Bait combos are my way of setting up nasty counters.
It’s very simple: I throw a few punches, wait for the expected counter, and then I come back with my own counter. These have been tried and tested against all kinds of opponents. They work against all kinds of opponents – fast, slow, tall, short, skilled, unskilled. The more aggressive the opponent, the better. 🙂
Best of all you will learn not only how to set up opponents, but you will also develop your own awareness for opponent reactions. And with these newly refined reflexes, you can do SO much more.
Let’s get to the bait combos, shall we?
Quick note: in case you’re not familiar with my punch numbering system, please check out my [punching combinations list].
1) jab, bait the jab, throw a counter right
Bait for your opponent’s jab by throwing your own jab. Move around him and throw a potshot jab as you wait patiently for his counter jab. The moment you see his jab, throw a counter right hand right over it. You can follow up with more punches (like a 1-2, or 3-2) right after that.
The trick is not to put so much focus on your own jab. Throw a clean jab with good snap and power but put all your focus on his left arm. The moment you feel his left arm about to come out, you smash your right hand into his face. The better you get at this trick, the more relaxed you can be about it. With time you will have developed a natural reflex for always being able to take advantage of his counter jab and it’s not something you have to “set up” anymore.
A great way to set up this punch is to focus on staying far away from him so that he feels that he can’t reach you with anything else but the jab. The moment you get a little too close into range, there’s a chance he might counter with something else. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that some opponents are more likely to get into jab battles if you stand more sideways. It makes your body appear longer and might also cause them to mirror the position. Do keep in mind that standing more sideways makes it harder for you to reach with your right hand.
2) 1-2, bait the jab, throw a counter right
Another way of baiting for your opponent’s jab is to throw a 1-2. It’s similar to what you did with the last bait combo but this time you add a right hand to go with it. There are a few things you’ll have to adjust for to get the desired result.
The first thing is you have to make it a fast right hand. If you put too much power or invade his space too much with it, he might counters with a hook instead. The idea here is to make it feel like two very quick and very straight punches.
The next thing you want to do is to bring your face in with the right hand. If you leave your head way back, it might feel too far away and he won’t go for it. What you want to do is bring your head in just enough so that he feels he can touch it. But you have to move your head at the right speed. So yeah, this is tricky…your head has to come in slow enough to present a target for him but you also have to move it fast enough that he feels he can only reach it with a jab.
The last thing you need to do is hit him in a way where he can still see you. If you’re too quick, he goes right for his instinctual reflex…which might be a different counter than a jab or he might even close up completely. You have to adjust to the way he likes to look at you. Don’t invade so much of his space that he changes his stance. You want him to get close to him, hit him (bait him), and present him with a target that seems attainable. One way I do this sometimes is to make eye contact and then creep in and hit him on the forearms. Many opponent’s are less aggressive when you make contact with their forearms because it feels like such an easy block. And then in return, they act equally passive in firing off a little jab at your face. And that’s all you need.
So yes, this tricky requires a lot of experience and sensitivity. But once you’ve got it down perfect…it works every time. 🙂
3) 1, bait the 2, throw a counter right
One of the best punches to counter is your opponent’s right hand because it requires a big commitment from him (body rotation, weight transfer, recovery time) which leaves him vulnerable to many punches. In this case here, we get him to throw his right hand by pestering him with the jab.
There are two components of this trick. The first one is baiting him to throw his right hand. The second one is to evade his right hand in such a way that puts you in position to land your own right hand. As with everything, there are many different and effective variations.
When it comes to baiting the right hand, you can do it by being lazy with the recovery of the jabbing arm. You leave the arm out, or pull it back slower, or drop it super low. The basic idea is to expose your head more. You can also bait for it by getting closer to him. Try to oppress him more, impose yourself and start to get aggressive over his personal space and he’s bound to fight back. It doesn’t take much to make an opponent throw a right hand, and in many cases, it’s more of a trained reaction rather than something you have to set up for.
The hard part is avoiding that right hand WHILE still being in position to land your counter right. You can do this with head movement, or you can do this with speed. One option is to set my head low and then lift it high (above his counter) when I throw my counter right. Another option is to set my head to the right and then slip it to the left (outside his counter) when I throw my counter right. In reference to the head movement, we’re only talking about a few inches. I’m not saying for you to lean or duck your head entirely out of position. Although that does work, too, if you know how to set it up.
