Boxing Terminology

Boxing terminology explained: A glossary of boxing terms and phrases commonly used in professional boxing for those who don't know boxing jargon.

Glossary of Boxing Terms

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10 Point Must System
In the 10 Point Must System of scoring a fight the winner of a round must receive 10 points. The loser of a round will receive from 9 to 6 points. A close round: 10-9. One knockdown: 10-8. Two knockdowns: 10-7. Three knockdowns: 10-6. No knockdown but one fighter completely dominates round: 10-8. Can't pick a winner: 10-10.
Alphabet Soup
Alphabet soup refers to the abbreviations of the numerous boxing sanctioning bodies such as IBA, IBO, NABA, NABC, NABF, WBF, WBO, etc. that have sprung up since the 1980s that sponsor championship fights and hand out title belts for 17 different weight classes.
Association of Boxing Commissions
Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) is an organization composed of members from state and tribal boxing commissions in the US and Canada. It was established after the US Senate and House of Representatives enacted the Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996 and Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act to protect boxers and clean up the boxing industry. ABC sets minimum boxing safety guidelines and boxing regulations that states need to follow.
Bare-Knuckle Boxing
Bare-knuckle boxing aka fisticuffs is the original form of boxing dating back to Ancient Greece. It's the more savage precursor to the Marquess of Queensberry rules, which mandated the use of gloves.
A barnburner is a very good fight. One that is very intense and exciting, a real nail-biter. A fight that is so close it's hard to predict who will come out the winner until seconds before it ends.
Below the Belt
Below the belt is an imaginary line from the belly button to the top of the hips where a boxer is not supposed to hit. To hit below the belt is to not behave according to the rules or decency.
A blow is a hard hit. Its synonymous with punch. For example: The fighters exchanged blows (exchanged punches, hit each other). The boxer threw a low blow (threw a punch below the belt).
Body Punches
Body punches particularly a left hook delivered to the floating rib area (the bottom of the rib cage and towards the side) where the liver is can stop a fighter if landed perfectly. Body punches delivered not quite so precisely but repeatedly round after round wears a boxer down. A sore gut, bruised ribs makes it hard to breath.
Bolo Punch
A bolo punch is a flashy wide sweeping uppercut that is more about showboating than power. The bolo punch might not even be thrown at all but rather used to distract the opponent so you can hit them with your other hand.
A bout is a boxing match consisting of rounds with a one minute break.
Boxers Handshake
Touching knuckles is how boxers greet each other whether they're wearing gloves or not. Touching gloves before the opening bell is also part of boxing protocol.
The Boxers Handshake
Boxing Commission
A boxing commission is an entity authorized under state law to regulate professional boxing matches. For all state commissions see boxing commissions.
A brawler is a slugger. It's a boxer who lacks finesse in the ring, moves slower, lacks mobility, has a predictable punching pattern, but makes up for all that with raw power and the ability to knockout their opponents with a single punch.
Breadbasket is the stomach area.
Bum Rush
Bum rush or bum's rush indicates the way you hustle someone out, to rush an opponent to get them out of the fight fast.
Candy Cane
The candy cane was a body punch used by Sugar Ray Robinson thrown with a right hand to the body slightly turning it over and pushing downward.
A catcher is a fighter who uses his head to block the other guy's punches. This kind of boxing strategy doesn't lead to long careers.
It's a weight mutually agreed upon by two boxers. It's when boxers in different weight classes meet in the middle. A catchweight fight is made at a middle-of-the-road weight between two weight divisions.
Having a chin, whiskers or granite like jaw means having the ability to absorb punches when you get hit with a big shot and stay standing, to remain on your feet despite seeing black flashing lights, blurred, double or triple vision and feeling a buzz that goes all the way to your toes. Some say you are either born with a good chin or not. Other says it's a mental toughness that when your brain tells you to go down to the canvas you will yourself to stay on your feet.
A clinch is a last resort defensive technique. It's when one boxer holds onto the other to avoid being hit or muffle an opponent's attack.
CompuBox is a computer program that was developed in 1985 by CompuBox, Inc. that counts and categorizes punches that are thrown and connected in boxing matches. It's used by TV networks to report punch stats to the audience on televised fights and also by promoters and trainers to help them analyze future opponents and fighter's sparring sessions.
A combination is a series of punches thrown in sequence like a left jab, followed by a straight right, followed by a left hook.
Corner Man
At the junction of the ropes (a corner of the ring) where a boxer rests between rounds his second, the corner man advises him, gives him water, tries to reduce swelling and stop bleeding.
A count is tolling of the seconds by the referee after a boxer is knocked down. If a boxer is still down at the end of the count of ten then the fight is over by knockout.
