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Why Is the Jab the Best Punch in Boxing?

Posted on May 30 2021

Why Is the Jab the Best Punch in Boxing?

It is no secret that beauty resides in the barbaric sport of boxing. The most devastating punches landed in fights are often the ones that require high skill and are practised repeatedly in training weeks before they are thrown on the big stage. There is a very familiar punch found in this sweet science however that deals less damage to opponents yet demands top notch technique. You guessed it, the jab.

If you think a lousy straight shot with your lead hand will barely serve you any purpose in a bout, you could not be further from the truth. When mastered, the jab is a multi-functional punch that will spearhead your offensive arsenal and can serve as the most effective shot out of the lot.

What is the hype about?

To paraphrase a jab-perfectionist “It isn’t bragging if you can back it up” so here are some of the most noteworthy benefits that a good jab provides, proving why it is revered as the best shot in the game.

Establishing distance.

My coach always referred to my jab as a ‘measuring stick’. Hearing that for the first time as a 9-year-old who just wanted to punch bags and faces I was clueless as to what he meant, but as boxing IQ develops the metaphor becomes clearer. Aiming a fully extended jab at an opponent will tell you right away how close/far you need to be from them, it measures your distance. This is integral to work out in the early goings of a sparring session or fight as you will know what range works the best for you to land shots effectively. Establishing this distance via the jab will also give insight on how much closer you will have to be to land the more powerful, shorter punches like hooks and uppercuts.

Setting up shots.

The opportunities for bigger and better shots that are presented after the use of the jab is what makes this punch so special. A fully extended jab includes the rotation of your shoulders and hips, this motion puts your body in prime position to launch a straight cross with the rear hand and from there even more shots can be thrown with the lateral movement of your body such as the lead hook. This is how vicious combinations can be put together- all behind the use of the jab.

Mohammad Ali was a different level with this, opposing his adversaries side-on from his left creating more than enough leverage to deliver a crushing blow with the right hand after the jab. This was so effective he could put his opponents down with a ‘1-2’ whilst bouncing on the retreat.   

Closing distance & Pressuring.

The versatility of the jab is outlined perfectly in the instance of having to pressure an opponent or close the distance. You may be up against an opponent who likes to stand off and counterpunch rather than aggress, or you might be facing a taller foe who tends to like the jab themselves and stay on the outside, this is where you can use the best tool in the book to your advantage.

Stepping towards your opponent as you throw the jab naturally brings you closer together, therefore doing so can close the distance and put you in the pocket where you are at your punching best. Doubling up on the jab might even be an option and was something I tended to do often as a small southpaw. If you do jab twice and pressure either a counterpuncher or taller opponent, either would try to clock you coming in so head movement should be instilled when doing this.

Unpredictability.

It is quite astonishing how one simple shot can keep your opponent guessing but if you use it wisely you can have them oblivious of your next step throughout each round. This is where the more advanced use of the jab comes in and you change your intentions from landing clean to the face of your opponent every time.

By jabbing to the body, you will not only find new shots and angles but will also make your opponent second guess their prediction of when you will jab to the head next. This could change their choice of shot selection and with it you nullify an attack once prepared to counter a jab to the face.

A jab feint can incite a reaction from your opponent as it deceives them into thinking you were about to follow through with the shot. This can result in them throwing back to exchange but creates an opening for you to exploit. For example, if one feinted a jab the other may draw a tight guard to the face to block, leaving their sides unprotected and vulnerable to body shots.

The options almost seem limitless.

Whether you are a behemoth standing over 6ft weighing over 200lbs or a nifty, sharp featherweight- if you learn how to use the best punch in boxing you are likely to go far.