Basic boxing combinations for beginners

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You’d often hear people say that boxing’s just a sport of three punches. And when they list them, they keep circling between the straight, hook and uppercut.

It’s funny, how they can’t be any further from the truth. If you’re a boxer, even a beginner, who has just started the journey, you’d know that there’s much more to boxing than just 3 punches.

In fact, each of these moves can be executed in a unique way. And while punches individually do look simple but when you use them in a combination, that’s when things get interesting and the magic happens.

combinations in boxing

Assuming that you don’t amass significant knowledge about combinations, we’re going to share some interesting boxing combinations information with you. Let’s start by understanding a boxing combination.

What’s a good boxing combination?

A good boxing combination refers to the usage of different punches in a certain pattern. There are no rules in combinations but tried and tested methods.

Basic combination techniques are simple which a boxer at any level can easily grasp.

Boxing combinations should be practiced in such a way that you can perform them at any angle and if need be, even with your eyes closed.

You must master the combinations so you can use them while moving forward, backward or even sideways.

When you possess and sharpen your combination skill, it’ll help you in a wide variety of situations. It gives you a boost and a competitive edge over your opponent.

Since this is a starter’s list, we’ll only talk about basic combinations that you should work on. Before that, however, let’s study what’s needed to deliver a successful combination.

Elements of a successful combination

Footwork

Your footwork is at the heart of your combinations. Regardless of where you move, you must predetermine the angle from which you’re going to land your combinations.

For instance, you can try stepping with a jab so you’re able to cover the better distance. Similarly, you can also exit any combination by moving towards your right.

Boxing Footwork Guide

Head Movement

Head Movement plays a vital role in any combination. You use it to move in angles, duck your opponent’s punch or make a fake leap to lure your opponent.

Head Movement can be used in a variety of ways in a combination, especially for techniques such as bobbing and weaving.

With clever usage of head movement, you’ll prevent yourself from incoming counters. For instance, if you keep moving under your opponent’s arm right after you throw a cross, you won’t get caught.

Range, Distance & Angles

Angles make all the difference in a combination. The entire move set changes when you switch the angles. For instance, you can throw a combo while circling, or can throw it whilst moving forward or backward. The Great Muhammad Ali was well-known for circling around his opponent. The more angles you create, the more difficult it gets for your opponent to decode your punches.

Distance in Boxing

Rhythm

Rhythm is a key ingredient in a successful combination recipe. Without which, you can easily find yourself in a troubled spot. Using rhythm and breaking it is a great way to bamboozle your opponent. For instance, if you’re facing a boxer who likes to keep his hands down, he’s inciting punches from you.

Thus, when you throw the cross, post the jab and wait, he doesn’t have an answer because you didn’t get caught in the trap trying to hit the third punch.

Feints

Using feints is a great way to break your opponent’s rhythm. You can feint in many ways; we’ve already covered that in our guide. However, when it comes to combinations, as a beginner, you can do that in two major ways. You can fake the jab (feint) and follow it up with a cross or you can fake the jab – feint – and throw the 1-2 combination (we’ll learn about this below)

Risk

Every time you’re ready to throw a combination, you’ll leave yourself vulnerable to a counter. Every combination has its own risk factors, in the basic combinations list, we’ll cover every combination with the risk involved in it.

Combinations in boxing

Now that we’ve learned about the science behind combinations, let’s understand the denominations of combinations in numbers and how those work.

Number

Move

1

Jab

2

Right Cross

3

Left Hook

4

Overhand

5

Left Uppercut

6

Right Uppercut

b

Body

Now let’s understand the application. Suppose your coach instructs you to hit a 1-2-3b combination. When he says this, he is referring to a jab followed by a right cross and left hook to the body. Similar you can devise an nth number of combinations based upon what works out the best for you.

As far the common boxing combinations go, here’s a comprehensive list:

  • 1-1
  • 1-1b
  • 1-2
  • 1-2b
  • 1b-2
  • 1-1-2
  • 1-2-1-1
  • 1-2-3
  • 1-2-1-2
  • 1-2-3-2
  • 1-2-3b-2
  • 1-2-5-2
  • 1-6-3-2
  • 1-2-3-2-1

Now, these common combination techniques do involve some advanced techniques which we will study later. What we want to understand in this blog are the basic combinations for beginner. Thus, let’s focus on some of the basic combination techniques.

