The sport of boxing has its own, unique language. It's full of terminology that is so strong that much of it has become a part of everyday lingo. Browse through our glossary of terms to see how many words and phrases you know and use.
Accidental Butt: It is ruled an accidental butt when two fighter’s heads collide and the referee determines that neither fighter intentionally head-butted the other. Typically both fighters are warned to be careful, but no fighter is penalized.
Ali Shuffle: Made famous by Muhammad Ali, this fancy footwork was executed by shuffling the feet back and forward rapidly, in a scissor-like fashion to entertain the crowd and distract his opponent from his hands. The move was inspired by a “stutter-step” that heavyweight great, Jersey Joe Walcott, occasionally used, but Ali sped it up, added his own spin and made it uniquely his own...as only Muhammad Ali could.
Alphabet Groups: This is a negative term used to describe the numerous sanctioning bodies of boxing; the WBC, WBA, WBO, etc.
Amateur Boxing: Competitive boxing matches where neither participant is paid and most fighters are beginning to learn their craft.
Anchor Punch: This punch has, somewhat, a mythological history, but gained the most wide-spread recognition when Muhammad Ali used it in his historic first round KO over Sonny Liston in their second meeting. In essence, it is a perfectly-executed, well-timed counter-punch that is delivered from the ground-up and thrown in a fashion that is nearly undetected and catches your opponent by surprise.
Bandages: This usually consists of the combination of tape and gauze used by cornermen when wrapping their fighter’s hands for competition. These materials provide a contoured, custom fit and serve to protect a boxer’s fist.
Bare-Knuckle Boxing: This sport originated in Ancient Greece at the Roman gladiatorial games and is considered, “the mother of modern day prizefighting.” It consists of two contestants combating against each other with no gloves or any type of padding.
Be First: When your coach tells you to "be first," he or she is wanting you to throw your punches before your opponent. In other terms, they want you to be aggressive.
Bell (Gong): A device used in boxing to audibly signify the beginning and ending of each round.
Below the Belt: A punch that strays low, below the waistband of a boxer’s trunks.
Belt - The Title or Championship Belt is an oversized strap around the victor’s waist and has been a historical symbol traditionally awarded to the best fighter in each competition or weight category.
Bleeder: A boxer who gets cut easily.
Blocking: This defensive technique involves slowing or stopping the momentum of a punch and preventing it from connecting with its intended target.
Blow-by-Blow: A detailed description used by broadcasters to describe the action as it unfolds in the ring.
Bob and Weave: Side-to-side and rolling movements that are used as defense to avoid punches. Heavyweight Joe Frazier is a classic example of someone who used the “bob and weave” defense to perfection.
Body Shot (Body Punch): This type of punch is delivered to an opponent’s mid-section with the intention of “knocking the wind” out of him/her and discouraging their attack. When the abdomen is impacted, it places sudden pressure on a system of nerves located in the pit of the stomach. This causes the diaphragm to spasm and creates a chain reaction that makes it difficult to breathe.
Bolo Punch: Typically used to distract an opponent, it is a punch that is thrown in a circular motion and is a hook combined with an uppercut. “Bolo” means machete in the Filipino language. Macario Flores was the first fighter to have reportedly used the punch, but it became more popular and is more commonly associated with Kid Gavilan and Sugar Ray Leonard.
Bout: A word used to describe a boxing match.
Boxing Passport: These types of books are present in amateur boxing and are used to log and track each fighter’s level of experience, age, and weight, as well as the historical outcomes of each fight on his/her amateur boxing record.
Brawler: This is a type of fighter who likes to exchange punches and relies on being aggressive and fighting on the inside.
Breadbasket: This is a slang term used for a boxer’s stomach, which is often a target for punches.
Break: This is a command used by a boxing referee to stop the action and separate the fighters.
Broughton’s Boxing Rules: In 1743, a former bare knuckle fighter named John (Jack) Broughton, formulated seven fundamental rules, such as drawing a chalk line that each combatant must “toe” before throwing any punches or not hitting a man when he is down. These basic rules were intended to add civility to what was viewed as an otherwise barbaric, unstructured sport.