Now if I’m using speed to counter…it’s a different story altogether. What I do here is keep my right hand in the perfect ready position and trade right hands with him at the same time. Although many of you will think this is no different from throwing a 1-2 combination off the bat, I will tell you that it is. The reason being that I was aware and timed my right hand consciously rather than to let it go automatically. You can cause more damage when your right hand is thrown in this picture perfect moment. One warning I will give you is to go for speed on your right hand rather than to go for power. Don’t worry, once you’ve stung him good, you can follow up with whatever you want.
4) 1-2, bait the cross, throw a counter left hook
In this case, I bait his right hand by throwing a jab-cross combination. There are many ways to go about this. You can bait his right hand in the way that you pressure him, set your head, and also move in a way that doesn’t tempt his left hook to counter.
You can bait his right hand by getting all up in his face when you throw. Your aggressive presence may trigger him to fire back anxiously. Again, it’s about your PRESENCE. It’s not so much that you throw hard, it’s that you have an aggressive presence. He should feel that you’re oppressing him, taking his space, getting too close for comfort. You don’t have to actually DO anything. It might be a good idea to give only a half-powered right hand and to save your momentum for your own left hook counter. And the way you play with your presence is another strategy in itself. You could be all over him right off the bat. Or you could be far——AND THEN CLOSE! So it could be gradual or sudden…up to you. Play with these variations and see how he responds.
You can also bait his right hand by bringing your head in a little closer to his right side (your left side) when you throw that right. Again bring your face a little closer to his right glove or right shoulder or in any part of that space in front of his right shoulder. You will have to learn this sweet spot over the years. And over time, you will get a good feeling for where you should place your head in order to bait the right. Of course, there’s also timing and rhythm, and feeling that you have to present to make him go for it. This is an incredible skill by the way…so many tricks can be setup off of this.
One final bait tip I want to add is to attack his left arm. You can send both your punches to his left arm, or you can jab to his head and then send only the right hand to his left arm. The strategy here is that when you attack the left arm…it works as a psychological trick to pin his left arm down. Because in his mind, the left arm is “busy” defending and so he’s not as likely to counter back with it. And of course, I’m gonna say that you can attack anywhere on his left side. It could be his left glove, left elbow, left shoulder, or even the left side of his body like the chest, or ribs. Sure you can aim for the head too but you have to know that many fighters are well-prepared to counter off a head shot.
Now comes time for landing the left hook. After he throws the right hand: because you’re already prepared for this, it should feel like time is moving slower for you. You can slam your left hook into his head or his body. All up to you. If you want to add a little more nastiness to the punch, wait for him to finish his right hand and about to start turning into his follow-up left hook and then trade hooks with him (you’re aiming for his chin if you’re doing this, btw)…this will use his momentum against him. In regards to avoiding his right hand, it’s up to you—-you can slip his right hand or swing your head out of the way when you throw your head.
5) 1-2, bait the hook, roll under, throw a counter right
One of my favorite punches to counter is the left hook. It often leaves the puncher vulnerable during and after the punch (especially when it misses). Unfortunately, the left hook is also harder to learn how to evade because it’s more of a punch that you have to feel rather than a punch that you can see.
The left hook is easy to bait for but hard to see coming. With other punches, you can watch for the chest and shoulder and other telegraphic cues. But for me, the left hook is a bit too close and too fast for that. By the time that shoulder has twitched, you almost don’t have enough time to get out of the way. This has to do with the usual scenarios that would make an opponent throw a hook. For now, I’m just going to tell you to stop looking for the hook and try to feel it.
The left hook is more of a punch that you feel
than a punch you can see.
Let’s talk about ranges, there are a few ranges that will make an opponent throw a left hook. The first one is the arm’s length distance. From this far out range, it’s common for opponent’s to throw a longer sweeping hook to try and test your defense. At the mid range, the opponent will probably throw a clean hard hook. These are the most dangerous ones and you’re also in range of his right hand as well. So lots of danger here, be careful.
At close range or on the inside, the opponent will probably throw a more desperate fast hook to get you off him. You’re too close for him to uncork a right hand so it’s very likely that he’ll throw a left hook. Now this hook may be faster and harder to see but it’s the easiest to defend because you’re closer and more likely to feel it coming. If anything, it might be tricky to figure out whether it’s going to be low or high. But then again, like I said, you have to FEEL it.
