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‘Best Defensive Style for Tall Boxers?’
A Man Question from Armando
© 2015 James LaFond
“First off, thank you for the prior advice. It really helped. I wanted to know what you thought was the best defensive style for a taller fighter with longer reach? As well your thoughts on the up and coming British fighter Anthony AJ Joshua.”
Armando Williams
Guarding for the Defensive Fighter
I will answer the question about Joshua in a separate article.
Armando, your question came at an opportune time as I will be working with a tall out of town boxer next week, and the two fellows I coach locally at this time are short. What I will not do is go into advanced stylistics for the tall fighter. I want to cover basics for you and Sean. Basics will never desert you and never lead you astray. Down the road we will throw in some nuances. Any fighter taller than five foot four should work on fighting as the tall man. There is always some fire plug out there that is shorter than you. If you run into that guy, and both of you have just trained to fight in a short man specific style, you will have the disadvantage. Likewise, even though you are a tall dude, Armando, there is a Ukrainian out there somewhere that’s taller than you. So do not just fight as the tall man. Mix it up in the gym.
I know you mentioned a defensive style, Armando. What I will discuss is what a tall boxer needs to do, and not to do, whether he is defensive-minded or a killer-instinct contact junkie. Instead of suggesting a style, let’s have you try and apply these does and don’ts and develop your own style, and that is going to depend on things I cannot know, like how hard do you hit, how fast are you and how good is your chin? Since you’re tall I’m assuming marginal chin and bad ribs, and if the bad ribs are not already present, they will be after you start fighting, unless you abide by these does and don’ts. Short guys at the same weight are just naturally more durable. Your job, as the tall man, is to make them spend that durability down until they run out.
1. Look through your hands. This may seem harder looking down. Achieve it by tilting your chin down.
2. Keep your elbows on your ribs. Do not let them wing out in guard or when punching.
3. A handspan lead is a must. Experiment with extending that lead hand in guard as far as you can without taking your elbow away from your ribs.
4. Your chin must never set farther forward than your lead knee. Ideally, keep that button on a line that would run from your chin down to the floor in front of your lead nut and behind your lead heel.
5. When you want to reach, step instead.
6. Move, move and move. Ali was very flawed technically but achieved at genius level. This was partly due to natural gifts but primarily to a commitment to keep moving. If you are tall I want you moving always, mostly in short steps. Make the short man risk that long step. Keep your steps quick, crisp and often.
7. Do not try to stay out of range all of the time. Learn to cut angles like a short guy so that you will have the ability to penetrate and exploit. Tall fighters that “orbit” get knocked out. Do not orbit, angulate. [I know, Charles. It’s a word now, okay.]
8. Learn all seven varieties of the jab. Live off the jab. Feed them the jab. Punish them with the jab. Cut them with the jab. Knock them the fuck out with the jab!
9. Always finish every combination, in the mirror, on the bag, and on the mitts, with a lead hand punch, usually a jab.
10. Learn to pickoff punches with your shoulders by having someone throw light punches at you. Do not turn away and do not lean, just nudge that fist out of the way. If they are punching up, their shots will be easily deflected compared to when they are punching level or down.
1. Don’t reach.
2. Don’t chase.
3. Don’t reach.
4. Don’t bend forward at the waist.
5. Don’t reach.
6. Don’t bend back at the waist, not when you are an amateur. Maybe down the road you pick this up, but not until you’ve mastered standard solutions.
7. Don’t reach.
8. Don’t orbit, but cut angles.
9. Don’t reach.
10. Do not drop your hands. Tall men with a lot of experience and hand speed can make this work. You don’t have the experience yet, and your hand speed is suspect until you’ve had ten fights.
11. Don’t reach—I’m serious about this.
12. Do not, ever, stand still in front of some short guy—ever!
Good luck. Armando.
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Sean     Sep 16, 2015

But all I want to do is reach! Been practicing all the above since last we met.

Also when you say "pick off" is that the drill you had Craig and I doing at the end of last practice?
James     Sep 18, 2015

Yes, when you were learning to turn the shoulder just enough to deflect the punch and remain in position to counter without having to set it up.
O Hayes     Sep 24, 2015

I think reaching in most cases has to do with being glove shy. Have to accept the inevitability of being punched. You actually get punched less that way..
O Hayes     Sep 24, 2015

I think reaching in most cases has to do with being glove shy. Have to accept the inevitability of being punched. You actually get punched less that way..
Dave     Mar 13, 2021

Great tips! Came across this when looking for advice. Much appreciated
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