The inception of the solar plexus punch was attributed to Bob Fitzsimmons, who lifted the title from Jim Corbett with a single shot to the mid-section, but fighters since those days have taken his body of work to a whole new level. Many fighters have made “going to the body” into an art form. Mike “The Body Snatcher” McCallum, Micky Ward (and his signature left hook to the liver) ended numerous close contests and Alexis Arguello, who masterfully mixed combinations to the body and head were amongst the standouts. It can be more dramatic to watch two fighters trading bombs, absorbing punishment and head hunting, but a steady, strong body attack will oftentimes get the job done more effectively and produce better results than every head shot in the book. The only thing better than doing it at all, is doing it right and there are several key characteristics to being a good body puncher:
First of all, bend your knees. Too many fighters throw body punches while standing up tall. This leaves you more vulnerable to counter-punches, by leaving your face more exposed and for a longer period of time, while your hands travel back into the on-guard position. Plus, you can’t get any power on your punch when your body is not behind it. You have to get to your opponents mid-section by lowering your center of gravity and driving your punches upwards. Standing up tall and punching away like a duck paddling underwater is a waste of effort and energy. Get down and get behind your punches.
In most instances, you want to throw each body punch with your palms facing you. This allows you to better strike with your knuckles and dig your punches into the abdominal area. The idea is to compress the internal organs, forcing the diaphragm to go into spasms, which is what getting the wind knocked out of you really consists of. That is best accomplished with the sharpest point of your hand, your knuckles. That’s why fighters who slap with their punches are twice as ineffective. Their punches may sound good, but they’re not striking with a solid surface, plus they are not using the hardest part of their hand to make contact with. Lead with your knuckles, not your fingers.
Use angles to create openings. A good fighter will be keeping his elbows in tight so finding the right opportunity to land a good body shot may not be easy. Give him angles and keep him turning and he’ll likely expose himself just enough for you to seize the moment. As he adjusts and re-adjusts to your movement, he may lose focus on covering up properly and give you just enough real estate for you to capitalize on. Plus, his elbows may be in tight and protecting his rib cage well, but maybe that leaves his sides open or it may be the other way around. Work from different angles, get a new perspective on your opponent and you’ll find the openings.
Mix up your attack. Don’t just throw to the outside and around his outer ribs, but vary your punches and fire them at different targets. Constantly mixing up your attack, bringing your punches down the middle, around the outside and straight through the center of his guard will keep him guessing. Uncertainty on his part is an advantage for you. It will make him hesitant to commit to his own offensive moves and will up-the-odds that you will catch him with a shot he isn’t prepared for. If he doesn’t have time to flex his abdominal muscles or prepare for a solid shot to the ribcage that could be the one that sends him to his knees.
To get the best angle on your opponent you have to get low, but be sure to keep your eyes on him. Don’t let your eyes wander to the floor or veer off in the direction you are aiming for. Watch his moves and reactions. You don’t want to leave yourself open to be countered and you will also be able to see if the body shots you are landing are taking their toll. The type of noise he makes when you hit him, the way his body reacts, if he is overprotective of his mid-section, these are all tell-tale signs that you are breaking through.
Most importantly, start the body attack early on and don’t give up too soon. Waging war on a well-conditioned athlete’s body can definitely pay dividends, but it may take a few rounds. It may take an accumulation of punches, not just one, to break through his abdominal armor, so begin testing his body early on in the rounds and, even if it doesn’t seem to be having much affect, don’t abandon it. Noses bleed and eyes bruise. That gives you immediate feedback when you’re punching another fighter in the face. The body may not give you much indication, but if you’re going about it right, you can guarantee that he’s feeling it from the inside-out.