A counterpuncher waits for his opponent to throw a punch, blocks or slips past them, and then exploits the opening in the opponent's position with a counter attack or punch.
A cross is a power punch thrown with the boxer's dominant hand. It's also called a straight right, right or straight punch.
Dirty Fighting
Holding an opponent's head down and hitting face with uppercuts or ribs with hooks, rabbit punches, elbowing, forearm in the throat, armbar in a clinch, late punches, low blows, step on an opponent's foot and punch, continuous headbutting and making it look accidental.
Disqualification (DQ)
A referee can call for disqualification after a boxer repeatedly fouls or breaks the rules causing the boxer to lose by DQ.
Down and Out
Lack of prospects, penniless. A boxer who is utterly defeated. Knocked down to the canvas and out of consciousness.
Down for the Count
A boxer who is knocked down for the count of ten.
A draw is when both boxers tie or earn equal number of points from the judges' scoring the fight. Example: 1114-114, 114-114, 114-114
Fall through the Ropes
If a boxer is knocked out of the ring through the ropes he or she is given a 20 count to get back into the ring on their feet. They can't be assisted or it will be considered a knockout.
A feint is a fake punch or any offensive movement used to get your opponent to react and move out of his good offensive position opening himself up to your real attack.
Fight Card
A fight card or card is a program of boxing consisting of all the boxing matches that take place during a boxing event. Fight cards consist of a main event and an undercard of the rest of the matches.
Flash Knockdown
A flash knockdown occurs when a boxer is knocked down but gets back on his feet before the referee begins the count. It's also known as a no-count.
Foul are actions by a boxer that the referee doesn't feel meet the standard of a fair blow or is unsportsmanlike conduct. There are intentional fouls and accidental fouls. The most common fouls are headbutts, holding and low blows. For a complete list see boxing fouls.
The gate is the total amount of money that a boxing match brings in from the people who attended it.
Glass Jaw
A boxer who is especially susceptible to a knockout is said to have a glass jaw or glass chin.
Go the Distance
A boxer goes the distance when he can fight through all the scheduled rounds.
Go to the Scorecards
Go to the scorecards means that after a fight has gone its schedule number of rounds the judges' score cards will determine the winner. It is also used when there is a fight stoppage due to an accidental head butt if the fight has gone beyond 4 rounds.
A haymaker is a wild swinging punch thrown with all of the person's weight behind it in an attempt to knockout the other person. You usually see haymakers in street fighting or in the movies. Haymakers are also used in boxing as a last resort. They deliver enough force to break a man's jaw. The term first appeared in 1912, perhaps from the 1880 "hit the hay" or "go to sleep".
A headbutt occurs when a boxer's head is brought forward beyond his or her leading foot and gloves. The head is then swung left or right or up and down and it strikes the opponent. Headbutts can cause a serious cut or damaging head blow. It's up to the referee to determine whether a headbutt is accidental or intentional. According to boxer Roy Jones Jr it's not an accidental headbutt when it happens over and over again.
Hitting on the Break
Hitting on the break occurs when the referee breaks apart two boxers who are clinching and one boxer immediately hits his opponent instead of taking a mandatory full step back.
A hook is an inside power punch. It's a short sideways punch delivered with the elbow bent so the arm forms sort of a hook. The temple, side of the jaw, ribs and liver is the target.
Fighting at close range.
Inside Fighter
An inside fighter or infighter gets in close, tries to close the gap between himself and his opponent then he overwhelms his opponent with a flurry of hooks and uppercuts. Inside fighters have to be quick and masters of counterpunching.
The jab is the busiest punch in boxing. It's a punch thrown quickly with your leading hand straight from the chin in direct line to your target.
A journeyman is a boxer with good boxing skills who strives to succeed but who has limitations and little or no expectations of winning a fight. Journeymen are often hired on short notice to fight up-and-coming prospects and contenders to pad their records.
Kidney Punch
A kidney punch is a blow to the lower back which is illegal in boxing due to the damage it can cause to the kidney. For example a bruised kidney, blood in the urine from blunt force trauma, etc.
Kissed the Canvas
When a boxer is knocked down face first on to the canvas. In the old days they would say His face was in the resin of the canvas.
knockdown Eight Count
In the case of a knockdown, the eight count is mandatory. The referee can stop the count and the fight at any point he decides the downed boxers safety is at risk. A downed boxer is allowed a ten count in which to get up unassisted. If the boxer gets up before the count of ten is reached and goes back down immediately without being struck by the opponent, the referee resumes the count where he left off.
