“Without a jab, a fight is hard to win.”
- Joe Frazier1
As you hear constantly from boxing announcers, the jab is “the most important punch in boxing.” It can set up your combinations on offense as well as keep off an aggressive opponent while on defense. The jab is thrown from the lead hand, so that right handed fighters jab with their left hand (the hand closer to the opponent). Jabs are also used to obscure an opponent’s vision, allowing your power shots to come behind it. In Fighting Fit, Doug Werner explains, “The jab is the busiest punch in boxing because it can be thrown quickly without compromising a boxer’s defensive posture.”2
The jab travels in a straight line to your opponent. Typically, before the first begins to travel, you would push off of your back foot and/or step with the lead foot. As the fist moves toward the opponent, the shoulder rotates and the fist turns over. Ideally, the fist turns over just before impact. I have heard some trainers say to new boxers that the fist should begin to turn over when the arm is 95% extended. The fist rotation or “snap” concentrates your power and increases the impact force. To add force to a jab, you can twist your lead hip slightly to add a bit of rotational momentum behind it. For example, a left handed fighter would twist his left hip slightly (but forcefully) to the right.
Every day in the boxing gym you should be practicing single, double, triple, even quadruple and quintuple jabs. Christy Halbert, an elite-level USA Boxing coach says, “Defending against single jabs is easy; defending against a series of jabs is difficult.”3 Throwing jabs constantly at your opponent is extremely disruptive to his rhythm. In boxing parlance, you opponent will never be able to “sit” on his punches if you are constantly sticking a jab in his face. Imagine if every time you attempt to throw a combination or a hard power shot you get knocked off balance by a jab. Or course, being successful at doing this requires you to have developed a stiff jab. Winky Wright was extremely successful with his right jab throughout his career especially during the two fights with Shane Mosley. Every time Mosley was about to deliver a big right hand, he would be disrupted and knocked off balance with a stiff, quick jab from Wright. Even if it’s not your fighting style to throw endless jabs, throwing lots of jabs during training is very important since it helps to build up the endurance in your lead shoulder.
If you are interested in perfect mastery of “the most important punch in boxing” I suggest consulting with some or all of the manuals below for some of the finer points:
1. Frazier, Joe. Box Like the Pros. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005.
2. Werner, Doug. Fighting Fit. San Diego: Tracks Publishing, 2000.
3. Halbert, Christy. The Ultimate Boxer. Brentwood, TN: ISI Publishing, 2003.