In boxing defence and offence are achieved via the padded fists. Generally four types of punches exist. All other punches are basically variants of the below. If a boxer is right handed, his lead foot will be his left, and vice versa – the leading hand providing faster punches, the rear conversely used for power punches (more power is employed with the rear hand through weight distribution and greater momentum).

Jab

This is a quick forward punch thrown with the lead hand. The power comes from a quarter-rotation of the shoulders, while the position of the fist rotates through 180 degrees, bringing the lead shoulder up to guard the chin. This is the most important punch in a boxer’s arsenal as it is extremely quick and requires very little shift in stance compared to the other punches. It is the punch that has the longest reach. Thus, it is used as a tool to gauge distances and set up follow up punches: if the jab is thrown but does not connect with the opponent, then the target is too far away.

As a tool to keep the opponent from moving in, the jab can be thrown repeatedly in front of the opponent so they cannot advance. As a tool to test the opponent’s defences, it can be thrown early on in a bout to measure the effectiveness, speed, and style of an opponent’s defences.

Hook

This punch is thrown in a side arc with a bent arm. It can be thrown with either hand but is typically a lead hand punch. The boxer shifts the weight into the back foot, while rotating the hips and pivoting the foot toward the back, causing the arm to swing with the body in a lead hand hook. The power in a hook comes from the explosive rotation of the hips and shoulders allowing a large amount of bodyweight to be thrown behind the punch.

The classic hook is thrown in a horizontal plane, but the punch can also be thrown at a 45 degree angle (a “Mexican hook” or “shovel hook” or “hook to the ribs”), blending into the uppercut – practically halfway between the two, this punch is aimed at the rib cage (ideally just underneath).

Hooks are not parried but rather bobbed/rolled or simply blocked with the boxers guard against the head. This is very useful when aimed for the head or for the ribs or solar plexus, as the force from the hook tends to travel through a blocked head better than a jab.

Uppercut

This punch is thrown upwards with either hand (although a rear hand uppercut is marginally more common). The uppercut travels vertically up the opponent’s chest, underneath the guard and makes contact with the chin.

The power in the uppercut comes from the legs and hips. This can be a devastating power punch because even if it does not connect with the chin itself, it tends to lift up the chin of the opponent, which opens up a bigger target and causes the opponent to be off balance for a moment.

Cross

Also known as a “straight right” or “right”. This is a straight punch (with the dominant hand). The rear hand crosses the body, the shoulders rotate toward the target and the rear pivots along with the hips, a half-step forward can be manoeuvred, however many prefer not to do this and do not coach it, just as a jab can be thrown with a step (step-jab) or without.

The power in the cross comes from the rotation of the hips, the extension of the arm and the momentum this builds, as well as the weight behind the punch – a boxers weight transfers to his front foot so as to put the body behind the punch, however, they should always be able to resume a guarded stance immediately after the punch is thrown and never be off-balance.

The cross is the most powerful punch and is responsible for the majority of knockouts. It can be used to set up a hook, and it can be used as a counterpunch against an opponent’s jab as the boxer slips to either side. The cross can be thrown right after a jab, creating the classic “one-two punch.”

Bolo

The “Bolo punch” is occasionally seen, more often in amateur boxing than professional, although it is used to great effect by some professional fighters.

The bolo is an arm punch which owes its power to the shortening of a circular arc rather than to transference of body weight; it tends to have more of an effect due to the surprise of the odd angle it lands at rather than the actual power of the punch. This is more of a gimmick than a technical manoeuvre, this punch is not taught, it is on the same plane in boxing technicality as is the Ali shuffle.