This article originally appeared on Evolve-MMA.
While the majority of focus in boxing lies in its punching and combinations, there are other factors that are introduced when you reach the more advanced stages of training. When you get to that next level, you’ll shift focus to other equally important facets of the game that need your attention — things like head movement, defense, and the all-important footwork.
The boxing ring is massive and to be able to use the full length of it is a trait of any seasoned fighter. Masterfully getting in and out of range, moving into advantageous positions, and avoiding danger with fluid movement is an essential skill to have as a boxer. Contrary to popular belief, boxing is more than just hands. It has a lot to do with how you use your feet.
Have you ever wondered why guys like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao have been so successful in their careers? It is because of great footwork that they have been able to maximize their offensive and defensive skills.
Boxing may be the science of punching, but there is a lot to be said about a boxer with excellent footwork. In fact, in this sport, proper footwork and great ring generalship are necessary for success at any level.
To help you improve your movement in the ring, we have come up with some tips for you to take note of the next time you’re in the gym. Today, Evolve Daily shares four ways you can improve your ring generalship and footwork in boxing.
1) Master the basics
Like everything else in this sport, it all starts with the fundamental basics. Before you find yourself moving like Vasyl Lomachenko in the ring, using your feet to stifle your opponents, you’ll need to learn how to move forward and backward, and side to side.
Set some time aside before or after class to focus solely on footwork. Practice advancing and retreating in a straight line, making sure you maintain proper stance and correct distance of the feet as you shuffle forward and backward. The same applies to when you move side to side.
Once you have the movement pinned down, focus on gaining speed, and mixing up direction. While you are moving, visualize slipping punches in your mind by bobbing and weaving. Imagine yourself facing a forward-moving opponent and that your only defense is to use your feet to evade danger.
When you are comfortable with the basic movement, it’s time to take the next step.
2) Learn how to move backward at an angle
After learning how to move forward and backward, and side to side, the next step will be learning how to move backward in angles. Boxing footwork is incredibly complex. One great way to diversify your footwork is to add angles to your movement.
Instead of moving constantly in a straight line, focus now on giving your opponent a new look by shifting backward at an angle.
During your footwork drills, or when shadow boxing, visualize yourself closing the distance to throw your combinations. Instead of moving outward in a straight line at the end of your offensive sequence, move diagonally towards your opponent’s lead hand. You will need to move at an angle to the right if you’re facing an orthodox opponent, or an angle to the left if you’re facing a southpaw.
This effectively protects you from your opponent’s cross and sets up the opportunity for the next move — the pivot.
3) Incorporate the pivot
One of the most advanced footwork techniques in boxing is the pivot. When you learn how to stamp your lead foot and use it to pivot to the sides, you’ll be running circles around your opponents in no time.
During shadow boxing is the best time to practice pivoting. Hone your skills with constant repetition until awkward movement feels natural. After getting the technique down slowly, start to build speed and explosiveness.
Olympic boxers are often taught that footwork is the most important skill in boxing and that with great footwork, offense is diversified tenfold. Some of the greatest fighters in history have showcased tremendous footwork, men like Guillermo Rigondeaux, Muhammad Ali, and Willie Pep.
The pivot is a great technique to use to catch opponents off guard. When executed properly, the pivot will leave your foe a full step behind, vulnerable to your offense.
4) Practice cutting off the ring
Last but certainly not the least, after mastering your footwork techniques, you will need to learn how to use your skills to cut off the ring.
The science of cutting off the ring means limiting the area in which your opponent is able to move. This often involves a heap of strategy and timing and is reinforced with a strong jab. When facing an opponent who is as good as you are with movement, it is important to be able to cut off the ring and get them on the ropes or in the corners.
One of the biggest mistakes of forward-moving offensive fighters is falling into the habit of following their opponents around the ring. You don’t want to look like a dog chasing its own tail in there, hence you must be able to intelligently use your feet to maneuver your opponent into where you want them to go.
When your opponent moves left, use your side to side movement to close off that area, then push them back with a jab or with a combination. This will either cause your opponent to move back to the right or retreat on the back foot. The only time you will move forward is when you have your foe retreating to the ropes.
Once you have them trapped, then you can tee off on your combinations.
Footwork is essential to mastering boxing. It is a great skill to learn and enhance, giving you the ability to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Try these techniques out the next time you’re in the gym!