The Beginners Guide to Boxing | By a Boxer

Written by Alistair Knight | 17 November 2020

Illustrated hanging boxing gloves with smiley faces and an overlay saying:

This is the most complete guide to boxing for beginners on the internet.

If you want to:

  • Discover how to get started in the sport of boxing
  • Get access to experienced-based boxing tips
  • See examples of how you can box from anywhere

Then you’ll love the detailed strategies in today’s guide.

Let’s jump into it.

What we will be covering

What is boxing?
What are the rules of boxing?
What are the benefits of boxing?
How to get started in boxing?
What equipment do you need when you start boxing?
What to look out for when you start boxing at a gym/at home?
How can a beginner boxer punch faster and harder?
Basic boxing footwork you should know when starting boxing
How should you stand when boxing?
Should you get angry when boxing?
Can you teach yourself how to box?
When are you too old to start boxing?
What should a male/female boxer wear when starting out?
What are the 8 different punches in boxing?
Beginner boxing combinations
Do you need to buy a pair of boxing shoes?
Do you need to buy a pair of boxing gloves?
Do you need to buy a pair of hand wraps for boxing?
Do you need a gumshield when boxing?
How to block a punch in boxing
Can you break your hand when hitting a punch bag? 

What Is Boxing?

Boxing is a combat sport which involves two opponents (fighters) who use skill, speed, and accuracy to throw and avoid punches within a 16ft by 16ft ring. The objective is to control the ring by hitting and not being hit.

The more punches you connect with, the greater the chance of securing a win via points or knockout.

In professional boxing, a boxing fight (bout) lasts for approximately 47 minutes or 12-3 minute rounds of boxing. There is a one-minute rest in between each round and one referee who must enforce the laws of boxing.

Boxing demands a lot of patience, endurance, agility, precision, and reflexes. So much so that boxing is considered the most physically and mentally demanding sports humans have ever invented.

“People who have the best footwork after dancers are boxers”.

The Boxing game has been around since 3000 BC, but fighting has been around since the beginning of creation. Not only do humans beings fight one another, but so do animals and plants. Attacking others is wired into our DNA and genetic history.

What Are the Rules of Boxing?

Marquess of Queensberry portrait photo

Marquess of Queensbury, the man who introduced the rules of Amateur boxing.

Some essential rules of boxing are as followed:

No:

  • Punching below the belt
  • Holding, kicking, tripping, wrestling, biting, spitting, shoving your opponent
  • Hitting with your forearm, elbow, or head
  • Punching your opponent’s back (whether that is of the head, neck, or kidney’s
  • Hitting with the inside of your glove, wrist, backhand, or side of your hand.
  • Throwing a punch whilst gripping the ropes
  • Holding and hitting your opponent at the same time
  • Ducking lower than you competitor’s waist
  • Spitting out your mouthguard in order to breath better
  • Hitting an opponent while he/she is down
  • Read more rules here

What Are the Benefits of Boxing?

Two illustrated black boxing gloves with an overlay saying: 'benefits'There are an endless number of benefits of boxing, some of these include:

1. Building an Excellent Cardiovascular System and Vo2 Max

Boxing requires a lot of cardio. You’re gonna have to be moving constantly, whether that’s around your boxing bag, your coaches pads, or around your opponent in the ring.

Boxing also requires a significant amount of upper body movement as you throw combo after combo and dodge incoming punches.

2. Increased Discipline

Whether you’re looking to compete in boxing or looking to train for fitness, you will become more disciplined.

If you’re looking to train for fitness:

The simple fact of turning up at a boxing gym or putting your gloves on at home and getting into the workout requires a lot of willpower and difficulty.

If you’re looking to compete: 

If you train to compete, you have to deal with a whole other level of discipline. You’ll have to go on a boxing diet, training consistently, take a lot of punches and set yourself up to possible injuries.

3. Making new friends

If you join a good boxing gym, you’ll find the community is very close with one another.

When I joined Like2box boxing gym in Redhill, I became friends with the other fighters and coaches there, and everyone was really nice. I believe it’s a great place to meet new people and have a good time.

