How to Outbox An Aggressive Fighter

The Chosen Wan vs Paulus Ambunda for the IBO World Super Bantamweight title. Photo credit: Suhaimi Abdullah

Aggressive, come-forward pressure fighters can be really troublesome to spar or fight against. They spoil your rhythm and distance. Every time you try to make space, there they are in your face again, pushing, shoving, throwing ugly punches that slowly but surely bruise up your forearms and sides and eventually, your chin. How do we get them off of us? 

Every style has its pros and cons, and no style is automatically better than another. The key is to maximise the pros of your own style, and attack the cons of your opponent’s style. Some styles naturally counter other styles, but this is not always the case. Sluggers/brawlers often beat pressure fighters, but every now and then, a Nick Diaz drowns a Paul Daley (watch that fight for a perfect example of a swarmer overwhelming a power puncher).

You’re not running, they’re chasing

Fighting on the outside at a distance is not ‘running’. The mistake that many boxers make when facing an aggressive opponent is the they use their footwork to try and make space. The problem is that when you move backwards, the opponent moves forward. You move sideways, they follow you. When you stop to punch, they crash into you and spoil your distance, and we’re back to square one, with you desperately trying to make space. 

The first step to outboxing is mental. Don’t think of it as you trying to escape their punches. Think of it as you PULLING them into your punches. The key is in the initiative. Don’t wait for them to come into your space before you move off. When the bell rings, stay right at the edge of their distance. You KNOW they’re going to move towards you. When they do, punch! And then you move off again. Not a whole lot, just a little, to make them feel like you’re just right there, and if they just take that step forward, they can pressure you. That’s when you hit them again. And then you move again.

Being first

The difference is in the dynamic, and who is leading the dance. You shouldn’t be trying to get AWAY from them. They should be trying to get TO you. Make the first move, and then when they make their move in response to yours, you punish them. You want to jab and feint right outside their distance, so they feel compelled to move forward, and when they do, you hit them. Think of it as counterpunching, but instead of countering punches, you’re countering their steps forward. 

Note: Doesn’t matter if they block or parry your punches. The point is to hit them so they have to focus on defense instead of offense. That stops their pressure.


Fakes and feints aren’t just about faking punches. One of the hallmarks of successfully outboxing a pressure fighter is making them chase you in the wrong direction. Here’s an example. Circle to your left, to get them to chase you in that direction. Stop. Then step heavy on your left foot again, making them think you’re going to continue in that direction. Then use that heavy left foot to push off to your RIGHT, then watch them go to your left by mistake, and then have to hastily recover to chase you again. While they do this, you can make space, you can punch.

Paulus Ambunda pushing TCW to the ropes and taunting him. Photo credit:

Fighting back

Sometimes, a really savvy pressure fighter is wise to all the above tricks. They cut off the ring instead of following you around. They enter behind their jab and feints, stifling your defensive jabs. Or they straight up bullrush into close range, spoiling your pretty footed outboxing. What’s an outfighter to do? 

The key in this case is psychological. Pressure fighters often pressure because they themselves dislike pressure. They like it when their aggression causes you to run, because they like to chase. Sometimes, standing your ground and punching back with combinations (remember to include body attacks!) Is the best thing to do because it’s the last thing they expect you to do. 

Now they’re not chasing down a fleeing target anymore. They’re standing toe to toe with an opponent that refuses to run. And who knows, you might be the bigger puncher and win the exchange. Pressure fighters feed on fear, not defiance. This may not be your style, but doing this a few times will often convince the aggressive bullrusher to hesitate when closing the distance. That removes their pros and increases their cons, which is what we’ve been trying to do. 

At Legends, boxing is everything to us. Besides getting in a great workout, we want anyone who trains with us to box well. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s also a ton of fun! WhatsApp us at 89492236 or download our ‘Legends SG’ app to claim you FREE boxing class and get started!

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