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What Is Dirty Boxing?

Describe dirty boxing. If you read up on boxing, you can learn about hazardous and strong dirty boxing. But don't let the moniker deter you from taking up this sport; it teaches fighters how to defend and protect themselves with a variety of lethal techniques while daily enhancing their health.

You will frequently hear the term "dirty boxing" used by broadcasters when watching any boxing or MMA event. However, many fight fans who are unaware of the meaning of "dirty boxing" in the realm of fighting may be perplexed by this. Even though it seems complicated at first glance, it is not that difficult to comprehend what dirty boxing is all about.

Boxing has a long history of receiving a terrible rap as a "killer" sport (literally). Its numerous effects include cuts and blows to the face, concussions, ankle sprains, and hand injuries, to name a few. Is there a dirtier way to box than that?

Sadly, yes, it certainly can.

The term "dirty boxing" is ambiguous and does not necessarily result in a professional match's disqualification. However, if fighters use it correctly, it can be a useful strategy.

Fighting and boxing inside the clinch are referred to as "dirty boxing." While this style of combat is forbidden in competitive boxing, it is permitted in MMA, Muay Thai, and bare-knuckle boxing. The phrase is frequently linked to the illustrious MMA and UFC fighter Randy Couture, who popularised it by frequently employing it to great advantage in battle. Since then, dirty boxing has grown to be a viable winning strategy within MMA and has become extremely popular and regular.

Dirty boxing is OK as long as participants are acting ethically. This article will delve deep and provide you with all the information you require regarding this particular set of methods and strategies.


Yes, dirty boxing is legal as long as the moves you are using are within the rules of the sport you are competing in. Or, in some cases, you can get away with some illegal moves if the referee can’t see what you are doing. Most sports where you can see fighters using dirty boxing moves are Muay Thai, MMA and boxing.

Boxers use it to land various legal and illegal strikes like elbows when fighting in the clinch. Dirty boxing is also a big part of MMA, where fighters can use an even broader set of dirty boxing moves.


The Filipinos enjoy dirty boxing as it has a unique form with their street style in the classic American structure. Moreover, this sport can be a curse and a blessing to MMA fighters at some level. The curse will happen when boxers use too many styles in their fight strategy. They will be confused then destroy all the healthy conflict and boundaries during combats; hence, ruining fair fights. On the other hand, combining all the dangerous moves of dirty boxing with other styles (Krav Maga, Savate, Muay Thai, etc.) will make a fighter invincible. And this is the blessing.


You can learn dirty boxing moves in various striking arts like boxing, MMA or Muay Thai. But bear in mind that dirty boxing is a group of advanced techniques you won’t spend much time learning as a beginner. It is one of those things that comes with years of training and fighting inside the ring. So you need to have a really good base before you can even think about adding dirty boxing to your game.


Most sports where you can see fighters using dirty boxing moves are Muay Thai, MMA and boxing. Boxers use it to land various legal and illegal strikes like elbows when fighting in the clinch. Dirty boxing is also a big part of MMA, where fighters can use an even broader set of dirty boxing moves.


Dirty boxing is considered a ‘dark art. ‘It’s not about blatantly fouling an opponent by poking them in the eye with your thumb or sending a haymaker down to the nether regions. Instead, it’s about twisting and bending the rules just enough to gain a slight competitive advantage.

What Is Dirty Boxing All About?

Simply said, dirty boxing is when you keep punching when in the clinch. This is prohibited in boxing, which is probably why people think it's "dirty." This implies that while punching your opponent with your other hand, you can have one hand on the back of their head. The word can occasionally be expanded to include knees and elbows from the clinch, borrowing from Muay Thai. Further, Dirty Boxing, which permits headbutts to be delivered from the clinch, is widely practised in Lethwei.

A group of unconventional fighting methods and techniques are referred to as "dirty boxing" in combat sports. While some of these actions are perfectly acceptable, others almost certainly violate the law. Because good boxers can frequently land an unlawful strike and get away with it, we labelled it "dirty." But more on that in a moment.

Simply put, it involves employing strikes from the clinch. While it often involves one dominant striker, Dirty Boxing allows both competitors to engage in simultaneous blow-for-blow combat. Although Dirty Boxing wasn't initially given much thought in the martial arts community, its application in MMA saw a surge in popularity, and commentators began referring to it by its nickname, which made it easier for viewers to comprehend. Since then, its use has expanded.

Where Did The Term Dirty Boxing Come From?

