Feint in boxing is generally seen as a deceptive blow or movement during a fight. In layman’s terms, anything that a fighter does in order to deceive the opponent through movement is feinting.
A simple way to understand this is to imagine yourself throwing your hands towards the opponent’s face. (Your opponent’s thinking about the counter and how the shot is to be blocked). However, little does your opponent know that you don’t intend to connect with their face and you have something else in mind. Thus, you show your opponent that you intend to hit when you actually don’t. To clarify our understanding even better, let us check out some examples:
- When you pretend to punch but do not actually do it
- When you pretend to hit the body but you aim for the head instead
- When you pretentiously move in one direction and then move to the opposite side
These are just a few of the many examples of feinting in the boxing ring. Feinting is easy to understand. However, it gets super technical when it comes to application. However, if you do master the art of feinting, you’ll be able to sense your opponent’s fear and create vulnerability. Feint will help you gain a psychological advantage and will help you gain an advantage over skilled opponents.
Feint as a fear factor
An amazing story shared by my friend boxing at a professional level taught me the importance of feinting in boxing. He shared, “About three years ago, I was sparring against a professional boxer in Japan. Almost everything I tried; it didn’t work out. I realized that I’m going to get beaten up as my feints and my moves weren’t working. Not only was he physically sound and had a sharp mind, but he also did not flinch for even a second.
I lost the session and asked him why my feints had no effect on him. He replied, ‘You didn’t throw anything considerable before feinting. You were just jabbing and maintained a considerable distance. There was absolutely no fear factor. What possibly could I be scared of?’, this reply in itself was the highlight of that entire conversation. Feint works when you work your opponent and cause havoc. Part of what made Tyson the phenom was his ability to get inside his opponent’s head even before the match began.
He had the habit of making his opponents eat his heavy punches. Even though they blocked most of it, they were intimidated by the prospect of a clean connection. So, Tyson was always successful when it came to planting a seed of fear in his opponent’s heart. The majority of the time he avoided overcommitted when feinting and just used to rely on small movements with shoulder and forward movement at times.
Feints are underrated and underutilized
Feints by far are the most underutilized technique in boxing. Especially, boxers who are just starting out or are at an intermediate level tend to focus on offensive and defensive exchange. Their training often lacks feinting practice both in an offensive and defensive term. On the contrary, professionals rely on feints like anything. It’s the most integral part of their success. The likes of Roberto Duran, Naseem Hamed, Mike Tyson, and Mayweather are few of the many legendary boxers who ran riot simply through feinting.
Understanding feinting in boxing
The golden rule of feinting – Be unpredictable. Always do something different than what’s your opponent’s expecting. Our ultimate goal is to deceive the opponent, it doesn’t matter if it takes a sharp movement, fake punch or gestures.
You can take the simple science of feinting and turn it into an absolute killer technique for your fights. For example, understand this, you train to throw 1-1-2 and you throw it three times. However, when you want to deceive your opponent, you throw the 1-1-2 twice and then the third time, you throw a 1-1-3. So, you created the pattern and seldom broke it to bamboozle your opponent.
How to feint?
Now, that we’ve understood the science behind feinting, let us understand how to feint. Like I mentioned earlier, there are many ways in which you can feint. Let’s discuss some of the popular feinting techniques along with some advanced ones.
Punching in the Air
Most of your opponents are conditioned to defend when you throw a punch at their head or body. However, when you throw a punch in the air by intentionally missing your target, your opponent will be drawn towards your efforts. So, you start your punch from the front and move to the side of their body or head in order to draw a response. Most of your opponents will try to respond and stick their hands out which will then present you with an opening.
Here are some of the tried and tested classic punch feints technique:
- Faking a jab so to make your opponent extend and then following with a hard hook or cross
- Jabbing in the air on the side of his/her body or head to draw a response and hit a right cross
- Waving your left glove to the side and enabling your opponent to open up the body and as soon as he/she does it, you drive a sharp left to the face or the body
- Lifting your right as if you intend to throw a right cross and then quickly attacking with a fast jab
Punching at the Body
The easiest way to target your opponent’s body through feint is by telegraphing the punch to one side whilst quickly turning it to the other. Fake punches to the body and quick follow up punches to the head work really well. When you want to land punches and use body punches as feints, you should always track your opponent’s eyes.
