Here’s How To Incorporate Dirty Boxing Into Your Game

Boxing is considered by some to be the purest form of combat, by way of punches, blocks, and dodges. There are no flashy kicks, no fancy takedowns, just two fighters going toe to toe with nothing but their fists. Although this simplicity is part of boxing’s charm, it is also very restrictive, and since the early days, boxers have been conjuring up shrewd tactics in order to gain any competitive edge.

In this piece, we will break down a few techniques to help you better understand the “dark arts” of boxing. For clarification, when we say dirty boxing, we mean up close inside tactics. We don’t mean deliberately punching your opponent in the groin or head-butting them. We certainly don’t mean putting plaster of Paris on your hand wraps so that they harden when they come into contact with moisture, a la Antonio Margarito.

Before we continue, do keep in mind that many of these techniques may not be strictly legal in boxing and that doing so may risk point deduction and/or disqualification, so do so at your own risk. You have been warned.


Rush and Push

Probably the simplest and most used of all dirty boxing tactics is the push, a move that is both illegal and effective, but often happens accidentally when fighters are fatigued. This one is best saved for when you are against the ropes taking an absolute pounding, and is implemented by rushing in close and pushing them back. Instead of using your arms to push, lean in and push down on the floor, doing so will save you precious energy.

Smart fighters will use the leverage of the ropes to increase the momentum of push, less intelligent fighters will panic and possibly get knocked out.


Arm Grab

Perfect for when you’re in trouble. Think of Floyd Mayweather vs. Shane Mosley in 2010 when Floyd got tagged with that big right hand in the second round. Mayweather held onto to the extended arm and pulled himself towards Shane’s body, taking away the range of his remaining free hand. From there, “Money” was able to hold on for dear life whilst also throwing a few body hooks of his own with his remaining arm, until he regained his composure.

Holding is, of course, illegal in boxing, but if Floyd can get away with it, so can you, right?


Shoulder Push

When toe to toe with an opponent who shares your stance, first lean your head onto his shoulder to take away the leverage for head shots before pulling your shoulder back an inch or so. Then, thrust it into your opponent’s chest to knock him back and create space. It is important to keep your shoulder relaxed.

When done correctly, your opponent will stumble backward, giving you enough space for you to land a vicious uppercut. Keep in mind you are also opening yourself up for a counter, so try to keep your other hand covering your flank.


Elbow Push

This one is similar to the shoulder push but with a twist. Unless you’re doing Muay Thai or MMA, this one will definitely get you into trouble if the referee realizes what you are doing. When close enough, you have an opportunity to use your elbow to bully your opponent. Rather than trying to hit with the sharp part of the elbow, aim to push with the forearm side of it and aim right for the solar plexuses.

Quite often, this will take the wind out of your opponent, or at the very least, knock them back and create openings for you to follow through with a hook or uppercut.



This was one of the great Willy Pep’s favorite maneuvers and is most commonly used as a way of getting out of the corner. The basic principle is to use your hand (usually your lead hand) to twist your opponent away from you while you step in the opposite direction to give you a new angle. When done correctly you and your opponent can do a complete 180-degree spin that will leave them in the corner instead of you, and also throw them off balance.

If you are under pressure and need to crouch you can apply the same principle to your opponent’s waist instead of his neck. Although it is considered a defensive maneuver, it has been used more and more recently as an offensive tactic, thanks to the likes of Vasyl Lomachenko.



Another one that works better when used on an opponent of the same stance. The idea of the knee-knock is to wobble your opponent without using your hands and can be done at close range by using your knee to knock his to one side. If done correctly it will buckle his knee under his own weight which will usually open him up and leave him susceptible to a nasty uppercut.

When going for the knee-knock it is important to bring the heel of your lead foot up so that it’s on the ball to give your leg enough leverage.


Head Pop

When leaning onto your opponent, you may feel him lean his face against your shoulder to protect him from uppercuts. Your opponent probably thinks he’s doing the clever thing here until you use the same shoulder he is leaning on to knock his chin back — and while he takes a second to appreciate the ceiling tiles –  you bring the hammer across his jaw.

For maximum effect, it’s important to ensure the pop is done in one rapid movement and you immediately follow up with a counter. Alternatively, you can try to get your head under his guard and push his guard up and shoot underneath.


Elbow Scoop

This one is all about using your lead hand to push your opponent’s lead arm away from your power hand and then smashing his exposed rib cage with your other hand. Get in close and either pull your opponent’s elbow away from his body using the cup in your gloves or, alternatively, you can push his elbow upwards.

When in the same stance you should use your lead hand and aim for his lead arm –  that way you are more protected from his rear hand.


In summary, boxing – while simple by nature – does have some very exploitable loopholes that you can take advantage of to get the upper hand. It is, of course, highly recommended that you drill these in sparring so that you are familiar with the movements so they stay fresh in your mind when fight night arrives.

If you get warned by the referee for any of these, just refrain from using that tactic again. If you get disqualified, just remember that we did warn you that this might happen, so use these tactics at your own peril.


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