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Can Fighters Jump In Boxing Or Is It An Illegal Move

Can fighters jump during a fight breakdown.

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While not explicitly illegal, jumping into boxing is somewhat frowned upon by the boxing fraternity. Of course, there will be many instances where both feet of a boxer may be off the canvas as they throw a punch. But how about an actual punch where the fighter has to jump?

There are a few different examples of jumping punches in boxing that have had plenty of success down through the years. These include the gazelle punch, gazelle jab and the lesser-used superman punch. That being said, they are legal moves in the sport.

Nowhere in the rules of boxing does it state that a fighter is not allowed to make a jumping movement when throwing a punch. It is however not a common move in the sport and any over-exaggerated huge jump through the air can land a fighter in trouble with the referee.

In boxing as in most combat sports, there is a degree of etiquette and certain unwritten rules, that are assumed most fighters are aware of. While not illegal, as it is quite uncommon, making a jumping move through the air may draw the ire of both the referee and the crowd watching.

This is boxing, not kickboxing or MMA and there are certain things that are expected of boxers based on a basic ruleset. And boxers who decide they are going to push the envelope too far may very well find themselves in hot water and get a warning from the referee for their troubles.

The Rules Of Boxing

The rules of boxing can vary from country to country, and jurisdiction to jurisdiction. And while there are a basic set of rules that have standardised boxing around the world. It is not clear as to whether there is a rule in some countries that actually does not allow jumping.

There are also no documented instances of any boxing disqualifications or fouls for using any jumping techniques. Boxing rules determine what can and cannot be done in the sport, but there are of course unforeseen developments that newcomers to the sport may try to utilise.

So there may come a day when the governing bodies of world boxing may have to amend the ruleset to either allow or outright block certain new boxing moves. Will the sport move with the times and change its core rules to appease the fans or promoters, only time will tell.

The Gazelle Punch

The gazelle or kangaroo punch is not to be confused with the smash punch which is claimed by former heavyweight champion Donovan Razor Ruddock. But this punch uses the power generated by the fighter pushing off from the floor of the ring.

Legendary heavyweight Joe Frazier lands a stinging gazelle punch on Muhammed Ali.
Joe Frazier lands a gazelle punch on Muhammed Ali.

And the power generated from the jumping motion combined usually with a hook or an uppercut punch has often resulted in a knockout blow. One of the main reasons for this is that the opponent sees the fighter drop their level and as a result expects a body shot.

So as they drop their hands to protect the body, the lunging hook or uppercut is landed usually on the unprotected head. With the added force from the jumping, twisting motion can result in added impact and a knockout.

Boxers That Use The Gazelle Punch

Fighters who use the gazelle punch include Floyd Patterson as well as heavyweight greats Rocky Marciano and Smokin Joe Frazier. Patterson used the punch to great effect throughout his career.

While there is an element of lunging to the move, the lunging is controlled rather than uncontrolled as the term might have you think. And the combination of momentum and the springing motion, combined with the twist from the hips. All adds up to it being a very effective and often devastating strike.

How To Throw A Gazelle Punch

  1. Start by dropping down to a lower level by bending your knees.
  2. Lean on the front toes of both feet.
  3. Twist your body at the hips with your punching arm coiled up, ready to throw a hook.
  4. When ready push off from your toes as you propel yourself toward your opponent.
  5. At the same time release the hook punch by twisting your hips in the reverse direction.
  6. It’s recommended that you have at least one foot on the ground at a time just before the instant of impact.
Floyd Patterson Using the Gazelle Punch.

When To Throw This Punch

The punch is most commonly used against fighters who like to stay on the outside. Or simply in a situation where a fighter has created a lot of space and an opportunity arises to catch them by surprise.

While some boxers like to stay close, you will need some distance in order to successfully execute the move. Marciano was another boxer who used the punch to great effect. Marciano who was known for his short reach used the punch to quickly close the distance against fighters with a reach advantage.

When To Avoid Using This Punch

Using the punch against excellent counterpunchers may not be a very wise decision. While the punch does have the added bonus of surprise, a fast counterpuncher may be able to land a straight left before your looping hook lands.

Using the punch against fighters who like to fight in close and who always have the guard up can be a risky move. It’s a punch that can leave the fighter exposed as they drop their own guard to execute. Leaving space for a good inside fighter to block and then counter.

Obviously, speed is also a huge factor and if the boxers are not able to pull off the move before the opponent is able to read the setup. Then it’s not something that would be recommended by any boxing coach. Some fighters will have the ability and speed whereas others will not.

The Gazelle Jab

Whereas the gazelle punch was a jumping motion into a hook punch. The gazelle jab differed in that instead of a hook, the boxer would use a more linear straight punch, in a hopping rear hand lead punch to the face of their opponent.

The basic setup is the same as the punch, but the final punch ends up being a straight jab. It was a favourite punch of iconic middleweight Marvellous Marvin Hagler and also pound-for-pound boxer Manny Pacquiao.