Learning how to feel for the left hook may seem like a hard trick to learn but it’s not if you’ve learned how to spar relaxed. Practice slow sparring and spend lots of time throwing and catching many combinations within range. This quickly develops your fighting skills, reflexes, and overall understanding of fight rhythm. On the other hand, if you’re one of those ultra-tense beginners hopping around from outside of range with 1 or 2 shots at a time before going berserk in close range, you never get a chance to learn how to feel the rhythm of punches. At best you’ll only develop your ability to SEE certain punches but you never learn how to FEEL them coming.
Once you’ve felt that hook coming, roll under it. I suggest that you’ve mastered this move in training and on the mitts before attempting it in the ring. If you need any tips in rolling under the hook, I’ll tell you that it’s easier to feel the hook early and go with the rhythm. Don’t try to race your head under it. A little bit of a dip and small circular movement is all you need. Last tip…try to roll your head under and through his armpit (it’s swinging over you) then to try and go under his fist. You have more space and will require less movement this way. And it’s harder to roll under a left hook if you’re trying to keep your eyes on him the whole time.
Once you’ve rolled under, come up with a counter right to his head or body. Beware though that his momentum might already be swinging back with his follow-up right hand! Another thing you could do is touch him with a light jab and wait until his right hand swings through before you come in with a hard counter combination.
Bait Combos Against Southpaws
6) 1, bait the jab, throw a counter right
One of the the first challenges you may find in facing a southpaw is getting past the awkward jab battle. Because of the mirrored position in an orthodox-vs-southpaw fight, the front feet and front arm tend to battle each other for position and dominance often. You will feel your front foot trying to get around his front foot and your front arm trying to get around his front arm. And more often than not, this mirrored position puts you at a disadvantage simply because he’s more used to facing orthodox opponents than you are in facing southpaw opponents.
When it comes to negating the southpaw jab, you’ll find that it’s a bit tricky to counter it with your own jab because of the aforementioned reasons. Using a left hook (or any other curved punch: i.e. uppercut) can be hard to land because of his front arm and front foot keeping you further back. Even if you did manage to get into close range, his right shoulder is already in position to cover much of his chin.
The orthodox straight right hand is the easiest counter
for the southpaw jab.
Well, that leaves us with the straight right hand as the easiest counter for the southpaw jab. In regards to it’s angle, speed, length, and strategic advantages, the right cross handles the task perfectly. Let’s get on to the strategy, shall we?
Baiting the southpaw to throw his jab isn’t going to be very hard. It’s easy for him to throw it from a distance and without exposing himself too much. He’ll be comfortable and easily convinced to use it (even through no effort of your own). There are a number of things you can do to get his jab to come out. Move in and out of range. Throw your own jabs. You can also throw your own jab but don’t retract your arm as quickly. You could also leave your left hand out partially extended and hope that he swats it down and/or tries to throw his own jab over it.
Now comes the tricky part: which is to avoid (or ignore) his jab and fire your counter right. You can avoid his jab using head movement or blocking with your left hand. Or you could just dip your head a little and take it on your forehand and go for a clean trade. A trade is not such a bad idea because you’re taking a relatively light jab that you were prepared for in order to land your much more powerful right hand that he probably isn’t prepared for.
You can throw your right at a wide number of targets, either to the head (chin or face), or to the body (solar plexus or stomach). You can also the right side of his ribs since his arm is probably lifted. This is a great target if you’re further back.
7) 1-2, bait the left, throw a counter right
Much of your fight strategy against southpaws will revolve around countering that left hand. The left cross is going to be the southpaw’s number one weapon because of it’s power, speed, length, and unconventional angle. Orthodox fighters are simply not as used to seeing a fast powerful punch at that angle. You could predict and prepare for it and know with absolute certain that it’s coming and still it will surprise you.
Another reason for the southpaw’s reliance on the left hand is because it’s angle fits well against your body position and counters your right hand perfectly. Just as it is for you, the southpaw also has a hard time coming in and so it’s easier for him to throw that straight left from a distance. There’s also, again, the familiarity advantage with the mirrored position. The southpaw is used to beating orthodox fighters to the punch when racing his left cross against the orthodox right cross, so he’s more comfortable coming in with it right off the bat. This is a contrast to the more typical orthodox-vs-orthodox match-up where both fighters are equally capable and aware of each other’s right hands and so the fight may spend a bit more time with the jab battle before both fighters are comfortable enough to come in.
Knowing that your southpaw opponent is likely to look for his chance to throw a left hand should help you a great deal. So here’s what you do…throw the 1-2, in order to bait his left hand, and then throw your own counter right cross. Sounds easy enough, right? Of course, there’s a bit more strategy to it. I could write a whole article on how to bait and counter the southpaw left cross but let’s stick with just a few ideas for now.
