In life, there are some things that naturally come first, whether by rule or necessity.
Grammatical rules demand that each sentence begin with a capital letter. In order to walk you must first stand, and in order to box successfully, you have to lead with the jab.
The jab is equivalent to a basketball player’s jump shot or a baseball player’s swing. It is the most fundamental offensive (and defensive) punch in boxing. It serves innumerable purposes as a strategic weapon. It sets up more powerful shots, keeps your opponent off balance, can be used to dictate the pace of a fight, and buys you time.
The jab is initiated from your basic boxing stance. Driving off the ball of the back foot while you step forward, rotate your front shoulder. Punch in a straight line making sure your arm is fully extended at impact. Rotate your fist so that your knuckles are horizontal at the end of the motion. Don’t forget to keep your back hand up and in the guarded position. Dropping it is a common beginner’s error. After the jab is completed, immediately return to your boxing stance, with both hands up.
Throughout boxing history there have been numerous boxers who have demonstrated the
effectiveness of a good jab. Larry Holmes, Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali are a few of the names that immediately come to mind. They literally won fights with the use of an effective jab.
There have, however, been a few boxers who have been successful in the sport without the extensive use of the jab. Mike Tyson and Joe Frazier rarely used it, but their physical build and boxing styles relied more on brute strength. They were still able to compete at
the top of the game, but were often defeated by those boxers who used the jab as a weapon. Ali used the jab to keep Frazier out of punching range and Buster Douglas never allowed Mike Tyson on the inside where he could capitalize on his power.
The formula is simple: a tall boxer who is competing against a shorter opponent would most likely try to “stick” the jab as much as possible, not giving his opponent the opportunity to hit him. Conversely, the smaller boxer wouldn’t want to throw many jabs because of the reach differentiation. Rather, he would want to slip and counter while attempting to get on the inside. Getting past a strong jab is difficult for any boxer, regardless of his size.
The bottom line is that it’s in your best interest to have a strong jab in your arsenal. Master it and its different uses, and it will get you one step closer to victory.
For a visual reference on how to throw the jab (and other basic punches) check out John Brown’s Punching Logistics DVD.