A knockdown occurs when a boxer get hits and touches the floor with any part of the his body other than his feet, is being held up by the ropes, or is hanging on, through, or over the ropes and cannot protect himself or fall to the floor.
Knockoffs are boxing matches where a heavily favored fighter gets defeated.
Knockout (KO)
A boxer loses by way knockout or KO when he or she is unable to get up unassisted after being floored by the count of ten.
Knocked the Fuck Out
Pushing with or using the bottom side of open glove where the laces are to rub the face of an opponent. Lacing can cut the face.
Lead with One's Chin
In boxing it refers to a boxer leaving his or her chin, which is a vulnerable point, open and unprotected.
Liver Punch
A liver punch is a short quick punch to the liver delivered with a left hook. It's one of the most devastating punches in boxing guaranteed to bring you right down. It's sickening as well as paralyzing.
Majority Decision (MD)
A majority decision occurs when two of the three judges score one boxer as the winner, while the third judge scores neither boxer a winner (a draw). Example: 116-114, 116-114, 114-114
Majority Draw
A majority draw occurs when two judges vote for a draw, while the third judge chooses a winner. The fight is recorded as a draw on both boxers' records. Example: 114-114, 114-114, 116-114
A manager in boxing is a person who gets paid to act as the boxer's agent or representative. It's unlawful for a manager to have a direct or indirect financial interest in the promotion of a boxer or to get paid from a promoter except if it's in the manager's contract with the boxer. These rules only apply to fights of 10 rounds or more. A boxer can act as his or her own manager.
Mandatory Eight Count
A mandatory eight count is an 8 second count that a fallen boxer must take when he gets back on his feet. It allows the referee time to decide whether the boxer can continue the fight.
Marquess of Queensberry Rules
The Marquess of Queensberry Rules sponsored by British John Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry in 1867 became the foundation of modern boxing regulations.
A matchmaker in boxing is a person proposes, selects, and arranges a fight between boxers.
Memorial Ten Count
A memorial ten count is the tolling of the bell 10 times at the beginning of a fight in honor of a recently deceased boxer.
A swelling on the face, forehead or head.
Neutral Corner
One of two corners of a boxing ring that are not assigned to either boxer during a fight. There are no chairs or any members of a boxer's team in a neutral corner aka white corner. After a boxer has knocked down his opponent he is required to go to a neutral corner while the referee does the count.
No Decision (ND)
If a fight is scheduled for more than four rounds and an accidental foul occurs causing an injury severe enough for the referee to stop the fight, then the fight will result in a No Decision or ND if stopped before four completed rounds. (Per ABC, IBF, WBA, WBO, Nevada Athletic Commission rules.)
Not Being Able to Get Off
Not being able to get off simply means a fighter just can't seem to get started or just can't get off his punches.
On the Button
To be punched on the chin or more precisely the bony point of the chin, whether it be from a straight punch, a grazing left hook or an uppercut.
On the Ropes
Refers to a boxer on the verge of defeat who has been knocked against the ropes and kept there by his or her opponent's blows.
Refers to a right handed fighter.
Outside Fighter
An outside fighter or range fighter tries to maintain that gap between himself and his opponent, fighting with longer range punches. Outside fighters have to be fast on their feet, stepping in with a jab and stepping back out of range quickly to evade their opponent.
A palooka is a tenth rater, a nobody, and a lousy boxer with no ability who usually loses his fights in four or six rounds to boxers who are just starting out in their careers. It's synonymous with tomato can or ham and egger. There was a comic strip created by Ham Fisher in 1928 that featured a good-hearted, slow-witted and inarticulate boxer named Joe Palooka.
In the Peek-a-Boo style, a boxer holds his hands high in front of his face. Floyd Patterson and Mike Tyson used the Cus D' Amato forearms-up peek-a-boo. Archie Moore used the arms-across peek-a-boo.
Pitty-Pat Punches
Pitty-pat punches lack intensity when they connect. They're the kind of punches seen in amateur boxing that rack up points but have no destructive effect. Also referred to as cheap punches, pitty-patty punches or pitty-patty slaps.
Pound-for-Pound or P4P means the best boxer overall based upon his or her boxing skills whatever the weight. Pound-for-pound rankings compare boxers regardless of weight by using criteria such as boxing records, percentage of wins by knockout and level of competition to determine who is the better boxer.
Power Punches
Power punches are hooks, straight rights or lefts, uppercuts, or stiff jabs. Power punches are solid punches to the chin, head, or body that inflict damage.
