NO—this is NOT a guide about coming forward and throwing lots of punches.
Pressure fighting does not mean recklessly walking into your opponent’s punching range. It also does not mean tons of head movement. It also does not mean of machismo and mental determination. (Although I will admit, those things do help.)
For me, the “pressure” is more about psychological rather than physical. It’s not just about landing punches. It’s about making your opponent uncomfortable. Discomfort is what leads to rapid fatigue, strategic mistakes, and mental shutdown.
Learn how to pressure your opponents WITHOUT throwing punches!
1. What is a Pressure Fighter?
Mindset of a pressure fighter
Is a pressure fighter someone that keeps coming forward? Is it someone that keeps throwing punches? Is it someone who fights on the inside a lot? What are the qualities of a pressure fighter. More importantly…how does he think? What is he trying to do?
The pressure fighter is a non-stop force of aggression.
To me a pressure fighter is someone who is constantly aggressive. It’s not so much about being a person who keeps coming forward and throwing lots of punches…although those attributes are common, too. For me a REAL pressure fighter is someone who makes you react a lot. He makes you think a lot, he makes you move a lot. You can’t rest when you’re in there with him. There are no breaks, no rest periods, you’re constantly having to move, think, and respond to his actions.
Pressure is more psychological than physical. It’s not just about a guy throwing punches. It’s not so much about his physical aggression but rather his mental aggression. The challenge is not so much from seeing a non-stop punching machine in front of you but rather from understanding the intent of a man who will not stop coming until you quit. The greatest pressure of all is having to deal with your opponent’s non-stop aggressive INTENT!
To be a great pressure fighter,
you have to know how to pressure using more than just punches.
Pressure fighter VS Swarmer VS In-fighter VS Brawler
I’d say it’s careful to draw some distinctions between pressure fighters and other fighters who use a lot of pressure. I would say it’s common to find overlaps in styles/strategies and that it doesn’t matter so much how you describe a fighter’s style so much as how you understand the definition of the style.
- Pressure fighter – fighter that puts lots of physical and/or mental pressure on opponents
- Swarmer – fighter that throws lots of punches
- In-fighter – fighter that fights on the inside a lot
- Brawler – a less technically polished fighter who like to come forward and throw and trade lots of punches with little regard for his own defense
You see…pressure fighters can hold a wide variety of skills and strategies. Not all pressure fighters are reckless and throw lots of punches. Some pressure fighters are stalkers who “pressure” with feints or using other methods to pressure their opponents. Not all pressure fighters are inside fighters, some hate the clinch and prefer to have their arms free for non-stop punching. Likewise, not all inside-fighters are pressure fighters…sometimes it’s a boxer who likes to stall the fight, and if anything, use his inside-fighting skills to smother and tie-up a pressure fighter.
2. What it takes to be a Pressure Fighter
Advantages and Disadvantages of a pressure fighter
The pressure fighting style has been known to overcome all kinds of styles in the history of boxing. The pressure fighting style can physically and mentally break down even the toughest, strongest, and smartest opponents. Throughout boxing history, the pressure fighting style has been known to defeat many great champions even when they possessed superior athleticism, punching power, speed, and skills.
Examples of pressure fighters beating more athletic or better-skilled opponents:
- Joe Frazier UD Muhammad Ali 1
- Roberto Duran UD15 Ray Leonard 1
- Julio Cesar Chavez TKO12 Meldrick Taylor
- Ricky Hatton TKO10 Kostya Tszyu
- Manny Pacquiao KO11 Marcos Antonio Barrera
- Antonio Margarito TKO11 Miguel Cotto
Tremendous pressure can overcome
superior athleticism, punching power, speed, and skills.
Some of the greatest boxers in the history of the sport have lost to pressure fighters, not superior punchers. Being pressured non-stop in a fight is a heavy stress like no other. I’ve been in the ring against hard punchers, scary…but you can defend and clinch and run away from that. I’ve been in the ring against fast guys…annoying, but you can use a tighter defense and try to trade with them (which helps to back them off). I’ve also dealt with southpaws…a nightmarish situation where a guy’s angle’s can be a bit foreign to you.
But when I face a good pressure fighter, it’s a totally different story. We’re talking about a guy who’s USED to be in your face, who’s used to throwing tons of punches, and also taking punches in return. He enjoys it! Your personal space is his bedroom. You can’t think, you can’t breathe, you can’t even catch your balance sometimes because he’s all over you. I can’t even get into my stance let alone throw any punches. How are you going to land your best punches when you’re so busy wrestling off a pitbull?
