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What Is Peek-A-Boo Boxing Style?

The peekaboo style is as misunderstood as it is notorious. But the fact that it's so widely misunderstood could work in your favour. The core peekaboo principles give boxers a safe and loaded "base of operation", enabling the fighter to move where they want, when they want, and thus, controlling their opponent and the fight with minimal risk.

Any boxer who plans on enjoying a long, healthy career in the ring must focus on developing a solid defensive style that adequately protects his head and body. Unfortunately, most novices and defensively-oriented professionals favour a defensive posture that legendary trainer Cus D'Amato termed the peekaboo stance.

While not a style that aggressive fighters frequently use, the peekaboo stance maximizes the amount of your body covered while in the guard position and can provide a good base for reacting to your opponent's movements with accurate counter-punches. Now, this luxury of control doesn't come easy. However, there are a few things you need to be aware of if you're going to implement the best parts of the peekaboo style into your boxing skill set.

You might have read about the peek-a-boo style of boxing concerning Iron Mike Tyson, or if you're an experienced boxing enthusiast, you might also remember Torres and Patterson. These three are the main names that come to our minds regarding the peek-a-boo style of boxing. Do you know why? Because all of them have been trained by the legendary Cus D'Amato. He is the man who discovered the peek-a-boo style of boxing.

When used, the peek-a-boo looks like an aggressive style, but it prioritizes defence over offence. It is a counter-punching style that emphasizes air-tight defence as a fighter encroaches on an opponent's space.

There is no way you can avoid a peek a boo strategy. To face such a fighter, the strategy is not to give them away to come out of their guard when you are in the range. Peek a boo is adopted by fighters who usually are in fighters. The best way to face them is to throw bombs at them whenever they try to close down.


You must know that Tyson uses the peek-a-boo style because he's a shorter fighter with shorter arms. So he HAS to wade through many punches when he's out of reach and needs to move his head at all kinds of crazy angles.


It all depends on how long their arms are vs their torso. Tall fighters are generally not built like this, so it is not common to see. Plus, if fighters have long arms, they generally become an out-fighter or a shoulder-roll specialist.


Pressure fighting is a highly effective style that is perhaps the most common in boxing. Well-known boxers in the sport's history who were pressure fighters include Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao, Roberto Duran, and Julio Cesar Chavez.


  • Floyd Patterson, The first fighter to use the Peek-A-Boo effectively, became an Olympic gold medalist and 2-time Heavyweight Champion of the world. Also, the first man to ever win back the heavyweight championship.
  • Mike Tyson executed the style perfectly and was notorious for his savage punching ability and excellent defence. Probably the best example of the Peek-a-Boo style.
  • Kevin Rooney, Mike Tyson's former trainer, is an expert in Peek-A-Boo boxing, having once been a Golden Gloves champion.


How The Peek-A-Boo Boxing Style Works

Mike Tyson wasn't the first boxer trained by D'Amato to use the peek-a-boo style effectively at the highest levels of boxing. That honour goes to Floyd Patterson, who won an Olympic gold medal as an amateur and two heavyweight titles as a professional.

The peek-a-boo style prioritizes constant defence while putting yourself in a position to land hard punches. It gives fighters complete freedom as far as movement is concerned and allows them to control the fight's pace while minimizing their exposure to attacks. Trained by the late great Cus D'Amato, Tyson cultivated a unique boxing style that no one has been able to replicate. How he moved swiftly across the ring, gliding with killer intent to deliver fight-ending knockout blows, was unparalleled. It remains one of the most exciting styles to watch to this day.

D'Amato designed the peek-a-boo as a defensive-minded system that allows boxers to control the pace of a fight. It effectively limits your opponent's defence while allowing you to get your attacks off. It's a great style for people who like to close the distance and fight on the inside. In addition, it allows you to throw effective counters. 

To master the peek-a-boo boxing style, you'll need to understand D'Amato's philosophy when creating the system. Cus believed the ability to slip punches was the greatest tool in a boxer's tool bag. Slipping is one of the most challenging skills for boxers to learn, but D'Amato believed making an effort to master it was worth it. Therefore, the peek-a-boo system is designed for boxers skilled at slipping punches and head movement since that makes their defence significantly harder to get through as they walk down opponents.

Breaking Down Mike Tyson's Style Of Boxing

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In his prime, heavyweight boxing world champion "Iron", Mike Tyson was undoubtedly the most feared man in the sport. The legendary "Baddest Man on the Planet" was an explosive force inside the ring, wasting his foes with concussive knockout power.

