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Boxing Styles: Swarmer, Slugger, Boxer-Puncher
Boxers will naturally gravitate towards a certain boxing style.
That style depends on many things including the boxer's skill, quickness, aggression, ability to take a punch, and personality.
Eventually as you box more and more, you will probably find yourself fitting into one of the following boxing styles:
Boxing styles are more of an instinctual thing than a learned thing and in general, when certain types of fighters meet, the outcome can more or less be predicted based on the boxing style each boxer employs.
As one of the coaches at my gym put it today, it is the trinity of boxing. The rule is:
- Swarmer beats Boxer
- Slugger beats Swarmer
- Boxer beats Slugger
Of course there is an exception to every rule. A boxer-puncher generally does a bit better against a swarmer because he has that extra power in his punches that can damage the swarmer.
The swarmer is the pure technical boxer's nightmare. A swarmer is aggressive and relentless. Swarmers fight their way in close, stay there, and unleash a flurry of punishment.
Big punches do not deter swarmers and swarmers deliver devastating punches of their own. The punches are always in volleys and in close. They get inside to foul up their opponent's ability to throw counters. They are fleet of foot and have phenomenal speed.
Over time, this continuous pressure takes a toll on their opponents and swarmers usually win their fights because they out-work their opponent not because they knock them out - but they have their share of knock-outs as well. A swarmer like Rocky Marciano would first tire out his victim and still have enough gas in the tank to deliver a crushing knockout blow.
The swarmer is also known as a crowder. Watching swarmers fight is usually pretty exciting as there is constant aggression and fighting. The swarmer gets in close - usually taking a few punches on the way in - stands in front of his opponent and delivers a windmill of punches until their opponent manages to back off or somehow get away. Then it is game on again - the swarmer goes right back on the attack. There are no lulls in the battle. Every round is a full round.
Watch Rocky Marciano in the above video. While he starts off fairly cautious - notice that he is the one constantly backing up Joe Louis. He goes in, punches and backs Louis up. He takes a small breather and then goes in again taking a few hits as he does. He stays in close and crowds Louis and swings hard - true to swarmer style.
A swarmer's level of fitness and conditioning is beyond exceptional. They are in the ultimate shape possible.
Some of the best swarmers of all time:
- Rocky Marciano
- Mike Tyson
- Tommy Burns
- Battling Nelson
- Harry Greb
- Henry Armstrong
- Carmon Basilio
- Jake LaMotta
- Joe Frazier
- And one not so famous one: Me.
Sidenote: I am hardly a boxing history expert or analyst. Monte Cox at Cox's Corner. is. His site is well worth checking out.
As the name suggests - a slugger relies on power punches to knock his opponent out. That is why they are effective against a swarmer. Although the swarmer is inside throwing punch after punch, the slugger only has to connect with one and the fight is over. Sluggers usually have good chins and aren't afraid to take a few hits. They have to because they are generally bigger and slower (not that you can't be big and fast). They throw fewer punches, but the ones they land are devastating.
These are the fights most people love to watch because they end up with someone lying on the mat. If you get a good swarmer who can go the distance with a slugger, then the fight is fantastic. Lots of action and lots of hardcore hitting - perfect for the casual boxing fan to watch.
Watch George Foreman fight in the video above (fast forward to the action). Foreman is usually backing up Cooney which is the trademark of swarmers but the difference is that Foreman throws one or two punches and then takes a break - but every single punch - jab, hook, right - are all power shots. He's looking for the knockout with every punch.
Some of the best sluggers of all time:
Notice Tyson is also listed as a swarmer. His power is incredible which gets him into both categories, however, his style is usually more of a swarmer.
Well, the name of this one sounds like he should take all and boxers are definitely the nicest to watch from a technical standpoint. They are masters of both their defense and offense. They generally fight from the outside - come in to hit - and then back off again. They generally do very well against sluggers because they are quick and mobile.
Take a look at how Sonny Liston fights. He is very technical and picks his moments. He isn't the aggressor - he let's his opponent come to him. He keeps covered and does everything one would expect a boxer to do. Calculating and steady - he chips away at his opponents until he gets the chance and then throws his harder shots.
Watching two boxers in a fight can be quite boring. It is played out more like a chess match than a fight. To a person who doesn't know what they are doing, one could easily believe they are scared of each other. In reality they are cautious and looking for the right moment to strike. This is the reason swarmers really mess them up. They don't have the time to think and swarmers don't play by the rules of their game.
The best boxers of all time:
- Sonny Liston
- Benny Leonard
- Gene Tunney
- Willie Pep
- Tommy Loughran
- Billy Conn
- Maxie Rosenbloom
- Muhammad Ali - really - Ali should get a style all his own...
- Pernell Whitaker
The last category is a hybrid. These boxers possess the technical skill and grace of a boxer and the devastating power of a slugger. One would think this would be the best style to adopt and in actuality it probably is. Boxer-Punchers do well against pure boxers because they can match their speed and mobility. They do well against swarmers because their extra power stops the swarmer's aggression. Their only downfall are the big sluggers because once again, it only takes one punch and the lights are out.
They make interesting fights and throw a sense of the unknown into some. Where a boxer-puncher is matched up against a swarmer, the fight is great because depending on the style the boxer-puncher tries to use more could sway the way the fight goes. It's just another variable in the whole package.
Bernard Hopkins is one of those fighters that fits into many categories depending on who he is fighting. That versatility is characteristic of boxer-punchers who are strong in technical ability, conditioning, and power. Notice how Hopkins controls the fight. He chooses his moments and uses his opponent to his advantage. He counter-punches, is very mobile and possesses enough power to stop a swarming attack.
Other examples of boxer-punchers include:
- Joe Gans
- Joe Louis
- Ray Robinson
- Ike Williams
- Alexis Arguello
- Tommy Hearns
- Erik Morales
While you may not be able to choose what kind of style you will eventually adopt, you definitely need to know what style you are fighting so you can adjust your fight accordingly.
There is no hard and fast rule that says a swarmer is always going to beat a boxer or a slugger will always beat a swarmer. It is a matter of skill and conditioning. There is no reason a boxer cannot be just as conditioned as a swarmer and no reason they cannot beat them if they are simply a better fighter. A million other factors are in play including the mental condition of the fighters. It's the unpredictability which gives every boxer hope in every situation and which gives fans an edge of their seat performance.
It's all in the style, baby. Box on.