Your Complete Guide to The Peek-a-boo Boxing Style

You might have read about the peek-a-boo style of boxing in regard to Iron Mike Tyson or if you’re an experienced boxing enthusiast, you might also remember Torres and Patterson.

These three are the main names that come to our mind when it comes to the peek-a-boo style of boxing.

Do you know why? Because all of them have been trained by the legendary Cus D’Amato. He is the man who discovered the peek-a-boo style of boxing.

What is the Peek-a-boo boxing style?

The peek-a-boo boxing style entails a safe and loaded base of operation. What that means is that it allows the attack to keep defense intact.

The peek-a-boo style offers freedom to the fighters in regards to movement. These fighters can move, when and where they want and control the fight at minimal risk.

Though it sounds impressive, the style is extremely dangerous as well. In order to be successful with peek-a-boo, you have to understand D’Amato’s philosophy.

Contrary to some existing misconceptions considering Peek-a-boo as an offensive boxing style, it’s actually a defensive-minded system.

This strategy allows a boxer to run a contest at his/her own pace and control the proceedings.

Apart from throwing punches and limiting the volume of your opponent’s punches, this style helps you move inside or on the outside to create counters.

We’ve already studied in-detail about counters in our previous blog, and Peek-a-boo is a fascinating style where you can attack your opponent whilst having a defensive outlook.

martial arts

Role of Cus D’Amato in peek-a-boo boxing style

Cus D’Amato always believed in the psychological aspect. He was one of the few trainers to implement and integrate psychological training within his boxer’s camp.

He brought Zen to the world of boxing before most people even knew about it in the western world.

There’s something intriguing about this style of boxing and as per Cus, the ability to slip punches was the crucial yet one of the most underrated aspects in boxing.

According to him, if you learn the hardest thing i.e. slip your punches to perfection, you’ll have a great time in the ring.

Iron Mike Tyson’s infamous Peek-a-boo style of boxing

Iron Mike Tyson was one of his kind. Though his name is often taken in the same wavelength as the peek-a-boo style, he was just an exceptional talent.

Before we can understand what made Tyson so special, let us understand the theory behind Peek-a-boo style in boxing, which brings us to the first question.

What makes Iron Mike’s Peek-a-boo boxing so ferocious?

The thing with Iron Mike is that his adaptation of peek-a-boo is unique because by instincts he was a pressure fighter with an aggressive mindset.

However, with peek-a-boo which is a defensive strategy, Mike was able to attack and follow his instincts whilst protecting himself at all times.

Yes, sure, there were many loopholes in the style but Mike’s implementation was so quick and effective that his opponents could never capitalize on the openings.

Not only did he used to land counter punches but he used to do so with ferocious power.

Peek-a-boo and Knockouts

Tyson is one of the greatest boxers with respect to knockout. His defense along with his counterpunching ability is what made him the beast.

His aggressiveness coupled with defensive alertness is what sent shivers down his opponent’s spine.

If the popular assumption is to be believed, the peek-a-boo only works with boxers who have short stature.

While that theory does have some substance, the likes of Floyd Patterson  6ft (183cm) and Jose Torres 5’10” (178cm) were by no means small guys. 

With consistent knockouts throughout the competition, Patterson was able to win the 1952 Gold Medal whereas Jose Torres was able to bag silver at the 1956 Olympics. Most of their wins came by knockouts – which goes to show the effectiveness of this counterpunching style.

These two were the first few legendary fighters under D’Amato stewardship before Tyson entered the fray 30-years later in the 1980s.

With consistent knockouts throughout the competition, Patterson was able to win the 1952 Gold Medal whereas Jose Torres was able to bag silver at the 1956 Olympics.

Most of their wins came by knockouts – which goes to show the effectiveness of this counterpunching style.

These two were the first few legendary fighters under D’Amato stewardship before Tyson entered the fray 30-years later in 1980s.

Will Peek-a-boo style work for you?

Peek-a-boo can work for anyone. However, it favors some fighters more over the other. For instance, Tyson’s finest specimen in regard to this style.