Button: This is a common nickname given to a fighter’s chin, as in hitting him right on “the button.”
Camp: A focused training period leading up to a fight, intended to get a fighter best prepared and in shape, is called a “training camp.” It can be set in the gym or away in a secluded, private area.
Canvas: Although these days the ring flooring can also be vinyl, boxing rings were traditionally made from canvas and were called that. This is now a general term used to reference the floor of the boxing ring.
Card: This is the line-up of bouts or fights that are scheduled on any given boxing event.
Carrying an Opponent: When a fighter knows he can beat his opponent but decides, for whatever reason, to allow him to stay in the fight and not capitalize on this advantage.
Caught Cold: This is a term used to describe a boxer who gets hurt in the opening rounds or stopped early in the fight because he or she was not mentally or physically prepared or warmed-up.
Challenger: A boxer who is scheduled to face a champion or the favored fighter.
Champion: The fighter who holds the title.
Check Hook: This counter-hook is designed to counter the attack of an aggressive fighter and consists of pivoting on your lead leg while throwing a hook to catch your forward-charging opponent.
Chief Second: This is the coach or trainer who is in charge of the corner.
Clinch: A term used to describe when two fighters grab onto or hold each other to prevent an exchange or to slow the action. One fighter may also use this tactic when he is hurt, to prevent absorbing additional punishment.
Close Range: This is the position a fighter takes when he decides to fight up close and use short range punches, such as uppercuts and body blows.
Club Fighter: This is a derogatory term used to describe a fighter who lacks the ability to fight in larger arenas or who lacks the skill to compete on a larger scale with championship-caliber fighters.
Combination: This is any series of punches thrown in succession, one right after the other, with no break in between.
Comeback: When a fighter is rebounding from a loss or suddenly takes control of a fight he was losing.
Commissions: Each state has a boxing commission who oversees all rules and regulations of the fight, ensuring the safety of the fighters. A commission helps govern the bout, appoints all judges and officials, and upholds all licensing and legalities.
Contender: This is a qualified opponent who has worked his way up the ranks in order to challenge for the world title.
Corkscrew Punch: This is a punch thrown in an overhand, arching motion that twists on impact and is intended to cause a cut.
Cornerman: A coach, cutman, or person responsible for tending to a fighter between rounds.
Count: If a boxer is knocked down, the referee begins a 10-second count. The fallen boxer must rise from the canvas and be steady on his feet before the count of ten is complete.
Counterpunch: This is any punch that is thrown in return or comes back as a response to an offensive move.
Counter-Puncher: This is a fighting style that capitalizes on an opponent’s aggressiveness and openings he may be leaving and then returns punches to take advantage of that aggressiveness.
Cover-Up: This is a defensive move employed by a fighter to avoid getting hit. He or she simply hides beneath and behind their gloves to avoid direct contact from an offensive attack.
Cross: A power punch thrown with the rear hand and travels across the fighter’s body.
Crouch: Taking a lower position to more easily duck punches and bending down to gain leverage on punches is fighting from “a crouch.”
Cutman: The individual in the corner who is responsible for controlling any cuts, abrasions, or swelling that could negatively impact a fighter’s ability to perform or continue to fight.
Decision: This is the official result that the judges render when a fight goes the distance.
Disqualification: If a boxer repeatedly breaks a rule, does not follow the referee’s instructions, or intentionally makes an illegal move, he/she can be disqualified.
Distance: Each boxing match has a pre-determined length or number of rounds. When it doesn’t end by way of knockout, disqualification, or any scenario that stops the fight short of those rounds, the fight “goes the distance.”
Dive: This is when one fighter purposely goes down for the count or pretends to be knocked out.
Draw: This is the official result of a bout when each fighter wins the same number of rounds and no winner can be determined.
Duck: Dropping your weight down and under a punch to avoid being hit by it.