Basic boxing combinations for beginners

  1. Jab + Cross (1-2)
  2. Double Jab + Cross (1-1-2)
  3. Jab + Cross + Lead Hook (1-2-3)
  4. Jab to the body + Cross to the head
  5. Jab to the head + Rear uppercut to the body
  6. Fake a cross + Left hook
  7. Lead uppercut + Cross
  8. Jab + Rear hook
  9. Jab/lead hook + Rear uppercut
  10. Jab + Lead hook to the body + Cross

Jab + Cross (1-2)

The most basic combination which you learn when you start boxing. It’s the simplest yet the most effective combination. To throw a quick jab followed by a cross, you start with a jab to measure your opponent’s distance. This move is effective because it’s hard to measure the distance just by your eyes and so jabbing with your lead hand gives you a fair idea of the distance between you and your opponent.

Combination Elements

Combination Application

Range

Slightly outside of the opponent’s range

Risk Involved?

Low

Footwork

Try stepping with the jab in order to cover more distance. You can exit the combination by stepping to your right (orthodox) or to your left (southpaw)

Head Movement

When delivering the basic 1-2 combination, if you’re shorter than your opponent, try ducking your head under your opponent’s left arm right after the cross so to avoid any counter contact.  

Angles

Basic 1-2 Boxing combinations can be thrown from any angle.

Rhythm

You can flow in a rhythm and do a quick 1-2 or you can wait for a second in between to disrupt the rhythm and catch your opponent by surprise.

Feints

You can either feint between the combination or before landing a quick combination.

Double Jab + Cross (1-1-2)

The Double Jab and Cross combination is one of the most effective combinations. The reason why it works is that it isn’t the basic right-left-right-left combination. In this combination, you throw two shots from the same direction which is enough to confuse your opponent. The unpredictability factor makes it easier to catch your opponent. With two jabs, you can easily cover the distance as compared to 1-2 wherein you just have a single jab. You should definitely use this jab when facing taller opponents.

Combination Elements

Combination Application

Range

Very Long

Risk Involved?

Very Low

Footwork

Take two steps forward with a jab. Plant your feet so you can follow it up with a powerful cross. Exit the combination in the same way as you did in the 1-2 combination.

Head Movement

If your opponent doesn’t pose a counter-threat, you don’t need much of a head movement. However, if he does then you can bob and weave as an when you’re applying the combination   

Angles

It has to be executed in a forward angle. The 1-1-2 combination being an aggressive combination needs you to close the gap between you and your opponent, which makes it effective when thrown in a forward movement.  

Rhythm

In regards to rhythm, you can either go fast jab followed by a hard jab and a hard cross, hard jab followed by a fast jab and a hard cross or a hard jab followed by a fast jab and a hard cross. Apply the following combination i.e. 1-1-2 in the rhythm below:

·        FHH

·        HFH

·        FFH

Feints

No feinting required. If the situation demands, you can fake the first jab. But avoid unless necessary.  

Jab + Cross + Lead Hook (1-2-3)

The 1-2-3 combination is a great tool to knock your opponent out. If you catch your opponent clean with this combination, the chances of a knockout will increase exponentially. The Jab and Cross are for mapping and setting your opponent while the lead hook is for ending the combination.

The 1-2-3 boxing combination starts at a mid-long range. So, you cover your distance with jab and then shift your weight forward on to your lead leg to throw the cross which then sets you up for the lead hook. You the cross as a momentum builder when throwing the final lead hook.

Combination Elements

Combination Application

Range

Mid-Long

Risk Involved?

Medium – Can get countered when throwing the lead hook

Footwork

Stay outside the range for the jab. Step in with a jab. Throw the cross and move the bodyweight to set up the lead hook

Head Movement

Based on the situation and expected counters, you need to move your head proactively.

Angles

Can deliver the 1-2-3 in a neutral stance or while covering distance moving forward.

Rhythm

You can wait for a split second after you’ve thrown the jab + cross and are about to throw the lead hook or you can do it without any break.

Feints

If your opponent often slips and likes to do so, you can fake your first jab and try to catch him with the 2-3.

Jab to the Body + Cross to the Head

Here’s where things get interesting as now, you’re specifically deciding a particular combination. This combination is a simple concept. Psychologically, you make your opponent think low and attack high. You can see this being effectively used in other martial arts such as MMA, kickboxing and Muay Thai.

