We are often told to set up our shots with feints, or to feint our way into punching range, etc. But what feints go with what punches? This is a potentially complicated issue, but like all things in boxing, we can understand it better by taking a few minutes to break it down. So let’s take a look at the types of feints, complete with some examples for you to try out during your next boxing training session. Hint: it’s about the dimensions (up vs down, near vs far, right vs left, fast vs slow).
Levels (Up vs Down)
This is simple. Fake high, go low, and vice versa. Your standard 1-2 is perfect for this – throw the body jab, and then your right hand to the head. Here are some other ways to mix it up.
- Feint a body jab, then a left hook. It’s more difficult to throw, but that’s the reason why same side combos are more unexpected
- Feint a jab, drop your weight slightly as if you’re about to throw your cross to the body, then send it upstairs
- Drop your left side as if about to throw a body hook, then send that hook upstairs
- Throw a 1-2-3 (jab-cross-hook) to the head a few times to get your opponent to get used to this combination. Once he or she buys into it (once they start to put the hand up to block the hook), do the same thing but this time switch and throw the hook to the body instead
- Fake a really wide, exaggerated overhand right by stepping forward with your left foot and raising your right arm a little, then left hook to the body.
Distance (Near vs Far)
This is about pretending to be nearer or further than you really are. When you mess with your opponent’s sense of distance, suddenly everything becomes unpredictable to them. The problem is that if you step in or step back, it’s very obvious to see. Here are some of the ways to hide it.
- Raise your guard before stepping in. This draws your opponent’s eyes to your hands instead of your whole body. Too far away to jab? Step in like this, and if they don’t move backwards, jab. This has the added advantage of being protected if your opponent responds to your step in with a punch of their own.
- Step forward with your rear foot first, essentially bringing your feet together. This lets you push off with your back leg to cover a greater distance. Tricky move, because you are collapsing your stance and leaving yourself vulnerable for a split second, so you need to use it wisely. Watch how Ricardo Lopez and Sonny Liston do this.
Angles (Left vs Right)
Typically, if you step right, you’d throw a right cross, and if you step left, you’d throw a left/check hook. This is efficient but it’s also predictable. Here are some ways to mix it up.
- Step to your right, then throw a left hook. This sends your hook down the middle instead of at the sides, which is a very unexpected shot.
- Step to your left, then throw a right cross. Same logic as the above.
Even simpler ways to mix it up is to simply pretend you’re throwing with one hand and then throw with the other. This has to be done very quickly, but it will pay off if your opponent performs a defensive move that anticipates the attack coming from the wrong side.
- Jerk your right hand really quickly, then attack the body with a jab/left hook.
- Step in with your left leg, as if you were jabbing, but throw your right hand instead. There will be a split second pause between the step and the punch, and when your opponent attempts to slip or parry what they thought was a jab, they will be open to the right hand. This has the added advantage of covering a big distance. (Watch how Nate Diaz does this to Conor McGregor in their first fight, or more recently how Naoya Inoue did it to Nonito Donaire).
Timing (Slow vs Fast)
This is perhaps the best feint of all. It catches your opponent unbalanced or relaxed at the wrong moment, giving your punch maximum effect. It’s also the hardest to master, simply because you have to set a rhythm before you break that rhythm.
Throw a 1-2, but pause between punches. Even better, watch where your opponent’s head goes in anticipation to the cross, and throw it there.
Throw a 1-2, pause, then throw the left hook. This is to trick your opponent into thinking you are done with your combo, and that it’s their turn to throw.
Throw a slow 1-2, then throw a much faster 1-2.
Throw a 1-2-3 (jab-cross-hook), then throw a 1-2 at the same speed, pause, then throw that hook to the body (combination of a timing feint and level feint).
For any of these to work, your opponents must believe your feints. Making your feints look convincing is a good start, but an even better way is to condition them into believing the feint by actually throwing that punch. For example, to make your fake body jab seem real, throw an actual body jab a few times. Doesn’t matter if they land or not, the aim is to get your opponent to expect an incoming body jab every time you drop down, or even look like you’re about to drop down.
Another note is to connect the feints to the punches. If you make an opponent bite on a feint but they are able to recover their stance/composure before the actual attack comes, the opportunity is lost. ‘A feint should take less time and sacrifice less balance than an actual punch’ – this is a simple way to keep this in mind when practicing.
All warfare is based on deception (Sun Tzu). All boxing is based on feints (Legends Fight Sport). Happy feinting!
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