Boxing School: Footwork

July 26, 2021 Willie Pep 0Comment

Foot or leg work?

For accuracy, the term “footwork” is translated as “stop work”. In domestic practice, the not entirely correct formulation “footwork” is used. Further in the article, important differences between the American and domestic approaches will be outlined. Modern boxing is inconceivable without skillful footwork, without competent movement in the ring. Meanwhile, movement in the ring as a separate element of boxing emerged relatively recently. The first technical foundations were laid by the British at the beginning of the 19th century.
The difficulty of mastering the technique lies in the fact that the boxer must simultaneously maintain balance and stability in movement, choosing a comfortable position for attacks and defense. Understanding the essence of movement in the ring is extremely important. In the American boxing school, movement around the ring should be economical. Movement is verified. The Boxer moves exactly as much as is required in a particular situation. Americans emphasize that the work of the feet (“footwork”) does not imply jumps and jumps.

Compare with the domestic boxing school, in which generations of coaches have made and continue to rely on the shuttle. In our amateur boxing, a lot of fighters move in this way – with the help of jumps and shuttles, spending strength and energy in the ring. Americans in this sense are much more practical (and in principle more practical).

Let’s take a closer look at the classics of North American boxing.

Basic requirements for movement

What are the principles behind footwork:

  • A stable balance must always be maintained, which is achieved by observing a simple rule. The vertical, lowered from the center of gravity of the body, must be within the support area. Your head should not go beyond the line of your socks, for example. Do not overwhelm the hull.
  • Americans have a negative attitude to big steps. Because at this moment the weight of the body is transferred from one leg to the other. At such times, it is easy to lose balance and pay for this mistake in the ring. For this reason, the steps should be small.
  • Hand and foot coordination. In a trained boxer, the upper and lower limbs work automatically. There are no hitch, typical for beginners, when hands strike, and legs do not keep pace (when moving forward).

If you paid attention, in Russian boxing sections, trainers almost always insist: keep stance – keep your hands in a certain position – all the time of the fight. At a time when American fighters allow themselves to change the position of their hands while moving. In the first case, the boxer gets tired faster, because he has to concentrate and keep his hands tense (compare with running – the hands naturally come into play). Western athletes, who save energy and avoid unnecessary stress (see below), are another matter.

Joe Louis Shuffle

The basic technique of movement in the ring is called “shuffle”. The movements were taken over from the fencers. The bottom line is as follows:

  1. The boxer stands in a straight stance (a left-side stance is considered).
  2. Without taking off the floor, the left foot slides forward by 5-6 cm. the left foot is fully in contact with the floor, while the right foot rests only on the toe.
  3. Behind the left foot, the right moves the same distance.
  4. Attention! Pay attention to your knees when moving. They should be relaxed.
  5. The backward shuffle movement is performed in the same way, only the right foot slides backward first.

Marginal notes. The technique of moving backwards should be in the arsenal of every boxer. Retreat is one of the elements of war, which is important to master.

Gene Tunney, preparing for a fight with Jack Dempsey, ran backwards for 5-7 km every day. As a result, he managed to avoid hurricane attacks of the enemy in time in a duel. Dempsey, when moving forward, could not catch up with the enemy. On September 23, 1926, Tunney overthrew the king of boxing, Jack Dempsey.

Shuffle belongs to the old school of boxing. With the advent of Sugar Ray Robinson, and then Mohammed Ali, the nature of movement has changed. Generations of boxers have emerged to imitate Ali’s style. Fly like a butterfly, it’s a pity you’re a sucker – someone witty paraphrased the famous formula. Nevertheless, today the shuffle has not disappeared from the boxing arsenal. To get acquainted with this method of movement in more detail, I suggest watching the video of Joe Louis’ fights. According to experts, the shuffle in his performance is a reference.

Joe Louis’s manner of movement is suitable for whom? At the initial stage of training, a strong-built boxer who is not fast on his feet, I would recommend working in the manner of Brown Bombardier (Louis’s nickname).

Pay attention! When moving in the shuffle method, the rhythm of the blows does not coincide with the frequency of the legs. Coordinated work is achieved through prolonged training in the boxing section, in the work in front of the mirror.

Right-left movement

The mastered technique of movement in the ring allows you to save strength, build a line of attack and defense. All this is necessary to win the fight. Following Joe Louis, I want to tell you about the legendary master of defense and maneuver in the ring, Willie Pepe. This boxer won rounds without striking a single blow. He moved, defended himself and was elusive. Pep’s movement technique was thoroughly studied by Oscar de La Hoya. This continuity can be traced.

Watch this short video carefully. How Pep moves:

The lightweight works in a straight stance, the center of gravity is clearly under the body. Pep sub-step with his right / or left foot and immediately bends his body towards the direction of movement. Protection is combined with footwork. Willie Pep performs all movements easily and playfully, acutely feeling the distance. Despite the huge number of maneuvers (there are no situations where the boxer is frozen and stagnant), all movements are verified and there is nothing superfluous. You watch the video, and goosebumps run from the manner of fighting a lightweight.

Willie Pep’s manner of movement is suitable for whom? For a boxer who has mastered the basics of boxing, has a good sense of distance (this quality trains), light and agile on the legs. This is the style of the counter attacking boxer, and the counter attack is the highest school of skill. Not everyone masters it.

Low stance movement

Among the pros, especially African Americans, the low stance is popular – the crouch. Legs, in contrast to the academic stance of Soviet boxing, are slightly or much wider. Often a boxer stands on both feet for stability and for powerful punches. At the same time, it is actively protected by the movement of the body and stands. The coordination of such a fighter is somewhat similar to the movements of a basketball player. As an example, albeit not entirely appropriate, I would like to cite Pernell Whitaker, considered one of the greatest magicians in the ring and a master of defense.

You drew attention to the nature of the movements. A lot of improvisation and play. There is not a hint of a shuttle, but there is a shuffle. Whitaker actively uses his left leg as the center of support when moving to the left. As on the leg of a compass, it turns on the left foot, leaving the line of attack. This is one of the basic techniques of the American boxing school. In Soviet (Russian practice), this method of movement is not common. An offset side step is used as a replacement. That is, it turns out two movements instead of one, like the Americans (again practical).

Who will benefit from the style of Pernel Whitaker? For a boxer with fantastic coordination, flexibility, agility and reaction. These qualities, of course, can be pumped in the boxing section, but a boxer like Whitaker still needs to be born))).


For educational purposes I suggest watching two fights belonging to the category ” The ABC of Boxing “. The first is Mohammed Ali vs. Joe Fraser (legendary trilogy), which shows the opposition of two styles of attacking and counter-defensive. Two fighting manners – puncher (knockout) and gamer. And two positions in the ring – defense of the center and attack from the periphery.

And the second fight “about the art of movement” – Marvin Hagler against Sugar Ray Leonard. Hagler is a percussion technique in its purest form, devoid of any impurities. The perfect drummer. Leonard is the ultimate in smart, cunning and playful boxing. It was in this fight that Leonard won on his feet. It is at the work of the legs of this magician that I propose to watch.