Eight Count: When one fighter is knocked down or in trouble of being stopped, a referee can administer a count of eight to give the fighter time to recover or so that he can better assess the situation.
Enswell: This is an official name for a piece of metal or hard compress used to reduce swelling on a boxer’s face.
Faded: Usually refers to a fighter who runs out of gas in the later rounds or who, overall in terms of his boxing career, is no longer performing at his best.
Feeling Out: When two fighters take their time “testing” their opponent, studying what the other is doing, methodically taking their time to decide what punch to throw and how to take advantage, it is called “feeling each other out.”
Feint: Faking or feinting a punch is used to make an opponent unnecessarily react, or to gauge his response so that it throws him off his game or makes him commit to a false move.
Flash Knockdown: This typically describes a quick knockdown or brief trip to the canvas where the fighter that goes down was only temporarily caught off-guard or rocked, but suffered no significant damage.
Fringe Contender: This usually refers to a lesser-known or low ranking fighter who is about to break into the higher rankings, but doesn’t typically pose much of a threat.
Liver Shot (Liver Punch): This blow is delivered to the opponent’s right side, beneath the ribcage, where the liver is located. The liver is the largest and heaviest organ in the human body and is surrounded by nerves. When this cluster of nerves gets over-stimulated, or impacted, the body goes into shut down mode. The result is...blood vessels dilate, your heart rate drops, and a rapid reduction in your blood pressure occurs. Without the ability to get blood to your brain, your body’s natural defense mechanism is to lie down as quickly as possible to even out the blood supply.
Long Range: This is the position a fighter takes when he decides to fight on the outside, from a distance, relying mostly on the jab and straight cross.
Gate: This is the amount of money generated on-site, from the sale of tickets.
Gatekeeper: Term used to describe a fighter who is not a threat to be champion, but opponents can establish themselves as a legitimate contender by beating him.
Get Off: This refers to a fighter’s ability to, “let his hands go” or throw uninhibited; to mount an effective offensive attack.
Glass Jaw: A negative term used to describe a fighter who can’t take a punch, who gets knocked out easily or has a questionable chin.
Go the Distance: To fight to the final bell or the duration of an entire fight.
Go to the Body: An offensive strategy focused on attacking the mid-section or abdominal region, as opposed to concentrating on the head as a fighter’s target.
Go to the Cards: An occurrence where neither fighter is knocked out or stopped. The decision, as to who won the fight, is made by assigned judges who have scored each round as the bout has progressed.
Governing Body: The organization who dictates the rules of each bout and sanctions or approves fights.
Haymaker: A desperation punch thrown with full force and with the intent to knock an opponent out.
Head Butt: When two fighter’s heads collide or come together. This occasionally happens by accident or is sometimes employed as a blatant foul.
Hook: This punch is thrown with the lead or front hand and is delivered in a semi-circular pattern. The hook is executed by leading with your front hand, bringing your elbow up and rotating the front side of your body (in a similar motion as slamming a door). It is meant to reach beyond your opponent’s guard and make contact with the side of his head or chin.
IBF: One of the four major sanctioning bodies, the International Boxing Federation, rates and ranks fighters in each division and awards their individual championship belt based on fighters facing and beating the top contender in every weight class. The IBF is headquartered in the United States.
Infighting: This is also called “inside fighting,” or exchanging punches at close range.
Jab: The jab is a punch that is thrown with your front hand and delivered straight at your opponent. It should be the centerpiece of any boxing offense.
Journeyman: This is a term that means a fighter who is always “in the game,” but not typically in title contention. A journeyman is used by up-and-coming fighters to test their skills and, in many cases, gain a recognizable win over a “name” on their record. Journeymen are constantly on their own journey (never arriving) and part of a future champion’s journey to notoriety.
Kidney Punch: This is an illegal blow thrown at an opponent’s lower back, usually while in a clinch or as a counterpunch.
Knockdown: Anytime a boxer falls down or a glove touches the canvas, as a result of a legal punch thrown by his opponent, it is considered a knockdown.
