Boxing Strategy: Art of Deception Part I

sb-strategy-art-of-deception-logo-150px-jpg The science and art of boxing are founded on the principles of distance, leverage, and timing. It is the control of the distance that enables the other two. How to measure and adjust the distance? How can you make the opponent respect the distance? How to make an opening? This article discusses one of the strategies called the Art of Deception… with example by Floyd Mayweather!




1. Measure & Adjust the Distance
2. Art of Deception
3. Feint with Eyes
4. Straight Left from Underneath
5. Show to the Head, Right Hand to the Body
6. Step-Feint, Right Hand to the Head


Some say the best defense is a good offense. There are two ways you can apply this principle:

Real threat

The most obvious way is that one should occupy the opponent with punches so the opponent can barely breath, not mentioning fight back. Mike Tyson was feared for his ability to hit inhumanly fast and hard [1]. Erwin Valero could throw 900 hammer-like punches in 3 minutes non-stop [2]. Unless you are gifted as Tyson or Valero, mostly likely throwing a flurry of punches might not work well for you, at least in the beginning. In gyms, you may see some beginners working on mitts with a coach, throwing 6-8 punches combos. Ask yourself a question: do you think with the average speed and power this may work in real fight? We believe, in most cases, the answer would be no. Your opponent will wait a while and let you run out of gas. Then he will walk through such sloppy punches and kick your ass with a couple of hard shots.

Virtual threat

Alternative application of the principle is to create and maintain virtual threat. Fake tension is set up with feints instead of real punches. Ideally, the goal is to make sure that the opponent is exactly one step behind you at all times. This gives you the initiative, as he is reacting on your movements. You can stay inside your opponent’s reach or outside it, but never let him dictate the range. This art of deception enables you to prepare a way for a hard punch: create an opening, wait for the right moment, and deliver a clean shot. Physical requirement to maintain the virtual threat are less strict than with the real threat.

Roy Jones James Toney

Roy Jones fools and floors James Toney

Interestingly, if you check any list of great fighters of all time and choose only those, who had great feinting arsenal, that would be 90% of the list. Great feinters were Benny Leonard, Willie Pep, Sugar Ray Robinson, Archie Moore, Charley Burley, Ezzard Charles, Mohammed Ali, Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Larry Holmes, Roy Jones, Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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Measure & Adjust the Distance

How to adjust the distance?

For simplicity, we assume, you maneuvered already over the ring, so what is left is to adjust the striking distance. Here we discuss only movement forward and backwards relative to your opponent. If you got familiar with the weight shifting technique, just add small step to advance forward [3]. This is called drop-step. In the beginning, you may be tempted to switch to bouncing motion, because it may appear faster at this stage. We advise you not to give up on drop-step. If you master it, you will be faster than average bouncer. Nobody makes a claim that drop-stepping is better than bouncing. It all depends on the mastery level. However, for most body types drop-stepping appears more natural.

Boxing Orthodox Movement Forward Drop Step

example of how to move forward in orthodox boxing stance using drop-step

Sometimes to prevent a threat, the simplest thing is to step out to the range where you cannot be hit [4]. Lift the rear foot off the ground. This sets you off-balance and you start naturally inclining backwards. Push with your front leg to get extra momentum. When your rear foot lends on the ground, the front foot is pulled up towards you, so you are in the initial position, perfectly balanced.

boxing orthodox movement backwards

example of how to move backwards in orthodox boxing stance

Again, the key is the right sequence of movements: you begin by putting the rear foot off the ground, not by pushing with the front leg. We remind you that the wrong stance and bad movement are linked together.

Examples of breaking the distance by Floyd Mayeather

The speed in the example might be too fast for an untrained eye. You can always slow down and pause the GFYCATs with the drop down menue (red down arrow):

OPEN GFYCAT in a new window. OPEN PINTEREST in a new window.

OPEN GFYCAT in a new window. OPEN PINTEREST in a new window.

How to measure the distance?

Your front leg is your measurement stick. Generally you watch your front foot and the opponent front foot [5]. Of course, not literally, by starring at them. Use your peripheral vision. This is something you should learn from mitts or heavy bag: what is the right distance for you, so you can reach your opponent with punches.The strategy is to know rough answer to the question: are you too close or too far?

boxing measure distance

how to use relative feet position between you and your opponent to estimate roughly the distance

If opponent rushes at you, 90% of fighters at all levels simple move backwards along a straight line. Apply side-steps or pivot like Zab Judah to be already within 10% of all fighters.

For more fine adjustment of the distance, you jab. Again, starting from the weight shifting movement, you drop-step with a jab. This is why this punch is called drop-jab. You literally measure how far is your opponent by trying to just touch him. Once you are able to reach your opponent with the jab, you will get him with everything else.


use jab with a drop-step to measure how far is your opponent

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Art of Deception

How to make an opening?

Lets consider four boxing guards: peak-a-boo / modern, cross-armed, orthodox, and philly shell / crab. Each of these passive defenses (if you do not use head or body movements) has a flaw: by merely protecting yourself with the arms one cannot cover every place at the same time.

Generally, such defense depends on the expectation of the threat. For instance, the opponent should always make a preference: he covers more the top than the bottom, or alternatively, the left side more than the right side. You may capitalize on that by using a strategy that would force your opponent to cover the part you want and open the part you need.

Here is this strategy [7]. You set up a punch at a particular spot. Then, once you have established your opponent response, you feint the punch while shooting at another place. This spot is open because of the feint as a defensive movement to the expected punch. Now you have 2 possible punches. Again, you can use a feint of the second punch to establish the third opening. And so on… The principle of feint is to sell your opponent the punch without throwing it. The most successful feints use the eyes, shoulders, hands, torso, and legs together [8,9]. The complexity of the feint needed depends on the trust level / experience of your opponent.

