Part of the beauty and fascination of boxing is the different styles of fighters. A fascination that’s further amplified not just with differences but with massive contrasts between styles too. For example, boxers can strike with scalpel sureness or strong-arm their way forward with sledgehammer smashes. Agility, fancy footwork and constant jabs also denotes a style. Another is where short-range aggression with ferocious hooks-and-uppercuts combos are the norm. And then there’s the reactive and calculating counterpunchers. So whether brute-force aggressive or textbook disciplined, single punches or combo flurries, all-out attack or defensively minded, each style has potential to make any bout exciting and fulfilling.
Nature and Nurture
A boxing style should maximise your strengths and minimise your weaknesses. Training wise, all boxers have access to similar punching, footwork and defensive basics. That’s undeniable. The building blocks are all available for everyone to drill, improve and implement but differences in individual attributes such as aggression, agility, reflexes, hand and foot speed etc will also influence how a boxer is defined. Boxing style is both instinctual and learned. It’s a fusion of nature and nurture.
There’s at least five styles in boxing used to describe fighters:
NB. These categories are broad and many fighters are individualised or a blend of styles.
Infighting or pressure fighting is the most energy-sapping of the styles. Consequently, infighters need to be in top physical shape with high-level endurance paramount. Physically, they’re usually shortish in height, nuggety and have a short reach. Powered by heavy-duty aggression they quickly manoeuvre their way in (called the inside) and “suffocate” their opponent with constant movement and in-your-face intensity all-the-while unleashing explosive combos. Infighters are typically fast and furious. This punches-in-bunches blitzkrieg barrage favours short hooks and uppercuts. Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson are examples of infighters.
“Fightin’ George Foreman is like being in the street with an eighteen-wheeler comin’ at you.”
“I’m not mother Teresa, but I’m not Charles Manson, either.”
Outfighters or classic fighters are usually beautifully balanced, tall with a long reach and light feet. Also called distance fighters, they’re pinpoint punchers who invariably win on points rather than KO. Consequently, they wear down their opponent. Preferring to box at a distance they use fancy footwork to stay safe, using their reach advantage to constantly land long shots from the outside. Typically, they’re best suited to straight-arm punches, the jab and cross. Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard are examples of outfighters.
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Muhammed Ali
“I’m not known as a hard puncher, I’m known as a consistent puncher. If the first one don’t getcha, the next one will!”
Sugar Ray Leonard
Boxer-Punchers are pugilistic all-rounders who can move in and out, mixing it up with combinations or hold their ground and land power shots. They’re complete boxers. Unpredictable and versatile, they can wear down their opponents with fast combinations or finish them with just one punch. Traits of this style are deft feet, rapid-fire hands and steel chin. Roberto Duran is a fine example of a boxer-puncher.
“Getting hit motivates me. It makes me punish the guy more. A fighter takes a punch, hits back with three punches.”
Counterpunchers are the most defensively-orientated of the boxing styles. And to be an effective counterpuncher requires excellent reflexes, fast hand speed and a broad and impeccable defensive arsenal. Think action-reaction within a wait-and-watch strategy. They punish mistakes. Rarely the aggressor, a top counterpuncher has brilliant timing and will swiftly respond after slipping, deflecting, moving head back etc Floyd Mayweather Jnr is a famous counterpuncher.
“I push myself to the limit. I dedicate myself to this craft.”
Floyd Mayweather Jnr
Sluggers / Brawlers
Walk-forward sluggers or brawlers commonly use sheer aggression and heavy-hitting direct approach. Fighters of this type tend to lack the grace and finesse of the earlier styles, consequently they’re open to taking a hit or too but they do have a massively intimidating weapon. When they connect, it’s good night. And be warned, sluggers are not always the predictable all-brawn no-brain. They can be known for ring craft too. Muscling their way inside, forcing their opponent into a corner or against the ropes. George Foreman is an example of a boxer who could cut off the ring (corner or ‘rope’ his opponent) and then send him into tomorrow with lights-out power.
“Sure the fight was fixed. I fixed it with a right hand.”
Style vs Style
Each style has flaws and weaknesses, strengths and advantages. Each can win and each can lose. The unpredictability of matching one style against another and the variances between each helps make the sweet science of boxing such an enthralling and entertaining sport. Happy training!
Yours in Boxing,