How To Improve Your Lead Hand For Boxing

How To Improve Your Lead Hand For Boxing
Boxing Friday

Your lead hand has the potential to be your most effective weapon. The jab is commonly known as the most important punch in boxing and many consider the lead hook to be boxing’s most powerful punch. However, since most boxers stand with their dominant hand behind their non-dominant hand, the lead hand is often an underdeveloped tool, especially in the modern era of boxing.

Today, Evolve University will share how to improve your lead hand for boxing.



The lead hand is the first line of defense against an opponent’s punches. Assuming both you and your opponent are orthodox stance boxers, your left hand can be used to defend against any punch aimed at your left side. This is important to note as this is your opponent’s power side. The more educated your lead hand is, the fewer power shots you will take. 



The first defense is a simple block. From your boxing stance, raise your left palm to the left side of your temple. This will put your boxing glove in the path of an opponent’s right cross. To block an orthodox opponent’s left hook, raise your right palm to the right side of your temple. This defense is sometimes called catching and is not to be confused with a different technique called catching the jab.

The video above demonstrates blocking as a southpaw, but the technique is the exact same for an orthodox boxer.



The next defensive technique is parrying with your lead hand. This is best used to redirect punches with a straight pathway. It is conceptually the opposite of the block. Instead of bracing and taking the shot directly, parrying a shot makes your opponent’s momentum carry through, often placing them out of position and vulnerable to counters.

Having your punches parried is a similar sensation to the feeling when you miss a step going down a flight of stairs. That split second of adjustment leaves you planted and unable to react to counters. Many slick boxers such as Ken Norton and Floyd Mayweather relied heavily on parries to set up their boxing game.

Watch above as Coach Tom Yankello demonstrates how to parry straight punches with his student.


Shoulder Roll Or Leverage Block

In addition to the lead hand, parrying can also be performed using your elbows and shoulders. These elbow and shoulder techniques have many names and often are referred to as the shoulder roll or leverage block. The leverage block has been used by boxers such as Andre Ward and Gabe Rosado. Andre Ward uses it when he wants to rest for a round and remain defensively responsible. 

Extend your lead arm in an L shape, almost as if you have just finished throwing a lead hook. This allows the use of your forearms and elbows to block the path of potential incoming punches. As your opponent attempts to either punch above or below your block, you can lift their punch or drop your arm on theirs as they strike. 

The shoulder roll can also be performed in a similar manner. After throwing your lead hand, either a jab or hook, flip and lift your elbow. This will put your elbow and shoulder in line with any punches your opponent aims at the left side of your body and head. Watch the video above for an in-depth analysis of these techniques with video examples.

Note that there are many variations on the shoulder roll, this technique is different from what Floyd Mayweather often uses.


Hand Control

Hand control is another technique that can add layers to your lead hand game. It exists in various martial arts, like Muay Thai and BJJ, and can help you keep the fight at your own pace. Lead hand control can be defined as any time you use your lead hand to control any of your opponent’s limbs. 

Assuming both boxers are orthodox, lead hand control can be as simple as placing your left glove on your opponent’s right glove. As long as you have your left glove on theirs, they can’t punch or defend without you being able to feel them moving beforehand. 

A boxer that was a master at this is Roberto Duran. Once he was inside the pocket with his opponent, he would pin the opponent’s right arm with his left hand. Then he would place his right hand on top of his opponent’s left hand, pull his opponent’s left hand down, and rip a short right uppercut to the body or head. He would be able to pull this off multiple times throughout fights with world-class boxers, showcasing the technique’s effectiveness.

Skip to 6:55 to see Duran utilizing his signature form of hand control. 



A simple way to increase your lead hand’s effectiveness is to increase your punch variety.

Your opponents will have worked on ways to defend against the jab or lead hook, but how many have trained or can adapt to less common punches? Punches such as the smash, the cuban lead check hook, and the gazelle jab are not commonly seen and the shock value alone can win you the bout.

Think of boxing as a conversation. The punches are the questions and the defenses are the answers. The punches mentioned above are “questions” that are not commonly asked, and your opponent is far less likely to have an answer, prepared or improvised to deal with them. 


Lead Hand Feints

Lead hand feints are another powerful offensive tool to add to your toolbox. There are many variations of feints. You can twitch your elbow to feint a hook, half extend your lead hand to fake a jab, or even bump your shoulder to fake a punch from that side. Rather than particular techniques, feinting is more of a concept.

Boxing Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins breaks down in detail in the video above.


Learning Journey

The concepts and techniques discussed are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to developing your lead hand for boxing. Old school boxers knew the importance of an educated lead hand and modern fighters are catching on as well. As the old boxing idiom goes, the right hand can take you around the block, but the jab can take you around the world. 


You may also like:

5 Ways You Can Use The Lead Hook In Boxing