A promoter in boxing is the person primarily responsible for organizing, promoting, and putting on a professional boxing match. Usually it's not the hotel, casino or venue where the fight is going to be held unless they are the primary ones putting the fight on and there isn't a promoter. It's unlawful for a promoter to have any direct or indirect financial interest in the promotion of a boxer. These rules only apply to fights of 10 rounds or more. A boxer can act as his or her own promoter.
Pull One's Punches
A boxer is said to pull his or her punches when he or she uses less force than capable of, holds back from using all ones strength.
To hit someone or something hard with your fist (clenched or closed hand). Basic punches in boxing are the jab, cross (straight right or straight left), uppercut, hook (left hook or right hook), and overhand (overhand left or overhand right). Then you have your counter punches, combination punches (jab and cross combo), the corkscrew delivered off a jab or cross, the wide swinging uppercut called the bolo punch, and dozens of others often created and named after famous boxers.
In boxers it refers to Dementia pugilistica, a neurological disorder triggered by repeated blows to the head over an extended period of time. Symptoms include slurred speech, dementia, dazedness, confusion and inappropriate behavior resembling alcoholic intoxication.
The purse is money paid to two professional boxers for engaging in a fight. The amount of the purse is contractually guaranteed prior to the fight and is not altered by the outcome of the fight. Promoters pay the boxers the purse and out of the purse a boxer pays his cornermen (manager, trainer and cutman) a percentage. Sanctioning bodies also demand a percentage of the purse. Boxers usually end up with 50 to 70 percent before taxes.
Queer Street
When a boxer is dazed from getting hit hard on the head or has taken too many punches to the head he is said to be on Queer Street or taking a walk on Queer Street.
Rabbit Punch
A rabbit punch is punch to the back of the head or neck. It is illegal in boxing since it can cause cervical vertebrae damage and subsequent spinal cord injury resulting in paralysis or death. Rabbit punch got its name from a technique hunters use to kill rabbits with a quick, sharp blow to the back of their heads with a blunt object.
Ring Generalship
Ring generalship applies to the fighter who uses skills beyond straight punching power to control the action in the ring.
Ring Magazine Belts
The Ring magazine issues belts to the top man of a division. The holder of the belt is considered the undisputed world champion of that division. Ring Champions lose their belt and title only if they retire, move to another weight division or are defeated in a championship bout. Unlike the other alphabet boxing sanctioning bodies The Ring does not declare interim champions or strip champions of their belt. Vacancies can be filled by winning a fight between the number 1 and number 2 or under certain circumstances between the number 1 and number 3 contenders of a division. There are 10 contenders in each of the 17 divisions.
Rope a Dope
Rope a dope was used by Muhammad Ali in his 1974 fight against George Foreman. It involves lying back on the ropes, shelling up and allowing your opponent to throw punches until they tire themselves out and then you exploit their defensive flaws and nail them.
Professional boxing matches cannot be scheduled for more than twelve rounds for males or ten rounds for females. Each round lasts three minutes for males and two minutes for females with have a one minute rest between rounds.
Rubber Match
A rubber match is the deciding match in a series of fights between two boxers where each boxer has won a fight against the other. Rubber match usually refers to the 3rd fight in a series, a trilogy. It's seen as the match that determines which boxer is really the best.
Rules of Boxing
Boxing rules can vary from country to country, state to state, by boxing organization, and whether the fight is amateur or professional. Most sanctioned fights today follow the Association of Boxing Commissions unified rules. See uniform boxing rules.
Sanctioning Body
Sanctioning bodies are boxing sanctioning organizations that sponsor championship fights and awards title belts. The World Boxing Association (WBA) (oldest), World Boxing Council (WBC) and International Boxing Federation (IBF) are considered to be the legitimate ones. For all sanctioning bodies see boxing organizations.
Saved by the Bell
Saved by the bell is when the bell rings signaling the end of the round before the referee finishes his count. This phrase came into being in the latter half of the 19th century.
Scoring Criteria
Using the Ten Point Must System. Judges are to score each round using the following scoring criteria: clean punching (power versus quantity), effective aggressiveness, ring generalship and defense.
A second also referred to as a corner man, aids and assists the boxer between rounds.
Shoe Shin
Quick little punches that are bothersome but aren't going to knock anyone down.
Skinning the Gloves
All boxers have tape wrapped around their gloves at the wrist to prevent the laces from coming lose, however when the tape job goes up even higher on the glove it forces the padding to conform around the knuckles giving a distinct advantage to the boxer. Skinning of gloves is not permitted by many boxing commission rules.
An informal name for a boxing commissioner originating from a man named Solon who was known as the lawmaker of Athens.