4. Being Able to Defend yourself

Any trained boxer will be able to beat up any untrained stranger on the street just like a trained footballer would be able to get past an untrained defender.

With great skill, comes great confidence. For if anyone attacks you outside of the boxing gym, you will know how to defend yourself and your loved ones.

5. It’s Relatively Inexpensive

You don’t have to buy any boxing equipment to get started in boxing. You can simply start by learning how to shadow box or you can go to your local boxing gym sign up for a monthly membership there. The gym I went to cost about £50 a month and I had access to every piece of training equipment I could need.

6. You Might Look Better in the Mirror

There is nothing as satisfying as looking at yourself in the mirror with your shirt off and feeling proud of the strength and gains that you have made.

Boxing is something that can make you shredded with abs of steel and arms of Zeus himself (you just need to eat properly!).

How to Get Started in Boxing?

An illustration that reads: 'How to get started in boxing', with a speed bag as a replacement of the, 'o', in how.

1. Decide Where You Are Going to be Boxing

You have two options. You can either box at a boxing gym or at home.

If you want to box from home but are unsure on how to throw punches with the correct technique: then the ways to learn include reading blogs (like you’re already doing with this one) and watching online videos which show you what to do.

If you want to box at a good boxing gym and are unsure about how to throw punches with the correct technique: then the coaches there will want to help you out. The gyms I have trained at had really friendly coaches. The coaches should offer you short 1-1 training sessions during circuit classes as it’s important for you to throw the right punches at the punching bag.

2. Think About the Type of Equipment You May Need

Are you going to need a pair of boxing gloves, boxing shoes, sports clothes?

These are the questions you should be thinking about, and we have covered this question in the section below.

3. Set Yourself Goals

When you start boxing, it can be helpful to set goals to help you get something out of it.

Are you looking to compete? Or maybe you’re just looking to improve your fitness.

Setting goals for what you want to achieve in boxing can be very motivating and will increase your chances of sticking to the sport and becoming better over the long run.

What Equipment Do You Need When You Start Boxing?

An illustration of every piece of boxing equipment with an overlay saying quote,

You can start boxing right away without any equipment. What you can do is start with shadow boxing.

(See this complete guide to shadow boxing here.)

But while shadow boxing is effective on its own, it’s not the same thing as having multiple pieces of equipment.

Therefore, I have highlighted everything you need to get the most out of boxing:

1. Boxing Gloves

To be able to hit either your boxing bag or opponent (if you decide to do sparring), then you’re going to need some protection on your knuckles. A boxing glove will give you this protection.

So, which boxing gloves do you get? Well, if you’re a beginner and looking to get started in boxing, I’d recommend checking out our guide to the best beginner boxing gloves here.

2. Hand Wraps

Hand wraps are absolutely essential when it comes to training because… hand wraps make your hands more compact when you make a fist.

This, therefore, protects your knuckles from injuries you’d get without them.

Always wear a pair of hand wraps underneath your boxing gloves so that your hands will be protected at all times.

There is a reason why they call it a ‘boxers fracture’. Protect those hands.

Click here to review the best hand wraps online.

3.  Punch Bag

Unless you live close to a boxing gym and would prefer to go there, a single heavy bag is all you’ll need to get started in boxing because it gives you an apparatus to hit, work your combinations, and improve your boxing skills.b

Click here to review the best punch bags.

4. Indoor Boxing Shoes/Indoor Shoes

Indoor boxing shoes are much lighter and easier to move around in whether your training on soft mats or on a wooden/stone floor.

As boxing is a movement-based sport, a good pair of boxing shoes will help you a lot.

Note: If you join a boxing gym, you will get access to mostly every piece of boxing equipment. I’d recommend joining one because you also are able to do 1-1’s with boxing coaches who are there to make you better.

What to Look Out for When You Start Boxing At a Gym/At Home?

An illustration of everything to look out for in boxing; including the quality of boxing gym, difficulty of sport, injuries, coaches, mobility, sore hands, and rest days.