Whether your opponent blocks your body shot or doesn’t, eyes will give you a clear signal. When you throw a punch and you sense that your opponent got distracted for a split second, that is a window in which you must attack. All you need to do is pay attention.
Here are some of the tried and tested classic body feints technique:
- Throwing a jab to the body followed by a right cross to the head
- Throwing a quick 1-2 to the body followed by a devastating left hook to the head
- Throwing a jab to the body followed by a left hook to the head
Manipulating your opponent’s defense
Often times when you’re up against skill fighters, you realize that your feints aren’t working as much as you would have liked them to. In such a situation, you can use quick punches with minimal commitment to drawing a response from your opponent. As I mentioned earlier, your opponent will naturally defend and react to where you throw the punch.
If feinting doesn’t work, you can still get him/her to react by throw actual punches. What’s the difference-maker? Herein, you land the punches at a lightning pace, so when your opponent tries to catch the first one, the follow-up is already on its way.
Using this technique confuses your opponent forcing him/her to choose between protecting his head or body. Furthermore, when you force punches from different angles, you create an opening as he/she becomes susceptible from different angles. All punches generally come from three angles:
- Straight (Jab or Cross)
- Around (Overhand or Hook)
- Under (Uppercut)
These quick movements are a great way to manipulate your opponent’s defense and make him/her work as per your convenience. Penetration becomes easy when you attack from different angles.
Here are some of the tried and tested classic defense manipulation technique:
- Throwing straight punches followed by a big hook
- Throwing fast uppercuts followed by a big hook
- Throwing a quick hook followed by a straight punch
As you can see these are all high-energy punches that we are using with minimal commitment to creating an opening. And it works because very few opponents which get hold of our intention behind the punch.
Using Foot feint
Boxers have been using foot feint for decades as a technique to put their opponent off balance. This popular technique allows the boxer to not only lure the opponent into the movement but also leads them to go off-guard.
At a professional level, reading your opponent’s body language is extremely crucial. It’s not just the hand that makes the difference, it’s the entire body movement combined. Thus, when you learn to read your opponent and his movement, you can easily understand whether he’s committing to his punches or not.
While many boxers often attack aggressively and thus, they don’t care about your arm feinting, you can catch them by surprise with your footwork.
You can see excellent counterpunchers such as Gennady Golovkin use foot feint extensively. By keeping the distance and changing the directions, moving in and outside of his opponent’s range, Golovkin manages to keep his opponents confused. He goes to one direction and quickly switches up to the other. Lomachenko and Mayweather are also well known for their application of foot feint.
Here are some of the tried and tested classic foot feint technique:
- Taking a fake step forward and if your opponent moves back, you can use up space. However, if your opponent’s preparing a counter, you can attack the opening you get.
- Try moving to your side creating a perception that you’re stepping out and as soon as your opponent falls for this bait, come back in with a hard counter.
- When using foot feint, try to move laterally and keep changing the direction so as to keep your opponent guessing.
To learn some excellent foot feinting techniques, you should watch Mexican Boxing Legend – Juan Manuel Marquez. If you study his clips, you’ll find that he often bent his knees and dipped either on the inside or the outside leg. When you make such a bold move, the opponent doesn’t have the answer and they enter the fray with the involuntary reaction which makes it extremely easy for you to counter.
Marquez used the foot feint to throw his opponents off balance. Like Marquez, if you learn to do it correctly, your entire movement will be extremely effective. Foot feint similar to other feints can help swing the balance in your favor. Shoulder movement along with feet and fake punches coupled with lateral movements are few of the many ways how you can open your opponent and embed the psychological fear in their mind.
Though I’ve mentioned it before, I’d like to say it again. At pro levels, the smallest of movements make the most difference. Feinting as an art has a level to it. Some minute details can involve you twitching your glove as if you are to punch and fake an entire punch. One of the most peculiar detail is your breathing. Your level of exhaling and the sound shows the amount of dedication you’re throwing in a punch.
Can’t relate? Well, the next time you go to the gym, close your eyes and watch out for the person having the loudest breath. That’s the sign that they’re trying their best. Now, when this happens in a boxing match, instead of stepping ahead, you can tilt your head down and make your opponent believe as if you’re coming at him/her but you don’t.