Knockout (KO): This is the moment one fighter is rendered unconscious, either momentarily or for the referee’s entire count of 10.
Lead Right: A lead right is delivered in place of a lead jab, but is harder to execute because it has to travel across the distance of a fighters body to land, so it has to be thrown quickly and catch an opponent off-guard.
Lineal Champion: This is when a fighter wins the title from the fighter who won the title and it has been passed down through a direct line of champions. It is, in essence, “the man who beat the man.”
Low Blow: This is any punch that is thrown or strays below the waistband of a boxer’s trunks. It can also be an imaginary line at the base of the midsection, where the referee had deemed illegal.
Main Event: The most recognizable or main fight on a card.
Majority Decision: (awarded by the majority of the judges) When two of the three judges score it for one fighter, while the third judge scores it a draw.
Marquess of Queensberry Rules: Originating from London in 1865, and published in 1867, this boxing code-of-conduct still provides the foundation for the modern rules of amateur and professional boxing we operate under today.
Matchmaker: An individual who works for the promoter and determines which fighters will be facing each other in any given match or the entire card.
Mauler: Most often this is used to describe a fighter who likes to fight wildly on the inside and use roughhouse tactics to nullify their opponent’s effectiveness.
Mismatch: When two fighters are not at the same skill level or do not share the same amount of experience in the ring.
Mouse: A bump or isolated area of swelling on a fighter’s face.
Neutral Corner: Each of the two fighters are assigned a red or blue corner. Two white corners of the ring remain and are considered, “neutral territory.” Neither fighter’s cornermen are stationed there so it’s where a fighter is sent if he knocks his or her opponent down. They remain there while a count is administered by the referee.
No Contest: A technical term used for an occasion when a bout ends for a reason outside the control of the fighters or referee. It happens due to a clash of heads or any number of accidental situations that results in there being no official winner or loser.
No-Decision: When it has been pre-determined by both fighters that a particular fight will not go on their records, for a variety of reasons, or when a fight is prematurely ended due to an unintentional head butt or cut, it can be ruled a no-contest or no-decision.
One-Two: As a way of shorthand communication, most trainers have historically given each punch a specific, correlating number. In this case, the jab is a 1 and the straight right is a 2, hence the expression, “give them the ole’ one-two.”
On the Ropes: Whether purposely, as a defensive technique, or he is forced to fight from this position by a more aggressive opponent, a fighter who lays against the ring ropes is considered, “on the ropes.”
Orthodox: A right-handed fighter or one who leads with a left jab and uses his back, or right hand as his cross.
Outside Fighter: Boxers who prefer to fight from the outside, typically behind a long jab, from long range are considered outside fighters.
Overhand: A punch that is delivered in an arching motion, traveling downward on the opponent.
Palooka: This is an old boxing term used to describe a fighter who is uneducated, who is lacking in ability and/or is generally clumsy.
Parry: This is when you not only block an incoming punch, but actually re-direct it away from your body or the intended target.
Paw: When you don’t fully commit to a punch and throw it without any real intent to land, but more like you are testing the waters, this is referred to as “pawing.”
Peek-A-Boo: This style of fighting was attributed to legendary trainer Cus D’Amato and involved placing your hands high in front of your face, providing a lot of angles to confuse your opponent and moving your upper torso rapidly from side to side. Mike Tyson was famous for employing this type of style.
Play Possum: This is when a fighter acts like he is hurt or tired in an attempt to lure his opponent in and carelessly leave himself open, while attempting to take advantage of the “vulnerable” fighter.
Plodder: A heavy-footed, slow fighter who consistently moves forward is considered, “a plodder.”
Point Deduction: A point is taken away from a fighter when a blatant foul or rule infraction occurs. It can also happen after several warnings have been issued, such as in a case of unintentional, but repeated low blows.
