Complete Guide to Counterpunching in Boxing

People who have just started learning how to box or are in their initial sparring stages are often unable to create an opening. For them, when an opponent unleashes the shots, they have no choice but eat it. Yes, they can defend it but without having counterpunching knowledge, you can never turn your opponent’s attack against them to swing the momentum in your favor.

What is counterpunching?

Counterpunching is an advanced boxing technique, perhaps one of the hardest and the most important skills to overcome any fighter. Be it a pressure fighter or a brawler, if you get your counterpunching skills right, you can time them to perfection and overcome adversity. Every offense generally comes with a loophole.

Regardless of which punch your opponent throws, they will leave their body susceptible to attack for a split second. Using that split second, you want to time your counter, so you can hurt your opponent.

When it comes to counterpunching, there is no single way of doing it. Counterpunching takes place in rhythms and its main purpose is to use distance to create an opening for yourself. The greatest fighters are extremely intelligent when it comes to counterpunching. They time their punch to perfection which is the result of excellent accuracy, timing, patience, and overall ring intelligence.

Fundamentals of Counterpunching in Boxing?

Like I said earlier, counterpunching is a complex affair. It’s not a single punch motion. It’s understanding your opponent’s mindset first and then working your way towards creating an opening. In order to counterpunch, you’ve to throw and time your punch simultaneously or a little later than your opponent’s punch.

In a counterpunch, you let your opponent initiate the attack. Initially, if you’re pitted against an intelligent boxer, you’ll have a hard time. However, with practice, you’ll learn to time your opponents. This move largely relies on making your opponent think that they are in complete control until you counter them. 

Against clever fighters, you can use blocking, parrying and feinting as a way to help your opponent feel confident. With that said, here’s how you can set up counterpunch:

Read your opponent

your opponent’s rhythm. Once you do, the next time they finish 2 or 3 jabs, you stick your counter in between. Even better, you can land a devastating blow right after the 2nd jab. Thus, it all starts with reading your opponent’s moment.

Stay Active

Your body movement along with your footwork plays an important role in setting up a counterpunching combination. Thus, at any moment, you shouldn’t switch off. You’ve done good work on reading your opponent, if you fail to capitalize on the openings, your opponent will easily be able to recover.

Get the timing right

Counterpunching is just about that split second. You either make it work or you don’t. There’s no in-between. An unsuccessful first counter can make your opponent aware of your intentions thereby making it harder for you to find an opening. Thus, you must get the timing right.

Work on the rhythm

Counterpunching rhythm is extremely important when it comes to landing effective punches. Thus, I’ve provided you with a complete section on counterpunching rhythms in boxing which can help you understand the subject, so as to help you work upon it and improve your overall abilities in counterpunching.

Learn the combinations

You can literally counter your opponent’s jab in four different ways. Did you know that? Similar to jab, you can counter almost any move – right cross, hook, uppercut. In the next section, we’ll learn about how to counterpunch if you’re faced with any of the punches mentioned above.

7 Ways to Counterpunch in Boxing

When it comes to counterpunching techniques, there are numerous ways in which you can catch your opponent off-guard. All of these counterpunching techniques work in cohesion with body movements and footwork. What are these counterpunching techniques? Let’s learn about them.

Pull Counter

  • Not to use this technique often as your opponent will be able to predict it if you do it redundantly.
  • Pull counter is most effective against a single jab
  • When executing a pull counter, make sure that you don’t move too far back and it’ll make you lose balance and leave you vulnerable
  • Use it when exchanging punches at the center of the ring. DO NOT use pull counter when leaning against the ropes or bundled in the corner
  • Always use the pull counter only when you’re in the punching range. If you don’t then your counter will fall short
  • At the same time, do not use pull counter too close to your opponent’s body as you’ll fall prey to short counter from your opponent
  • Once you execute a pull counter, quickly step out of your opponent’s range

Slip Counter

The Slip Counter is very similar to the pull counter. However, in the slip counter, you’re required to move your head outside your opponent’s jab and then follow up with a punch. You can also slip inside and then land a hook, but that move leaves you open and susceptible to heavier counter. Moreover, moving on the inside comes with its own set of risks.

For instance, if your opponent is holding a high guard, you’ll just be wasting your energy on the inside. Thus, stepping outside and landing a straight is a much better option as compared to stepping inside and landing a hook.

Block Counter

In order to pull off a block counter, you need to ensure a high guard. Start with catching your opponent’s punch on an elbow or your glove. Immediately, shoot the hook with the same hand you caught the punch on.

When executing a block counter, it’s extremely important that you roll with your opponent’s punch to minimize the impact. The block counter is usually used on the inside and on the mid-range and is extremely effective against hook or overhand.