Herein, you intentionally, target the body so your opponent leaves the head open. Floyd Mayweather uses this combination to a great effect. If you’re successful in lowering your opponent’s guard, you can deliver this combination easily.

Combination Elements

Combination Application

Range

Long

Risk Involved?

Low

Footwork

Take a step forward with the jab and as you do it bend your knees a little while throwing. As soon as your opponent tries to protect his guard, spring upwards with a cross to the head.

Head Movement

Duck your head when attacking your opponent with a jab so to avoid getting caught

Angles

Do it while moving forward

Rhythm

Needs to be done quickly without any interval in between. The idea here is to get your opponent to react quickly so you can exploit.

Feints

You can feint a jab and then directly attack the body. So herein, you throw a jab to the head, feint and attack the body. In boxing terms, this is referred to as “Changing Levels”. Using this feinting technique can prove to be really successful.

Jab to the Head + Rear Uppercut to the body

If you’re a southpaw, this combination can work wonders for you. Southpaws love this combination and the reason for that is because their left hand is their rear hand. When they use their rear hand, they can easily land it on their opponent’s liver which is extremely painful.

This combination is enough to put your opponent to sleep. However, even if you are orthodox, you can still land considerable damage to this combination. You can slow your opponent down and gas him out quickly.

Combination Elements

Combination Application

Range

Long

Risk Involved?

Medium – Susceptible to left hook while hitting body shots

Footwork

Step forward with your jab so to cover the distance and set up your uppercut effectively.

Head Movement

Prepare your head for counters and thus you should try slipping counters while aiming for your opponent’s body.

Angles

Do it while moving forward

Rhythm

Wait for your opponent to take his hands up after the jab so to get an opening for the uppercut. If not, you can attack the exposed body with straight body punches.

Feints

You can do multiple feints. You don’t necessarily need to utilize the jab. You can simply move your arm and stick the glove in your opponent’s face. It’s a great way to block his/her vision and land powerful body shots.

Fake Cross + Left Hook

With this fake cross and left hook combination, we’re now moving towards some advanced combinations. This combination is a high-risk, high-reward combo.

Naturally, it’s not a combination of punches but rather a combination of a feint and punch which can still have lasting effects.

You start by faking a right cross and then step forward to land a devastating left hook. A fake cross will make your opponent defend himself and little will he/she know about the left hook which is about to his/her way.

You can even try this move with a variation which involves bobbing and weaving which is often followed by a lead hook to the head.

Combination Elements

Combination Application

Range

Mid-Long

Risk Involved?

High – Susceptible to the straight left hand. It can be seen in a UFC fight between McGregor and Aldo. Aldo tried this combination but got caught by Mcgregor’s straight left hand.

Footwork

Step forward post the feint before you’re landing the left hook. Ensure you don’t pivot the same foot and the same hand (If you’re faking the right hand then don’t pivot your right foot) Since you don’t intend to land the initial punch, pivoting will only consume energy than adding anything.

Head Movement

Straight punches and left hooks can put you in the line of fire. Thus, be prepared to duck under the hook or slip against the incoming straight punches.

Angles

Do it while moving forward

Rhythm

Bait your opponent by faking a punch and then throw the lead hook to catch your opponent.

Feints

The move starts with a feint

Lead Uppercut + Cross

Yet another tricky combination for a beginner. To execute is perfectly, bend your knees a little before throwing an uppercut.

Work your body as if you are to throw a body shot. The lead uppercut + cross combination is useful in making your opponent lower his guard to protect his/her body.

Using the opening, you then land clean uppercut to the head and finish the combination with a deadly cross.

Now, the reason why this combo is risky is that it starts with an uppercut, so you’re susceptible to straight punches. At the same time, you’re required to lower your head for the uppercut so your opponent can catch you if you’re not careful.

Combination Elements

Combination Application

Range

Short/Mid

Risk Involved?

Medium

Footwork

While bending slightly try to hop forward with an uppercut. Follow it up by throwing the cross and exit backward or either to your right quickly.

Head Movement

Prepare your head for slipping straight counters

Angles

Do it while moving in the forward direction as you need to throw an uppercut

Rhythm

If your opponent’s protecting his head, throw the uppercut to the body and if he protecting his body, throw the uppercut to the head. Make sure to target the unprotected areas. You can even throw some body shots in order to set up this combination

Feints

You can try and fake a right before ducking down and throwing the uppercut.