Pound-for-Pound: This term is used to describe a fighter’s skill level regardless of weight category. It originated with and is commonly used to describe Sugar Ray Robinson, whose skill and overall ring generalship would translate into and transcend any weight division.
Promoter: This individual or company is responsible for coordinating, setting-up, and paying for all costs related to staging a boxing match or fight card.
Pull: A defensive move where a fighter leans away from or pulls back from to avoid being hit.
Pull Your Punches: When a punch is not delivered at full force, but held back. Fighters sparring each other may pull their punches to keep the intensity light. Some fighters may do it in a competitive match to trick their opponent into a feeling of safety before they surprise them by throwing with full power.
Puncher’s Chance: A term used to describe the type of fighter, who although may be outclassed, still possesses the kind of knock out power to end a fight with one punch. He could clearly not outbox his opponent, but would always have a chance to win based on his power.
Purse: The amount of money a boxer earns or is being paid to fight.
Rabbit Punch: This is any punch that is delivered to the back of another fighter's head. It is an illegal blow due to being highly dangerous. It is called that because of its similarity to the way that hunters used to kill rabbits.
Ring Generalship: This is the manner in which a fighter controls the action in the ring and understands his position. It is the way he is able to impose his will on his opponent and strategically outmaneuver him.
Ring Rust: When a boxer has spent an extended period of time off, away from the ring or not competitively fighting, it can be said that he has “ring rust.” Simply put, it means that he is out-of-practice and is slow to react and respond because he has been inactive.
Ringside: A position in the front row or right next to the boxing ring is considered “ringside.”
Ringside Physician: This is the official doctor who is stationed at the side of the ring. He or she is there to provide ongoing assessment of the fighters, for their safety, and to provide immediate response if either boxer is hurt.
Roll with the Punches: The ability to move with a punch to reduce its impact or turn in that same direction so that it doesn’t land cleanly.
Rope-a-Dope: When you maintain a defensive posture on the ropes in an attempt to outlast or tire your opponent, is considered “rope-a-dope.” It is most recognized and was actually given that name by Muhammad Ali when he employed the technique to defeat George Foreman.
Roughhousing: When an opponent uses “questionable” offensive tactics, is highly physical and aggressive, it is considered to be “roughhouse tactics.”
Round: Every boxing match, either amateur or professional, is divided into clear segments called “rounds.” These range in duration from one to three minutes in length.
Roundhouse: This type of punch is thrown in a wide, looping and somewhat reckless style. Its delivery provides additional power, due to its wide arch of momentum, but it’s also easily defended against because of its additional travel time.
Rubber Match: When two fighters have fought three times, each having won one of the previous matches each, this one deciding who will win best of three, it is called a “rubber match.”
Sanctioning Body: An organization that regulates and approves fights. Sanctioning bodies dictate the rules and guidelines that any bout is fought under.
Saved by the Bell: If a fighter is knocked down and seemingly cannot get up by the time the round ends, he is considered to have been “saved by the bell.”
Second: One of a fighter’s cornermen.
Shadow Boxing: Boxers traditionally warm-up or review their technique in a mirror or by watching their own shadow on the wall. This technique is used in training and in pre-fight preparations.
Shifting: An offensive technique where you change your lead foot, shift your weight to gain more power. You are basically changing from orthodox to southpaw as you deliver a punch.
Shoe Shine: A series of flashy punches in quick succession that look impressive but do little damage.
Shopworn: This refers to a fighter who has taken too much punishment or suffered too much wear and tear on his body over the course of his career.
Shoulder Roll: This is a defensive move where a fighter leaves his front arm low and drapes it across his midsection so that when his opponent throws a punch, he can use his shoulder to block or roll with it. This is so the defensive fighter is able to counter back with either hand, because neither was used for blocking. For a right-handed fighter, it also automatically shifts his weight to his back foot and sets him up for a hard counter right cross. Although Floyd Mayweather has become known for this, many great fighters like Jersey Joe Walcott were masters of this defensive technique.
Slip: When you move your head to avoid getting hit.
