Learning how to box on your own has the downside of not having an experienced coach watching you to correct any errors in technique. That is a bit of an annoyance, but you may be surprised to know that even experienced boxers with a coach in their corner will frequently ignore basic principles - especially when boxing against less experienced boxers. They believe they don't have to be as diligent and that because they are stronger than their opponent the deviations will do little harm.
Whether you are a new boxer or an experienced one, bad technique, no matter how small quickly adds up to nagging little habits that are difficult to correct. At some point they become weaknesses that your opponent can exploit (or that you'll have to learn how to compensate for) - so we all need to be able to recognize when something is out of whack and correct it before it becomes an issue.
Here are 10 common errors that you may observe yourself (or others) doing. If you notice it, correct it before it gets out of hand.
Boxing Error #1 - Leaving the Stance
This is more common in beginner boxers but experienced boxers are not immune either. Typically after a few minutes of boxing or when the boxer starts to feel some stress, they revert back to "natural" movements instead of staying anchored in their stance, moving like a boxer, protected like a boxer.
New boxers usually have not drilled the movements enough and simply forget what they are doing, especially when the pressure is on. Experienced boxers may take the match too casually or revert when they get tired if conditioning is not at a high enough level.
No matter the reason or the experience level of the boxer, the tendency to leave the stance and guard needs to be avoided as it is usually the root of most other flaws and mistakes that show up in the boxer's performance.
Boxing Error #2 - Improper Placement of the Feet
Photo by Aberdeen Proving Ground
Here the red boxer's feet are nearly side by side with rear foot flat. Notice how squared off he is and try and imagine how difficult it will be for him to twist and throw a right with any power. Blue's feet, on the other hand, are in a much better position.
This can happen while stationary or using footwork. Care must be taken to ensure the feet are neither too close together nor too far apart. Being flat-footed is wrong and it will be especially common on the boxer's rear foot. We must ensure to stay on the ball of the rear foot.
Further, the feet must be parallel to each other with the rear foot behind and slightly to the side of the front foot. Not doing so immobilizes the power hand (rear hand) as twisting the body in accordance with the pivot principle becomes near impossible.
Boxing Error #3 - Heel Stepping
Photo by Aberdeen Proving Ground
No go Blue - remember - always on the balls of your feet - heel should be up, not - toe needs to reach forward and maintain contact.
While doing footwork, boxers can revert to a stepping motion whereby they step on the heel and then the ball of the foot when moving. Doing so makes any forward movement extremely inefficient, slow and clumsy.
It's important that the boxer stays on the balls of his or her feet in order to achieve speed and the ability to make sharp changes in direction.
Boxing Error #4 - Leg Crossers
Photo by Dan Porcutan
The boxer is off balance and falling over not because he got hit but because he lost the solid base, likely crossing his legs.
During footwork or any kind of movement if the boxer is not moving correctly in the stance he or she may cross their legs. At that moment the boxer is in a precarious position being completely off balance.
Off balance is never a good thing in boxing and can result in an easy knock down. The boxer will have no ability to do anything offensively or defensively.
Boxing Error #5 - The Flexer
Being tight, wound up and coiled to strike with every muscle tensed and ready to react may seem like a good idea, but it is incredibly draining and actually slows down reflex time. Boxers, especially those not used to the experiences of sparring or fighting, will tense up. We need to learn to relax in the boxing stance and in our movements to conserve energy and improve reflexes.
Boxing Error #6 - The Retractors
Some boxers will pull their hips back to protect the stomach area. This makes movement very difficult. Likewise, some boxers will push the chin to the body far too much or hold their head in an unusual manner which also hinders movements and punching technique.
Boxing Error #7 - The Unprotected
Protecting the chin is paramount. Even momentary lapses in technique that expose it subject the boxer to a bad situation that could see him being picked up off the floor after being knocked out. Two issues that are widespread are a lowering of the front shoulder and unconsciously lifting the head. Both expose the chin and make it easy for an opponent to do damage. Skip ahead to 0:56 in the video - expose your chin and deal with the consequences.
Boxing Error #8 - The Retreat
Photo by Westpoint
Notice how the boxer is in no position to be able to move anywhere but backwards, is off balance, and incapable of countering.
Some boxers when being pressured during sparring or matches will move directly backwards, sometimes even lifting their heads in an effort to keep it out of striking range and holding their hands out in front of them, pawing at the opponent in a defensive posture. Retreating in boxing is rarely a good idea. When pressured it is far more effective to move off at an angle or lean into the onslaught. Running away only invites a continued flurry of punches and the boxer's stance and footwork is usually shot at that point.
Boxing Error #9 - Lowering the Hands
Photo by Singapore 2010
An extreme example, but the red boxer's hands are well out of position offering no protection whatsoever.
Made more difficult to explain why it's an error considering the success boxers like Floyd Mayweather Jr have had in a philly shell kind of stance, but many boxers will start lowering their hands as a fight progresses. Lack of conditioning or discipline are the causes, but both hands need to be kept high and when one hand goes out, the other must protect the head and body against an opponent's counters.
Boxing Error #10 - Wrong Side Slippers
Photo by Singapore 2010
Notice how red boxer is slipping to wrong side, putting his head in a position to be hit by the blue boxer's straight left (he's a Southpaw)
We have to be cognizant of where we are putting our heads when slipping or during other defensive movements. It is wrong to slip to the inside. The head always needs to go where it is not vulnerable. If a right handed opponent throws a jab, some boxers have the tendency to slip to the left, but that puts the head in the perfect position to receive a right hand from the opponent. The boxer should slip to the right or outside where the opponent's left arm is actually between the boxer and his opponent's right hand.
Whether trying to learn boxing on your own or with a coach, it's important to focus on the fundamentals and not develop bad habits that will require fixing or compensation later on. Knowing what the common boxing errors are can help you recognize them before they become a larger problem. Boxon.