Jab + Rear Hook

The Jab and Rear Hook combination is a basic one that most coaches try and teach you right at the start.

It’s an effective combination to help you learn how to shift weights between both your legs effectively. This can be translated into an effective maneuver in a fight.

Though a basic move, it’s used frequently at a professional level. All you have to do is throw a jab towards the head and set up the rear hook.

Floyd Mayweather uses it all the time. You can crack a defensive opponent’s code with this combination. Especially, those who like to hold a high guard.  

Combination Elements

Combination Application

Range

Short/Mid

Risk Involved?

Low

Footwork

Step forward with a jab if you’re far from the opponent so you can land the hook conveniently

Head Movement

Move your head towards the inside angle when throwing the hook or try to duck under.

Angles

You can do this combination while moving backward, forward or from a neutral stance.

Rhythm

Your hook should follow your jab so your opponent cannot see. Thus, don’t wait for long and throw the throw instantaneously

Feints

Maintain the distance and be ready to change levels. If you end up too close, there’s a chance that your opponent can fake jab and try to land a hook himself.

Jab or Lead Hook + Uppercut

The perfect demonstration of this combination can be seen in the Joshua vs Klitschko fight where Joshua caught him with this combo and later finished him.

He started with the lead hook, which was quite unconventional and then caught him with a venomous uppercut. The sight itself was devastating.

Using this combination form a long distance can prove to be quite fruitful. Just make sure that you use the jab instead of the lead hook when attacking from a long distance.

Combination Elements

Combination Application

Range

Mid-Long

Risk Involved?

Average

Footwork

Choose to move forward with a jab when you’re operating from a distance. In order to land the uppercut, you’ll need to cover the distance. However, if you’re already in the range, then you follow the lead hook with an uppercut.

Head Movement

Keep the counter probability in-check. If attacking from a distance, prepare to slip straights. At the same time when attacking from the inside, your opponent can catch you with an uppercut or a hook. So beware and keep your head movement on point.

Angles

You can do this combination while moving backward, forward or from a neutral stance.

Rhythm

Throw you uppercut just as your opponent is about to expose himself. Timing matters a lot in this combination and you must connect so as to catch him completely off-guard.

Feints

You can use feint in this technique by faking a jab and then actually throwing a real one followed by an uppercut.

Jab + Lead Hook to the body + Cross

The final entry-level combination involves two double punches with level changing. You throw a jab, change levels and throw a left hook to the body and then spring up to throw a cross. Just reading it makes it look fearsome, imagine if you actually do it.

Your opponent will have next to no chance of anticipating what’s coming their way. Level changing is extremely important in this combination.

You can even start with a fake jab followed by a lead hook to the body and cross if you aren’t too far from your opponent.

Combination Elements

Combination Application

Range

Short-Mid

Risk Involved?

Low

Footwork

Choose to move forward with a jab and stay as close to your opponent as possible before landing the lead hook and the cross.

Head Movement

Prepare to slip as you can get countered when you’re loading the uppercut.

Angles

You must do this combination with a forward angle

Rhythm

Make your opponent protect his head by throwing body shots. Try catching him with the cross as soon as he/she lowers the guard.

Feints

If you want to add a surprise element you can fake a jab right before you’re about to throw a lead hook.  

Having seen these 10 basic combinations, you might wonder where are the 4-punch combinations? I know you might be at a stage where you already know about these 3-move combinations and thus, I’m sharing dozens of 4-punch combinations below which you can refer to if you want to use them.

Quick 4-punch combinations for beginners

Call out

Combination

Noteworthy points

1-2-3-2

Jab, cross, left hook, cross

Keep the left hook extremely tight to your body. If you loop your hook, you’ll ruin the cross, so keep it extremely tight.

1-2-3-6

Jab, cross, L-Hook, R-UC

Your uppercut should always be sneaky – your opponent shouldn’t expect it. Don’t wind-up too much and try to bring it up as quickly as you can.

1-2-3-4

Jab, cross, L-Hook, R-Hook

The most important thing when throwing two simultaneous hooks is that you do not rotate excessively or else you’ll lose your momentum.

1-2-5-6

Jab, Cross, L-UC, R-UC

Guard your head effectively. Since you’re throwing the two uppercuts, you’ll be vulnerable for a split second between both moves. So, make sure to guard your head.

1-2-5-2

Jab, Cross, L-UC, Cross

Use the left uppercut lightly and save the power for the defining cross.