Southpaws are left handed fighters (unorthodox). They put their right foot forward, jab with their right hand and throw power punches with their left hand (rear hand). To a "normal" right handed fighter a southpaw's punches are coming from the wrong side. When a right handed and left handed boxer fight each other their lead foot is almost on top of the other persons. Southpaws aren't always born left handed some are converted southpaws.
Southpaws Should be Drowned at Birth
An old boxing idiom. To an orthodox right handed boxer southpaw's punches come from the opposite direction than what are trained to expect. It just feels wrong.
Split Decision (SD)
A split decision occurs when two of the three judges score one boxer as the winner, while the third judge scores the other boxer as the winner. Example: 116-114, 116-114, 113-115
Split Draw
A split occurs when one judge favors one boxer, the other judge favors the opposite boxer and the third judge scores the fight even. The fight is recorded as a draw on both boxers' records. Example: 116-114, 113-115, 114-114
Standing Eight Count
A standing eight count occurs when the referee stops the fight and counts to eight. During this time the referee will determine if the boxer can continue. In some amateur and professional fights a knocked down boxer must take a mandatory eight count even if he or she has gotten up immediately.
Stick and Move
Stick and move is when a boxer jabs or uses long range punches then quickly steps backwards using elusive footwork to evade their opponent.
Straight Right
A straight right is considered power punch. If you are a right handed boxer it's a straight right. If you are a left handed boxer it's a straight left.
Sucker Punch
An unexpected punch that catches a person completely off guard. The term sucker punch dates back to 1947 in the sport of boxing.
Sunday Punch
A knockout blow. A hard punch, knockout punch or KO punch that renders an opponent unable to continue fighting.
Take a Dive
To throw a fight. To intentionally pretend to get knocked out by a light punch, thus intentionally losing the fight. A fixed fight with an unlawful prearranged outcome.
Technical Decision (TD)
If a fight is scheduled for more than four rounds and an accidental foul occurs causing an injury severe enough for the referee to stop the fight after four rounds have occurred the fight will result in a technical decision or TD awarded to the boxer who is ahead on the score cards at the time the fight is stopped. If an intentional foul causes an injury and the injury results in the fight being stopped in a latter round, the injured boxer will win by Technical Decision if he is ahead on the score cards.
Technical Draw
If an intentional foul causes an injury and the injury results in the fight being stopped in a latter round, the fight will result in a Technical Draw if the injured boxer is behind or even on the score cards.
Technical Knockout (TKO)
A boxer loses by technical knockout or TKO if the referee intercedes and stops the fight declaring them unable to continue because of bad cuts or bruises, they cannot go on or cannot defend themselves.
The Sweet Science
The Sweet Science is a collection of boxing articles written by A.J. Liebling that appeared in The New Yorker from 1951 through 1963. Liebling was a devotee of boxing writer, Pierce Egan who published Boxiana, a chronicle of bare-knuckle fighting in the early 19th century. Egan described boxing as "the sweet science" and "the sweet science of bruising". Liebling cited Egan frequently and named his collection The Sweet Science in honor of Egan.
Throw in the Towel
To throw in the towel also, to throw in the sponge is to end the fight, to give up, acknowledge defeat. When a boxer's second (his trainer or corner man) feels his boxer is taking a beating and doesn't think he can or should continue the fight he throws a towel or sponge into the ring to stop the carnage, to end the fight by TKO.
Tomato Can
A lousy fighter who usually loses in 4 or 5 rounds to boxers just starting out in their careers or to experienced boxers taking a bout just to stay in shape. Tomato Cans are known for bleeding, losing and taking a beating.
Unanimous Decision (UD)
A unanimous decision occurs when all three judges agree on a winner. Example: 116-114, 116-114, 115-113
The undercard consists of boxing matches that take place before the main event. They usually occur in an ascending order of importance.
Upper Cut
Upper cuts are thrown at close range. The jaw or the solar plexus is the target. It's an infighter's best weapon.
Walkout Bout
A walkout bout is a fight on the undercard that takes place after the main event. It's often boring to watch and people walkout of the arena during the fight. If the main event fight turns out to be a snoozer it's often referred to sarcastically as the walkout bout.
A walkover in boxing means a one-sided fight, an easy fight, one that's easy to win.
Weight Classes
The four sanctioning bodies recognize 17 weight classes or weight divisions for professional male boxers. For minimum and maximum pounds see boxing weight classes.
The weight-in is a pre-fight ceremony where boxers are weighed to make sure they are within the limits for their weight classes and contracted weight for the fight.
White Collar Boxers
White collar boxers are not registered amateurs or professional boxers. They box (basically spar with an opponent) in contests or exhibitions where no cash prizes are awarded.

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