How to Defend And Counter Haymakers

In boxing, haymakers are arguably the most powerful punches, especially in self-defence scenarios. They are one of the most powerful punches you can get hit with, but also one of the easiest punches to evade. The natural motion of your arm when throwing haymakers probably has something to do with why so many people gravitate toward this particular strike. 

Throwing a haymaker involves cocking your arm back and generating power with your entire body. While doing this significantly increases the power behind your punches, it also telegraphs your intent. That makes haymakers high-risk, high-reward punches. 

Think of haymakers as hooks that are thrown by pulling back your arm and unleashing all the momentum your body can generate. These punches are meant to end fights when they land, but they cover a greater distance to their target than any other punch, making them easier to avoid. Cocking back your arm before you start throwing a haymaker also telegraphs your intent, making it easier to evade. 


Defending And Countering Haymakers

Learning how to defend and counter haymakers significantly increases your odds of emerging victorious in self-defence situations. Some of the proven and effective ways to defend against these punches include:


1) Jab

The jab is the first punch most boxers learn, and it’s the most used punch in boxing. Your jab is a multi-purpose tool that can be used to maintain distance, gauge distances, and interrupt your opponent’s attacks. 

Throwing a jab right down the middle the moment you notice an attacker telegraphing a haymaker is the easiest way to stop them in their tracks. A jab is a straight punch thrown with your lead hand, so it travels a shorter distance to its target than any other punch. This means your jab will get to its target before your opponent’s haymaker does even if you both start swinging at the same time. 


2) Duck Under

Haymakers travel further than any other type of punch before reaching their target, so you’ll have plenty of time to react to them, especially if your attacker is untrained. The “duck under” is a defensive movement boxers use to evade looping punches. 

To duck under a punch, you simply bend at your knees while maintaining your fighting stance. You only need to lower your level by several inches to evade looping strikes aimed at your head. Haymakers being thrown with maximum power means your attacker will most likely lose their balance if you duck under the punch. 

That leaves them open to a wide range of punches like a cross or even a haymaker of your own. The main thing is that you punish them with a counter for swinging recklessly at you. 


3) Teep

Also known as the push kick, the teep is one of the most used kicks in Muay Thai and it works a lot like a jab. It is used for the same reasons like gauging distance and interrupting your attacker’s offense. You can push an attacker out of range for landing a haymaker by throwing a teep at them the moment you notice them winding up. You can aim for the head or body when throwing the teep, but if your opponent is swinging wildly, you want to target their head since one of their arms isn’t there to protect their face. 


4) Elbow Block

You can also defend against haymakers by simply using your hands to intercept the punch before it reaches your head. The traditional high guard isn’t the most effective block for haymakers since the angle the punch is thrown from allows it to weave through your guard and connect with the side or back of your head. 

There are no rules forbidding hitting people in the back of the head in street fights, so use an elbow block if you have to block a haymaker with your arm. 

Here’s what an elbow block looks like:

  • While using a standard high guard, place the palm of the hand on the same side the punch if coming from on the back of your head.
  • Take a small step toward your opponent while doing so to close the distance. When done correctly, the soft tissues on the inner part of your opponent’s arm should connect with your elbow, making them bear the brunt of the impact. You can then follow up with a hard cross or rear hook.


5) Pull Counter

Floyd Mayweather often punished his opponents with the pull counter whenever they threw looping punches or haymakers at him. The technique works just as well with straight punches. The pull counter is one of the easiest boxing counters to learn since it only requires you to move your head back a few inches to avoid a punch. You simultaneously throw a punch while pulling your head back to make your opponent pay for their recklessness. 

The most effective punch to finish the pull with is a cross since it’s fast and lands with considerable power. 


6) Level Change To Takedown  

You’ve probably noticed a few fighters doing this if you’re a fan of mixed martial arts. As we mentioned earlier, ducking under a haymaker often leaves your attacker unbalanced since they were anticipating your body helping to stop their momentum while throwing the punch. 

This makes them particularly vulnerable to takedowns. An attacker swinging haymakers wildly at you is the perfect time to change levels and shoot in for a takedown if you’re a competent grappler. You simply duck under the punch and immediately grab a leg, both legs, or clinch up. If you’re fast enough, your opponent will still be processing what’s going on by the time you put them on their back. 


7) Backstep

At times, the simplest thing you can do is more than enough to get you out of harm’s way. A back step is an effective way to get out of the way of a haymaker. Looping punches like hooks and haymakers cover less distance than straight punches and are typically only effective at medium and short ranges. 

A small back step is often enough to move your head out of the punch’s path. Your opponent still ends up unbalanced since they put everything they had into the punch, so follow up with a roundhouse to the face. 


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