One of the greatest effects of the pressure style:
taking away a superior opponent’s time to breathe, think, fight back.
The crazy thing is, despite that he’s all over me, he’s pushing me, hitting me, and seems to have limitless energy. Trust me, I’ve tried the uppercut. I’ve hit him dozens of times but he’s got a rock solid chin and he’s not going away. I only have so much energy and everything I’m doing only seems to spur him on. It’s like this is his strategy—an all-out crazy fight. I know I’m smarter than him but that doesn’t mean anything when I’m still not able to do what I want to do.
I don’t have to tell you that I lost that fight.
Disadvantages of the pressure fighting style:
many requirements and one-dimensional.
As attractive as the pressure fighting style may seem to you, it might not be the best option, or even an option at all. First off, the pressure fighting style requires many important physical attributes. Such as endurance and a great chin.
Secondly, the pressure fighting style is a bit one-dimensional and can leave you vulnerable to many other styles if you’re not able to adapt. Of course, the great pressure fighters of all time have been successful against all styles but then of course, you have to credit the individual more so than the style.
The pressure style can leave you vulnerable as it always requires you to be in harm’s way. Unless you’re able to do some physical or psychological damage early on in the fight, the pressure fighting style can be very quickly be an inefficient way of fighting. The reason is because you’re expending a lot of energy to get inside and also probably getting hit a bit in the process. Stronger or more skilled opponents will be well prepared for you and force you to walk through deadly counters before you can apply your “pressure”.
Psychological challenges of the pressure fighting style:
Many boxers have a hard time pressing because there’s a psychological advantage of not wanting to get caught in a trap. The boxer that is controlling the fight (the runner) could easily switch gears at any moment and change direction forcing the chaser to react in time or get hit with a punch. It’s tough and that’s why the style of the classical boxer has so many champions such as Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Bernard Hopkins, and Floyd Mayweather. It’s so easy to just run all day and pick your shots.
Is it completely hopeless for the other guy who is forced to come forward and make the fight? I don’t think so. There are many swarming type boxers who have had great success by putting non-stop pressure on their opponents. But the key is to put pressure in a way that doesn’t put you in danger…meaning to put pressure without using punches (feints, head movement, power, cutting off the ring). Some notable examples that come to mind are Julio Cesar Chavez, Mike Tyson, Kostya Tszyu, Ricky Hatton, Antonio Margarito, and Manny Pacquiao.
Advantages of the pressure fighting style:
- can wear down opponents physically and mentally
- can beat faster opponents
- can beat better skilled opponents
- can nullify advantages of opponents with greater height/reach
- can look to the judges since you’re the busier one
- great for fighters who lack skill or athleticism but have heart
- beat opponents with less stamina or sub-par conditioning
- outpoint opponents who don’t punch as often
Disadvantages of the pressure fighting style:
- requires many physical attributes – chin, endurance
- can be inefficient – requires lots of chasing, head movement, many punches, you often have to outwork your opponent
- dangerous against more powerful punchers (because you’re in range so often)
- not effective for fighting bigger opponents
Required Traits of a Pressure Fighter
Is this any surprise? If you’re planning on putting pressure on your opponent, you’re going to have to be active. You can’t just sit back and wait for him to attack first. You can just let him do what he wants. He’s going to try and get comfortable, set his distance, set his pace, throw punches and get away from you. You have to get out there…be active, hunt him down, jump all over him and force the fight.
I’ve yet to see a single great pressure fighter without a chin. And it’s no surprise how crucial this is because you’re going to be inside your opponent’s range all the time. You’re going to be bombarded with every kind of punch and counter imaginable as he tries to get you off him. It’s not like you’re coming in with Christmas presents. You’re going to be a very un-welcomed guest at his front door and you’ll need at least a decent chin to make it past the first round as a pressure fighter.
Quite often, the very definition of “pressure” seems to be when one applies more effort than the other. And quite often, “pressure” succeeds and breaks through your opponent when you apply far more effort than your opponent. Although not exclusively, superior “pressure” often requires a tremendous workrate. You have to make so many more movements and throw many more punches than your opponent. And this requires a triathlon-like stamina because you’ll be spending lots of energy to chase him down, trade punches with him, penetrate through his defenses, wear him down, and then finally break him.
