All the people I know who want to start boxing classes are asking me if it’s a good sport for self-defence. They want to see if they will be able to defend themselves using only boxing skills. So here’s how I usually answer to them:
Is boxing good for self-defence? Yes, boxing is definitely a good sport for self-defence. That’s because of its variety of defensive and attacking maneuvers, effective footwork and distance control. An untrained person has no chance when fighting against an experienced boxer.
You do not have to become a boxing expert or master to protect yourself. If you know and can execute the basics, you’ll be just fine in a streetfight scenario:
- Using your jab to keep a distance or set up combinations
- Using your footwork to attack without losing your balance or as a defensive maneuver
- Having a good timing so you can block, parry or slip punches
Those three things will make you an adamant opponent for anyone without combat sports experience.
Below, I talk about the top reasons why boxing is and is not useful in real-life situations that require self-defence and also compare boxing as a self-defence sport with other popular sports such as MMA, Muay-Thai, BJJ and also give you some tips on how to utilise boxing in a street fight.
Reasons Why Boxing is Useful in Real-Life Situations
1. Boxers Have Higher Chances of Delivering a One Punch Knock out
Famous boxers like Mike Tyson are known for being able to knock out their opponents with a single punch even with 10 or 8 oz gloves. Now imagine if they hit someone with bare knuckles.
Boxers have more powerful punches than all other combat sports athletes because they learn how to pivot their legs, and rotate their torso to add additional power to their shots.
To be able to finish your opponent as quick as possible and get out of there is very important in a self-defence scenario.
2. Boxers Deliver Faster, More Accurate Punches
Even if you train boxing for a long time, you may not have big punching power. That’s because you can improve it to some degree, but the punching power depends more on your natural attributes – your weight, the way your muscles are attached to your bone and if you have fast-twitch muscle fibres.
But even though, for example, you are a small person, and you don’t have one-punch knockout power, you can finish your opponent using speed, accuracy and volume.
The punches thrown by boxers are known for being faster, more accurate, than any other type of punch.
3. Boxers Focus Hard on Defensive Moves
Boxing can save you from getting seriously hurt in dangerous situations because practicing boxing can help you get better at dodging punches. Boxers have by far the best punching defence in all stand-up combat sports.
Also, when learning boxing, you learn how to deal with typical street brawlers from day one. It’s very hard for anyone to catch a boxer with a wild overhand (the most common punch untrained people will throw).
And you end up getting comfortable dealing with many different punches by learning how to take a punch.
4. You Will Be More Confident on Your Feet
Utilising wrestling in a streetfight is a good idea. However, if you can manage to stay on your feet during a streetfight, then you will have an easier time running away or watching your own back. Stay on your feet if you are confident with your ability to punch.
5. You Can Handle Multiple Opponents
In two versus one situation, the odds are never in your favour. However, you have a better chance of handling two or more opponents if you can knock out opponents with your punches. If you are wrestling, then an opponent and his friend can potentially attack you from behind.
6. Boxers Have Fighter Mentality
Boxers are fighters. And fighters are very used to shock, pain, being grabbed, and getting hit hard. A large number of fights involve being punched in the face, and no one is better at taking a punch to the face than a person with experience in boxing.
Such a person will continue to fight after getting hit by a hard sucker punch to the face, and they will come back to beat their attackers in situations where others would fail.
Reasons Why Boxing is Not Useful in Real-Life Situations
1. Boxers Are Not Prepared To Fight on the Ground
When fights end up on the ground, your boxing skills become almost useless. Maybe only keeping your hands in front of your face will help you to defend some ground and pound.
Boxers that fight from a short distance may be less effective in a street fight because their opponent can wrap them up with their arms and take them down to the ground.
2. Most Boxers Are Too Used To Fighting With Their Gloves
Modern boxing is classified as a ring sport that is dependent on having hands that are very well protected. Fighting without heavy hand wraps and gloves is a completely different game—for example, the high guard without the big gloves in much less effective. When fighting someone with bare knuckles, he can find openings in your guard much more straightforward.
Also, a boxer could potentially break his hand in the first few seconds of an intense fistfight. The old bare-knuckle boxing system included completely different tactics and punches, which is a much better way to go for street fights and self-defence in general.
Most modern boxers do not know how to bare-knuckle box because they don’t need such skills in the boxing ring.
3. Boxers don’t train clinch fighting
Most steer fights end up or even start in a clinch. There a person can utilise dirty boxing, knees, elbows or even take you down. So it’s an excellent idea to work on your clinching skills like, for example, the Muay-Thai fighters are doing.
When boxers end up in a clinch, they just stay tall and wait for the referee to separate them.
4. Boxers don’t work on their takedown defence
Unlike in a streetfight, takedowns aren’t allowed in boxing. Boxers don’t spend time working on their takedown defence which can be a big problem when using boxing for self-defence.