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Feint with Eyes

Beginners instinctively watch the eyes to determine offensive intentions. Look at the body can be interpreted as preparing a body shot; look at the jaw means a head shot can be expected. Consequently, do not look at what you want to hit … fake your opponent out.

boxing feint with eyes

example of how to feint with eyes: you look at one place and punch at another

This is the reason why professional fighters advise not to look in the eyes of the opponent [4,6]. At this level of competition, everybody are aware of feints with eyes, because nobody punches only where they look at.

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Straight Left from Underneath

In competition, when an opponent is swinging at you, if you have good head movements, you can get out the way by sliding under his punches. Place your head on the plane of defense to control the opening of the opponent. The head is now within the attack pyramid (A) of your opponent. If the opponent reacts on your invitation with the jab, you shift your head backwards off-center on the plane of target (T).

boxing slip outside

slip outside to set up the spear jab.  Color objects indicate plane of target (T), plane of Defense (D), and attack pyramid (A)

If your opponent hesitates and you see the opening, you punch as if pushing a spear. The punch is almost like an uppercut or spear jab, but you extend the arm. Usually, the fist is vertical, without the twist like in the normal jab.

boxing jab from underneath spear jab

example of how to set up the jab from underneath / spear jab

Right after the punch, it is smart to leave the attack pyramid (A) of your opponent. One option is to pivot on the left to avoid the counter right-cross.

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Show to the Head, Right Hand to the Body

Once the opponent gets preoccupied with the left, you can create an opening at the point furthest away. For that, feint left to the head and connect with a clean right to the body.

Shoulder feint

Next level feint uses shoulders. This is one of the safest ways to feint. Just jerk your shoulder forward as if you’re about to jab or throw right punch, but do not extend your arm. You only jerk the shoulder, the fist goes forward a bit by inertia.

boxing shoulder feint

example of how to feint with the left shoulder to the head

Right Hand to the Body

First, you need get low to the ground out of the artillery range. Get your knees bent, so you are at the level with your target – the mid-section of the belly. There are two ways you can orient your right foot when going down: the toe is turning outside or pointing towards the target. If you do not bring your knee inwards, and continue keeping it “in the bucket” like when you are standing, the knee will buckle. This increases chances for knee injury. You can tear the knee joint down [10]. Also, in this position, you get less power for the punch. To sum up, regardless the stance you choose, make sure the toes are pointing forward when you are going down.

boxing get low knee problem

example of correct (LEFT) and wrong (RIGHT) way of getting low and pivoting on the rear toe

Once you are low, check that your balance is in the middle. You start the punch by twisting on the right toe and transferring mass to the body. Then you twist the body and throw the right hand.

boxing show head right hand punch body

feint with the left shoulder to the head and connect with the right hand punch to the body

After the punch, you may return in the initial position (low). When you are standing up, it is clever to pivot out on the left foot to avoid counter-punches like in the example with the Straight Left from Underneath. If you prefer standing inside, we advise to move towards the power hand of your opponent: right for an orthodox or left for a southpaw.

Example of a shoulder feint to the head and straight left to the body by Floyd Mayeather

The speed in the example might be too fast for an untrained eye. You can always slow down and pause the GFYCATs with the drop down menue (red down arrow):

OPEN GFYCAT in a new window. OPEN PINTEREST in a new window.

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Step-Feint, Right Hand to the Head

Now the opponent has to worry about two very disparate attacks, this creates yet another opening. Creating doubt again and again, you can land accurate shots to the head.

Step feint

Sometimes there is need to make a feint appeal more real. To do that, add a quick step or slightly dip your body. The problem with step-feint is the opponent may catch you off-balance. This is why a tip is first to shift slightly the rear foot forward, and then make a step-feint. Meanwhile, you may go down as well by bending knees. If the opponent reacts at your feint by throwing jab, it will go above your head.

boxing step feint

how to feint with a step in boxing

Right Hand to the Head

After a successful feint, you may continue with a right hand punch. In this example, we use the straight right hand to the head.

boxing step feint right hand to head

First feint with a step, then connect with the straight right hand to the head

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1. Mike Tyson Had Power Like No One Else

2. Edwin Valero 900 Punches in 3 Minutes

3. Kostya Tszyu’s masterclass (in Russian)

4. gets in the Ring with Nonito Donaire

5. Rashad Evans Meet Bernard Hopkins

6. Hopkins takes Pascal to School

7. Charley Burley: Analyzing Genius

8. Mark Hatmaker and Doug Werner. Boxing Mastery: Advanced Technique, Tactics, and Strategies from the Sweet Science.

9. Jack Dempsey. Championship Fighting by Jack Dempsey (1950) .

10. Title Boxing DVD, Vol 04, How To Be An Effective Body Puncher

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3 Responses to Boxing Strategy: Art of Deception Part I

  1. Thatdue says:

    Amazing article. Just found your site. I wish more boxing sites explained like this. Keep up the good work.

    Also thanks for the links at the bottom for refrence

  2. skanchan says:

    Hi , I find your articles the best technical information on boxing.

    I had a question to ask was when we do a drop step to perform a jab and we continue with a right cross then how do we position our right foot when we do the right cross . do we slide and pivot it or do i have to pivot without moving the right foot .


    • SugarBoxing says:

      I do not want to lie now, but we will investigate it in our future articles. Suggest you to study best right handers like Hearns, Duran, Tyson

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