Traits not as important for pressure fighters
I won’t say that these qualities aren’t important, but that we can be more forgiving and compensated for the lack of these traits through the other qualities of the pressure fighter. If anything, these would be great attributes when combined with the already-existing qualities of the pressure fighter. They can give the pressure fighter that golden A+ elite edge.
- reach – not as important when you’re always in punching range
- footwork – not as important when you’re always coming forward instead of going in-and-out
- speed – not as important
- skills – skills are less important when you’re in each other’s face and don’t have much time to think
- reflexes – are not as important when you’re the one initiating the fight and using lots of auto-patterns
- punching power – probably more important for a boxer or puncher as those guys need those skills to help them control the fight. but then again, c’mon…it’s punching power…everybody needs that!
Pressure fighting strategies
1. Constant aggression
Pressuring an opponent means forcing him to react.
The point of using pressure is to stress your opponent. You have to make him nervous, make anxious, make him react out of panic, out of necessity. He’s fighting because he HAS to, not because he wants to.
Being a pressure fighter doesn’t just mean throwing a ton of punches. Look…if you’re throwing a bunch of punches and all he’s doing is laying on the ropes behind a high-guard and waiting for you to tire out, that’s not very effective pressuring. On the other hand…if you’re throwing to the body, throwing to the head, feinting and making him miss…that’s a totally different story.
My second point is that “aggression” doesn’t have to mean PHYSICAL aggression, it can also mean MENTAL aggression. To me, mental aggression is the most important thing. You have to break him down psychologically. It’s not enough that you throw hard punches. You have to make him doubt his power. Make him think you’re not going to stop coming. Make him think your chin is unbreakable. Make him think that you’re enjoying the way the fight is going.
Being the psychological mind games, you also have to break him down mentally. Throw feints to keep him on guard. Land trick punches to make him feel vulnerable. Muscle him around. There are so many clever little movements you can make to keep him thinking and guessing and being very cautious of you. Make him do all the thinking while you’re doing all the hitting. It’s not enough that you’re being physical, you also have to be mental, if you want to break him down. The best pressure fighters have mental aggression as well as physical aggression.
Mental aggression is more deadly than physical aggression.
As much as I’d love to say, “maintain a constant work rate”, it’s really more about maintaining a constant aggression. Even if you’re not actively attacking your opponent, he needs to feel that you’re going to, and you need to make him uncomfortable about that.
2. Constant movement on the inside
One of the most underrated skills of pressure fighters is their head movement skill. Although it may seem like they’re just plodding forward with their chin straight up in the air, but they (the good ones) are definitely moving their head. They’re definitely slipping, ducking, rolling, bobbing and weaving. They’re very slick, clever, and subtle. It’s not flashy the way a fast boxer would slip and counter from the outside. You wouldn’t notice the pressure fighter using slipping on the inside until you get in the ring with them.
See Roberto Duran being subtle on the inside with Nigel Benn in sparring. Of course, this is only a video where it’s more apparent. But I’ll say it again, you HAVE to be in the ring with them to realize their immense ability. If anything, I would say pressure fighters often have better head movement than the pure slick boxers because they rely on it more. And they have to be more subtle with it because it they’re constantly in range whereas an outside-fighter can take one slip, counter, and back off.
And pressure fighters aren’t just making head movement. It’s all kinds of movement. Body movement, arm feints, footwork. From the outside, it looks like the pressure fighter is just going forward. But inside the ring, you can see the pressure fighter controlling distance a bit, slipping, touching, pushing, turning. And it’s even more impressive when the pressure fighter does it because he has to do all this within a smaller amount of space. Which means he has to make all these tiny movements count.
To be a pressure fighter, you really have to move a lot. And more importantly, you have to make your opponent FEEL like you’re moving a lot. You can’t just sit there in front of him…hard counters would take you out easily.
3. Counter his counters
As a pressure fighter, you can often remove many variables from the fight. You don’t have to worry about footwork so much. You don’t have to worry about range so much. You don’t have to worry about timing so much. You’re already there in front of your opponent. The only thing left is for you to hit him and try not to get hit so much. In the most ideal situation, your opponent would become more passive as your pressure breaks him down.