Tyson is the youngest world champion in boxing history, claiming his first belt at 20 years, four months, and 22 days old. He reigned as the undisputed heavyweight world champion from 1987 to 1990 and was the first fighter to simultaneously hold the WBA, WBC, and IBF heavyweight titles.

Tyson was a naturally aggressive boxer, and the peek-a-boo gave him the perfect style to unleash devastating punches on his opponents while minimizing his risks. Tyson used the style throughout his reign, walking down opponents, slipping their shots, and landing ferocious counters that knocked many unconscious. While Tyson is best known for his devastating knockout power, his defence (particularly his ability to slip punches) and counter-punching accuracy were equally responsible for his success inside the ring. 

Iron Mike's adaptation of peek-a-boo is unique because, by instinct, he was a pressure fighter with an aggressive mindset. However, with peek-a-boo, which is a defensive strategy, Mike was able to attack and follow his instincts whilst protecting himself at all times.

Yes, there were many loopholes in the style, but Mike's implementation was so quick and effective that his opponents could never capitalize on the openings. He used to land counter punches, but he used to do so with ferocious power.

Will Peek-a-boo style work for you?

Peek-a-boo can work for anyone. However, it favours some fighters more than others. For instance, Tyson's finest specimen regarding this style.

Fast Movements

Using the peek-a-boo style requires you to close the distance or increase it effectively. It's a great style for shorter fighters who often find themselves going against taller, rangier fighters. Tyson was short for a heavyweight, but the peek-a-boo style allowed him to make up for that with his explosive power and seed. 

Taller boxers can also succeed with style, for example, Floyd Patterson, but they generally move slower and have a more challenging time closing distances. 

Ambidextrous Approach

Boxers who have no problems switching from southpaw to orthodox will do fairly well with this style. Tyson was naturally ambidextrous and was seamless in his movements. He used to use this movement to move quickly, close the distance, and apply the Dempsey shift, i.e. moving inside.

The Dempsey shift involves a linear power shift that includes a straight lead and a training step before attempting a deep shifting step and a rear straight punch.

Low Base

Observe most sports, and you'll quickly notice that the shorter competitors are typically the fastest. One huge factor you can attribute to this is the lower centre of gravity shorter people have. This gives them increased lower body strength and more freedom with their movements. 

Tyson's physique allowed him to slip and weave through punches with ease with his low centre of gravity. 

Raw strength

It would help if you had raw power for the peek-a-boo style to work for you. The entire game plan relies on landing devastating counters. Thus, if you do all the hard parts of moving on the inside and outside of your opponent and can't finish him off, then that's a major problem.

Thus, it would be best to have the raw power to compliment your excellent movement. In Tyson's case, his counter-punches resulted in knockouts more often than not. However, his straights and his left hooks are still revered.

Explosive Power

It would help if you had devastating punching power to successfully pull off the peek-a-boo style. The style allows you to get inside your opponent to land fight-ending blows. Having a reputation for being a powerful puncher also prevents your opponent from getting overzealous with their attacks since they are constantly worried about your counters. Might Tyson hit so hard many of his knockouts came from straight punches.

Advantages Of Peek-A-Boo Boxing Style

In current times, the peek-a-boo style is often criticized and is looked down upon by many people. However, today's boxing is different from the 90s, and thus, finding flaws and using them to wrap up your opponent is a common occurrence.

  • Makes It Easier To Close The Distance: The squared stance used makes it easier to chase down and cut off opponents in the ring. It also makes it easier to land hard counters while closing the distance.
  • Allows For Fast Movements: This is especially true for shorter fighters. The style allows for fast movements inside and outside.
  • Great For Offense: The peek-a-boo style is a defensive style that puts you in an excellent position to mount your offence. It favours aggressive fighters who like to trade power shots inside the pocket. It allows them to mount a considerable offence while minimizing their risks.
  • It Makes You Harder To Predict: The peek-a-boo style uses off-rhythm movements that can throw opponents off. It involves using movement and attacks that are not conventionally used, making it harder for opponents to figure out what you're doing.

Peekaboo Boxing: The Fading Art Of 'Aggressively Safe' Boxing

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Peekaboo boxing is very effective because it gives the fighter control over their opponent. This fighting style will allow you to move where you want when you want, so you would be able to control your opponent and the fight, so there would be minimal risk involved.