1-4-1-6

Jab, R-hook, Jab, R-UC

Take the first three shots lightly and save all the power for your uppercut. Ensure that the uppercut isn’t obvious to have maximum effect on your opponent.

1-4-1-2

Jab, R-hook, Jab, Cross

Don’t wind up your right hook. Follow the fast, hard, fast, hard rhythm for this combination.

1-4-3-6

Jab, R-Hook, L-Hook, R-UC

Just ensure that you don’t over-rotate your body while delivering tow simultaneous hooks

1-4-3-2

Jab, R-Hook, L-Hook, Cross

Same combinations, just with a twist at the end, same instructions – do not over-rotate.

1-4-5-2

Jab, R-Hook, L-UC, Cross

Ensure a tight uppercut with a rising trajectory. DO NOT DIP LOW TO THROW IT.

These were a few interesting 4-punch combinations that every beginner can try. Remember, these combinations aren’t principles or rules which you have to follow as they are. 

These are just proven techniques that work in a given condition. You can always take a technique and turn it into your own by applying your own move set to it. Do not hesitate to experiment according to the situation.

7 Crucial Tips for Boxers to land effective combinations

We’re clear with the science, theory, and application. Now, here are some important tips to land combinations effectively. These are some cheat codes and professional tips that you can use to sharpen your combination game.

1. Keep your combination short

Yes, we just studied the 4-punch combinations. While those are extremely effective, you should try to keep your combination short to preserve energy and overloading. For instance, you can always replace a 1-4-5-2 with 4-5-2 or a 1-4-5 without a 2.

The more you practice, the better you’ll be able to read your fighter which will help you to improvise your combinations on the go.

Don’t hesitate to experiment and improvise any combination. Just because it’s long doesn’t mean it’s more effective than the basic combinations.

  1. Add Variation as a flavor

Avoid sticking to the mundane combination as those can be read easily.

Add variation, so you can catch your opponent with an element of surprise. Herein, you don’t need to change the actual combination as a whole but rather add subtle feints and change of rhythm so as to make the move unpredictable.

For instance, when doing a jab or lead hook + Uppercut, you can simply feint the jab and land the head hook followed by an uppercut. The initial feinting is not something your opponent can easily predict.

  1. Avoid Repeated Jab Rhythm

All of the combinations often start with the jab; however, they don’t have to.

You can throw multiple jabs or even start your combination with an uppercut or a fake cross. Sure, jabs in groups are effective but at the same time, they’re also readable.

Thus, try to vary your jabs so to add a surprise element. When you start off your combination with something explosive, your opponent, isn’t really ready for it.

  1. Avoid patterned hooks

Most of the beginners make a mistake thinking that the hook should be the final punch. No, that’s not a rule. You can throw a hook mid-combination, in fact even two hooks as we learned above.

Though you need to work hard to maintain the torque and momentum, you can easily catch your opponent off-guard. To get this technique right, start with a light hook followed by a hard one.

  1. Changing Punching Levels

Combinations become beautiful when you add layers to it. When you often change levels and try to confuse your opponent by switching targets, you cause havoc in their mind. By alternating punches between head and body, you leave little to no room for telegraphing.

These combinations work better than traditional patterns. Moreover, you can even integrate them in conjunction with basic combinations.

  1. Keep alternating your rhythm

Move like a butterfly, sting like a bee. By altering your rhythm, you make it practically impossible for your opponent to guess your intention.

Boxers are often conditioned to face and counter certain punches in a certain way. If you break the rhythm, you also break the barrier of predictability with it.

For instance, you can throw 3 punches and stop for a split second before throwing your fourth. You can do such things with even basic 2 or 3 punch combinations.

  1. Experiment with Combinations

Don’t be a prisoner of someone else’s style. Create new things, set a trend, give people a reason to make them believe you’re unique.

All of this can’t happen unless you’re bold enough to experiment. Take the combinations above and learn to create your own style out of it. Use 3 combinations where 4 are needed, use 4 where 2 are needed, do repeated moves, break the rhythm after 2, switch stance, change levels, duck down, charge forward. AS YOU CAN SEE, THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS.

Conclusion

The last point of this eventful guide that I’d like to cover is the practice. You can’t excel at anything unless you put in the hours. And what is boxing without shadowboxing? So, shadowbox as much as you can. Throw these combinations throughout the day, master them, experiment with them, improvise them and create your own style.