Roll Counter

Roll Counter is quite similar to the block counter except it doesn’t require your guard to be high. In a rolling counter, instead of catching your opponent, you tend to roll with his punch and try landing a hook or an overhand at the same time.

Roll Counter is one of the riskiest counterpunches as it entails getting hit to set up the counter. And also, if get the timing wrong, you won’t be able to subside the damage. Thus, you must practice rolling the punch a lot or else you’d find yourself in serious trouble. 

Duck Counter

As the name suggests, a duck counter involves ducking under an incoming punch and following it with your own punch. At a mid-range a duck counter in extremely effective when you fire in with a straight. You can follow your straight with a hook.

When throwing a duck counter, ensure that you bend at the knees, so you have a good perspective of your opponent. If you bend at the waist, you won’t have a good view of your opponent and thus you can get easily caught.

Furthermore, getting back from bent waist takes more time as compared to bent knees. Also, when you’re coming up, make sure that your chins down and guards up.

Shoulder Roll Counter

Shoulder Roll counter largely relies on timing and good reflexes. There are no limitations when it comes to countering with a shoulder roll. The best way to use this counterpunching technique is to roll your opponent’s right hand (if you both are orthodox), left hand (if he’s southpaw) and then counter with a right uppercut or a straight right.

Simultaneous Counter

This counter doesn’t necessarily have a name but I’ve decided to include this because the name is exactly what you do. You try to counter your opponent’s offense by landing a punch of your own. Talk about the difficulty in executing a counter and this ranks at the top as the most elite counterpunching technique? Why? Because your timing has to be perfect. You simply cannot falter in execution as it might very well be the end.

When throwing the Simultaneous Counter, remember not to trade hooks with a faster opponent as there’s a major chance of getting tagged first.

When throwing the punch, it’s important to ensure that you’re moving your head. Never keep your head stationary as you’ll get clipped in no time.

Using an overhand against a jab is a great way to catch your opponent in a simultaneous counter.

Against a southpaw opponent, you can catch your opponent with a straight when their attempting a jab. Yet again, do not forget to move your head when throwing the straight.

Basic Boxing Counterpunches Every Boxer Should Know

These counterpunches are basic in nature and every boxer should know about these combinations. These act as fundamental to countering basic moves such as jabs, right cross, and hook.

Counterpunching a Jab

If your opponent throws a jab at you. There are four ways in which you can counter them.

Basic Block and Counter

The first way is by blocking your opponent’s jab with your right glove and follow it up with a counter jab of your own. Angle your jab towards your opponent’s face – this is a basic 1-2 jab combination. When employing this jab, ensure that the shoulder you’re jabbing with is high so you can protect your face from a probable incoming righthand. Lastly, you must make sure you connect with your opponent’s chin or face.

Changing Levels and Counter

The second way to counterpunching a jab is by bending your knees and lowering your body. This is also known as changing the levels. Herein, you move down so you can target your opponent’s body. When you successfully change your level, you should aim for your opponent’s ribs or his solar plexus. As soon as you land a devastating blow, make sure to follow it up with a right cross on to the head.

Parry and Counter

One of the most basic counterpunching against jab is by parrying your opponent’s left glove with your right glove and then landing a straight right over his arm. It works the majority of the time.

Overhand Counter

If you get this counter right, you can knock your opponent onto the canvas. You start by leaning inside your opponent’s jab and then throw an angled right cross to his head. This counter coupled with quick movement is a knockout recipe. 

Herein, your head will move on the inside or somewhat under your opponent’s jab and your overhand will come rising outside of his jab. We’ve seen many knockouts due to this very move.

Counterpunching a Right Cross

Your opponent can come at you with any move. This time, if he/she decides to catch you with a right cross. You can counterpunch a right cross in two ways.

Intercept and Counter

Herein, you intercept your opponent’s right cross with a left jab straight to his face. At the same time, you should hold your shoulder high to protect your head from a probable counter.

Block and Counter

You can also block your opponent’s right cross with your left glove and follow it up with an immediate right hand. Remember, you should do this as though you’re stopping your opponent’s right cross with your own right-hand punch. The counter should be so quick that you should land your right hand before the opponent is able to retract his arm.

Counterpunching a Hook

Similar to the counters above, you can also counterpunch a hook. Countering a hook against a hook is an effective choice. For instance, if your opponent likes to throw wild right hooks, you can throw a smaller left hook as soon as his right glove leaves his chin.

Yet again, it’s just a matter of who strikes first. While pivoting your body clockwise, you should throw the hook whilst turning your head away from your opponent’s incoming strike. If your hook lands, your opponent won’t be able to connect properly and perhaps get knocked out. The secret here is that you’ll have more time to counter than your opponent.

Now that we’ve seen basic counterpunching techniques against basic punches, let’s study more about the sweet science of counterpunching rhythm in boxing.

