How to Read Movements for Boxing

How to Read Movements for Boxing

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Watching an opponent's eyes can often reveal what move is coming.

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Reading your opponent's movements in the boxing ring is a skill you'll only develop over time. While it's helpful to know exactly what certain movements can mean, repeated sparring sessions give you real-world training as you learn to decipher a seemingly innocent twitch of the shoulder or turn of the hips. Working at a low intensity with a sparring partner you trust allows you to learn these lessons without excessive punishment.


Watch your opponent's eyes for indications of what punches she might throw or moves she might make. Experienced fighters often keep a neutral facial expression in the ring, but other fighters' eyes provide a quick indication of their intentions. For example, an opponent who repeatedly glances down to check the tightness of your guard around your torso might plan to throw a body punch. A fighter who takes a quick peek at an open spot in the right might plan to move to that location and strike from a new angle.


Notice how your opponent moves his shoulders before throwing a punch. Shoulder movement, of course, is necessary during the execution of a punch, but many fighters "telegraph" their next punch by twitching that shoulder. Some inexperienced fighters will even cock the shoulder for a split-second before throwing the punch. Reading these movements allows you to take immediate action, whether it's stepping to the side, parrying the punch or preparing a counterpunch.


Monitor your opponent's lower body without dropping your eyes. Keep your eyes focused on your opponent's upper body but note any lower-body movements. Many punches begin with a turn in the hips or a weight shift; for example, when you throw a right cross, you pivot with your right foot and hip. Noticing a slight lower-body movement doesn't necessarily tell you which punch is coming, but it's likely that your opponent is about to throw something in your direction.


  • If your opponent has no trouble parrying your punches or counterpunching, you might be giving a subtle sign of what punch is coming. Work with an experienced trainer who can watch for these signs and show you how to correct them or shadow box in front of a mirror to note if you have a habit of telegraphing your movements.


  • If you train frequently with one sparring partner, you'll often get a feel for the person's movements. Don't consider these specific movements, however, to be universal among boxers. One fighter's subtle movement might indicate a certain type of punch, while another fighter might make the movement solely to see how you'll react.