There's nothing more frustrating than watching your favorite boxer getting outworked by a lesser opponent or urging your own fighter on in-between rounds, only to be forced to sit by and watch him falling one step behind while the minutes of each round tick away.  All the while, his adversary is letting his hands fly and piling up points.  There isn't always one, common reason this happens to a fighter, but in some instances, he can become inactive or ineffective by getting wrapped up in the idea of landing THE PERFECT PUNCH.  In this case, that doesn't particularly mean looking for a well-timed, one punch knockout, but just the idea of getting singularly-focused on the thought that a punch has to land in a designated spot, at an exact time or in a very specific way.  Just like in life, in the boxing ring, sometimes opportunities are presented, but more often they are created.  And not created by waiting, but by taking action.

Part of the problem is that many fighters get too committed to landing one specific punch.  Sometimes it is his favorite punch (his bread and butter), one that has worked well in the past or one that he thinks will end the fight...but, unfortunately it seldom does.   If you've watched a fight or a fighter throw the same counter, the same combination or same haymaker time and time again, round after round only to get the same ineffective result/response, then you know the scenario.  The outcome is almost always the same and it rarely works.  Too often, too many fighters do the same thing because it is comfortable, even when it doesn't work.  The fact is…most human beings are inherently creatures of habit.  They tend to do what is familiar and what is the safest, even when it is not effective and gets them results they don't want.  Although it seems irrational, the average person, the average fighter cashes-in on short term comfort, instead of gambling and going "all in" for a potential jackpot.  Although it may not be easy, a calculated risk is usually worth it.   Muhammad Ali once offered up one of the best quotes in boxing when he said, "He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life".  Venturing into the unknown and not being afraid to lay it on the line, requires letting go a little and it starts with your hands.

Just like variety is the spice of life, mixing up your attack in the boxing ring adds extra flavor to the recipe.  Too many fighters get stuck in their own formula for success, even when it’s not working.  If a punch isn't finding its mark, even when it feels natural and comfortable to throw, try something different.  Sometimes leading with a different punch, throwing it from a slightly different angle or trying something entirely new can create openings and lead to other opportunities for you to land.  Your options in the ring are endless, so expand your horizons and use more than that one weapon in your arsenal.   Don't just play the part of a fighter and act your way through a fight, live the part and learn to improvise.

Throwing punches creates openings.  Even if a fighter has a good, sound defense there are still ways to get through.  One technique is to punch your opponent’s gloves. This either makes him hit himself in the face or at least ties his hands up so that, as long as you're punching, it makes it harder for him to punch back.  You can even punch his gloves at an angle, so it creates an opening wide enough to get a second punch through or opens up just enough of a hole in his defense that you can follow up with more meaningful, targeted punches.  Sometimes this approach is even better than bringing his hands down by going to the body, because you don't leave yourself open as much to being countered and you won't be falling into a potential trap he is setting.  Fighters who have a good defense are typically good counter-punchers so it's best not to allow them to bait you in.  The best thing you can do is keep your hands busy because a counter-puncher works best when you leave "dead moments" in between combinations.  If your punches come in bunches, are delivered in unpredictable patterns or trap his hands against his own face, it's harder for a counter-puncher to get off.  He won't have the time and luxury he likes to “time” his punches and land clean shots.

Another good way to break through a good, solid defense is to bang away at your opponents' shoulders and arms and stop trying to get through the barricade he's built.  Re-direct your aim at targets that are clearly available to be hit.  Punching a fighter in the shoulders and arms will slowly break down the wall he's created and will slow his punches down as well.  It also redirects his attention to where he's getting hit and, what was an unyielding defense, begins to falter and will suffer from a lack of attention...maybe just enough that you can get through.

Although it’s not a technique as much as an approach, you have to be active and be patient.  Don't get caught up in desperately trying to make something happen.  It takes two to fight.  Focus on straight, effective punches and stay busy.  Don't wait for a perfect opening or leave yourself open trying to create one.  If your opponent is there to win, he'll have to return fire and open himself up eventually.  As long as you stay busy and look effective, this will appeal to the judges more than the fighter who is playing the role of the turtle.  Turtles may win long races, but not three minute rounds.  Judges like aggressive fighters who make the fight happen.

The final point to remember is; just as important as WHERE the punch lands and that it gets THERE  at all,  is WHEN it gets there.  That doesn't mean to wait for a perfectly-timed punch, but be mindful that almost all fighters like to fight in a rhythm.  Find your opponents' rhythm and break up the beat.   Many fighters throw combinations with the same number of punches, they bob and weave the same number of times before they unload their power shot or they consistently throw a one, followed by a one-two and then regroup.  Analyze your opponent.   If you can get out of heat of the moment long enough to do a quick mental assessment of your guys' habitual patterns, then you will be able to feel his rhythm and then work to break it.  Do this consistently round-after-round and he'll be saying "I just couldn't find my rhythm." during the post fight interviews, while you're waltzing away with another win.

This isn't a waiting game...waiting for the right opportunity to punch, waiting for your opponent to make a mistake or waiting something dramatic to happen.  The primary goal in boxing, first and foremost, is to LAND PUNCHES.   Yes, boxing is an art, but the paying fans and general public are not interested in watching the paint dry.  They want to see the artists in action, so pick up your brushes, make some bold strokes and, however imperfect, get some paint on the canvas.  It's the only way a true masterpiece will ever emerge.

Doug Ward is the President and Trainer for the Underground Boxing Company.