Southpaw: Slang for a left-handed fighter or someone who is left hand dominant.
Spar: This is used for training and preparation in the gym. It should be much less intense than an actual fight, incorporate greater padded gloves, headgear, and should be conducted at much less intensity.
Stablemate: When two fighters train in the same gym, fight for the same manager or promoter, they are oftentimes called stablemates.
Spit Bucket: The bucket or container a corner uses to carry their supplies, but is primarily used between rounds for the fighter to spit excess water into so that he doesn’t swallow too much during the course of a bout.
Split Decision: (split between the two fighters) When two of the three judges score the bout for one fighter and one judge scores it for the other.
Split Decision Draw: When one judge scores the bout for one fighter, the next judge scores it for the other, and the third judge scores it a draw.
Standing Eight Count: Some state athletic commissions and sanctioning bodies dictate that, in the event that a fighter appears to be hurt or could be in danger, the appointed referee can halt the action and administer a count of eight. This is done to assess the situation and determine the physical and mental state of the boxer in question.
Stick and Move: This is an offensive style of fighting that incorporates a great deal of movement, punching and moving constantly.
Stylist: A fighter who uses skill and technique more than power is considered “a stylist.”
Sucker Punch: A punch thrown at an unsuspecting victim or after the bell has sounded.
Tale of the Tape: This is a chart or graphic that demonstrates how the matched fighters stack-up or how they compare to each other in terms of record, height, weight, arm reach, etc.
Technical Decision: When a fight is stopped early due to a cut, disqualification, or any situation when the bout is stopped and the scorecards are tallied.
Technical Draw: When a bout is stopped early and the scores are even.
Technical Knockout: This is also called a TKO and is when a fighter is getting hit too much, has been dropped repeatedly and the referee stops the contest before it has gone the predetermined distance.
Three Knockdown Rule: Some state athletic commissions and sanctioning bodies dictate that, in the event that either fighter is knocked down three times in the duration of a round, that the bout is immediately stopped and awarded to the other fighter.
Throw in the Towel: When a fighter’s corner tosses a towel into the ring in order to stop the fight. It is usually due to their fighter taking too much punishment and is symbolic of surrendering.
Toe-to-Toe: When two fighters don’t back down, stand directly in front of each other and exchange punches.
Trial Horse: This refers to a fighter who is used as a test for an up-and-coming fighter to gauge his ability or readiness to step-up in class. A “trial horse” is usually a tough, durable fighter who will fight back, but poses no real threat to win.
Unanimous Decision: When all three judges agree and score the bout for one fighter.
Undercard: These are the fights that lead up to the main event.
Uppercut: A punch thrown in an upward fashion, up the middle of a fighters guard intended to make impact on the point of his chin. It is delivered from a crouched position, with your hands up, and as you twist your upper torso, you extend your hand out and up slightly to make contact. This can be thrown with either hand.
Upstart: A beginning fighter who shows potential.
Walkout Bout: Oftentimes, these are fights scheduled as “filler” and when the main bouts end early, they are tacked on at the end of the card to make the fight card last longer.
WBA: One of the four major sanctioning bodies, the World Boxing Association, rates and ranks fighters in each division and awards their individual championship belt based on fighters facing and beating the top contender in every weight class. The WBA is the oldest of all the sanctioning bodies.
WBC: One of the four major sanctioning bodies, the World Boxing Council, rates and ranks fighters in each division and awards their individual championship belt based on fighters facing and beating the top contender in every weight class. The WBC is one of the two original sanctioning bodies.
WBO: One of the four major sanctioning bodies, the World Boxing Organization, rates and ranks fighters in each division and awards their individual championship belt based on fighters facing and beating the top contender in every weight class. The WBO is headquartered in Puerto Rico.
Weigh-In - Each contestant is required to check his weight on scales prior to the match to ensure that he or she does not exceed the maximum weight of their specified division.
White Collar Boxing: When business professionals or men and women who have white collar professions train and box on an amateur level. Most have had little or no previous boxing experience.