1. The Quality of the Boxing Gym You Choose

This is very important because you don’t want to end up at a boxing gym which doesn’t teach you how to learn effectively or which forces you into fighting someone.

You’ll know if you are at a bad boxing gym if you are not treated like the other person would treat themselves and you can tell that you’re not progressing at the rate you would if you were at a good boxing gym.

2. Boxing Is a Lot More Complicated Than You Might Think

When you watch boxers fight each other on the T.V, you’d think it is really easy it just like they’re throwing punches and moving their feet. But, it’s a lot more complex than that.

See, the complexity is in the combinations, it’s in the footwork, head movement, speed, agility. It requires so much skill and practice.

It’s just like when you first start driving. In the beginning, you aren’t going to be very good, but over time, you will get better.

In the same way, boxing is a skill to learn and the boxers you see on T.V are on another level to those in the gym.

3.  You’re Going to Want to Improve Your Flexibility and Mobility

Whenever you box with high intensity, you put a lot of strain on your muscles and joints.

It’s essential that you have a good foundation of flexibility and mobility as you continue to train in boxing because it requires a lot of fast and sharp movements with both your upper and lower body.

I’d recommend doing the following dynamic and static stretching routines consistently because you will get a lot of benefits from it that I’ve covered below in the related posts:

Related posts:

4. Think About What Sort of Coach You’d Like to Train You

There are some great coaches out there, and there are some really quite bad ones. A good coach is one that is happy to answer your questions, shows great expertise for the sport, and genuinely cares about your health and progression.

Avoid boxing gyms where coaches pressurize you to get in the ring and spar when you’re not ready. Look for gyms where you are able to work 1-1 with a boxing coach during the class.

5. Sore Hands

When beginners start boxing, they typically buy a cheap pair of boxing gloves and this can sometimes hurt your hands with constant strikes against a training bag.

This is because the wrist protection can be quite poor with low-quality gloves and it also may lack triple/quadruple density foam.

Secondly, a newbie can develop sore hands because he/she may have the wrong punching technique and if they connect badly, they could injure their hand/wrist.

The solution to avoid the above problem is to:

  1. Wrap your hands well with a good pair of hand wraps
  2. Get a good pair of boxing gloves
  3. Pay for a good coach to show you what to do

A good pair of boxing gloves I can think of right from the top of my head is the Hayabusa T3 boxing glove as it is excellent at securing your wrists.

6. The Rest Periods You Take

I found it very helpful to set a timer of 2-3 minutes to emulate the round time you’d typically fight in during a boxing bout. After the round finished, I’d then take a 1-minute break to recover.

If you’re just starting out in Boxing, I’d recommend taking several rest days as described in this article.

7. Being the Noisy Next-Door Neighbour

When we hit a punch bag with high intensity, we tend to make quite a lot of noise when we hit the bag and when we breathe out.

If you live quite close to your neighbours, ask them if it will be ok for you to box and when the best time would be to do so. A lot more people are working from home since the virus hit, so be as kind and respectful as you can.

How Can a Beginner Boxer Punch Faster and Harder?

You can punch faster by doing the following:

1. Master Your Technique

Isn’t it interesting how so many boxers are incredibly skinny yet they have an enormous amount of speed and power? The reason for this is because they have trained in what is known as deliberate practice.

Deliberate practice means intentionally focusing on improving a specific skill with repetition.

The more deliberate practice a boxer does with his/her punches/technique, the better they will become. This is also true in any other sport/profession in life.

For example, Lionel Messi at Barcelona doesn’t practice by simply kicking a football into a goal. He focuses on booting the ball at a specific angle with a specific part of his foot.

Deliberate practice is much harder (and less fun) than mindless practice, but it’s what separates the great from the unstoppable.

Deliberate practice + consistency = success.

2. Lift Weights

There is a lot of debate in the boxing world as to whether or not boxers should lift weights.

Now, lifting weights for hypertrophy or ‘to look bigger’, is a massive no-no as this will slow a fighter down.