Initially, the Americans brought dirty boxing to the Philippines along with their military bases. The locals adopted this pastime to train, improve their bravery and fighting prowess, and maintain their health. Who coined the phrase "dirty boxing" originally is not known with certainty. The term's etymology can be traced back to Suntukan, a striking manoeuvre used in Filipino martial arts. Suntukan is not a sport, but it emphasises "dirty street fighting" techniques like eye gouging and crotch punches and self-defence. It incorporates some of the additional filthy boxing techniques we see in contemporary boxing and MMA, such as:

  • Headbutts
  • Forearm strikes
  • Hammer’s fists
  • Back fists
  • Shoulder butts
  • Elbow Strikes

Amazingly, the history of Filipino martial arts is rich. As a result, the locals met the learning challenge head-on and even developed their own technique known as "dirty boxing."

You now know the history of dirty boxing and its other name, Filipino Boxing.

Let's examine the proper technique for dirty boxing!

What Is The Point Of Dirty Boxing?

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Dirty boxing is accepted as lawful, and it can be an excellent strategy for winning fights in an unexpected way. Consider the situation where you are up against a skilled striker who can kick you far away. If you can't get closer, you'll probably end up losing the fight. Consider a similar scenario in which you are unable to subdue this fighter using wrestling.

You can get a clinch and start punching them, thanks to Dirty Boxing in this situation. However, dirty boxing can hurt your opponent, particularly when elbows are used. Dirty boxing usually won't result in an instant knockout like a haymaker or a head kick. However, it will undoubtedly exhaust the opponent and wear them down, which will greatly aid in the eventual knockout. Given this, it should come as no surprise that Dirty Boxing is a mainstay of contemporary mixed martial arts, and mastering the proper clinch is crucial.

Is Dirty Boxing Effective For Self-Defense?

The combat techniques used in dirty boxing are excellent for self-defence but are not a martial art in and of themselves. You can learn these techniques by practising martial arts like MMA, Muay Thai, or boxing. You will learn how to employ filthy boxing techniques like:

  • Clinching
  • Elbow strikes
  • Knees in the clinch
  • Forearm strike
  • Hammer Fists

The key weapon in street combat may be dirty boxing. The majority of the time, street fighting entails forceful close-quarters grabbing, tugging, or ground combat. Chaos like this is very dissimilar to the professional boxing or mixed martial arts fights we see on television. And in these circumstances, dirty boxing really shines.

One of the best dirty boxing techniques is to start the clinch when fighting up close. You can deliver brutal Muay Thai elbow and knee punches from this stance. Alternatively, you can use Suntukan techniques like eye-gouging, hammer fists, or headbutts in self-defence. Whether it's a bar brawl or an open confrontation, all of these self-defence strategies are quite effective.

Can You Use Dirty Boxing In A Conventional Boxing Match?

Boxing rules prohibit punching while in the clinch. That does not imply that it does not continue, though. C cunning and sly Boxers will frequently sneak in a few shots during the clinch, occasionally to the head but usually to the body. These punches are frequently delivered just as the clinch is being established so that no points can be deducted or if the referee is not looking, just as the clinch is being released.

However, Dirty Boxing is typically ineffective in boxing contests, and there is a good reason for this. The problem with this is that because of the enormous boxing gloves, it might be very difficult to injure the opponent when they are tethered in the clinch. For instance, you can't hit with gloves, or if you do, they won't generate much power, and trying to hit the head can be pretty awkward due to the angle if your opponent is blocking your arm with their arm and you're doing the opposite on the other side. This indicates that while dirty boxing does occur during regular boxing matches, it isn't as successful as it is elsewhere.

Performing Dirty Boxing

In many places, filthy boxing is known by the name Panantukan or Suntukan. For instance, the Tagalog word "suntok" (punch) served as the inspiration for the phrase "panantukan," which refers to trading punches.

According to how the Filipinos explained it, boxers will engage in hand-to-hand combat, a very brutal exercise. In dirty boxing, they must use nearly every part of their bodies to battle, including their shins, knees, and elbows.

Dirty boxing is more focused on punches, even if you may sense the similarities to the classic form. In addition, the few regulations it has are the only thing this boxing style and Muay Thai have in common.

Although the locals used the same uppercut, hook, cross, and jab, they modified it to fit their distinct armed fighting methods. Filipino knife fighting tactics are, therefore, also used in dirty boxing.

Which Dirty Boxing Moves Are Used In Boxing?

When we hear the term "dirty boxing," the first image that comes to mind is a professional boxing battle. Not that boxers employ more unsavoury tactics than competitors from other fighting styles. However, the phrase has ingrained itself in the boxing community.

The most well-known dirty boxing techniques utilised in contemporary boxing are listed below. We must admit that a few of the actions almost certainly violate the law:

Referee Blindspot

If you can position yourself appropriately, you can get away with a lot of things. By positioning your opponent between you and the referee, you can put them in the official's blind area. As a result, there is a far lower chance that you will be detected performing an illegal action.

