Our arms can move in many directions. But in boxing, we label the ways in which the arm travels to deliver a punch. A straight punch from the lead hand will always be a jab, a punch from the rear hand that travels horizontally across the body will always be a cross, etc. etc.. The fighter whose blows are quick, straight, and thrown with proper body mechanics, is going to possess the more effective punch.
The jab is a straight punch thrown from your lead hand. There are many uses for the jab, but it's main purpose is to gauge distance and to set up your power punches. You can use your jab to throw your opponent's timing off by intercepting him with a jab as he steps towards you. Or use the jab to stop him while he is in the middle of a combination; a counter jab.
The cross is a straight punch thrown from the rear hand. With the proper body mechanics, the power of the cross can be greater. Proper technique and body mechanics are as follows: turn the rear foot, knee & hip at the same time, then the shoulder and then the arm, into the punch. Many trainers say that the power of the cross comes from the legs. So it's as if you are pushing off the ball of your foot. And again, do not drop your arm when you are bringing it back.
The hook is another power punch. Like the cross, it uses a lot of pivoting to generate power. You'll see the hook thrown many different ways, sometimes with a horizontal fist, vertical fist, wide, short, to the body, and so on. Proper execution of the hook starts at the feet. Pivot the ball of your lead foot (as if you were putting out a cigarette), your knee, hip, shoulder and arm at the same time. In other words, they turn into the punch at the same time.
The upper-cut is the second most valuable punch in your arsenal. The first being the jab. It is a punch that is not thrown often enough. And if it is thrown properly, it can finish off your opponent or set up a combination to end the fight. It can be a swift punch or it can be a power punch, depending on how it is thrown.
At first glance, the overhand looks like a wild and uncontrolled punch. While it is true that boxers do throw haymakers from time to time, the overhand, usually referred to as the overhand right (orthodox stance), is a power punch that is very controlled and usually timed. It is most effective when a shorter fighter is throwing it against a taller opponent.
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