This type of control is a luxury, and it's a skill that is not easy to develop because peekaboo boxing is a specific style of boxing that is often misunderstood. The first thing to understand is that it takes time to learn this style, so you can't give up, even if the process seems too challenging or takes too long.  

The core peekaboo principles give boxers a safe and loaded "base of operation", enabling the fighter to move where they want, when they want, and thus, controlling their opponent and the fight with minimal risk. Now, this luxury of control doesn't come easy. You need to be aware of a few things if you're going to implement the best parts of the peekaboo style into your boxing skill set.

There is a proper way to implement this style and to succeed, you will have to dedicate yourself fully to this philosophy, which will require you to keep your hands up to protect the chin, and your forearms must be used to protect the body. It would help if you learned how to maintain this position in different situations so that you're always prepared when facing your opponent. It may be tempting to mimic a specific move set, but this will set you back and is not part of the peekaboo boxing style.

Applying this style will force your opponent to waste their energy on ineffective punches, and they will have to be cautious, even when you're defending. You will be able to draw out punches from your opponents, which will leave them vulnerable to fast counters. Make sure you never give your opponent a free opening and always keep your guard tight when you move because this will allow you to block as you pressure your opponent.

Role Of Cus D'Amato In Peek-A-Boo Boxing Style

Cus's dedication to training up-and-coming boxers led him to sleep in his gym in New York. Cus believed in positive thinking. He would have his students memorize things like, "The mind always makes things worse than they are." And "A professional always does what needs to be done no matter how he feels." A professional does not follow their feelings by getting up at 5 am to do roadwork or going to the gym to train. He wanted his young students always to remember that "Your feelings will lie to you."

Cus D'Amato was born in 1908 to a blue-collar, Italian family in The Bronx, New York. Cus briefly boxed as an amateur in the featherweight and lightweight divisions, but an eye injury prevented him from obtaining a professional license. However, as we know, thankfully, this was only the beginning of his legendary career. Cus's dedication to training up-and-coming boxers led him to sleep in his gym in New York. Cus believed in positive thinking. He would have his students memorize things like, "The mind always makes things worse than they are." And "A professional always does what needs to be done no matter how he feels." A professional does not follow their feelings by getting up at 5 am to do roadwork or going to the gym to train. He wanted his young students always to remember that "Your feelings will lie to you."

Cus was one of the first boxing trainers to implement psychological training. He brought Zen to boxing before most people in the western world even knew what Zen was. He said, "Heroes and cowards feel the same fear. Heroes react to it differently." He spent a lot of time teaching emotional control. Example: Tyson eventually admitted that he was terrified before every fight, but looking at him, he was often the source of his opponents' terror. D'Amato genuinely cared for his boxers, developing father-son bonds with many of them. Even after Floyd Patterson decided to part ways with Cus, he would never talk negatively of Floyd or let any of his fighters. Eventually, Floyd would admit that he regretted nothing in his life except the time he was apart from Cus.

He cared for his fighters so much that Cus filed for bankruptcy in 1971, but it was never apparent that any of his fighters felt such financial pressure. Jose Torres estimated that he had earned roughly $1 Million in his career, "and Cus never took a penny." Cus also fought and protected his boxers from the politics of boxing at the time, many times refusing to take fights because of who the opponent was associated with and their perceived backroom dealings.

What was less publicized but perhaps most intriguing is that he served as an occasional adviser for the late, Greatest, Muhammad Ali. New York was renamed the street where his Gramercy Gym was located to "Cus D'Amato Way". There have been books and documentaries on his life, and still, his impact on boxing doesn't get the recognition he deserves. The man has undeniably left a massive, well-respected legacy in the boxing world. Now, on to the style he dedicated his life to perfecting…

There's something incredibly intriguing about the peekaboo style that seems to get lost or at least overlooked in today's complex world of boxing. There's so much information and so many videos to study that it's easy to lose sight of the essence of what made the peekaboo style so effective. Cus said, "Slipping punches is the hardest thing to learn. But once you get it, that's when boxing starts to become fun!"

Very few boxers have incorporated the style as Cus himself had engineered it. Most notably is Mike Tyson. If we go back even further, other Gramercy alumni include Floyd Patterson, a 1952 Olympic Gold Medalist and former World Heavyweight Champion. Jose Torres, a 1956 Olympic Silver Medalist and former World Light heavyweight Champion. Joey Hadley is a 6-time Golden Gloves winner. And Kevin Rooney trained Tyson after Cus passed in 1985 until 1988.


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