The best way to cause a resisting opponent to become more passive is to punish him for fighting back. Think about it….if every time he counters you, and you punish him for it, it’s going to make him cautious about throwing punches. He’s going to take his time more, wait more, over-think things more. He won’t be as eager to throw. And because he’s not throwing, this gives you even more freedom to pressure him.
Let’s think about the flip side: let’s say he counters you with a good hook. And you don’t punish him for it. He’ll start to throw that left hook more often. And after a while, he’ll get more bold and throw other punches…and now it feels like you have to walk through an obstacle course to get to him. It’s better off if you punish him early for using that hook and prevent him from even considering it.
4. Tire him out
Equally as important is being aggressive, constantly moving, and landing counters, is the ability to tire out your opponents. One of the biggest challenges of pressure fighting is that you’re often at a disadvantage against stronger and faster opponents. It’s very hard to overcome this through pressure alone especially when you’re “pressuring” is only putting you in harm’s way and making it easier for them to hit you.
It’s common for pressure fighters to lost the first few rounds. The reason is because they’re walking into their opponent’s space when their opponent is at his fastest/strongest and freshest state-of-mind. He’ll easily take the lead and if you don’t find a way to slow him down, he’ll be out-boxing you for the rest of the fight.
Fatigue makes cowards of us all.
One of the best ways to nullify an opponent’s superior ability is to make him tired. Exhaust his energy. Putting pressure on him is easy, making him wear himself out is a whole other skill altogether.
Fatigue can neutralize many kinds of opponents:
- faster fighters will slow down
- more powerful fighters will not punch as hard or as often
- fighters with good footwork will not run as much
- fighters with better skills will be too tired to throw back counters
- slick fighters won’t slip as often or as quickly
- defensive fighters won’t counter back as often or as powerfully, allowing you more time to break through their guard
- inside fighters won’t be as strong in close range (lose balance, can’t clinch you)
- I should also clarify that on the flip side of the equation, you have to make sure that the work you do is not tiring yourself out.
Being a good pressure fighter requires you to know
how to wear down the opponent without wearing ourself out.
3. Techniques for Pressure Fighters
You wouldn’t know it, but there are lots of clever skills and subtleties to being a pressure fighter. The skills may not seem as technical and often go unnoticed by outsiders watching from beyond the ropes, but nonetheless there are many clever and subtle skills deployed by pressure fighters. Developing pressure fighting skills requires more guile and experience rather than technical.
How to apply PSYCHOLOGICAL PRESSURE
Having constant movement when you’re close to your opponent requires subtle body movements. First you have the head movement—slipping, sliding, ducking, weaving. Then have the body movements—shifting weight from one leg to another, pivoting. You don’t have time to jump around and do flashy movements. You have to do all this within inches.
It’s more about rhythm than speed. Rhythm is more about, being here, being there, being somewhere else, being here again, repeating, changing, altering, being predictable, being unpredictable. Speed is for going IN AND OUT. Rhythm is what allows you to relax and yet still threaten while in range. You can have awkward movements but still the awkwardness must be working in favor to YOUR rhythm or at least working against the favor of HIS rhythm.
The fight must keep moving. You cannot be in still or resting when you’re in close range to your opponent. You are constantly engaged, physically and mentally. This “engagement” that I speak of is what wears him down. Because if you’re engaged, then he has to engage. He has to prepare, he has to react. The more you can make him react, the more worried he gets.
One of the best ways to win the mental battle with your opponent is to keep contact with him. Lean on him, push him, grab him, lay a forearm on his shoulder, stick your glove in his face. “Contact” doesn’t have to be mean throwing punches. It can mean momentarily putting your hand on his elbow and then quickly pulling back your hand and firing it to his head (while he was busy thinking about keeping his elbow down to cover his body).
Many fighters, especially the cleaner/flashy fighters don’t like to be touched. They want to score clean punches, they don’t like the messy wrestling. They don’t like the feeling that you can make contact with them (it makes them feel vulnerable). You can annoy them easily if you keep touching them, smothering them, and taking away their room to punch. There have been many times when I laid a glove on my opponent’s shoulder. He would get annoyed and fire a reactive hook over my outstretched arm, at which moment, I then I rolled under and landed a counter.
Haha…I don’t mean like when someone makes you angry and you keep cool instead of going crazy. But then again…this isn’t too different. When it comes to pressure fighting, it’s important to show that you’re not bothered by your opponent. You can’t show when you’re hurt, or when you’re scared, or tired, or frustrated, or extra cautious of his hard punches.
