Boxing Target Areas


The objective of boxing is to hit and not get hit. But exactly where should you punch? When you’re boxing, you don’t have much time to target a specific area of your opponent. Most times, you end up punching the head or the body, and you try to avoid getting hit in those general areas. Despite the realities of boxing, the answer to this question matters. However, there areas where you instinctively avoid targeting, such as the elbow (because it’ll hurt your fist) or shoulders (because it’ll have little effect). Similarly, there are areas where you instinctively target, such as the chin.

Where you should punch matters because you should target the areas that maximize your punch’s effectiveness. In a match, you have better things to spend energy on than ineffective punches. So during practice, you should know the best target areas and work to target them instinctively through drilling. Before you can do this, you must know exactly where you should punch.

So where should you punch? To answer the question fully, we look at three kinds of areas. First, there are legal target areas, as specified by the sport’s rules. Second, there are areas that maximize the power or “damage” of your punches. In this section, we will also look at what punches are particularly ideal for each area and the notable effects of hitting each area hard enough. Third, there are target-lead areas. You should take these three kinds of areas into account when punching at your opponent.

Legal Target Areas:

The legal target area is “any part of the front or sides of the head or body above the belt of [your] opponent,” according to the USA Boxing passbook. “The belt line is an imaginary line
from the navel [ or “belly-button”] to the top of the hips . . . ,” according to Rule 40.1 of the USA Boxing National Rule Book.

No punches should land outside this zone, otherwise it won’t count and may be a foul.

Optimal Target Areas:

Starting from the head down, the optimal, most damaging target areas are:

  1. Temples- often produces “zombie” knockouts, dizziness,  jelly (aka chicken or stiff) legs, and concussions; see example. Most effective punch: hook.
  2. Nose- produces flash knockdowns, broken nose, stinging pain at the nose and bloody nose (both of these are very distracting); see example. Most effective punch: jab or straight.
  3. Jaw- produces knockouts, broken jaws, jelly (aka chicken or stiff) legs, inability to control one’s body, and concussions; see example @00:50. Most effective punch: hook.
  4. Chin- produces flash knockdowns (or a knockdown similar to the one produced by a hit to the jaw if hit by a hook), broken jaws, and concussions; see example. Most effective punch: straight or cross.
  5. Throat (uncommon)- produces difficulty breathing and choking sensation
  6. Heart (uncommon)- rumored to paralyze your opponent
  7. Sternum (uncommon)- produces difficulty breathing, coughing, sensation of compression, and breathlessness. Most effective punch: straight.
  8. Solar Plexus- produces breathlessness, sharp wrenching pain followed by lingering radial pain, and nausea; see example @02:33. Most effective punch: uppercut to the body (forthcoming post).
  9. Liver- produces sharp, debilitating pain (like a major side stitch) and breathlessness; effects are delayed after being hit; see example. Most effective punch: hook, but for southpaws, straight.

The main target areas, that is, what you should aim for, are the solar plexus, chin, and jaw. Punches to the ribs may eventually hurt your opponent, but punches to the solar plexus have a higher chance of damaging your opponent. The same goes for the punching to the chin. Both of these target areas are central targets, meaning that if you don’t hit the chin or solar plexus exactly, you have a high chance of at least scoring. As for the jaw, it’s a relatively large area, having the greatest chance of producing a KO.

Target-lead Areas:

If your opponent moves his head and uses his feet, that is, remembers his defenses, you’ll have to target lead. Target leading is when you target your punch ahead of where the actual target is.

It’s best to target lead when you target the head or the solar plexus, since the head can move readily and the solar plexus is on the center-line. To target lead when targeting the head, aim slightly below where the head is. The head crosses this spot, no matter what defense, so you’re guaranteed to make contact. To target lead the solar plexus, aim slightly more to the side your opponent will step. This requires more attention to your opponent’s movements, but it’ll help you hit the solar plexus squarely.


As you practice or spar, you should always aim above the belly-button, at the solar plexus, chin, or jaw, and target lead when necessary. Make it instinctive so that in competition your punches are as effective as possible.

Author: Loc Ho

Loc Ho was assistant coach, team captain, and boxed at 139 lbs, 132 lbs, and 125 lbs for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s boxing team from 2016-2019. He has trained hundreds of novices and seasoned athletes and created the program’s year-long training curriculum that has taken complete beginners to elite collegiate competitors. With Loc as assistant coach for three years, the program placed six athletes regionally and nationally, including the program’s first men’s national champion at 119 lbs and a national runner-up at 195 lbs. Loc is currently studying law at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

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