The greatest fighters in boxing know how to counterpunch, quickly turning their defense into offense. A counterpunch is a punch that is thrown immediately after your opponent is made to miss his own punch. To become a masterful counterpuncher requires excellent timing, accuracy, patience, and ring intelligence.
Why Learn How to Counterpunch?
- Catches Your Opponent Off-Guard: When your opponent throws a punch, he never expects to miss the target (unless he threw it as a set up), therefore, when you make him miss, you make him pay. This will always catch him off-guard which can lead to a knock-down or even better, a knockout.
- Increases the Power of Your Punches: The punches that hurt the most are the ones that you don’t see coming at you. When your opponent misses, this leaves him open and often off balance, which is the perfect opportunity for you to throw an accurate and fast counterpunch. You may not necessarily be a power puncher, but your opponent will feel your punches a lot more simply because he’s wide open for it.
- Makes Your Opponent Reluctant to Throw: Even though he’s not really a power puncher, notice how many of Floyd Mayweather’s opponents are often reluctant to throw punches. This is because they know that if they throw a punch, there’s a high chance that they’ll miss and have to eat something in return. Learning how to counterpunch will often get your opponent’s frustrated and scared to throw.
- Conserves Energy: You need to make every fight as easy as possible for yourself. Knowing how to counterpunch allows you to control the tempo of the fight, therefore, allowing you to fight at your own pace. This is a huge advantage for you especially if you’re a defensive fighter with a low workrate.
- Beating the Speedster: To handle someone that’s much quicker than yourself, you need to have good timing. If you know how to counterpunch effectively, then you don’t have to worry about his speed because timing will always prevail. But you mustn’t always allow your opponent to beat you to the punch. You have to remain composed and set traps for your counterpunches.
Ways to Counterpunch
The pull counter requires you to make your opponent miss his punch by pulling your head back slightly then coming back with a straight punch. You must bear in mind that:
- It’s important that you use this technique sparingly, so your opponent cannot predict it.
- The best time to use it is when your opponent throws a single jab as it’s easier to predict.
- Make sure that you don’t pull back too far because you’ll be off balance and it’ll take longer for you to comeback with the counter, leaving yourself vulnerable.
- Use it when you’re at the center of the ring, not in the corner or on the ropes.
- Use it when you’re just within punching range. Not too far out, otherwise you’ll fall short, and not too close as you’ll more liable to get hit by short counters.
- If you’re still within range after you’ve landed, it’s a good idea that you either get out of range, move your head or keep your guard up.
This is similar to the pull counter in some aspects, but you must dip your head to the outside of your opponent’s jab, and then follow up with a straight punch.
It’s possible to slip to the inside and come back with the hook, but you leave yourself much more open.
Not only that, but you’ll end up wasting the punch if your opponent has his guard up, as opposed to slipping on the outside where your opponent will be open and cannot reach you with his other hand. You can read more about slipping punches here.
To pull off the block counter, you must keep a high guard, catch your opponent’s punch on your glove (or elbow if it’s a body shot) and then immediately shoot the hook with the same hand that you caught the punch on.
Make sure that you roll with the punch to reduce the impact. The block counter is used at mid-range and on the inside as it’s usually used to counter off your opponent’s overhand or hook. You can read more about blocking punches here.
The roll counter is the same as the block counter but doesn’t require a high guard. Instead of catching your opponent’s punch with your glove, you roll with the punch instead while throwing an overhand or hook at the same time.
This is a risky counterpunch because it means that you have to get hit in order to set up the punch. Of course, the impact of your opponent’s punch is greatly reduced due to the roll, but if you time it wrong then you could be in serious trouble. You can read more about rolling punches here.
You must duck under an incoming punch and then come up firing off your own punch. If you’re at mid-range, it’s best to come up with the straight and if you’re in-close, then come up with the hook. You must ensure that:
- You bend down at the knees and not at the waist. If you bend your waist, you won’t have a good view of your opponent, you can get caught more easily by an uppercut and it takes longer to come back up.
- You come up with your chin down and guard up.
Shoulder Roll Counter
There are many ways in which you can counterpunch by utilizing the shoulder roll technique. It does however require good reflexes and timing.
The most common counterpunch for the shoulder roll is to roll your opponent’s right hand (if you’re both orthodox) and come back with either the straight right or right uppercut, whichever is more convenient.
If you want to attempt this, make sure that you actually know how to do the shoulder roll properly before trying to counter off it.
Some people won’t categorize this as a counterpunch, but I’ve included it anyway because it’s extremely close to being one. When you sense that your opponent is about to throw a punch, as soon as he throws it, you time it and throw your punch exactly at the same time.
This requires almost perfect timing but very effective and one of the safest ways to land a punch, as long as you follow these rules:
- Don’t trade hooks because if your opponent is quicker than you, you’re going to get tagged first. Instead, the aim is to completely avoid your opponent’s punch.
- When you’re throwing a punch, always make sure that you move your head. Don’t keep it stationary as that’s exactly where your opponent is aiming at.
- Make good use of throwing the overhand over your opponent’s jab (as seen on the right).
- If you’re an orthodox and your opponent is a southpaw (vice versa), you can fire your straight at the same time as he’s throwing his jab. Remember to move your head to the outside as you throw.
Setting up a Counterpunch
Counterpunching requires your opponent to initiate an attack first. It can be difficult to predict a boxer who is intelligent, fast and a counterpuncher himself. This is where the feints come into play.
This is a move that’s designed to get your opponent to think that you’re going perform a certain action, causing him to make a move.
Essentially, this allows you to predict when and how your opponent is going to attack. Some useful tips to using feints to set up a counterpunch:
- Don’t Overdo it: Otherwise it’ll just become too predictable.
- Use Subtle Movements: It must look natural and believable. Don’t make a feint looked like it’s forced, or your opponent is less likely to fall for it.
- Read Your Opponent Carefully: If you notice that your opponent is throwing his jab everytime after you throw your jab, then feint with your jab. You know that your opponent is going to automatically throw his jab, and as soon as he does, you can use an appropriate counterpunch technique.
Mastering the Counterpunch
Learning how to counterpunch is not easy. Thinking is necessary, and that uses up energy also. But if you’re great at counterpunching, you can effectively control the fight.
Always start off by getting a partner to act as your opponent to rehearse the counterpunches before trying it in sparring or a real fight.
If you’re relatively inexperienced at counterpunching, don’t try anything too fancy. Go for the safer options which is the block counter and the duck counter. Get good at those until you’re better at defensive and offensive timing.
As you can probably tell by the length of this article, counterpunching can be complex, but the rewards are great. Just like with anything in boxing, make sure you get the fundamentals down correctly first and foremost.
If you want to learn more about counterpunching and other technical boxing techniques, then I recommend the Advanced Boxing Workshop course.
To get the most out of your training, I highly recommend the following articles:
► How to Increase Punching Power
► 10 Tips to Improve Boxing Footwork
► Boxing Basics
► Top 10 Best Heavy Punching Bags
► Top 10 Best Boxing Gloves