Counterpunching Rhythms in Boxing

Counterpunching ranges from easier to many complex punches that follow up to four rhythms. Regardless of any scenario during the match, you can overcome your opponent with one of these four counterpunching rhythms. These rhythms can be implemented with any combinations in any situation.

Stop-Hit Rhythm

Stop-Hit Rhythm is a simultaneous counter-punching ability. Simply put, as soon as your opponent attacks you, you should attack as well. Though it’s one of the riskiest counterpunching techniques, it’s quite fruitful due to its effectiveness. The stop-hit rhythm follows Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do principle of “The way of the Intercepting Fist”.

Now the thing is that in boxing, it’s not easy to stop that first punch. Thus, though it looks easier, you’ve to put a lot of work to get the Stop-Hit rhythm right. The goal here is to understand your opponent’s rhythm and as soon as you figure it, you time it and land your shots.

Slip-Hit Rhythm

Herein, you try to slip your opponent’s initial punch and then land the counter. In terms of execution, this move is hard too as it has to be well-timed. The movement is simultaneous wherein your head, hand and footwork have to be on point to slip before you launch yourself offensively.

Some people have a hard timing managing the simultaneous timing. However, if you’re good with movements and want to disrupt your opponent’s advances, this is a good way to do so.

In-Between Punches

This rhythm is extremely effective when your opponent opts for longer combinations. Herein, the goal is to find the loophole between the punches. Long combinations will come with more openings. The idea here is to evade the first punch and time your punches in between your opponent’s perceived longer combination.

In this technique, even if you eat the initial punches, per se 1 or 2, you can still work towards taking the sting out of your opponent’s long combination by blocking and recomposing yourself. If you’re the one instigating longer combination, ensure to track your opponent because if you don’t, the roles can easily be reversed. Creating angles, footwork and attacking in between the punches is what you need to master for this rhythm.

Power Dip

Unlike what we learned above; in this rhythm, the goal is to let your opponent finish the combination punching. So, you basically have to block it, parry or create distance, just to make sure that your opponent doesn’t land a single shot. Once, that is done, so will his energy levels in that instant. Thus, you have to capitalize on your opponent’s power dip and use what he thought was his momentum against him.

For example, the 1-2-3-2-3 combination that we see in the clip above shows how the energy drains after the offense and the person on the right starts to take advantage of the dip in the energy. So, the idea here is to waste your opponent’s power, let them get tired with their initial combination and then launch a flurry of attack of your own.

Importance of Counterpunching in Boxing

Yes, sure counterpunching is not a piece of cake. But learning an advanced technique such as this can elevate your overall skills. Counterpunching comes with a lot of benefits and if you master the art, you can gain an edge over your opponent in the following ways:

  1. Catching your opponent

Initially, your opponent does not expect a counterpunch. Especially as a beginner, they don’t expect you to counter. Thus, when making your opponent miss his punch and jump in with a counter, you have a great chance of catching him off-guard. As a technique alone, it’s capable of pushing your opponent on his backfoot.

2. Makes your opponent hesitant

Even if you’re not a boxer who packs a lot of power in his punch, counterpunching will make your opponent hesitant when it comes to throwing a punch. We’ve seen along with years, how Floyd’s opponents are extremely reluctant when it comes to throwing punches. Floyd’s an excellent counterpuncher and thus they fear counterpunch more than landing their own punch, which just goes to show the significance of this technique.

3. Increases your power

Not in terms of general power but unexpected punch feels heavier than a telegraphed one. Thus, when you catch an opponent with a punch he’s not expecting, he’ll probably feel it more. It’s more effective when you shield your counter with feinting, ducking or slipping movements as it creates the space to connect with more power. All of this adds to the unpredictability of your offense.

4. Overcoming a Quick Boxer

With counterpunching skills, you can make any tough fight easy for yourself. Counterpunching helps control the fight and the tempo. It allows you to fight at your own pace. You can slow down a quick boxer and drain his energy by setting traps. We’ve seen the likes of Gennady Golovkin overcome the toughest of challenges with his excellent counter punching skills. Every top boxer knows how to trap their opponent, the likes of Lomachenko, Golovkin, and Mayweather are all testimonies to excellent counterpunching.

5. Saving Energy

Counterpunching is a great way to prevent yourself from getting gassed out. Since you can control the tempo, you more or less control the fight. For defensive fighters who are slower, counterpunching works brilliantly for them.


All in all, counterpunching is a great technique and is a significant difference between an average fighter and a world-class talent. Even on elite levels, the level of counterpunching skills can differentiate a world-beater from a great talent. Thus, at entry-level, even the basics of skills make a difference, however, at a professional level, it’s the tiniest of moves in counterpunching which makes the momentum swing in one way or the other.