Types of Guards

Introduction

Sometimes, as a novice, you may wonder why another boxer’s lead hand is so low? After all, conventional wisdom tells us to keep both hands up. As an intermediate boxer, you may wonder why both hands of another boxer are so high? Wouldn’t their body be wide open and their vision blocked by their own hands? The way boxers position their hands in their stance is called their guard, and every guard has its strengths and weaknesses. This article will give you an overview of the different types of guards in boxing.

Types of Guards

Keith Thurman using his conventional guard

Conventional: The rear hand is placed near the rear cheek and the lead hand is similarly positioned yet about 4-6 inches in front of the lead cheek. The primary defenses from this guard are blocking, parrying, slipping, bobbing, and footwork.

The advantages of the conventional guard is its versatility. It is easy to attack or defend, and almost all offensive and defensive maneuvers are available to the boxer. There is a reason why this guard is the default boxing guard: it works with everything and anyone.

Keys to the Conventional Guard
• Stand 45 degrees sideways with your non-dominant hand’s shoulder forward
• Lead hand up at eye level with elbow covering the rib cage on lead side of body
• Rear hand up at eye level with elbow covering the rib cage on rear side of body

Floyd Patterson posing for Everlast with peek-a-boo guard

Peek-a-boo: Both hands are placed around cheek or chin level, and the palms are generally facing inward. Primary defense would be blocking, slipping, weaving. You cannot mention this guard without thinking about Mike Tyson, as this was his primary guard.

The Peek-a-boo guard has numerous, related advantages. Using this guard gives the boxer an easier time at moving their upper body, helping with head movement and seeing the opponent’s punches. Consequently, the guard tends to neutralize height advantage and positions the body for looping punches. The boxer also gains a passive way to block while slipping, bobbing, and weaving.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. using his Philly-shell guard

Philly (aka crab) shell: The lead hand is placed on the abdomen, rear hand on or near the lead side of the chin/cheek. Primary defense would be blocking, parrying, rolling (with shots), slipping, and footwork (pivots, etc.). Mayweather Jr. is the best example of this guard. Adrien Broner is another good example.

Boxers with good reflexes and a height or reach advantage may gain natural advantages using the Philly-shell guard. The guard allows for a full (unimpeded) view of the opponent, an almost full and passive coverage of the body, and tends to position the hands for counter hooks and right hands.

Keys to the Half Guard
• Stand slightly on 45 degree angle with lead side shoulder forward, presenting a smaller target
• Slightly elevate the lead shoulder
• Rear hand is held against the lead side of the face as a defensive shield with lead arm elbow on the rib cage
• Lead hand is held across the stomach above the belt line, just below the rear arm elbow, but can be elevated slightly on boxer’s choice
• Rear hand catches or blocks any punches coming toward both/either the rear side and/or the lead side of the face

George Foreman using his Cross guard

Cross (arm) guard: forearm(s) are placed in front of your face, leaving the body exposed. Primary defense would be weaving and blocking. George Foreman and Joe Frazier are good examples. For a more modern example, Daniel Jacobs sometimes uses this guard.

Why use the cross arm guard? The cross arm guard allows for the most security when blocking the opponent’s looping and straight punches to the head, especially when body punches are not a concern (ex. very few boxers could hurt Foreman with body shots). The guard also follows naturally from throwing hooks.

Adrien Broner advancing on Jessie Vargas with his high guard

High (aka Double) guard: Both hands are placed on the temples of the head, palms facing each other. The boxer’s weight tends to be slightly forward. Primary defense would be footwork, blocking, and parrying. Errol Spence Jr. can be seen using this guard. Mayweather Jr and Adrien Broner also use this guard at times.

The advantages to the high guard are its security and offensive capability. Using this guard positions the boxer for leading an offense with almost full coverage of the head, consequently reducing the risk for the opponent’s stop-hits. The guard also positions the body for easy blocking and quick counters (stop-hits and block-counters).

Keys to the High (Double) Guard
• From the basic stance
• Pull in elbows tight to the body, covering the ribs and body
• Both hands and arms cover face and upper body

Yasuhiro Suzuki using half-guard against Serik Sapiyev in London 2012 Olympics

Half (aka Low) guard: lead hand is low (not necessarily below or above the abdomen) while rear hand is on either the lead or rear cheek. (This may be more a style than a guard because a boxer may still raise his/her lead hand to the cheek or abdomen if their opponent is attacking.) Defense would be blocking, parrying, slipping, ducking, and footwork.

The Philly-shell and half guard share some advantages. Like the Philly-shell, the half guard gives the boxer superb vision. Unlike the Philly shell, the half guard does a better job at concealing the boxer’s lead hand (thus allowing for sneakier lead hooks and jabs).

Keys to the Half Guard
• Stand slightly on 45 degree angle with lead side shoulder forward, presenting a smaller target
• Rear hand is held against the rear side of the face with lead hand lowered to abdomen (or lower)
• Rear hand catch, block, or parry any punches coming toward both/either the rear side and/or the lead side of the face

Conclusion

Muhammad Ali evading with his hands down (no-guard)

There may be more guards with specific uses or theoretical ones (e.g. both hands down, using slipping and weaving for defense) that may not be useful at all. Still, these are the most common and possibly useful or versatile guards you will see.

Sources

https://usiba.usetopscore.com/usa-boxing-grassroots-manual

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