You can bait his left cross with pressure, angle, or rhythm. Mainly you have to do two things: 1) present a tantalizing target, and 2) pressure him into taking it. You can do either one or the other, a little of both, or both in abundance. Let’s start with pressure. The more you push into his space, the more likely, you’re bound to get a counter left hand to come your way. If you’re not going close enough, he might only be tempted to jab and save his left hand for when he’s more sure that he’ll land it AND not get countered. Another way to pressure is with the rhythm of your 1-2. You can throw the punches quicker. Or harder. Or slower. Lastly, you have to figure out the magic angle that makes him counter. Sometimes, it’s better if I aim both punches at his face. Sometimes it’s better if I aim at his gloves or his chest. Or maybe I have to be a bit more to the left, or to the right, or closer, or I have to lean in a bit.
Understanding this magic angle is basically the essence of presenting a great target [bait]. You have to move in a way that makes so much sense to him that it’s like a “no duh” moment and his instincts take over and he goes for it. I found that throwing the 1-2 at your opponent’s body or anywhere below his eye level allows him to feel comfortable seeing over your punch and makes it more likely for him to go for the counter. I’ve also found that pushing and/or leaving the right hand extended into him a bit longer after the punch makes him feel like he has more time to counter. Bringing your head in closer when you throw the right also teases his left hand a bit more. Keeping your head higher rather than lower also increases the likelihood of the left cross counter. Throwing the right hand the same way repeatedly also increases his confidence in thinking he can counter you.
Once you’ve got that right hand to come out, you’ve only go to pull your head up, or back, or to the right and then slam your counter right in his face or body or anywhere you like.
Advanced Baiting Strategy
If you think about it, all of boxing is about hitting and not getting hit, basically it’s a constant game of counter-punching. A constant game of baiting. If “baiting” is something that you think of like a switch that needs to be turned on, there’s a good chance you’re not at the high level of boxing yet. Baiting is not even considered trickery or advanced science to high level boxers, it’s just something that happens naturally.
What many beginners view as ‘advanced boxing secrets’, the more advanced fighters see as basic common sense. The problem is that we develop this common sense over time and years in the ring. It’s not what we’re taught to do from day one. We just instinctively develop it over time. And we don’t talk about it because we might not even be conscious of what we’re doing and all the amazing automatic skills we’ve developed over time.
But I’ll try my best to expose you to some ideas in case you haven’t already stumbled upon them by yourself.
Head Placement and Head Movement
One of the most basic truths about boxing is that you are always baiting a punch regardless of whether or not you are intentionally doing so. The simple fact that are you standing in the ring makes you a viable target to your opponent. With that said, I will remind you that your head is always the key target. To your opponent, your head represents not only a target, but also your presence. Your head is where YOU are.
And when it comes to fighting in combinations, I will say that strategic head movement is all you have to do to bait and evade your opponents. For example, I’ll let me head in one position and fire combinations from there. The moment I feel my opponent attacking my position, I move my head to a new position and fire combinations from there. And I keep firing combinations while moving my head to a new position when needed. It’s not so much I’m trying so hard to avoid a specific punch or trying so hard to keep my head moving. All I’m doing is firing combinations non-stop and moving my head every now and then when needed.
There are limitless ways to cause reactions.
I don’t really have bait punches, I only have bait movements. And then again, I don’t really have bait movements, I only have movements. Every movement you make causes a reaction in your opponent regardless of whether or not you are sensitive to it. Putting the word ‘bait’ in front of a movement only implies that you’re consciously doing something for a particular effect. Perhaps instead of trying to create something, you could just become more aware of what’s already happening. Oh boy…I’m starting to sound either brilliant or mad, or a bit of both.
Any movement CAN (and does) cause a reaction in your opponent. There are obvious movements, such as a strong punch, or a sudden step, or a wave of the arm. But there are also many subtle (and less obvious) movements that can be equally as effective (and require far less commitment) in causing a reaction. A slight tilt of the head, a quick pivot of the foot, a sudden pause in breathing, etc, etc. There are limitless possibilities out there of things you can do to cause a reaction in opponents. The more you explore this realm of possibilities the more you evolve beyond the mechanical levels of boxing and become a true master, a true artist of the sweet science.
Bait for Instinctual Reactions
There’s a difference between convincing an opponent to punch you vs moving yourself in such a way that he does it subconsciously. Ideally, you’d like to aim for the latter. Try to tap into his subconscious. It’s there. It’s trained to do something automatically. And you want to use that against him. Tricking the consciousness works, too…but it’s better if you know how to swim underneath his level of awareness.
