13 Boxing Defensive Moves You Need to Learn

Boxer hand wrapping

Defense is a fundamental aspect of boxing that is essential in one’s development as an excellent fighter. Boxing training mainly focuses on developing one’s offensive skills, but defense is equally important as it enables the fighter’s offensive moves to win a fight effectively

There is no best defensive technique, as the best move is the one that fits your current situation in a fight. Defense is dodging your opponent’s punches and countering them immediately. Different defensive techniques are effective against different opponent styles.

Mastering these 13 boxing defensive moves will help a fighter to effectively block and evade punches even from the most skillful boxers.

Before we dive in, I wrote an article about the pros and cons of boxing; follow the link to an article of mine on the topic.

#13. Feinting

Professional high profile boxers owe their success in the ring to feints, but most boxers underutilize this technique.

Feinting involves exposing one’s interest in making a particular move, prompting a reaction, and switching up to make a different move. These motions deceive and confuse the opponent, thus making room to deliver a good punch.

A boxer should learn to deliver different feints to the opponent’s body. Using the same feint multiple times will make a fighter predictable to their opponent.

Likewise, using feet to feint is effective as it throws the opponent off balance. Using foot feints by exaggerating shoulder motions will cause the opponent to curl up and protect their head. This act leaves an opening for a boxer to deliver clean punches, as the opponent will be vulnerable.

Bending the knees and strongly exhaling is an effective feint that sets apart a skilled boxer from one who is not.

#12. Footwork (Going forward)

Going forward is an effective way to dodge punches.

Moving forward involves stepping forward and being too close to your opponent. The fighter projects his chest on the opponent’s head and crushes him to keep them from striking with punches. Fighters use it to neutralize the opponent. It pushes the opponent off balance by moving them around.

This technique is suitable for tiring smaller opponents and keeping the fighter in range of larger opponents. It tires out opponents with weak legs by making them move.

However, when dealing with an opponent who is a better inside fighter, one can get outworked. This technique can be tiring against well-grounded opponents. It can be challenging to use this technique on fighters using dirty techniques, as one may walk into low blows and headbutts.

A fighter should execute this technique with timing and precision to avoid walking into punches. Grabbing the opponent’s arm when going forward makes them weaponless.

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#11. Footwork (Moving away)

Moving away is one of the best defensive technique.

Moving away involves stepping a distance away from the opponent. This footwork is the simplest way to avoid a hit from the opponent. It gets the fighter out of range and, therefore, cannot receive the blows thrown at them in range.

When a fighter uses going away as a defense tactic, they must spend tremendous energy to bring them back to the range to deliver powerful counters.

It is an excellent way of wearing out an opponent by making them land their blows in the air. This technique bases its foundation on complete evasion; therefore, it avoids anything and everything from the opponent.

However, this tactic poses a limitation in terms of countering. It leaves the fighter very few options to counter the opponent, thus lowering their offense. Most boxers use this method when they are leading to the scorecards.

#10. Footwork (Going around)

This tactic is very efficient but is not sustainable for an extended period.

Going around involves lateral movements, pivots, and side steps. It is a good way for the fighter to dodge a punch while still staying in range to deliver deadly counters. The fighter creates great angles while defending and attacking at the same time.

This tactic is the most efficient when used against opponents who are slower and heavier–footed. It is, however, not sustainable as the fighter uses much energy to move around while the opponent merely moves his arm. The energy only pays off if the fighter uses it to land deadly counters. 

This technique requires the fighter to stay in range of the opponent, but use the method not to get hit. Sometimes, it is the only way to avoid bad situations, such as against the ropes.

Dodgy moves such as side steps enable a fighter to wear out aggressive opponents who overthink their punches.

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#9. Peek-a-boo

This technique received its name for its defensive hand position with the hands in front of the same, just like the child’s game of the same name.

Peek-a-boo involves a fighter keeping both hands at a level while holding them a few inches in front of their face and to the side of their head. They hold their gloves against the cheeks and pull their arms tight against the torso.

This technique builds its principles on the concept of bad intentions, emphasizing the D’Amato philosophy. The idea was that a fighter should move forward with aggressiveness. Constantly charge at the opponent, provoking them to throw punches, for them to counter in turn.

The technique pushes the opponent towards making mistakes for a fighter to capitalize on by creating openings and dominant angles of attack. This tactic allows swift neck motions and quick dodges. It has terrible returning damage by rising hooks and uppercuts.

#8. Rolling

This technique is an effective way of minimizing damage from punches.

Rolling occurs when the fighter twists their body away from the momentum of the opponent’s punches. It softens the impact of the blow by reducing the explosiveness of an attack. It minimizes damage to the parts of the body.

It is an efficient defensive tactic as the body can easily roll off the opponent’s best blows while keeping one’s hands-free to deliver counters faster. Rolling neutralizes whole combinations, even at close range.

However, the fighter should be careful not to roll in the wrong direction, as it will leave them vulnerable to punches from the opponent. It is also not efficient against small and fast shots, which suffice most of the time, such as the jab.

A fighter can execute this technique when off-balanced. It is effective when the opponent throws multiple punches and is excellent against power punches.

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#7. Countering

Counter-offense is an excellent defense method.

Countering involves a fighter evading their opponent’s punch by landing their own. The fighter can throw a punch to cut straight in the middle of the opponent’s punch, thus deflecting it. Alternatively, the fighter’s punch can pull their head away from the opponent’s punch.

Boxing match
Photo by Jonathan Tomas on Unsplash

This technique is energy efficient as the fighter combines offense and defense in one strike. It is an excellent way to transition from offense to defense. Counters cause tremendous damage; therefore, one can hurt their opponent badly as they try to throw punches.