5. Boxers don’t work on their leg kick defence
Leg kicks are by far the most effective technique a Muay-Thai fighter can use against a boxer. They are painful, especially when you’re not used to them. Several leg kicks will reduce the boxer ability to move and decrease his punching power – as you already know boxers use their legs to generate such tremendous power.
Boxing Versus Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in a Streetfight
BJJ is the most effective martial art against untrained people.
Someone who never grappled won’t be able to stop you from submitting him because he won’t know what to do or what you are trying to do. BJJ is the most effective martial art for one on one self-defence.
Suppose you know Brazilian Ju-Jitsu basics such as keeping a guard, passing a guard and the basic submissions (rear-naked choke, armbar, kimura, Americana, guillotine). In that case, I will be able to beat an average opponent with ease.
BJJ is a fantastic sport, but its focus is on defence and submitting people rather than taking people down and controlling them (like in wrestling, for example). And if your opponent is stronger than you and knows basic takedown defence that will dramatically decrease your chances of taking him down.
Boxing is a better choice when facing multiple opponents or when fighting someone stronger but with a shorter reach and slower than you. If that is the case, you can just out-box that person and knock him out or make him quit by using just straight punches and keeping a safe distance from his swings. While grappling with someone much stronger may not be a great choice, especially when he can pick you and slam you on the ground.
However, if you choose to focus on boxing, then it may take months or even a year (if you train rarely) to get the skills necessary to take out an average opponent quickly. While with BJJ, that time frame will be much shorter (several months).
Boxing is a better option when fighting someone you can’t take down. Like I said pure BJJ people don’t have great takedowns. So if the attacker is big and strong and has a basic knowledge of what he shouldn’t do if he wants to stay on his feet, you may not be able to take him down. Then your only option is to beat him in a stand-up fight.
Boxing is a better option when you need to defend yourself against more than one opponent. BJJ is useless if someone is kicking you in the head while trying to submit his friend. On the other hand, by using boxing footwork, keeping a distance and throwing straight punches, you can make the attackers reconsider their choice to try to assault you.
Brazilian Ju-Jitsu is a better option when fighting one on 1. An average person lacks too much knowledge to stop a submission from an experienced BJJ practitioner.
Boxing Versus Kickboxing or Muay Thai in a Streetfight
Learning kickboxing or Muay-Thai will make you have a decent body and leg kicks, which can be an easy way to stop an opponent without giving them brain damage (which is more likely to happen when using boxing techniques).
Those combat sports will also teach you to use your knees and elbows to be effective.
However, it is risky to throw many kicks or knees in a street fight because you can get taken down. An opponent could grab your leg if your kicks are too slow and easily take the fight to the ground.
Knowing boxing will probably lead you to have better defensive capabilities against punches. Your focus would be on timing, spacing, and reading your opponent with the use of your hands. But when kicks and knees are involved, using some boxing defence techniques such as bobbing and weaving may not be a great idea because a head kick or a knee may intercept you.
Muay Thai will equip you with the knowledge needed to defend yourself against an opponent who can kick skillfully. Muay Thai or kickboxing is more about parrying and blocking. The head movement there is much less compared to boxing.
As I already mentioned, you should not try too many kicks on the street, but an unexpected leg kick at full power could stop a fight before it gets started.
Boxing is less risky because there are no kicks or knees, which can cause taking you down. It’s a much more effective when fighting against a wrestler or everyone with a good ground game who is trying to take you down because boxers use a wilder stance than the Muay-Thai fighters, making them harder to take down. Also, they have much better footwork.
Muay-Thai or kickboxing will make you more dangerous because of the more significant variety of attacks. And the leg kicks will also help you to beat someone without hurting them as severely. In boxing vs Muay-Thai situations, the Thai fighter will beat the boxer 7-8 out of 10 times only using leg kicks.
Boxing Versus Wrestling in a Streetfight
In wrestling, holds and locks are used to control your opponent. That’s why sometimes fighters with only wrestling skills can dominate in MMA. They are using their skills to take the other fighters to the ground and control them to decide. That works no matter if they are fighting against boxers, kickboxers or BJJ practitioners (as long as their BJJ defence is on point).
But in a street fight only controlling your opponent may not be significant enough when his friends can come to help him. In such situations, you want to finish the fight quickly and get out of there. And using boxing is one of the best ways to do that.
Boxing is a better option if your opponent is bigger than you. Bigger opponents have an obvious advantage on the ground.
Boxers have a much better ability to finish their opponents.
Wrestling is a better option if your opponent is your size or smaller than you. If you are stronger than someone, you can simply put him in a headlock and maybe even end the fight.