This point is EXTREMELY important because you’re out here trying to win a mental battle. And it’s going to be hard to do that when a faster fighter can feel that you’re frustrated by his running, or when a stronger fighter can tell that his punches are affecting you.
I’m not saying you need to maintain a poker face, an angry face, a scary face, or any face at all. I’m simply saying that you need to keep calm. Sometimes you land a big punch, don’t get too excited and give away your strategy that that was your plan all along. Sometimes you get hit with a big counter, don’t show that you’re bothered by it.
You can be an aggressive fighter with seriousness on your face—Gennady Golovkin. You can be a calm stalker with indifference in your face—Miguel Cotto. You can be a busy in-fighter with lots of breathing—Ricky Hatton. But most importantly, your emotion has to be the one you are projecting, not the one he is forcing upon you.
Landing counter punches is one way to apply PHYSICAL pressure. But if you want to apply PSYCHOLOGICAL pressure, you have to be very strategic about the counters you choose to land. In an ideal and perfect situation, you would be able to counter ALL his punches and that would be the end of the fight. But realistic speaking, that’s not going to be the case. Some of his punches you can avoid, and some you can’t.
You have to be picky about which punches you choose to avoid. Let’s present some examples. Let’s say your opponent throw a jab and a right cross. Do you counter right away and throw a counter cross over his jab? Or do you wait for him to throw a right cross and THEN you counter with a left hook to the body?
It really depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If this is a guy with a great jab, then maybe it’s best that you shut down his jab. If this is a guy with a really hard right hand, then it’s better if you wait to counter his right hand and send him a message that it’s not worth it for him to throw the right hand.
Or let’s say he’s landing some painful body punches on you….well a great way to dissuade that would be for you to focus more on defending and countering those.
There are other ways to counter strategically. I like to do this thing where I immediately COUNTER HIS FIRST PUNCH. It doesn’t matter what it is, if he throws one, I respond with 3 fast punches. I just throw them out quickly and their suddenness can surprise him enough where he starts to get cautious about what he throws out there. It can make him tentative to even throw a single punch. He might move and slip a bit more before finally firing back which gives me more time to fire punches at him.
Another take on that strategy would be to COUNTER HIS SECOND PUNCH. Basically when you have an opponent on the defensive, it’s common for him to try and escape with one-punch counters. Or throw single shots at a time. And what I’ll do is let him jab, let him jab, let him try a lead hook, I don’t engage. I wait for him to throw 2 shots, and right when I sense he’s going to throw more than one punch, I engage and trade with him on the second shot and keep punching even beyond that. It’s a great way to keep a guy closed up. He’ll shy away from throwing punches if he feels it’ll turn into an exchange every time. (This is, of course, assuming you are winning the exchanges whether in punch connects or damage dealt.)
Note for pressure/inside fighters:
evading the left hook is more important than evading the right hand.
Last note I should make about strategic counters. I would say as a pressure fighter, you have to be really good at evading the left hook. Evading the left hook is more important than evading the right hand. Not only because it’s more dangerous. But because a right hand is harder to throw at close range. The angles can be weird when the target is crouched in front of him or using lots of head movement. A left hook on the other hand can threaten to the head or body from close-range or even long-range.
Another point about being able to evade the left hook is that it really sets you up into great positions. First off, your opponent will lose a lot of energy and swing off balance when he misses the hook. Secondly, your slipping abilities will pretty much allow you to duck your way through everything safely on the inside if you’re able to roll under a left hook. Just having this timing ability will do wonders for your offensive and defensive opportunities on the inside.
Test for the reaction
This is one of the most important skills in the pressure fighting style but one that is hard to explain and learn. The reason is because you don’t see it. When you watch a fight from the outside, it just looks like two guys fidgeting around each other. Each shifting and twitching to see what the other guy will do.
But when you’re INSIDE or when you’ve been fighting for a while (against competition-grade fighters), then you know what I mean about the ability to cause reactions. You can see that when one guy feints a quick step forward, the other guy jumps back and gives up ground. You can see that when one guy holds his left hand out, the other guy immediately ducks like it might be a left hook.
These “reaction-testing skills” are something many of the less-experienced guys don’t do. They can’t see it, so all they think “pressure fighting” means is to be aggressive. And they get in the ring and can’t wait to run forward and throw punches.