Bernard Hopkins, a former multiple-division boxing world champion, was a master of this move at his peak. Hopkins would use this technique to conceal his unlawful behaviour from the referee. Many of his opponents consequently lost their cool, both physically and mentally, as a result of their frustration.

This blind area was a common tactic used by Hopkins. He would purposefully push himself into the ropes or into a corner to obstruct the referee's range of vision. Then, while holding his opponent's wrist, he would pound them on the inside with short elbows and shoulder strikes without being penalised because the referee didn't see it.

Recognize that this is an attempt by your adversary. You will therefore detect a particular movement pattern.

Clinching to recover

Knowing how to fight in the clinch is important because boxing matches frequently end with it. Boxers typically duck beneath the opponent's onslaught and attempt a clinch to counter it. Alternatively, it can be a very effective strategy if a boxer is hurt.

The worst thing a boxer can do after taking damage from a punch is to allow the opponent to continue attacking. A hurt boxer would therefore grasp the opponent by the neck or waist to halt the action and give themselves a few seconds to recover. This is something that boxers frequently do during matches.

Toe Stepping

In the ring, orthodox fighters and southpaws frequently inadvertently step on each other's toes. The two different fighting stances' foot placements make it a natural occurrence in the ring. Toe-stepping or foot-stomping, however, can be done on purpose to hinder an opponent's mobility or make them hesitate to move at all.

This is accomplished by purposefully extending the lead foot forwards and stepping on the opponent's toe. This is then followed by a punch, typically a rapid lead cross. Although the toe step isn't particularly painful, the fact that the opponent can feel it shocks them enough to temporarily lose attention, allowing you to land the punch behind it.

In four battles against Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao, Mexican boxing legend Juan Manuel Marquez often employed this move by design or mistake. It was a particularly contentious subject in their third match. Fans believed that Marquez's overzealous foot stomping significantly impacted the fight.

In a boxing bout, always pay attention to where you put your feet since the struggle for lead foot position is crucial.

Head positioning

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In a boxing bout, we frequently witness competitors squabbling and competing for the head position. Ordinary individuals could assume that they are simply resting by leaning on one another. However, head control is a crucial dirty boxing move that provides you with the upper hand in many circumstances. For instance, you can use it to position your opponent where you want them to be or prepare a striking combination.

Forearm Smash

Mayweather loved to use the forearm smash, another potent dirty boxing move. Controlling a foe that enjoys getting close and punishing you with a shot from nowhere is a cunning tactic.

Boxing rules prohibit the use of the forearm, but as long as you don't use it to attack an opponent overtly, you can get away with it.

Mayweather frequently pushed his lead left forearm into an opponent's face before launching a powerful right hook over the top of it. It offers a difficult-to-avoid shot that is highly powerful and accurate.

Speed and quickness work best with this move because the forearm shouldn't stay on the opponent's face for more than a brief moment. It serves primarily as a setup for the shot that comes next and, when done well, is quite powerful.

Which Tools Should Boxers Use In Dirty Boxing?

In dirty boxing, there is no glove, and the fighters can utilise their fingers, palms, and knuckles in a variety of ways. Aside from that, skilled fighters won't have any trouble employing a variety of practical moves and weapons, including as headbutting, bolo punches, sweeps, fish hooks, thumb gouges, hammer fists, slaps, and finger jabs.

Famous Fighters’ Dirty Boxing Tactics

  • FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR. The former professional boxer who went unbeaten rose to fame thanks to the "sucker punch" he used to eliminate Victor Ortiz's opponent. Ortiz was facing Mayweather during the fourth round when the boxer delivered a hard right followed by a heavy left hook. The legendary Mayweather sucker punch was legal but unsportsmanlike, and the fans ultimately blamed the referee for not being completely in charge.
  • RICKY HATTON.This former British professional boxer's filthy boxing manoeuvres, which include elbow strikes, clinching, grabbing, and pushing, are frequently observed.
  • JUAN MANUEL MARQUEZ.Marquez is well-recognised for his extremely violent fighting manner. When he faced Manny Pacquiao in 2011, Marquez upped the ante in terms of intensity. During that bout, a number of events occurred, including Marquez stepping on Pacquiao six times. He is renowned for using unsavoury methods like headbutting.


Under Filipino Suntukan, dirty boxing has been practised for a very long time. Prior to MMA, this was a somewhat esoteric martial art that existed on the periphery of conventional martial arts. Consequently, Dirty Boxing is now employed quite frequently and has gained increasing notoriety.

In addition to this, Dirty Boxing is employed in other martial arts. Thus, it is best to master it if you want to practise in forms like MMA, Muay Thai, and others. This is crucial offensively and defensively since it will create a solid foundation for you to rely on if you ever find yourself in the crunch.


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