However, a fighter should ensure they execute this technique effectively as the opponent can counter the fighter’s counter, thus hindering defense. Managing this tactic can be tiring to the fighter since the opponents force them to fight at their own pace.

It is an effective way against opponents who are volume punchers.

#6. Clinching

Clinching is illegal in the Marquess of Queensberry rules, but boxing still has an element of it, and most boxers still use it. That’s because it’s highly effective in keeping yourself safe.

Clinching involves hugging an opponent closely to prevent them from using their arms to land punches on the side. The method frustrates the opponent and renders their offense useless.

Pinning the opponent’s arms to one’s body enables a fighter to gain additional time after evading a blow. Gaining time is crucial in a fight, especially when one is tired and hurt and needs a breather.

During clinching, some fighters use this opportunity to land punches on the inside using dirty boxing. This method, however, does not score points with the judges but causes significant damage to the opponent.

Referees do not intervene during a clinch, allowing the boxers to fight their way out of it. If the clinch lasts too long, the referees then intervene.

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#5. Slipping

Slipping is a defensive technique full of skill. Learning it—is a critical step in becoming a solid boxer.

Slipping involves completely evading the opponent’s punch by displacing the body and head to one side. It is effective as the opponent misses delivering the punch, and the fighter’s hands are free to counter.

This technique requires great skill to pull off successfully. It not only requires one to dodge the punch, but also needs to position themselves to counter. Moreover, it is not possible to slip the opponent’s entire combinations.

It is suitable in fights against fast opponents and to close distances when fighting a taller opponent. It is also suited to escape the ropes.

However, it is ineffective against fast volume punchers and quick punches that throw multiple sharp punches. Slipping is not sustainable for a long time, as it can be physically and mentally tiring and leave a fighter vulnerable, particularly when opponents fake them out.

#4. Blocking

Blocking is an essential technique in boxing. Those who learn it—are less likely to get injured and lose fights, as their tool box is larger.

Blocking involves covering the body and head using the hands. It is a way for fighters to defend themselves without getting out of range. The boxers cover their vulnerable target body parts and fire back after the block.

Blocking is a counter-offensive skill that does not require the fighter to catch the punch. Likewise, blocking slows down countering, as the fighter’s hands are busy covering the vulnerable parts, leaving a fighter vulnerable to absorb partial damage.

Blocking is unsuitable for defending against bigger opponents and fast opponents who can retract their arms before a fighter counter. It is not appropriate for closing distance against opponents with longer arms.

When a fighter blocks too much, they can lose points for not showing aggression as they are stuck in the defensive cycle.

However, this technique requires high energy and speed to counter. It can block the fighter’s vision as the hands cover the face.

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#3. Parrying

This tactic is a great way to wear out your opponents using their momentum.

Parrying deflects an inside punch with a quick tap using the wrist and hand. It causes the opponent to be vulnerable, allowing the fighter to counter. A small parry takes away the power of the opponent’s punches, while a big parry can lead your opponent off balance and vulnerable.

Long-armed opponents take longer to parry, as they take longer to retract their punches. Making them miss and parrying will tire their long arms faster.

However, parrying is not suitable against light punchers as they do not use momentum and curved punches. It increases the risk of being vulnerable to fakes.

Shorter filters can use this technique to deflect punches as they get inside. It is great to defend against power punches, long punches, straight punches, and push punches.

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#2. Bobbing and weaving

This technique is crucial for setting up a solid defense.

Bobbing and weaving entail moving one’s head sideways frequently, upwards, and downwards. It bases its foundation on head movement. This motion should have different pacing and patterns so that adversaries experience hardships when trying to land punches.

The constant motion disrupts opponents’ rhythms because they frequently hesitate when attempting to throw punches. Given that bobbing and weaving make a combatant a moving target, it ascertains that it is vital for any defensive tactic.

Additionally, the erratic nature of bobbing and weaving has the potential to throw an adversary off their game.

A practitioner may practice bobbing and weaving with a trainer wearing mitts or solely by focusing on drills. To gain more from bobbing and weaving, trainees should strive to move their heads while shadowboxing.

Gradually, this defensive technique will be second nature to practitioners, rendering them hard to hit.

#1. Ducking

Ducking is a fundamental defensive technique in boxing.

A successful duck entails swiftly bending one’s knees and leaning forward slightly. A significant benefit of slipping a punch or ducking is that practitioners still have both hands at their disposal to counterpunch. A practical method of ducking a punch is moving toward the inside line.

It involves avoiding the right punch by moving the head to the right side. Additionally, to dodge a left jab, a boxer should move their head to the left side. Thus, placing a fighter in the best position to launch a counterpunch.

A fighter moving outwards, that is, to the right side when an adversary throws a left punch or vice versa, is discouraged. This scenario occurs because the arm of the opponent will block a fighter or even hit them while they are motioning towards their rival’s punch.  

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Final words

Defense is all about self-preservation that requires instinct and skill during a fight.

The main techniques that one should learn to sharpen their defensive skills are ducking, bobbing and weaving, parrying, blocking, slipping, clinching, countering, rolling, peek-a-boo, footwork going away, going forward, and moving around.

Take time and learn these tactics to achieve high-level defense.

If you enjoyed reading this article, you’ll also enjoy reading about the best 10 boxing tips for your first fight.


I've served in the military as a special forces operator for 4-years. In that period, I've trained in many martial arts, including karate, MMA, BJJ, boxing, and even Krav Maga. I want to share my passion with you, so here it is!

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