When lifting weights you should be focusing on explosive plyometric movements.

Lifting heavy and light weights at fast speeds might help you gain greater explosive power and endurance.

For example, you can see that a lot of world-class fighters are lifting weights:

If you’re lifting weights through boxing-specific movements, you may be able to generate a greater kinetic force which will help you throw with more power and speed.

Basic Boxing Footwork You Should Know When Starting Boxing

Boxing footwork is one of, if not, the biggest and most important area that makes a successful boxer prosper.

Here are some important principles that will help you:

  1. Never cross your feet
  2. Always change the direction you are moving in
  3. Make sure you’re pivoting your feet
  4. Small steps in range, bigger steps out of range

1. Never Cross Your Feet

Whenever you move from side to side or forwards and backwards, you must never cross your feet.

Why is crossing your feet so bad?

Let’s imagine that we have a fighter called bob who is moving from side to side, crossing his feet as he goes:

A stickman called Bob moving around with crossed feet.

If Bob gets punched by an opponent, then he will be completely off balance and easily be knocked down.

Our stickman Bob lying on the canvas after being knocked down

See, if your feet are about a hip-width and you move in your boxing stance, then you have a good amount of balance.

How important is balance for boxing?

Balance is everything when it comes to boxing because, without it, you would be like a magnet to the floor.

2. Always Change the Direction You Are Moving In

This is best described in the following analogy.

Let’s say you were looking down a sniper scope at a target:

An illustrated boxer standing with a shooting target at his head with a sign saying, 'move'.

If the target is moving towards you or away from you in a straight line, it would be much easier to hit that target, as opposed to a target that is moving from side to side constantly.

Keep changing your directions, go to the left then maybe move backwards to the right, then maybe forwards to the right again.

Whatever you do, remind yourself of the goal of boxing:

Hit and not be hit.

A faded moving target with text saying,

3. Make Sure to Pivot Your Feet

Whenever you throw or dodge a punch, your feet should be moving. This simple yet commonly overlooked technique can make the difference between a good boxer and a bad one.

Why pivoting is important for punching: Because if your pivoting your feet, you’re able to throw with more power as you get the additional support from the feet, legs, hips rotating into the punch. Without the pivot, the only power will come from your upper torso movement, which is too slow and weak on its own.

Why pivoting is important for avoiding punches: If you watch the video below demonstrating how to avoid punches, can you see how much movement is generated from the lower body and pivots in comparison to his upper body. This is how you can avoid punches:

4. Small Steps in Range, Bigger Steps Out of Range

Movement is the fundamental key to unlocking good boxing skills, but the amount of movement you do depends as to whether you are in range or out of range.

If you’re in range, then it’s important to have short movements with your knees bent so you are sitting low with the majority of the weight on your back foot, ready to attack or defend.

If you’re out of range, then you can take bigger steps around your opponent to help you get a better angle and more dominant position within the ring. For example, look at how much movement Muhammad Ali makes when he is outside of his opponent:

How Should You Stand When Boxing?

When you are boxing, you can either stand with your left foot in front (orthodox) or your right foot in front (southpaw) similar to how you would have your left foot or right foot forward when skateboarding/snowboarding.

Whatever foot you prefer to keep forward, keep your feet hip-width apart and put approximately 60% of the weight on the back foot.

Your front for must be internally rotated slightly (approximately 30º) and back foot should be pointing in the same direction as your front foot, like this:

An illustration demonstrating the different boxing stances (orthodox and southpaw).

As you can see, the toes are in line with each other diagonally and the front toe is in line with your back heel vertically.

Whenever you’re in range, you move in this boxing stance.

Whenever you’re out of range, you are free to move about and even switch stances between orthodox and southpaw.

Just remember to move back into the correct stance as soon as possible because your opponent could make a quick move.

Should you get angry when boxing?

While it may seem like a good idea to become angry before you start competing in the aggressive sport of boxing, it is a much wiser idea to remain as calm as you possibly can because when you’re calm, your heart rate is lower and you’re able to think clearer and make better decisions in the ring.