Legendary boxer Marvin Hagler attempts a gazelle jab during his fight.
Marvin Hagler tries to land a gazelle jab.

Hagler would use the punch to explode and cover very large distances. And as the tactic caught so many of his opponents off guard it often ended up being the precursor to the finishing blows of the fight. Due to his very short reach, this hopping rear-hand lead punch was also often used by Manny Pacquiao.

How To Throw a Gazelle Jab

  1. Similar to the punch, start by dropping your level by bending your knees.
  2. You again put your weight onto the front toes of both feet.
  3. The jabbing arm needs to be back close to the body in preparation for throwing the shot.
  4. Push off from your toes as you lunge forward toward your opponent.
  5. Your jabbing fist needs to connect with your opponent as you complete the movement.

The added benefit of this move over the gazelle punch/hook. That the fighter does not have to reset once the movement is complete. Whereas the punch will often leave the fighter out of position as they overextend following the twist from the thrown punch.

With the gazelle jab, the boxer’s upper torse will be square with the opponent as opposed to off-centre. Fighters such as Marvin Hagler used this to great effect. Often following up with a barrage of blows on their stunned opponent.

Marvin Hagler Lands His Signature Gazelle Jab.

When To Throw This Jab

The punch is another lead hand form of attack and is again used to close distance quickly. As this was a linear punch as opposed to a hook, the punch was often more likely to land when used by an accurate quick puncher.

The movement was often used as a precursor to a following barrage of punches as punch gave the opponent little time to react to the attack. And due to how the fighter lands after throwing the jab. Unlike a gazelle punch which could leave the fighter exposed. The gazelle jab gave the boxer the option to quickly pivot away and begin another attack

When To Avoid Using This Jab

Much of the winning qualities of this punch come from its surprise factor. Using the punch too often when at distance will cause the opponent to be prepared and may lead to a good counter-attack.

And so, for this reason, the punch should be used sparingly and mixed in with numerous combinations to keep the opponent guessing. Once any boxer gets into a habit of continuously using the same punch combinations. It won’t be long before their element of surprise is gone and they are countered.

The Superman Punch

Having been popularised by MM fighters like Georges St-Pierre, this punch has most widely become known in the sport of mixed martial arts. But the superman punch can also be found in the sport of boxing, albeit in a different format.

George St-Pierre popularised the Superman punch and here he uses it against Matt Serra.
Georges St-Pierre goes for a Superman Punch.

This punch can be quite tricky to pull off and in MMA usually revolves around feinting a kick or blocking a kick with your lead leg. And so this is one of the very obvious reasons why we don’t see it used more in the sport of boxing.

Boxer Throws A Superman Punch

In a fight between boxers Money Powell IV and Rey Trujillo, Trujillo throws an unorthodox Superman punch. Now while the punch did land, it did not have much of an effect on Powell.

One thing for sure is that the punch caught the attention of the commentator and no doubt boxing fans who ribbed the boxer for making what they deem an MMA punch inside a boxing ring.

While the art of boxing plays a huge role in the sport of mixed martial arts, many boxing fans do not want to see any elements of MMA making their way into their sport. And they protect the rules and culture of the sport with great enthusiasm.

Boxer attempts a Superman punch during a fight.

How To Throw The Superman Punch

The result of the Superman punch is very much the same as that of the gazelle jab, but the setup is quite different.

  1. The lead leg gets raised in a leg check or kicking position.
  2. The lead leg is then pushed back behind the body.
  3. At the same time, the arm on the same side throws out a straight jab, almost as a counterbalance to the leg now extended behind the body.
  4. The movement should be done while already moving forward, using that momentum from the planted foot to push off.

When To Throw This Punch

While the punch has become synonymous with the sport of MMA, we see that for many years the sport of boxing has already been using a very similar style of punch in the gazelle jab for many years.

The overriding reasoning behind the punch is the same for both sports. Cover large distances using the element of surprise. And so it should be used when there is a significant distance between you and your opponent that cannot be covered quickly with any traditional boxing movement.

When To Avoid Using This Punch

The Superman punch requires space and distance to execute. It’s not a punch that should ever be used when fighting on the inside as there simply is not enough room to pull it off.

The punch requires that you have the required distance to push off and for a moment have two feet off the ground. And as a result, if this goes wrong, can be quite a dangerous punch to try and land.

In Conclusion

Like anything in life, certain innovators come along and change the game. And what was once frowned upon and often end up being the next big thing? We see it all the time in sports and the first ones to pull off these new innovations are often the ones who capitalise the most and the unsuspecting opponents.

Before fighters such as Floyd Paterson and Rocky Marciano came along and started using the gazelle punch tactic. Many boxers would have never thought about trying such new techniques outside the more traditional boxing combinations.

But as we now see, these punches have found their own place in the pantheon of boxing combinations. Rules are meant to be broken as they say, but when it comes to boxing they can at least be stretched and or built upon.

And with that, I hope that the sport of boxing, along with so many other combat sports continues to innovate, even if only a little bit at a time. Maintaining its traditions while at the same time being open to new and positive changes.