I want you to throw punches but I also want you to use patience and awareness. Usually, I learn new moves from sparring the more experienced fighters. They always have clever ways of twitching or positioning their bodies in a way that causes a natural reaction from me. And then I’m constantly having to learn and adjust to their patterns. And it’s even more annoying when they change up their patterns on me through each round.
But let’s say you don’t have the benefit of sparring with pros. You could still try new things. From far away, you can do little things.
- Feint a forward step (then walk into his ground if he jumps away).
- Lift your right glove (fire the left).
- Drop your left glove (then fire the right if he looks at it).
- On the inside, quickly pull your head away like you’re going to fire punches (see how he reacts, remember, repeat, and take advantage).
- Sometimes the pressure comes from you being too close. Find out what distance it is that makes him nervous.
- Read my guide on feints
Be creative! Try new movements, from new situations, pay attention to how he responds, then learn it, bait for it, and counter it. Force any reaction out of him, a head pull, a jerk, a step, a counter. Or try doing a weird move and see if that makes him uncomfortable. It doesn’t have to be a big move…it can be just a subtle twitch!
How to apply PHYSICAL PRESSURE
How to throw lots of punches
Ha, that’s one way to put physical pressure on an opponent…by hitting him a lot. But it’s not that simple. You have to good technique (or even clever technique) that allows you to throw punches in ways that don’t make you tired, and ways that don’t get you countered.
First off, your technique needs to be solid. It’s not just about good conditioning. You have to know how to throw powerful combinations without getting tired. Work on those snapping punches!
Secondly, it’s important to strategize your punches. Not every should be thrown with the purpose of causing damage. Some punches are thrown simply to keep him from firing back. Some pushes are for pushing him into the corner and keeping him on the ropes. Some punches are for annoying him. Some punches are for making him guard a different part of his body so the target you want will open up. Some punches are thrown simply to help you close the distance and/or set up other punches. Please…learn how to use light punches.
You also need to have a strategy for the likelihood of missed punches. Pressure fighters are really good at this. They know how to fall onto you when they miss instead of allowing you a wide open shot for a counter. They know how to lean on you to prevent you from firing back deadly counters. They know what movement to make when a punch misses wildly. If anything, they’re used to missed punches. They know how to recover and regain their rhythm. It’s often the guys that aren’t used to missing punches that get tired quickly.
Being able to throw lots of punches
requires you to get used to missing punches.
Wearing him down
One of the most important skills of a pressure fighter,
the ability to make an opponent tired.
Before we can get on to the topic of tiring out your opponent, I should first talk about how to be energy-efficient yourself. Remember that as a pressure fighter, you’re always trying to outwork your opponent. And it’s important to try not to expend more energy than your opponent. What you do has to be effective and efficient….especially if he has more skills, speed, and power, then you. It’s hard to out-physical somebody when they have more energy than you.
I would say the ability to conserve energy comes from having good technique on your punches and movements. So that you can move explosively without having to explode through your energy resources. It comes from knowing how to do little things that stall and keep your opponent busy while you’re catching your breath. It comes from knowing establish a comfortable pace for yourself while doing things that make your opponent uncomfortable. It also comes from being able to fight on the inside, and knowing how to wrestling an opponent around, pushing him and wearing him down without actually having to fight him with punches.
The four fastest ways I can think of to fatigue an opponent quickly:
- Make him react quickly – do those little subtle moves that make him explode with a counter left hook. Make him react out of instinct rather than out of preparation. Make him burst with explosive reactions. This wears down guys incredibly fast.
- Make him miss – slip or roll under. Fighters get tired when they miss entirely and swing at the air. It’s even more tiring when you can make him miss multiple punches in a row because his body has to re-balance and swing all the way back each time. The more desperate he is to hit you and the more he commits, the more tired he will get.
- Out-wrestle him on the inside – push him around, hold him. Wrestling is one of the fastest ways to make an opponent waste energy trying to regain his balance and regain control of his body. Wrestling is especially effective when you’re the stronger one or more muscular one.
- Body punches – these are painful punches that damage your opponent’s core, taking away his ability to move powerfully. Because everything is connected to the core, body punches can also slow down his legs so that his footwork won’t be as fast. Landing deadly body punches early on can slow a guy down and take the steam out of his punches, even knock him out and also create opportunities for your head punches. Body punches are also a great way to prevent a guy from firing back at you since he doesn’t want to get hit when he counters (and they cannot be blocked).