You can use sharp exhaling as a tool to deceive your opponent. The sharp breath sound alerts your opponent who then starts preparing for the counter. However, when you don’t land the counter and instead wait for him/her, they cannot understand why which leads them to attack and creates an opening for you.
Here are some interesting breathing feints:
- You can easily exhale your opponent off when he/she gets closer. This technique works best when you’re in a tight spot
- By sharp exhaling with your opponent tagged in the corner, you’ll make him/her panic and thus he/she would have a hard time landing a punch
- You can use exhale feints and disrupt your opponent’s rhythm.
Though often undermined, at the highest of levels, sharp exhaling is a symbol of a highly skilled boxer. Feinting refers to any fake motion which develops a certain notion in your opponent’s head. And so, if it’s breathing then that’s a valuable technique too. All you need to do is to sell it well. It’s an unconventional technique that can help drive great results. Not just that, you can adjust and adapt it to any given situation. Just keep practicing as once you get a hang of it, you can land powerful and clean punches.
Role of Movements in Feinting
Your overall body movement compliments feinting. Not only is an important part but deploying fluid movement and moving laterally in an off-rhythmic way can really confuse your opponents. Boxing is called the mental and psychological sport for a reason. You don’t just go all out on your opponent, instead, use tools and tricks to lure them out. Once, they’re out, you use their momentum and capitalize on the openings.
Difference between Good Feint and Bad Feint
What you should know however is that feinting though it’s precious can be good or bad. Quite similar to the other boxing techniques. If you overdo it, then that’s a problem, if you don’t do it all then that’s even a bigger problem. Now that we have all the reasons why you should use feint, let’s study the difference between good feint and a bad feint.
Good Feinting Traits:
- Good feints are the ones which require less energy and strong mental game. With these feints, you are the one in complete control capable of producing a desired response from your opponent.
- You use Good feints to draw your opponents and counter them.
- You use good feints as a technique to hold a psychological edge over your opponent.
- You sense your opponent’s vulnerability and make them pay
- You make your opponent move in the direction you want them to.
Bad Feinting Traits:
- Poor feinting skills will leave you vulnerable and in a disadvantageous position
- Using the feint as a showboating tool rather than as an effective weapon
- Using the same technique again and again
- Not backing your feints with your psychological pressure
- Not creating a sense of fear in your opponent’s mind
- Mistiming the counters and falling prey to your opponent’s counters
- Underestimating your opponent’s movement and thinking that you’ve lulled him/her into sleep
Examples of excellent feinting techniques in boxing
In the video below, you can see how he draws his opponent with the right-setup. He just throws a punch halfway without extending fully which makes his opponent movement in a certain direction, where he hits his opponent with a real punch. When doing the half-way punch, you must ensure that you aren’t overcommitting. A smart fighter will catch up with your rhythm and eventually capitalize on it.
Not many boxers have the gift of pulling this technique effectively. While it does sound simple, it’s not that easy. To attempt a forward step, you need to be within your opponent’s range where your opponent is expecting an attack from your end. So, what you can see in the video below is that the fighter is slightly jerking the upper body whilst moving forward, all in one smooth motion. Apart from that clip, Manny Pacquaio is one of the boxers who has mastered this feint.
A great feinting technique to open up your opponent. This technique isn’t to be confused with slipping punches or steady head movements. When you start leaning to the side, try to lean outside of your lead foot so that you can come back in with a devastating cross or a hook. Sergio Martinez uses this feinting technique to a great effect against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Bending the knees
In order to generate more power in your punches, you can sit down on your punches. By bending the knees, you can swing in an upward motion which adds to the force. However, do not bend too low as it might take too long and leave you in an unfavorable position. If you’ve studied our Guillermo Rigondeaux boxing strategies, you might know a lot about this technique already.
The art of feinting is all about making your opponent overcommit. Simply put, the less you commit, the lesser the chance your opponent has to counter. On the contrary, the more your opponent commits, the better opportunities you’ll have to open them up. You might ask? What if I’m up against a brawler? Well, if you’re against a brawler, you won’t even need feints. Simple counterpunching techniques are enough to put them away.