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Basic Boxing Punches: The Uppercut

Sure, boxing is violent compared to other sports. However, an incredible amount of skill must be incorporated in order to successfully land the punches that make the sport “violent.”

In October of 1951, Rocky Marciano demonstrated tremendous skill in the eighth round against Joe Louis. Marciano landed two powerful uppercuts followed by a right cross that sent Louis out of the ring. That was the last fight of Louis’ long career. As proven in that bout, the uppercut is a useful weapon. It often comes from unseen angles at close distance, so boxers must be extremely cautious when fighting an opponent experienced enough to land such blows.

For the purpose of this guide, the uppercut thrown with the lead hand will be referred to as the “left uppercut.” The uppercut thrown with the rear hand will be referred to as the “right uppercut.” These references coincide with an orthodox stance. Refer to The Boxing Stance guide if questions exist.

The uppercut is said to have been first used by British bare-knuckle boxer Samuel Elias, nicknamed “Dutch Sam.” Elias was a lightweight fighter born in 1775 in Petticoat, England. Although he never fought at more than 134 pounds, he was feared as a ferocious puncher by men of all sizes. Elias dominated other fighters with the new punch he discovered. He died in 1816 as one of the greatest Jewish boxers of all-time.

Right Uppercut (Orthodox Boxer)

The right uppercut begins with the knees bent. The rear leg should be bent slightly more than the front leg. Significant power is generated by firing upward out of this lowered position. The bodyweight shifts from the rear leg to the front leg as the punch is thrown. Aiding this weight shift is the outward twist of the heel of the back foot. In order to properly twist the heel outward, a boxer must be on the ball of his back foot.

As the heel of the rear foot shifts outward, the rear hip of the boxer needs to move forward and upward. The hip movement is made possible by pushing off the rear foot. Hip movement plays a part in nearly all power punches. The core muscles enable this movement. These muscles are some of the strongest muscles in the body, so more force is generated when using the core.

The uppercut differs from other power punches in the movement of the upper body. The right shoulder drops a little, in unison with a slight lean of the upper body. The lean must be slight, or else the uppercut will easily be deciphered by the opponent. As always, the opposite hand (left hand) should stay tight to the cheek while the punch is thrown. The right elbow and upper arm should move tightly against the body as the forearm and fist move slightly outward and upward.

As the punch develops, the inside of the fist should move as follows:

  1. Facing toward the left
  2. Facing upward, toward the sky
  3. Facing inward toward the body

The right shoulder follows through with the rotation of the hips, which finish squared and facing forward. After striking the opponent, the boxer should bring the throwing hand back to the cheek as quickly as possible.

Left Uppercut (Orthodox Boxer)

The left uppercut generates power in an upward motion, so the knees are bent to start the punch. A boxer’s bodyweight must be on the ball of the lead foot to start the left uppercut. As the punch develops, the bodyweight moves to a position of more equal distribution among the two legs; although, more weight still remains on the ball of the lead foot when the punch lands. Pushing off the ball of the front foot aids the bodyweight shift.

The lead hip thrusts inward and upward in order to generate power. This thrust is less noticeable than the rotation of the rear hip when throwing the right uppercut. Without a doubt, though, the left uppercut becomes more powerful with a more prominent hip thrust. Often times the left uppercut acts as a setup punch, though, and does not require a great deal of power. Quickness is key for the setup, but the lead hip must always rotate a little bit.

The left uppercut requires the boxer to lean slightly to the left. Once again, there is an emphasis on slightly, because anything more than a slight lean will telegraph the punch to the opponent. The left shoulder drops slightly in alignment with the rest of the upper body. The semi-circle motion of the left uppercut parallels that of the right uppercut. The elbow should be tight against the body and the fist should move in the same sequence as it moves for the right uppercut.

Uses of the Uppercut

The uppercut is one of the most useful punches in boxing. It can be used as a setup punch in order to distract an opponent from a series of punches that will follow. It can also generate significant power and be used to stun an opponent. Generally, the uppercut serves as a close-range punch; although, one form of the uppercut is thrown from a longer range. This form is thrown with the same mechanics of a jab, except the fist lands with the palm facing upward. This technique is often applied to split the gloves of the opponent.

Although the left uppercut often serves as a setup punch for other punches, both the left and right versions have the ability to land fiercely when a boxer is in close proximity of his opponent. At close range, it is also quite difficult to see incoming uppercuts. With that, the opponent is at the mercy of the boxer unless he learns to properly block the incoming shots.

Believe it or not, an uppercut to the body can be more debilitating than an uppercut to the head. Uppercuts to the body are most effective when landed on the ribs or the solar plexus, located under the peak of the ribcage. Internally, the solar plexus is a network of nerves located at the back of the stomach. A shot to the solar plexus is often referred to as a shot that “knocks the wind out of the opponent.”

Body or head, setup or power, the uppercut provides a boxer with options to surprise and stun his opponent.

Lead with the Jab, Follow with the Uppercut

The uppercut is difficult to throw without another punch preceding it. An opponent will clearly see an incoming uppercut if a boxer is not within close range or disguising it within a combination. Combinations do a terrific job of enabling punches that are otherwise not practical to land cleanly.

The iSport boxing guide, “Basic Boxing Punches: The Jab,” discusses how the jab can provide openings and effectively help to keep an opponent busy. The uppercut can usually follow a series of jabs. It is important to be aware of the exposure enabled by throwing the uppercut, though. Timing must be practiced in sparring sessions.

In this boxing guide you'll learn how to utilize the uppercut, a punch that can be match-changing when thrown to the body or the head.
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