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Basic Boxing Punches: The Hook

No other punch in boxing causes more knockouts than the hook. The greatest boxers in the world execute the hook with precision and careful timing to inflict punishment on their opponents. The hook, along with the cross and uppercut, is one of the sport’s basic power punches.

The hook differs from the jab and cross in that it is generally a close-range punch. The punch lands most effectively at close-range, but offers variability in regards to hand choice and target choice. Both hands are capable of throwing a hook, and the hook can be thrown at either the head or the body with a destructive effect on the opponent.

Most boxers learn the hook with the lead hand after they have learned the jab and the cross. The hook with the lead hand usually feels more natural than the hook with the rear hand, for the latter depends more on a distinct body rotation unnatural to many boxers. In this guide, the hook with the lead hand will be referred to as the “left hook,” since the majority of boxers fight from an orthodox stance. The hook with the rear hand will be referred to as the “right hook.”

Left Hook (Orthodox Boxer)

The sound of trainers calling for the “1-2-3” sequence rings out daily in gyms across the globe. This sequence refers to the most basic three-punch combination in the sport. The one represents the jab; the two represents the cross; the three represents the left hook. Boxers utilize the left hook most often by throwing a series of straight punches then closing the gap between them and the opponent. Some boxers are able to land the punch from afar. However, a closer distance makes the hook more powerful.

Faces of Boxing ...
Joe Frazier
Height: 5 feet, 11.5 inches
Weight: Heavyweight
Record: 32-4-1
Stance: Orthodox
Getting to know Frazier: Joe Frazier is best remembered for his trilogy of fights against Muhammad Ali. His quickness and power enabled him to win a gold medal at the 1964 Olympics and compile 27 knockouts in his pro career. Frazier was a brawler who closed the gap between himself and his opponents in order to set up his vicious left hook, considered one of the best in boxing history.

The left hook begins with a planted back foot. The front foot twists on its ball with the heel moving outward. This twist of the foot generates power as the boxer shifts his body weight from the front foot to the back foot. The lead hip should also rotate inward to create power.

The standard form of the hook has the lead arm bent at a 90-degree angle. The arm twists inward in agreement with the hip rotation. In the same motion, the lead elbow moves upward until the forearm forms a straight line parallel to the ground. Boxers should not cock the arm prior to throwing the hook since this adds additional exposure to counterpunches. Additional power can be generated by ending the punch with the forearm turned slightly downward. Boxers should be cautioned not to finish with the elbow pointing upward, though, for a dislocated shoulder could potentially result. The chin should be securely tucked to the lead shoulder in order to protect from incoming punches.

Right Hook (Orthodox Boxer)

The right hook also produces power capable of stunning an opponent. This punch must be thrown at close range and depends heavily on timing. It is important to note that the right hook relies on torso and hip rotation, not on a wild swing of the arm.

The right hook begins with a planted front foot. The back foot twists much like the front foot does when throwing the left hook. The back foot twists on its ball, with the heel moving outward. The weight of the body shifts from the back foot to the front foot to generate power. The rear hip also thrusts forward much like the thrust during a cross. The shift of body weight and rotation of the hip create substantial power.

The rear elbow stays tight to the body as the hip comes forward. The elbow then rises up quickly and rotates slightly inward in accordance with the hip and torso rotation. The standard form of this hook has the rear arm bent at a 90-degree angle. The punch finishes with the hips facing the opponent and the elbow pointed outward. Additional power can also be generated for this punch by ending it with the forearm turned slightly downward. Caution must be taken not to point the elbow too high, since shoulder dislocation can result here just as with the left hook.

Use of the Hook

Both the left hook and the right hook achieve ultimate power when thrown at a close range. In addition to using straight punches to move toward the opponent, slipping, bobbing, and weaving also enable the distance to be closed.

Hot Tip: Body Hook

Many novice boxers throw the hook to the body incorrectly. They lean forward, unbalanced, and expose themselves to an array of counterpunches. To throw an efficient hook to the body, simply drop down by bending the knees and apply the same technique as described above.

Throwing a hook leaves much of the body and head exposed; although, much of the exposure can be alleviated with the use of combinations. A boxer should not throw a hook without another punch preceding it. Exceptions do occur at times, though.

One exception occurs with a check hook. A boxer throws this type of hook to avoid pressure from an aggressive opponent. The boxer will throw a hook and simultaneously pivot outward while his opponent lunges forward. Another instance when a hook can be used without a punch preceding it is when a boxer weaves underneath an incoming hook from an opponent. In many instances, a hook is the most natural counterpunch to throw after weaving.

A hook can also act as a setup punch. Just like how a jab can be thrown to one area in order to force the opponent to react, the hook can be thrown to the body to open the head — or vice-versa. Opponents usually find it difficult to stop several hooks thrown in succession to the head and body.

Be Cautious, Be Feared

Rotation and weight distribution serve as the main components of both the left and the right hook. Exposure to incoming punches is the Achilles heel of the hook, so a boxer must be wary when throwing it. Weaknesses are lessened by movement and the use of combinations. Nonetheless, the hook produces overwhelming power when thrown correctly. Opponents will certainly need to watch out for incoming hooks from a boxer who employs the hook with power and precision. As always, it is extremely important to keep the other hand tight to the jaw when throwing the punch.

This guide goes over the mechanics and uses of one of the most electrifying punches in boxing — the hook. Learn how to throw one of the sport's best knockout punches.
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