Quick movements

The essence of Peek-a-boo style lies in moving inside and on the outside of your opponent. It’s an effective style against taller opponents.

What Tyson lacked in terms of height, he subsequently made up for it through his explosive power and speed.

Now, the theory which says that Peek-a-boo only works for short boxers is fairly true because boxers with considerable height can find it difficult to move on the inside or outside of their opponent. Still, it’s not impossible.

Ambidextrous Approach

Boxers who have no problems switching from southpaw to orthodox will do fairly well with this style.

Tyson was naturally ambidextrous and was seamless in his movements.

He used to use this movement to move quickly, close the distance, and apply the Dempsey shift i.e. moving inside.

The Dempsey shift involves a power linear shift which includes a straight lead and a training step before you attempt a deep shifting step and a rear straight punch.

Low Center of Gravity

In any sport, you’ll see that athletes with short heights have excellent speed. Not to undermine the tall ones, but the small ones have an excellent low center of gravity which provides them with great lower body strength and freedom of movement.

Tyson looked as if he was meant to execute this style. With perfect body style, he always maintained a low center of gravity which helped him bob and weave around his opponents with much ease.

Raw strength

For peek-a-boo style to work for you, you need to have raw power. The entire game plan relies on landing devastating counters.

Thus, if you do all the hard part of moving on the inside and outside of your opponent and can’t finish him off, then that’s a major problem.

Thus, you need to have the raw power to compliment your excellent movement. In Tyson’s case, his counterpunches resulted in knockouts more often than not. His straights along with his left hooks are still revered till this date.

Excellent speed

Raw power needs to be backed up with speed. Firstly, for movements itself, speed is important as, without speed, you will have a hard time moving on the inside or stepping to the outside of your opponent.

When it comes to speed, it’s not just footwork but also hand speed and timing which makes a great difference.

Advantages of Peek-a-boo style

In current times, the peek-a-boo style is often criticized and is looked down upon by many people. Today’s boxing is different than the 90s and thus finding flaws and using them to wrap up your opponent is a common occurrence.

Closing the distance

Peek-a-boo style of boxing is great when you want to chase your opponents down and close the distance quickly.

Due to the squared position, you are in a much better position to cut off the ring and since you’re not in a particular stance, you can land punches from both hands.

Closing distance while moving with a squared body is simply a tantalizing sight for any of your opponents. For instance, not many people expect you to barge in with devastating counters. Most of them want you to use cautious jabs.

Allows quick movements

Especially, if you’re a fighter with short height, this style is a great way to make your opponent scared and hesitant.

Quick movements coupled with evasive style and frenetic energy is what made Iron Mike so explosive. So, with your sharpness and top-notch conditioning, you can simply close the distance and control the proceedings.

Gives you an offensive edge

Though a defensive technique, peek-a-boo style really preps you up for an offensive style knowing that you’ll guard yourself well.

The main proposition of this style is it moves against the rhythm. Most of the boxers aren’t used to facing a challenge like this. They are not used to fighters who move in off-rhythm.

Use off-rhythm as an unpredictable tool

Now, you must be thinking what’s off-rhythm? It’s nothing but a movement wherein your punches and movement isn’t in sync with general movements of attack and defense.

For instance, in on-rhythm, you punch and defend, that’s the basic instinct. The movement here is safe and predictable.

However, that’s not the case with off-rhythm. In off-rhythm, the movement isn’t predictable since the punching speed varies along with the overall movement.

In today’s boxing, Pacquaio and Hatton are two popular off-rhythm boxers, they like to slip from side to side at waist level and have extremely high energy.

Active defense

Last but not least, the biggest advantage of Peek-a-boo style is it helps you stay alert all the time.

It implies activeness and no relaxation at all. And add off-rhythm unpredictability to the mix and you have everything to make your opponent cautious and rethink every move.

Active defense allows to take down the likes of high-volume fighters and even pressure fighters.