It’s a little bit like when you are having an argument with someone.

Yes, you could become angry and start yelling at that person and throwing everything you can into the argument. Or…

You can take the different approach, and that is listening to your counterpart and talking to them in a more relaxed way to help them calm down and help you take control.

In the same way with boxing, if you’re able to think clearer and be calmer, you’re able to read your opponent better and make the right moves at the right time from the training you’ve worked hard in.

Can you teach yourself how to box?

Yes, you can absolutely teach yourself how to box. Whether you’re an amateur or a professional boxer, or even if you’ve just begun, teaching yourself is imperative to become great at the sport.

Why?

The more inquisitive you are and the more questions you ask, the better you will become. And most often, the answers reveal themselves when you go searching for them (like you have done with this guide). But…

How Do You Teach Yourself How to Box?

Well, the first thing that you can do is watch lots of videos online.

By watching coaches online such as Fran Sands from My Boxing Coach and Shane Fazen from Fight Tips, you’ll be able to boost your boxing knowledge.

You can put their drills and strategies into practice right away, almost as though they are with you.

That’s the beautiful thing about living in the 21st century: you can teach yourself anything as long as you have the right resources online.

When Are You too Old to Start Boxing?

It depends on what your goals are as you could either be boxing for fitness, a few competitions, or for a long term career.

So, here are the answers for all:

1. When is it too old to start boxing for fitness?

It’s never too old to start boxing for fitness. You can start at any age you like. The reason why is because boxing is just like any other sport which requires a lot of movement.

You certainly don’t have to get into the ring and fight someone. That’s your choice. Instead, you can hit the punch bag, speed bag, or another piece of equipment.

Last year, I remember seeing my boxing coach give a 1-1 session with what looked like an 85-year-old. Classic music was being played in the background and he was really good! Who said that you can be too old for anything?

The more movement you do in your life, the longer you will likely live.

2. When is it too old to have a boxing bout?

You cannot box over the age of 40 years old according to IBA.

Professionals can choose to box at any age. For example, Mike Tyson decided to get back into the sport at the age of 50.

3. When is it too old to start boxing for a career?

This question has been debated for a long time.

Yes, someone who started boxing at a younger age would have developed a lot more skill in comparison to someone who’d started a later age.

But, some of the best fighters out there started late (even in the 21st century). For example:

Name of boxerStart age
Deontay Wilder (Champ)20
Joe Joyce (Champ)22
Anthony Joshua (Champ)18
Audley Harrison 19
Ken Norton (Champ)20

If you start in your mid-20s, you can still become a successful boxer. Whether or not you’ll be the best boxer in history is difficult to say, because it depends on your habits, luck, injuries, consistency, routine, and deliberate practice.

But, If you do all of the above right, then there is a good chance you’ll be able to become a champion, let alone a successful boxer. With so much more knowledge in sports science, boxing in your 20s 50+ years ago is similar to boxing in your 30s today.

I completely respect you if you started late, as I used to have the same drive but got a high-paying job so decided to stop.

You may make it, you may not, but no matter what happens, you will never lose that drive within you which is any successful persons’ mentality.

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What Should a Male/Female Boxer Wear When Starting Out?

A boxer should wear sports clothing.

For women, this could be: 

  • A singlet/sports shirt
  • Sports bra
  • Sports socks
  • Sports knickers
  • Boxing shoes
  • Shorts/light-weight compression leggings

For men, this could be: 

  • Sports shorts
  • T-shirt
  • Sports socks
  • Sports pants
  • Boxing shoes

Note: Whatever you’d wear when you run is what you can wear when boxing.

What Are the 8 Different Punches in Boxing?

The 8 different punches in boxing include the

  1. Jab
  2. Cross
  3. Lead Hook
  4. Rear Hook
  5. Lead Uppercut
  6. Rear Uppercut
  7. Lead Hook to the Body
  8. Rear Hook to the Body

Beginner Boxing Combinations

  1. Jab > Cross
  2. Double Jab > Cross
  3. Jab > Cross > Lead Hook
  4. Jab > Cross > Lead Hook to the Body > Lead Uppercut to the Chin
  5. Jab > Rear Hook > Lead Hook > Lead Uppercut

Learn more about combinations in this guide to boxing combinations.

