Types of Boxing Styles

Introduction

Styles make fights, and the best style is a versatile one.1 Yet, every boxer has a natural style-tendency in their game that ideally maximizes their strengths and minimizes their weaknesses.2 In moments of adversity, or as an underlying theme in the winning strategy, your opponent (or you) will resort to one of these four basic types of styles and their accompanying guards.

Out-Boxer (Pure Boxer, Boxer)

An out-boxer focuses on maintaining distance between his/her opponent and scoring blows.3 To do this, out-boxers use their footwork, jabs, straights, and long hooks to circle around the ring, disrupt his/her opponents’ rhythm, and rack up their punches landed.4 This style benefits those with height, reach, agility, coordination, and aerobic endurance advantages.5 Imagine a lengthy boxer with technical skills, light feet, and a great jab.6 A successful out-boxer would most likely impress judges with their ring generalship, technique/tactical superiority, and punches landed.7

Guards Used by an Out-Boxer

  • Conventional guard
  • Philly Shell
  • Half (Low) guard

How to Beat an Out-Boxer

  • Use (lateral) side-to-side movement and weaving to get off-line;
  • Draw their offense to create a chance to shorten the distance;
  • Use different punches to the head such as hooks and uppercuts
  • Keep the body (center of mass) low;
  • Move under his/her straight punches;
  • Use different punches (jabs, straights, hooks) to the body.8

Slugger (Heavy Puncher, Brawler)

A slugger focuses on hurting their opponent through sheer aggression, brute force, and toughness.9 To do this, sluggers rely on getting set (planting their feet) and committing to their punches (often hooks and uppercuts).10 Sluggers usually lack mobility, and since they have one-hitter-quitter power, they tend to ignore combination punching.11 Sluggers also don’t place a premium on technique and tactics, although they may employ special positioning, luring, countering, and exchanging strategies.12 Imagine an explosive boxer with a strong chin, thick neck, and big hands.13 While eventually getting a KO, a successful slugger would excel in domination of his opponent and competitiveness since one punch can change the bout.14

Guards Used by a Slugger

  • Cross (arm) guard
  • Peek-a-boo
  • No guard

How to Beat a Slugger

  • Constant movement to prevent him/her to get set (planted);
  • Set up counters after their hard punches;
  • Work the body to break the chain of punching-power generation;
  • Use surprise attacks to catch them off-balance;
  • Move away immediately after landing or evading;
  • Do not exchange punches;
  • Outlast the slugger as they tend to tire quickly.15

Swarmer (Pressure Fighter, Close-In Fighter)

A swarmer focuses on closing the distance, and like out-boxers, landing blows.16 To do this, swarmers use quick footwork, slipping, and weaving to get in range and combination punching to wear their opponent down.17 They need excellent stamina and rely on their toughness, coordination, agility, and hand speed.18 Unlike sluggers, swarmers tend not to have one-punch power and often take more punishment than other styles.19 Imagine a stocky fighter with a strong chin, thick neck, shorter reach, and a low center of mass.20 The successful swarmer would excel in controlling the pace, punches landed, and competitiveness since they never stop trying.21

Guards Used by a Swarmer

  • Peek-a-boo
  • High guard
  • Cross (arm) guard

How to Beat a Swarmer

  • Use your most power shots (slugging) to deter closing in;
  • Use straight punches to maintain distance and uppercuts as he/she attempts to move in;
  • Footwork must be quick;
  • Step back when opponent tries to land a punch, then deliver a counter punch;
  • Constantly move in circular patterns around the ring;
  • Don’t stop punching (for example, jabbing);
  • Use combination punching to deter and disrupt;
  • Clinch if power punches miss the mark.22

Boxer-Puncher (Hybrid Boxers)

A boxer-puncher focuses on utilizing a wide-range of tools and adaptability.23 Like a slugger, they have the power to kayo their opponent and can rely on this power too much at times.24 Like an out-boxer, they have the technical skills to evade punches, maintain distance, and land with accuracy.25 Like a swarmer, they have excellent hand-speed and tenacity.26 Boxer-punchers rely on their general athleticism, reflexes, coordination, and boxing mind to adapt to their opponent and the current state of the match.27 However, with training, boxers who naturally gravitate towards one of the other styles may evolve into a boxer-puncher with a bent towards that natural tendency.28 Imagine an experienced and lean boxer-athlete who has dedicated themselves to the sport.29