Defensive techniques such as slipping work better than rolling if you want to interrupt your opponent and his smooth movements. Overall, you have an edge due to active defense which allows you to derail your opponent and make them weary about their own techniques.

Disadvantages of Peek-a-boo style

Here’s where the modern criticism of the peek-a-boo style creeps in. And in all fairness, you have to give it its due consideration because there’s hardly any boxer who completely relies on peek-a-boo as Tyson did. Here are a few reasons why they don’t prefer it as an entire game plan:

Decreased Energy Levels

By far the biggest problem with this style is that it’s super explosive and active. But is it intelligent? Critics say no because it lacks efficiency. Due to pressure fighting and extremely explosive movement, fighters lose a lot of energy within the first 6 rounds.

We’ve seen Tyson gassing out within the first half and it’s not him alone. Many fighters during his time and before him ran out of energy if the contest progressed to beyond Round 6.

See, it’s true that it’s a great fighting style if you’ve limitless energy, however, if you’re reserved, you certainly don’t want to go ahead with this style as a primary plan.

Risk involved in off-rhythm fighting

Off-rhythm fighting is an unconventional approach that involves risk-taking.

It works against the general movement of boxers. Metaphorically, it can be compared to Southpaw and Orthodox stance.

As much as you benefit from off-rhythm, the similar can be said for your opponent. In the long run, fighters using the peek-a-boo style came off worse. With off-rhythm fighting, they operate with huge risks and eat a fair amount of punches.

So, one can say that with peek-a-boo, you’re not riding the waves but rather splashing the water.

Look at fighters such as James Toney and Floyd Mayweather, both these fighters can fight and still walk out of a fight without considerable damage.

However, look at Mike and Floyd Patterson or even off-rhythm boxers such as Pacquiao and Hatton, you’ll see that they take risks and often it isn’t worth it.

Can’t do without power

Yes, you want to peek-a-boo box, but don’t have enough power. Well, then this style isn’t for you.

As a fighter who’s constantly moving forward, you need to have power as your main trait. Because with this style, it’s all about catching your opponent. Move-in, move out, bob and weave and make your opponent eat the punch.

Sure, this style can create an opening for anyone regardless of how good their opponent’s defense is, however, you have to be lightning quick with explosive power or else you’ll be on the receiving end.

No Power. No Respect! Things are quite straightforward in the boxing ring. When your punches lack power, your opponent is going to charge on you and won’t back off because he knows that you can’t do anything significant to him. Imagine Mike Tyson without power. Terrible? Isn’t it?

Good chin is a must

When you try to step in and knock your opponents there’ll be many instances where you’ll be susceptible to incoming shots. If you don’t have a chin capable of handling these then you’ll lay flat on the ground sooner than you expected.

Many people think that good head movement can make up for bad chin, however, that’s not the case.

You might have seen Tyson moving against the punches by stepping outside instead of rolling with the punches.

However, the truth is that, if you get caught while moving outside, you’ll be rattled. With that said, it’s not necessary to have a Mexican chin either. All I want to convey is that be clever and don’t try to imitate Tyson’s style completely.

Problem in movements for taller fighters

The biggest issue with the peek-a-boo style is that it is not ideal for taller fighters with strategic movements.

If you try to implement this style, you’ll often find yourself losing your balance because of the unnatural fold.

Making the situation worse is the punches. For taller fighters, holding the hands higher results in increased time in reaching the target.

Because of the motion, your arms get tired super quick. For instance, if you keep your arms close, you’ll have to work hard to counter or block the punch.


I’m sure you must be feeling unsure about this style. After all, we started extremely positive and then when discussing the negatives saw how underwhelming this strategy is. The truth is that in today’s time, you can’t completely rely on this style.

Yes, good head movement, reflexes, movement at the waist and explosive punches are some elements that many boxers use in today’s boxing.

However, they mix it up. They aren’t completely relying on peek-a-boo style rather modifying it to make their unique style.

You can see Roberto Duran, Jack Dempsey as fine examples of borrowing some inspiration from Peek-a-boo and creating something unique. You should do the same.