The reason this is so effective is because your opponent is not aware of everything he’s doing. If he’s making a conscious effort to throw a right hand and you counter that, I’m pretty sure his consciousness will pick up on it and he’ll start throwing that right hand differently. On the other hand, if you’ve found a way to counter your opponent every time he takes a weird angled-step with his front foot, there’s a chance he’s not aware of what he’s doing that’s making him vulnerable. From his point-of-view it’s like you’re able to keep hitting him and for something he can’t see your punches coming. And his corner’s going to tell him to “move your head” and that won’t help either because he never saw your punch in the first place. The more you can take advantage of his subconscious reactions, the more DEADLY effective you will be.
Countering instinctual reactions
make it less likely for your opponents to adapt.
Chaining Bait Combinations
If you’ve ever listened to a song, especially a mediocre one, you will notice that the song has it’s special points. There are moments in the song that are emphasized and more dramatic or more emotional than other parts. In some songs, every note and word is sung with utmost importance. But in many songs, most of it sounds like a bunch of filler simply there to fill up time and stall until the more interesting part of the song comes on. And you will notice that the ‘filler’ parts of the song sound more repetitive than the more interesting parts.
Putting together your combinations should feel like making music. You have your filler parts, the automatic moves and punches that you do automatically or instinctively, and then you the more interesting parts that you care more about. For example, I throw a dozen jabs, but I’m what I’m really looking for is the counter right hand. Or I throw a bunch of 1-2 combinations but the part I’m really interested in is the counter left hook. All my combinations flow easily from one to another. Automatic moves, automatic reactions, focused moves, focused reactions…everything blends together. I’m in a trance and I’ve lost track of where my consciousness is, I’m just fighting.
Training to Become Automatic Raises Your Awareness
You don’t have to be conscious to be aware.
You don’t have to be conscious to be aware. You don’t have to be conscious to be sensitive. You don’t need to pay attention to every little thing your opponent does. This ability comes with training. For example, I’m trained to throw the jab automatically and to counter automatically. For example, I know how to aim my jab at many different positions, and depending on what he does, I already have a trained reflex for it. I might duck, or slip, or pull back, etc. These things I don’t have to think about because they’re already a trained reflex. By having trained reflexes for the many possible things that an opponent could do, I am eliminating his chances of surprising me. AND at the same time, I’m enlarging my availability of awareness for the things he could do that I should pay more attention to.
The better trained I am for his common moves, the more ready I am for his uncommon (and potentially deadlier moves). The better trained I am for his jab, the more ready I am for his other punches. The better trained I am to fight, the less I have to think about during the fight, and the more brain power I have available to focus on the details that I want. Not only do I have more awareness available at my disposable, I also have more power over how I want to fight and what things I want to make interesting.
Limit Your Opponent’s Creativity
Baits and counters are an incredible way to limit your opponent’s activity. If you punish him for throwing a jab, he will throw less jabs. If you punish him for throwing a left hook, he will throw less left hooks. The more successful you are, the more timid he will become. The more inactive he becomes, the more you can fight at your pace, pick your punches, and also have less to worry about coming from him. Indeed, baits are a great way to limit your opponent’s activity, aggression, and ultimately his chance to win the fight.
Now the thing is you have to be careful about how your punish your opponents. If he’s throwing a lazy jab and all you’re doing is countering with a sharper jab, you may have missed out on a great opportunity. Yes, you landed a punch but now he’s going to wise up and sharpen up his jabs. What you could have done was let him throw his jab lazier and lazier and then hit him with a hard right hand. In this case here, he’ll probably be traumatized and not throw that jab with authority any more. There’s a different between reminding your opponent to tighten up versus taking away his confidence.
But there’s an even bigger crime, which is letting him get away with weird stuff. The weirder his attempts, the more he should be punished. Otherwise, you’re letting him come up with new ideas on ways to attack you. Eventually, he grows more confident and it fuels him to figure you out more and more. This is why you have to be careful about how you counter his punches. You have to be selective in choosing which punches to counter and how to counter. Counter him in ways that shut him down, rather than making him bolder.
If anything, I would say it’s best to teach your opponent not to take chances. The more he goes for it, the harder you have to punish him. Keep him on his toes, keep him thinking. Make him cautious.
Counter your opponent in a way that shuts him down,
rather than spurring his creativity.