The ability to fight on the inside is incredible. It can help you control a fight and control an opponent without having to throw many punches and leave yourself vulnerable to punches. It can wear down opponents and buy you time to breathe and relax. Done properly, inside fighting can be one of the easiest ways to neutralize, frustrate, and wear down an otherwise difficult opponent.
Automatic head movement patterns
Because you’re often in your opponent’s range, it’s important that you have some automatic slipping patterns in mind. The greatest pressure fighters sometimes have incredible head movement patterns pre-programmed to slip 20 punches in a row. They know what’s coming. They know after the jab, is a reach right, and then a wide hook, and then a short right, and then an arc’ing uppercut. They know what to expect. They’ve played around with their opponent’s reaction many times and they know what to expect.
I’m sure you’ve seen Pernell Whitaker slipping a hundred punches in a row before. Some of that is actually natural reflex. But some of it is also prepared reflexes. As a pressure fighter, you need to develop your own unique head movement dances. Use them to avoid tons of punches and also set you up in position to counter. Sometimes when you’re in close, you just don’t have time to see and think, you have to just move automatically. The skill is useful as you’re bound to get hit with something hard and you can use this to survive until you recover.
Some examples of automatic head movement patterns:
- slip right, slip left, roll under to the right, roll under to the left…come up with counters
- slip left, come back to middle, slip left, drop down left, come up, lean back…..counter
- slip right, slip left, pull back, lean back left, lean back right, duck forward right, roll under to the left, roll under to the right….come up with counters
- duck straight down, slip down right right, slip down left…come up with counters
- slip right, roll under forward, roll under back, lean back….counter
- slip right, slip left, roll under to the right, pull back….counter
- slip left, slip right, roll under to the left, roll under to the right
- now try some of these but add in some pivoting movements
- experiment, you will different patterns or different kinds of opponents
Most importantly, use your pressuring advantage to learn their patterns. Remember that you are always the one pressuring, you are always the one making the first movement. So he doesn’t get a chance to be creative, everything he does has to respond to your movements. So make sure you learn their attack and counter-attack patterns.
4. Examples of great pressure fighters
Roberto Duran SPARRING Nigel Benn
This isn’t a video of Duran employing his trademark pressure but you can see him utilizing the skills very effectively against a live opponent. Look at Duran’s “automatic head movement” from 0:45-0:50. Of course, we can debate that it’s from great reflexes but we have to admit that to some degree, he was prepared for these common punches. He knew instinctively how his opponent was going to react.
Look at how he throws some touching punches from 0:54-0:59 to keep his opponent busy while he simply stepped into close range. And from there, he touched his opponent to incite a reaction. 5:40-5:42, he touches his opponent again in order to cause the reactionary left hook which he ducks under easily.
Incredible inside fighting and ring control by this hall-of-famer. He’s not always punching and yet he’s always engaged with his opponent. You see his opponent constantly reacting to him even when he’s only touching him. I could go on all day about the skills I see in this sparring video.
Julio Cesar Chavez TKO12 Meldrick Taylor 1
5:16-6:25 here you see Chavez not jumping at every opportunity to throw a punch. He’s applying lots of pressure simply by staying close after slipping punches. This alone can make opponents hesitate or become more cautious, it can also make opponents throw with more frustration. These things can create better opportunities for the pressure fighter. Which is exactly what Chavez does, he waits until he sees the punch he wants, and THEN he goes for it. Like I said before, it’s all about STRATEGIC COUNTERING…not about jumping at every counter you get. Wait a bit and let your opponent’s smaller mistakes go so he can get carried away and make even bigger mistakes.
I wish I could teach you Chavez’s thought process behind when to counter and when not to counter, but it’s really something that comes with experience. The important takeaway is not to jump at every opportunity you get. Milk the situation, see what else you can get out of it. You have to be patient even as you’re pressuring.
Joe Frazier UD15 Muhammad Ali
0:00-0:15 Joe Frazier starts out utilizing lots of head feints to work his way inside Ali’s range. You see him getting closer and closer as Ali gets more and more cautious. And right as Ali throws, Frazier makes him pay right away. 0:34-0:41 you see a small automatic head movement pattern being used again and again.
