Boxing Dictionary


Boxing Dictionary

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 every day 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.

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.  Amateur Events Near You

Apron:The section of a boxing ring canvas, on the floor, that extends outside of the ring ropes. 

Backpedal:To retreat or move backwards, away from an opponent, while still facing him, all in an attempt to avoid an attack. 

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, he/she wants you to be aggressive.

Bell: A type of gong used to signal the start and end of each round. 

Below the Belt: A punch that strays low, below the waistband of a boxer’s trunks.

Bleeder: A boxer who gets cut easily.

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 Work: An offensive method of attack that is targeted towards an opponent’s midsection with the intent of wearing him down or knocking the wind out of him/her. 

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 use 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.

Brawler: This is a type of fighter who likes to exchange punches and relies on being aggressive and fighting on the inside.

Break: This is a command used by a boxing referee to stop the action and separate the fighters.

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. Shop Boxing Rings

Card: This is the line-up of bouts or fights that are scheduled at any given boxing event.

Catch-Weight: A term used to describe a bout where neither fighter adheres to a traditional weight division, but instead have agreed to a predetermined weight at which they will compete. 

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: A counterpunch designed to “catch” an aggressive fighter as he is moving forward on the attack. This punch is thrown like a traditional hook, but involves simultaneously stepping back and timing the opponent as he comes forward. 

Chief Second: This is the coach or trainer who is in charge of the corner. Shop All Corner Supplies

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.

Combination: This is any series of punches thrown in succession, one right after the other, with no break in between.

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. Shop All Corner Supplies

Counterpunch: This is any punch that is thrown in return or comes back as a response to an offensive move.

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.

Cruiserweight: Professional boxing competition is divided into weight divisions in order to provide a more “level playing field.” Any boxer weighing 200lbs or less can compete in and is classified as a cruiserweight. 

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. Shop All Corner Supplies

Cutting-off-the-Ring:This is a technique that involves limiting an opponent’s movement by stepping side to side, not allowing him to move freely around the ring. 

Decision: This is the verdict rendered by the ringside judges who determine the winner of the bout. This typically occurs at the conclusion of the contest, but can also take place if a foul, accidental butt or type of injury takes place and the scorecards have to be referenced.  

Disqualification: This occurs when one boxer commits too many fouls or flagrant rule violations and is subsequently deemed unfit to continue competing. He automatically loses the bout. 

Dive: This is when one fighter purposely goes down for the count or pretends to be knocked out.

Down and Out: A common boxing phrase used for when one boxer is knocked down and fails to get up before the referee reaches the mandatory count of ten. 

Draw: When all judges scores are tallied and the rounds are all scored close, exactly the same, or balance each other out, the bout is determined” even”, with no winner declared. 

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: A tool used by the cut-man in a boxer’s corner to reduce swelling and stop bleeding. It is typically made of stainless steel that is cooled by placing on ice. It is then applied with slight pressure to the injured area to constrict the capillaries and slow blood flow, bruising or swelling. Shop All Enswells

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.

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.

Fisticuffs: A term used in the early 1600’s, combining the word fist and cuff, or “blow.” It was commonly used in reference to two men engaging in hand-to-hand combat. 

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.

Foul:To break one of boxing’s rules, which can ultimately lead to point deductions if they are repeated. 

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.

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.

Groin Protector: A type of protective gear that is typically made of fabric and foam and fits around a fighter’s waist to protect his hips, upper abdomen and groin area to guard against punches that accidentally land “below the belt.” Shop Groin Protectors 

Hand Wraps: In order to protect their fists in training and sparring, fighters wrap their hands in tape, gauze or cotton bandages that have specifically been designed for boxing.  Shop Hand Wraps

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.

Head Hunting:A term used to describe a boxer who focuses most of his attention on striking his opponent in the face and head, thereby, ignoring body punching. 

Heavyweight: Professional boxing competition is divided into weight divisions in order to provide a more “level playing field.” Any boxer weighing over 200lbs is classified as heavyweight. 

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.

Infighting: This is also called “inside fighting” or exchanging punches at close-range. Improve Close-Range Punching

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: When an opponent is struck and falls to the ring floor or when his glove or knee touches the canvas after being hit. 

Knockout/KO:If a fighter is rendered unconscious, cannot stand after being knocked-down, or is unable to continue for any reason under their physical control by the count of ten, he or she would be considered knocked-out and loses the contest.

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.

Light Flyweight: Professional boxing competition is divided into weight divisions in order to provide a more “level playing field.” Any boxer weighing 108lbs or less can compete in and is classified as a light flyweight. 

Light Heavyweight: Professional boxing competition is divided into weight divisions in order to provide a more “level playing field.” Any boxer weighing 175lbs or less can compete in and is classified as a light heavyweight. 

Light Middleweight: Professional boxing competition is divided into weight divisions in order to provide a more “level playing field.” Any boxer weighing 154lbs or less can compete in and is classified as a light middleweight. 