Wrestling is better for neutralising every other martial art. Wrestlers can dominate Muay-Thai fighters, kickboxers, boxers as long as they can take them to the ground. If they are fighting against a BJJ practitioner that can be really risky because they can end up submitted.
Boxing Versus Mixed Martial Arts in a Streetfight
Mixed martial arts take the best out of each sport (Boxing, Kickboxing, Wrestling, BJJ, Taekwondo, Judo, Karate, and others) and put those skills together to create the ultimate fighting sport.
MMA is much more effective in a streetfight than boxing. If you are interested in what will happen if boxer and MMA guy fight each other, you can check out this article: Boxer vs MMA Fighter -who would win a fair fight.
How To Use Boxing in a Streetfight Scenario
In a streetfight, use jabs and your footwork until your opponent gasses out so, and you can finish him. Make sure to keep a decent distance from your opponent, especially if they are more significant.
Do not attempt any body shots because they are too risky since you need to get close to your opponent. And if you get too close, your opponent can grab you or simply counter your punches with a punch to the head.
If your opponent is ducking his head, intercept him with uppercuts.
Focus on using straight punches only (quick lead hooks are an exception). Do not go for risky rear hooks and overhands. The straight punches will be effective against an untrained opponent because they are harder evade than hooks and overhands. They will also help you keep a reasonable distance from your opponent.
What to combine boxing with to be most effective in a street fight?
Combining your boxing skills with necessary wrestling skills will make you really dangerous for everyone. If you fight a Muy-Thai fighter, for example, you can easily counter his leg kick by grabbing the leg and taking him down where you can control them and use ground and pound to finish them.
And if you fight someone with good ground skills, you can simply just defend his takedown attempts and keep the fight on the feet where you have an advantage.
Learning boxing is one of the best ways to help you successfully defend yourself in a streetfight or other dangerous situation. Boxing includes many great techniques that are simple and easy to learn for a person of any age, gender, and size.
It can be learned quickly by anyone if they put the effort and time into it. It is easy to begin training for those who attempt to learn and master the fundamentals in the beginning. Once you know the essential basics, you will undoubtedly protect yourself in a street fight.
However, streetfights end up on the ground a large percentage of the time, and most boxers are not prepared to fight on the ground. Knowing boxing and wrestling could help you feel extra safe while you walk down dark streets at night.
Keeping your body in tip-top shape is critical too. That’s why you need to focus on your conditioning also and not only on your skills. Do cardio exercises – running, sprinting, swimming, etc. and even free weight exercises such as pull-ups, chin-ups, push-ups and dips so you can punch harder and wrestle better.
Never forget that you should never refrain from practising. Do not quit working on your boxing skills even if you think you have mastered them.
There will always be something to improve on. The more you improve your skills, the safer you will feel.
Five Things to Remember if You Bring Boxing to a Street Fight:
Stay on Your Feet – If you are overcome and end up on the ground – boxing will not help. Hard to jab off your back.
Be Selective About Ducking – Bringing your head down invites a kick or knee to come up. Slipping is good, side to side is right, bringing your head into striking range by something hard is terrible. Remember that your opponent doesn’t care if he uses fists, feet, knees or elbows. You’re not just watching for punches in real life.
Disrupt Attacks – Use your jab to stop the forward momentum of your attackers. If they get a hold of you, all the boxing skill in the world won’t save you.
Keep Moving – highly effective in the ring and imperative outside of it. If you’re a static target, it is more likely that you will be taken down.
Try Not to Break Your Hands – boxing skills will help with the precision of your punches. That means there will be less chance you will hit something like a forehead and more likely to hit something that will do some damage to your opponent and not you. That said – expect your hands to take quite a beating. Hitting without padded gloves invites injury, and even seasoned boxers can break their hands when hitting without gloves. You’re better off using open palm strikes unless sure you’re going to hit what you’re aiming at.
More Self Defense
You should prepare to defend against taking downs and have at least a minimal skill set for fighting from the ground. Boxing in itself can prevent a fight from going to bed, but if your opponent manages to put you down, then you’re suddenly going to be at a disadvantage if you don’t know what to do when you get there. If you’re learning to box to defend yourself, you should also spend some time learning a system that caters to all situations.
A Mindset for Self Defense
Knowing how to box or having the physical skills to defend yourself in a bad situation is only half the battle. When we train as boxers or MMA fighters – it is for a situation that involves rules, and there is usually a third man in the ring who is ready to stop the fight if things get out of hand.
While we like to think of ourselves as warriors – in reality, we are athletes at that stage. You become a warrior when you hoist aboard the fact that fighting on the street is real-life combat. There is no referee. It is a fight for survival – you or your opponent.
The fight ends when you incapacitate your opponent permanently or long enough to exit the situation.
Prepare both body and mind for combat (in the ring and out of it).