Boxing Tip #10: Boxing a Taller Fighter

Unless you are the tall opponent, then eventually you are going to find yourself matched up with someone you literally have to look up to. Boxing a taller opponent has some unique challenges. An opponent who is taller than you will usually have a significant reach advantage, longer legs, and a target area that is not where you are used to hitting.

What does that mean for you and how do you deal with it?

  1. Longer arms means you are in his striking area before he is in yours. Chances are he knows this too. I don't want to generalize too much, but tall fighters can get used to standing back and picking off their opponents from the outside simply because they can. If at all possible, make him come to you. Make him play your game.
  2. Bring the fight to him. When it is painfully obvious that he is not going to play your game and you actually want to fight, then you have no choice but to go to him. That means you are going to have to thwart his initial attack to get inside. Once you do get inside - STAY THERE. Inevitably you are going to take a few shots every time you attempt to get inside and possibly when you get back out again.
  3. Inside fighting is an artform of its own. Once you are there, condense everything and stay as close to the body of your opponent as you possibly can. It doesn't hurt to put your forehead on his chest to gauge the distance and then punish his body with short, controlled combinations. Your guard has to be super tight - do not expose any vital areas. Keep working and when you can't work anymore, either clinch or explode out of danger.

It is absolutely necessary that when you do decide to go to the taller opponent that you do it with authority and decisiveness. Do not hesitantly walk towards him -- explode into him, push him back, corner him and punish him. Do not go in on a straight line, but rather duck, weave and whatever else you can do to give him the fastest moving target he has ever seen.

Specific Drills to Practice to Prepare you for the Taller Opponent

  1. All forms of defense against the jab - but become a master at catching, blocking, or parrying the jab as you move forward. You will have to figure out a way to use his jab in your attack. Consider it punch number one of your combination.
  2. Body work - hooks and uppercuts that are short, controlled and fierce. Each one must be delivered from within. Best way to practice is to put your head on the heavy bag with a slight pressure as if you were pushing your opponent backwards with your forehead and then unload. If you aren't unloading, cover up but do not let the distance grow. Clinch if you have to. Inside you are relatively safe against a taller opponent because you use the length of his arms against him.
  3. Leg work. You need explosive power in your legs in order to get in and out. Work the plyometrics and practice any type of explosive leg movement such as jumping squats, burpees, bounding, half crouch heavy bag sessions and so on.
  4. Ducking and bobbing - especially moving forward. Picture the tall guy throwing a jab and how you would counter it and move in. Picture him throwing a right cross and how you would duck, sidestep and arrive at your destination. Picture a hook and the bob and weave you do to make it miss its intended target and position you where you need to be. Practice a strategy for dealing with each type of punch so you have a plan ready to go for each situation. Drill it into your nervous system so when your eyes see the punch, your body reacts.

To get a good visual of what you need to do, take a look at this fight between Mike Tyson and Larry Holmes. Holmes has a decent height advantage over Tyson and you will quickly notice how Holmes attempts to pick Tyson off with jabs from the outside. He lets Tyson come to him (which works with Tyson's style anyways). Tyson explodes inside Holmes' range at every opportunity and attempts to stay there to unleash a few combinations. You will see how Holmes defends against this by tying up Tyson and basically trying to nullify Tyson's ability to punch once he defeats Holmes' outer guard. At any rate, you will get a good idea of the kind of explosion required to get inside and the work it is going to take to stay there - especially against anyone who knows what to do with you when you do get there.


My boxing is still a work in progress, but I can attest to the fact that I use ALL of these methods with good success against taller fighters. Parries, overhand rights and hooks to the body are my best friend. Going toe to toe (trying to match skills) against a taller, longer and often more experienced boxer does NOT work for smaller guys like me, unless you have spectacular defense and countering.
I also find taller boxers are more vulnerable to jabs to the body. You're not too likely to drop someone with it, or set up a good combo, but it's a nice way to mix things up and throw off the forward momentum of an approaching fighter.
I'm always looking for more ways to improve - great site, keep it up.

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