Do You Need to Buy a Pair of Boxing Shoes?

It can be very helpful to have a pair of boxing shoes because they protect your feet and your ankles. However, they are not essential if you are going to be training on soft mats indoors.

When I used to train at Like2Box boxing gym, I used to turn up in my muddy trainers.

Before walking to the changing rooms, I’d take them off to preserve the foam flooring and would train in bare feet like a gymnast would.

So in summary, you don’t necessarily have to buy a pair of boxing shoes but if you are going to be training consistently, I’d recommend investing in a pair because not only will you have better footwork, but you’ll feel more comfortable and protect your joints and ligaments around your feet and ankles.

Do You Need to Buy a Pair of Boxing Gloves?

You’ll need to buy a pair of boxing gloves if you’re thinking about hitting anything; whether that be your punching bag, pads, or an opponent.

You don’t necessarily need a pair of boxing gloves if you’re just doing shadow boxing (punching the air). But, even if you’re hitting a soft punch bag, it still puts pressure on your knuckle at the end of the punch where gravity may also be against you.

It is therefore essential to wear boxing gloves when hitting any type of surface because the pressure may injure your hand if you do not have anything on to protect them.

Do You Need to Buy a Pair of Hand Wraps for Boxing?

If you’re going to be hitting anything, then yes, you’ll need a pair of hand wraps.

If you’re going to be shadow boxing, then no, you won’t need a pair of hand wraps.

Hand wraps are very important to wear because they help your hands become more solid when you clench them.

This helps you keep your bones, ligaments, and joints in place at the contact of the punch.

So, when it comes to throwing punches, hand wraps will make things safer.

Do You Need a Gumshield When Boxing?

You will only ever need a gumshield if you are going to be sparring/fighting someone.

When you first start boxing, however, you shouldn’t be sparring.

Instead, your focus should be on improving your technique with a coach or a punching bag.

When you do start sparring you must to wear a gumshield because even one light connection may damage your teeth.

How to Block a Punch in Boxing

There are several ways to block a punch in boxing, depending on which punch is being thrown at you.

1. How to Block the Jab

One of the most effective ways to block a jab is to parry it.

The way you parry a jab is to internally rotate your glove so that when you see your opponents jab coming, you can tap it away from your face.

The parry can be done with either the left or right hand.

2. How to Block the Cross

To block the cross, you can lift your left hand or both hands up so that your fingers are touching your ears and your elbows and forearms are protecting your face and kidneys.

3. How to Block the Lead/Rear Hook to the Head/Body

To block the lead hook, you should lift your left hand up to your left ear and you tuck your elbow in and sit with the punch (if both boxers are orthodox).

To block the rear hook you should lift your right hand up to your right ear and you tuck your elbow in and sit with the punch (if both boxers are orthodox).

4. How to Block the Lead/Rear Uppercut

To block an uppercut you want your hands on either side of your jaw (to protect your chin) and your elbows covering the kidneys on both sides.

Make sure to keep your elbows tight to your body and move them in the direction of the punch.

Can You Break Your Hand When Hitting a Punch Bag?

Yes, on rare occasions you can break your hand, even on a soft punch bag.

However, if you wear a pair of boxing gloves and hand wraps together, this will mitigate the risk.

Conclusion

That’s it for our guide today. I hope you have found it helpful.

Now I’d like to hear from you:

What was your favourite tip about this guide to boxing?

Do you box from home or at the boxing gym?

Perhaps you have another question you’d like me to respond to?

Either way, let me know by commenting below or messaging me directly on Instagram here.

Alistair Knight

Alistair Knight is an amateur athlete in boxing and the founder of Healthy Principles. He spends most of his time practising and learning more about boxing to ensure you get the best experience-based and evidence-based insights to learn. Learn more about Alistair Knight