Light Welterweight: Professional boxing competition is divided into weight divisions in order to provide a more “level playing field.” Any boxer weighing 140lbs or less can compete in and is classified as a light welterweight. 

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 deemed illegal.

Main Event: The most recognizable or main fight on a 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.

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.

Majority Draw: When two of the three judges score the fight as a draw, while the third judge scores it for one of the fighters.

Middleweight: Professional boxing competition is divided into weight divisions in order to provide a more “level playing field.” Any boxer weighing 160lbs or less can compete in and is classified as a middleweight. 

Minimumweight: Professional boxing competition is divided into weight divisions in order to provide a more “level playing field.” Any boxer weighing 105lbs or less can compete in and is classified as a minimum weight. 

Mouse: A bump or isolated area of swelling on a fighter’s face.

Mouth Guard: A piece of protective equipment that is constructed of a dense rubber material, molded to a fighter’s mouth to protect his teeth, gums and jaw from injury. Shop Mouth Guards

Neutral Corner: Each of the two fighters are assigned a red or blue corner. Two white corners of the ring are remaining 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-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.

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.

Outpoint: This is when one boxer outscores his opponent by landing more blows each round. 

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 who 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. Try our Cus D’Amato Slipping Bag

Picking-off Punches: A term used when punches are blocked or redirected before they land. 

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.

Prizefighter: This is a traditional term used to describe any combatant who competes against another for “prize money” or an award. Shop Belts & Awards 

Promoter: Used in many forms of entertainment, but in relation to boxing, the term refers to an individual or entity that arranges boxing matches. This typically includes paying everyone involved, obtaining the necessary licensing, advertising the event, ticket sales, securing a venue to stage the matches, assuming all financial risk and nearly every facet of organizing the contest(s). 

Pugilist: An outdated word that originated from the Latin word “pugil” which means a fist-fighter or boxer. 

Pull: A defensive move where a fighter leans away from or pulls back from to avoid being hit.

Pull Counter: This is a type of defensive-counterpunch combination used against a fighter who takes the lead and throws a jab first. It requires a fighter to anticipiate when his opponent is going to throw the punch, to pull away just far enough for him to miss, but stay close enough in range to land a counter-cross in return.

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.

Punch Mitts: A pair of foam pads that a boxing trainer wears on his hands to provide moving targets for his boxer. These pads are used to mimic an opponent’s movement, to practice specific punches and combinations and develop specific boxing skills. Shop Punch Mitts

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/Round Card Girls: Combat sports regularly feature women who carry a numbered sign or “card” in the ring during the rest period. This informs or reminds the audience which round is coming up next. Shop Round Cards

Ringside: A position in the front row or right next to the boxing ring is considered “ringside.”

Roadwork:This term applies to running, jogging or sprinting that fighters do in cardiovascular preparation for a boxing match. 

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. 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.”

Rubber Match: When two fighters have fought twice, each having won one of the previous matches, 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.” Shop Ring Gongs

Second: One of a fighter’s cornermen.

Seconds Out: A verbal command issued by the referee that the one minute rest between rounds has ended, signaling that the fighters trainers, coaches and cut men must leave the corner and return ringside for the start of the next round. 

Shadow Boxing: A type of training or warm-up exercise used to describe when a fighter observes his shadow or his reflection in a mirror, against an imaginary opponent, in order to review his technique. 

Shifting: An offensive technique where you change your lead foot, shifting 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, incorporating greater padded gloves and headgear. Shop Sparring Gloves

Sparring Partner:This is a term used to describe another boxer that a fighter trains with and practices against, in order to prepare for a “real” bout. 

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.

Stablemate: When two fighters train in the same gym and fight for the same manager or promoter, they are oftentimes called stablemates.

Stepping Stone: A negative term that describes any fighter being used to improve another boxer’s position or standing in boxing. This typically refers to an athlete who has name recognition or has had some level of success, but is no longer “a threat” to win. 

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.

Super Middleweight: Professional boxing competition is divided into weight divisions in order to provide a more “level playing field.” Any boxer weighing 168lbs or less can compete in and is classified as a super middleweight. 

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: A technical knockout, or TKO, is the ending of a fight, determined by the referee, before it has gone the predetermined distance on the grounds of one contestant's inability to continue, the opponent being declared the winner.

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.

Tying-Up:A type of defensive technique used when a fighter clinches or locks his opponent’s arms against his body so that they cannot throw punches in return. 

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.

Underdog: This is a label given to a competitor or athlete who is believed to have little or no chance of winning a fight.  

Uppercut: A punch thrown in an upward fashion, up the middle of a fighter’s 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.

Weight Class: Boxers are categorized and compete in specific weight divisions. These are weight classifications or “class” for short. 

Welterweight: Professional boxing competition is divided into weight divisions in order to provide a more “level playing field.” Any boxer weighing 140lbs or less can compete in and is classified as a welterweight. 

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.