In boxing, no means of attack is quite as effective as the trusty jab.
It’s a simple strike to perform and it opens the door for further shots, making it the most important punch in a boxer’s toolkit. The jab takes very little to no energy to throw, and with it being the closest to the target, it’s usually the fastest shot to land.
A good jab is important for a number of reasons and will help you to win rounds by outscoring your opponents, as well as interrupting their rhythm and occupying their vision. Furthermore, the jab can also be utilized as a way to create, maintain and close the distance between you and your opponent. The power of the jab comes from timing, speed, and accuracy, as opposed to the brute force required of many other punches.
Although unlikely to cause a knockout or any kind of palpable damage (unless it is repeatedly landed), the jab is a great way to feint and gauge your opponents’ reaction, helping you to predict how they respond to attacks.
Additionally, the jab is a good way to find your range and dictate the pace of the fight. This is a shot that can be thrown even if you are out of range, in order to distract opponents and keep them guessing. Jabs to the arms and gloves have a way of flustering opponents and causing them to panic, thus making them more likely to put themselves in a vulnerable position.
Furthermore, a well-timed jab can momentarily stun an opponent. If you can land it often enough, you can wear your opponent down and cause cuts to the face. Gennady Golovkin’s victory over Gabriel Rosado is the perfect example of great utilization of the jab.
The Right Technique
Throwing an effective jab is all about intensity, placement, and set up.
It is important to balance on both feet with your hands up and your elbows in and throw forward like a whip. Generally, you will want your fist to start out vertical and twist to horizontal upon impact. Twisting your body is optional, as the jab can be thrown with only the arm at the expense of power.
Keep your elbows tucked in to protect your body and avoid telegraphing your punches. When throwing, make sure you fire your shoulder forward as you twist to create a nice snap so that your shoulder touches your jaw. Doing so will ensure you get maximum reach out of your jab and will also shield your chin with your shoulder.
In boxing, most fighters have their lead foot facing out in the same direction as the hips, allowing greater torque when stepping in, but keep in mind if you are a Muay Thai practitioner, you will want to keep your hips square for the most part.
Oh, and please don’t overextend and put too much weight on your front foot: you run the risk of throwing yourself out of position and being countered.
There are many different jabs, but bear in mind that boxers and coaches use different names to describe the same jabs. Don’t be too concerned with the terminology. Instead, concern yourself with the right execution.
Step in with your lead foot as you throw while keeping your rear foot in place. This is a clever way to close distance for a jab and get back out of the danger zone. It won’t have a lot of power behind it as your legs will be farther apart. Your lead jab and your lead foot should land at the same time when stepping in.
The power jab requires an explosive push from the rear foot in a lunge-like motion to propel your body forward. Both feet should move forward with your body weight behind the jab. This punch is recommended when you are aiming to close the gap between your opponent and you. The power it generates will likely stun your opponent when thrown correctly, giving you the chance to move forward with both feet and follow up.
A favorite of legendary boxer Tommy Hearns, a pawing jab is when you leave the jab out momentarily after throwing. It’s a great way to distract opponents and obscure their vision by occupying their line of sight, and can sometimes draw their hands out for defense, exposing their face in the process.
Be sure not to leave your jab hanging for too long as your opponent may parry the punch and counter.
Similar to the pawing jab except that it is shorter and faster, the flicker jab is usually aimed at your opponents’ gloves to distract them and make them shell up. This shot is used both frequently and brilliantly by Vasyl Lomachenko.
This jab is excellent for flustering opponents. As it keeps them from finding their rhythm – while simultaneously allowing you the opportunity to set up a combination of your own – it is a must-have shot in the consummate boxer’s bag of tricks.
This one is halfway between a long uppercut and a hook; having your hand at a low angle allows you to roll your hips with the shot to generate power, and often catches people off guard as it comes from such a low angle. Watch any Carl Froch fight to see the up jab being used masterfully.
Usually used when you miss a hook and are left off balance, the backhand jab is a great way to return to your center of gravity while also scoring a point in the process. Make sure you land on the knuckles as you risk being penalized if you hit with any other part of the hand.
As simple as it sounds, practice makes perfect. The more attention you pay to your jab, the more it becomes a reliable tool inside the ropes. Cutting down on your mistakes will also help, so ensure you are throwing often and that you are getting the full extension from your arm to utilize your range. Avoid leaning forward and over committing as you may be knocked off balance if caught.
Whatever you do, ensure you make it a habit to keep your rear hand at your jaw and return your jab to your chin after you throw. Oh, and try not to telegraph before you throw the jab!