Guards Used by a Boxer-Puncher

  • Conventional guard
  • Philly Shell
  • Half (Low) guard
  • High guard

How to Beat a Boxer-Puncher

  • Use in-and-out movement to prevent them getting set;
  • Work the body to slow them down;
  • Apply constant pressure to bring them out of their comfort zone;
  • Pay attention to their habits and remain adaptable;
  • Watch any of their films to learn more about their tendencies.30
  1. Johnny Nguyen, How to Choose Your Fighting Style, Expert Boxing (June 25, 2015), https://expertboxing.com/how-to-choose-your-fighting-style.
  2. Id.
  3. Ringside Boxing, Focus on Fighting Styles Part 2 – The Out Boxer, Ringside Boxing Blog (Oct. 21, 2019), https://blog.ringside.com/outboxer-fighting-style/.
  4. Id. (explaining that out-boxers rely on constantly slipping, dodging, sidestepping and the jab and cross). Experienced out-boxers will use long hooks to add more power to their arsenal.
  5. Id. (“Out-Boxer also needs to have great stamina, superior footwork, and a solid command of [moving around the ring]. “)
  6. Argo Summit Boxing, Boxing Styles, Argo Summit Boxing (July 5, 2013), https://web.archive.org/web/20130705062117/http://www.argosummitboxing.com/Boxing_Styles.html (Muhammad Ali).
  7. See USA Boxing Official Rule Book 6.7.
  8. USA Boxing, USA Boxing Grassroots Training Manual v.01.1 63 (2013); AIBA Coaches Commission, AIBA Coach Manual 77 (AIBA 2011).
  9. Ringside Boxing, Focus on Fighting Styles Part 3 – The Slugger, Ringside Boxing Blog (Nov. 10, 2019), https://blog.ringside.com/slugger-fighting-style/.
  10. Id.
  11. See Argo Summit Boxing, supra note 6.
  12. See id.
  13. Id. (citing Sonny Liston as a prime example). Sonny Liston had 15-inch fists and “looked like cannonballs.” Bob O’Donnell, These Guys Really Have Great Hands, Chicago Tribune (July 19, 1987), https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1987-07-19-8702220840-story.html.
  14. See USA Boxing Official Rule Book 6.7.
  15. USA Boxing, supra note 8, at 63; AIBA, supra note 8, at 77.
  16. Ringside Boxing, Focus on Fighting Styles Part 1 – The Swarmer, Ringside Boxing Blog (Sept. 9, 2019), https://blog.ringside.com/slugger-fighting-style/.
  17. Id.
  18. Id.
  19. Argo Summit Boxing, supra note 6.
  20. See id.
  21. See USA Boxing Official Rule Book 6.7.
  22. USA Boxing, supra note 8, at 63; AIBA, supra note 8, at 77.
  23. Ringside Boxing, Focus on Fighting Styles Part 4 – The Boxer-Puncher, Ringside Boxing Blog (Dec. 9, 2019), https://blog.ringside.com/boxer-puncher-fighting-style/.
  24. Samuel Ha, Boxing Styles and Techniques, Mighty Fighter, https://www.mightyfighter.com/boxing-techniques-and-styles/ (last accessed 1:31 PM, May 14, 2020).
  25. Focus on Fighting Styles Part 4 – The Boxer-Puncher, supra note 23.
  26. Id.
  27. See id.
  28. Id.
  29. See id. (citing Vasyl Lomachenko as a prime example of a boxer-puncher). Another prime example is “Sugar” Ray Leonard. See Hearns v. Leonard I for the greatest role-reversal matches of all time.
  30. See id.

Author: Le Ho

I am currently a law student at the University of North Carolina Law School. As an undergraduate, I boxed for Carolina and earned its first men's national championship title.

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