Lots of body punching throughout the fight. 2:45-2:48 you see Frazier touching Ali’s gloves before digging to the body with a hard punch. 5:22-5:25 you see Frazier fall in after a right hand to get into a clinch and push Ali back. Great example of inside fighting and pressuring even when not throwing punches.
Antonio Margarito TKO Miguel Cotto
Margarito takes out the undefeated, slicker-skilled, faster-fisted, cleaner-punching Miguel Cotto using nothing but constant pressure. It’s a great fight that you should watch in its entirety. You see Margarito coming forward non-stop and pushing the pace even when he was getting outboxed. Even though he got tagged, he also made sure to land some key punches.
There are many things he did, such as willingly trade getting hit with head punches in order to land his body punches. Having a great chin allowed him to pound away at Cotto’s body and slow down his evasive movements. Even though it seems like Margarito was a brawler, you can see him making little moves here such as at 4:48-4:50 to test Cotto’s reaction.
Ricky Hatton TKO11 Kostya Tszyu
23:45-24-14 You see Ricky Hatton has an automatic slip to the forward left every time he walks in on Kostya Tszyu. He does it about 5 times in this short period. Ricky Hatton may not seem particularly skilled at first glance. He might seem only like a guy who comes forward, pushes, punches, and wrestles a lot.
But he’s also get very subtle clever defense. Knows how to punch at unexpected moments. Knows how to get into a clinch, quickly break, land a punch, and come right back into clinch. Has clever little head movements and little inside fighting maneuvers that cause opponents to fight back in a hateful manner.
Manny Pacquiao TKO11 Marco Antonio Barrera
Incredible fight for the rising star in Manny Pacquiao against a proven Mexican great in Marco Antonio Barrera. You see lots of non-stop pressure, angling, and psychologically imposed dominance from Pacquiao’s part. He makes sure to let Barrera know that he isn’t going anywhere. As physical as this was, it was also very mental. Barrera could not do anything to deter Pacquiao.
Here we have an example of a pressure fighter (“stalking style”) who threatens with power rather than volume. Gennady Golovkin also has a similar mindset where he’ll stalk and stalk his opponents around the ring until they’re forced to throw punches and make themselves vulnerable to his counters. Like I said before: you don’t need volume punching, reckless aggression, or lots of inside fighting to be a pressure fighter. Following an opponent around the ring with knockout power in both hands can be enough to “pressure” anyone!
Common tricks used by pressure fighters
- Dis-engage – Put lots of pressure, come forward, come forward…and then right when your opponent commits all his energy into it, take a step back and let him burn out and miss 4-5 hard punches.
- Hands down & auto-head movement – A lot of fun to drop your hands at key moments and let your opponent waste his energy chasing a target that’s perfectly prepared to evade it. Advanced stuff but very cool.
- Touch and fire – Nothing new but look at how they do it. Touching in moments and then firing hard counters right after the touches. Everybody’s got their touch-and-fire tricks.
- Punch and fall-in – Great tactic to use to close the distance. Punch and step into range to initiate a clinch or push your opponent back.
- Lay a glove on your opponent then duck his counter – Self-explanatory. You touch him, he hates getting touched, he swings, you duck under. Then counter if you want.
What I love about the pressure fighting style
It can really catch even the most skilled and best-prepared opponent off guard. Despite the brutal nature of fighting, many opponents do not like to be pressured. Sure, there are many who love the aggressive aspect of fighting….these guys usually don’t make it to the higher levels. It’s hard to last long with an aggressive style, btw. At the higher levels of fighting, you often encounter the “thinkers” and “slicksters”. And being able to apply pressure is a fun way to break down guys who are used to fighting their fight.
One of the most satisfying feelings in the world is to be able to make someone uncomfortable. Being able to hurt someone with a punch is not rare. It’s about being able to scare a guy, annoy a guy, force him into making errors, force him into fighting your fight, distract him from his strategy. Those are the most important advantages for me of using the pressure fighting style.
Sometimes I don’t use the pressure style at all because I can easily outbox my opponent. Other times, I use it momentarily just to get a guy out of his rhythm. And then finally, when I sense a weakened or demoralized opponent, I use the pressure style to break his will and break him down. Find out what makes your opponent uncomfortable, and do that!
The greatest skill of a true pressure fighter
is the ability to know what makes your opponent uncomfortable.