your weight transfers forward towards your toes and bends your legs slightly. This is what’s known as an orthodox stance and is the starting position for most right-handed fighters.
If you’re left-handed, you’ll simply reverse the process, stepping back with your left foot rather than right. This is what’s known as a southpaw stance and how many left-handed fighters prefer to fight. Some fighters train to fight in both stances, but you’ll likely find that one feels far more natural than the other.
If you’re fighting orthodox, your left hand will serve as your lead hand, while your right hand will serve as your rear hand. Think of your lead hand as being for “speed”, because it’s closer to your target and can land a punch a bit quicker. Your rear hand is your “power” hand, because it requires more momentum to use, but also packs a lot more power.
As we get into punch numbers and what they mean, here’s a handy trick to help you remember which side of your body each punch comes from:
- Lead hand punch numbers are always odd – 1, 3, and 5
- Rear hand punch numbers are always even – 2, 4, and 6
Now let’s get into punch numbers 1 – 6 and what they mean. Each stands for one of the 6 most common types of boxing punches.
A jab is a short, quick straight punch thrown with your lead hand. To throw one, start in your stance and pivot on your toes as you twist your hips and extend your lead arm straight out to about eye level.
You’ll also want to twist your fist before impact so that you land the punch with your knuckles up and the bottom of your fingernails facing the ground. Some coaches prefer you “turn it over” even further, landing with your fist sideways and thumb facing the floor.
While there are exceptions, the jab tends to be a rapid punch that’s used primarily for gauging space, distracting your opponent, or setting up a stronger punch in a combo.
A cross is sort of like a power version of the jab and is thrown with your rear hand.
Starting in your stance, throw your rear hand straight out forward, twisting your wrist so you land with your knuckles.
Notice that in order to land a cross, your rear foot naturally pivots and your hips turn to follow the direction of your fist.
Fully committing to this full-body movement is the secret to the knockout power of a killer cross punch, so be sure to take advantage of the power generated by your feet and hips.
The cross is a great follow-up to the jab and can generate a lot of power as it covers distance.
3. Lead Hook
The lead hook, or left hook, is thrown with (you guessed it) your lead hand and is a powerful short-range punch.
Starting in your stance with your hands up, drop your stance to your lead side, with your elbow bent and close to your body.
Pivot your feet and body to spring back up as you swing your lead fist at shoulder height, keeping your elbow bent at around 90-degrees.
When the hook lands, your lead forearm should be flat in front of your face, like a tabletop.
Read More: Types of Hook Punches & Variations
4. Rear (Power) Hook
The rear hook is often referred to as the power hook because it’s arguably one of the most powerful punches in boxing.
Throwing it involves much the same technique as the lead hook, only you’ll lean to your rear side to generate power and pivot towards your lead foot as you land the blow with your rear hand.
With proper technique, the rear hook is the type of punch to use in an effective combination.
5. Lead Uppercut
The lead or left uppercut is another great close-range move and involves delivering a punch that’s aimed upwards instead of straight out or from the side.
Much of the momentum comes from pivoting your feet and hips as you shoot your fist upwards with your elbow bent and your fingernails facing you.
Landing a great uppercut to an opponent’s chin can lead to an instant knock-out.
6. Rear (Power) Uppercut
The rear uppercut uses much the same technique as the lead uppercut, but with the opposite hand.
You’ll also keep your elbow bent at 90 degrees as you use the power from your legs and pivot to drive the punch straight upwards.
Properly executed, the rear uppercut can be a KO type power punch, especially when followed by a left hook.
Punch Numbers 7-12
While many gyms have punch numbers that go up to 12, the punches associated with different numbers can start to vary around punch number 7. Most coaches are aware of this, so don’t be ashamed to ask them which punches they assign to each number.
Punch numbers 7- 12 tend to indicate one of the following common boxing punches.
7. Lead Body Hook
The lead body hook is a close-range shot that can be incredibly effective if executed properly. In order to keep your head protected, step slightly off the line with your lead foot and drop your stance so that your body is somewhat tilted towards your lead side.
Keep your lead arm close to your body, elbows bent, and then thrust up with the ball of your lead foot as you rotate your upper body and hips at an upward angle towards your opponent. Sometimes also called a “liver shot,” the lead body hook can deliver a powerful blow just under your opponent’s ribs.
8. Rear Body Hook
As in the lead body hook, you’ll begin by dropping your stance and shifting your weight to one side, in this case towards your rear foot.
To throw the rear body hook, keep your elbow bent as you pivot up towards your opponent, shifting your weight from your rear leg to your lead leg as you drive your fist into your opponent’s side.
9. Overhand Cross
An overhand cross is a rear hand punch that’s thrown in an arc-type motion.
Starting from the guard position, your fist travels up over your head as it travels outwards and then drops back down, hopefully landing on your opponent’s face. The overhand comes in handy when you want to nail an opponent who is doing a lot of slipping or bobbing.
The true power of the punch comes in allowing the rest of your body to follow its downward momentum.
As you practice, you’ll notice that your stance should naturally drop and tilt towards your lead side. This not only keeps your head off the line but also adds the force of the drop to the punch.
The Haymaker is a powerful punch similar to a conventional hook but uses a much wider arc. The elbow doesn’t tend to be bent quite as tight as the standard hook’s 90-degree angle but swings further out to the side before landing.
When delivered with full-body force behind it, the Haymaker has been known to be a killer knockout punch. The tradeoff is that it’s also trickier to execute without telegraphing.
11. Bolo Punch
The Bolo punch is a variation on an uppercut, but with a much wider arc. As in the Haymaker, the elbow is usually bent at a wider angle, allowing the boxer more of a wind-up to generate additional power.
Setting up and throwing a haymaker is similar to how you might set up an underhand pitch in baseball or softball. Pull your fist back and then swing it up and forward in a wide, powerful arc.
12. Gazelle Punch
The Gazelle punch was first made famous back in the 1950s by Floyd Patterson and has since been a favorite of fighters like Mike Tyson, Ricky Marciano, and “Thug” Rose Namajunas.
Named after the jumping action of a gazelle, the punch involves lowering your stance before springing off the ground and forward with both feet.
The lead hand uses the momentum of the leap to deliver a punch, usually a jab or hook with a wider arc. In order to avoid telegraphing, try mixing in some feints and head moment so your opponent won’t see the set-up coming.
Legends Boxing Punch Numbers
While punch numbers 1 –6 tend to be pretty standard at most boxing gyms, Legends Boxing is a notable exception. Legends gyms have their own punch numbers for the following 8 punches:
- Front Hook
- Rear Body Uppercut
- Lead Body Uppercut
- Rear Overhand
- Lead Overhand
- Rear Body Hook
As you can see, their punch numbers are pretty standard, up until punch number 4, at which point they jump straight to body shots rather than a standard rear hook.
It isn’t until punch number 8 that the rear hook comes into play and, even then, the technique behind it is a bit different than at most boxing gyms.
Legends Boxing teaches that rear hooks should always be directed at your opponent’s body rather than at their head.
Which method is correct? Neither is necessarily right or wrong. It’s more a matter of preference, so feel free to play around with both and see which works best for you.