Boxing Glossary – Boxing Terminology Defined
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Welcome to our boxing glossary page, where we’ve put together all of the boxing terms and terminology that we could think of in one place. It’s a detailed and in-depth glossary or dictionary for the sport of boxing, meant to inform you on all of those words, terms and phrases that you keep on hearing, but don’t fully understand. Click on a letter above to go straight to the terms listed there alphabetically. If you have any suggestions or requests for words that are not included in our boxing glossary already, then send us a message on our contact page.
- Accidental Headbutt: A headbutt that was not done intentionally. The referee makes the ruling on whether a headbutt was on purpose or accidental. This is important not only since points could be taken away, but also because cuts caused from headbutts will lead to different results pending the type of foul that led to the problem. If a bout needs to be stopped, accidental fouls lead to no contests, or to judges’ decisions after the fourth round, whereas intentional fouls lead directly to a loss or disqualification.
- Alphabet Soup: A phrase used to describe all of the chaos surrounding the dozens of different sanctioning bodies and their initials – WBC, WBO, NABF, IBF, NABA, WBA, etc, etc.
- Amateur Boxing: Amateur boxing represents all boxers who are not paid professionals. Amateur boxers are eligible to compete in the Olympics and other international tournaments and qualifiers, representing their country. Amateur boxing uses a radically different scoring system and style than the professional ranks do.
- Arm Punches: Arm punches are punches that are thrown without the fighter getting his full weight and power into them. Without utilizing his legs and the proper technical form, he’s just throwing with his arms.
- Athletic Commissions: The athletic commissions in the United States are run by each individual state that allows for professional boxing matches. Therefore, you’ll find the Nevada State Athletic Commission, California State Athletic Commission, etc. They handle suspensions for fighters, they authorize promoters to stage events, they appoint judges and referees and more.
- Beard: A beard refers to how well a boxer takes a punch. A good beard means you take a punch well.
- Beat the Count: A fighter that beats the count, makes it back to his feet after a knockdown before being counted out at 10.
- Below the Belt: A punch that is below the belt is another way of saying that it was a low blow. Literally the punch landed beneath the top portion of the trunks, the belt, pending how high or low the fighter was wearing them.
- Bicycle: A fighter that gets on his bicycle is circling around the ring, much more focused on avoiding contact and his opposition then in landing his own punches, or exchanging.
- Bleeder: A bleeder is a boxer with a tendency to be cut open across his face in all of his bouts, resulting in blood and a continuous cycle of unhealed scar tissue.
- Bob-and-Weave: To bob-and-weave is to duck under, and move from side to side in order to avoid being hit with punches. Any stationary body movement to avoid punches may be referred to as bobbing and weaving.
- Body Shot: A body shot is any punch that is thrown to the other fighter’s body, extending from the top of the shoulders to the bottom of the torso.
- Bolo Punch: A bolo punch is a huge, flashy punch thrown from a distance with a big windup. Used for showboating or distracting.
- Brawl: Brawls are exciting boxing contests where each man is engaging the other, throwing lots of punches, and doing damage.
- Break: The referee breaks the action when he separates two fighters in a clinch or otherwise tangled up with one another.
- Catchweight: A catchweight is a contractually agreed upon weight, in-between the actual weight classes and limitations, that is used for the contest.
- Chief Second: The chief second is the head trainer or cornerman for a boxer. He is allowed into the ring in between rounds to administer advice and otherwise take care of his charge.
- Chin: The chin of a fighter refers to how well he can take a punch. Also referred to as his beard, or whiskers.
- Clean Punch: A clean punch is any legal punch within a boxing contest, as opposed to an illegal punch or blow. A punch that lands cleanly lands making complete, flush contact.
- Clinching: A clinch is when two fighters, or perhaps just one of the two, are holding onto the other, breaking up the action and generally not allowing for punches to be thrown. Clinches can be used as strategy, or when a fighter is hurt and is trying to protect himself, but excessive clinching can be penalized.
- Combination: A combination is two or more punches thrown by a fighter consecutively.
- Cornerman: The cornermen are all of the trainers and assistants that a fighter has in his corner during a fight, usually consisting of at least a chief second and a cutman.
- Counterpunch: A counterpunch is a punch thrown after the other fighter already started to throw his, or begin his offensive movements, thrown to take advantage of timing or defensive openings.
- Cross: A cross is also known as a straight punch or a straight right in the case of right-handed fighters. It’s the straight, power punch thrown with the back hand of the fighter.
- Cutman: The cutman is the boxer’s assistant in the corner who takes care of his cuts, and generally his swelling, to try to prevent it from affecting his performance, the judges’ opinions of the bout, or from the referee or ringside doctor halting the contest.
- Cutting Weight: Cutting weight is the process of dieting, working out, and sweating off water weight to get down to the limit of a weight class. Many fighters cut tens or dozens of pounds to make weight.
- Decision: A fight that goes to a decision is any bout that is not ended early via knockout or other stoppage. The decision is the judges’ verdict of the fight.
- Dirty Boxing: Dirty boxing can refer to any illicit tactics a boxer might use to gain an advantage and hurt his opponent. More specifically, it typically refers to roughhousing tactics done on the inside, including elbows, headbutts, pushing, and holding and hitting.
- Disqualification: The referee can disqualify a fighter at any time in the contest, for many different reasons, including excessive penalties of all kinds, and commonly, hitting another fighter when he is down. The bout is stopped immediately, and the disqualification counts as a win or loss for the fighters involved.
- Double End Bag: The double end bag is a boxing bag used to train reflexes, coordination and timing. It’s essentially a speed bag suspended between ropes leading to the ceiling and floor. Other double end bags though are shaped like two speed bags atop of one another.
- Draw: A draw is a fight that goes to the scorecards and ends up with a mixed result. Draws can be split, where each man wins on one scorecard, but the third judge has a draw; majority, where two of the three judges have the bout scored a draw, or full, where each judge has the bout scored even.
- Effective Aggression: Effective aggression is one of the components used in scoring a bout. Not all aggression, merely coming forward and throwing a punches, is effective. Therefore you need to be landing punches and dictating the bout through that aggression.
- End-swell: An end-swell is a small tool or device used by a cornerman or cutman to reduce the swelling in a fighter’s face, either below or above his eyes. It applies heavy pressure to the area to keep the swelling down, and may be chilled to provide more swelling reduction.
- Exchange: An exchange is when each fighter is throwing punches at the other, either at the same time or right after one another, exchanging punches.
- Feint: A feint is a fake punch or body movement that a boxer uses to get his opponent to make a move in return, perhaps leaving himself open to be hit, or left unprepared to take different action.
- Fight Card: A fight card is the entire list of individual bouts that is being held during one event. Most state athletic commissions have a minimum requirement for how many fights there should be on each card they authorize.
- Flash Knockdown: A flash knockdown doesn’t leave the downed fighter truly hurt or ill-equipped to continue. Instead, he was caught off-guard or off-balance and was knocked down, but appears none the worse for the wear.
- Fouls: Fouls are any type of illegal action that a fighter performs during the course of fight, including low blows, elbows, intentional head butts, and more.
- Free TV: Free TV is a phrase used by fans to denote that a fight isn’t airing on pay-per-view, meaning they don’t need to pay more in order to watch it. Truly “Free TV” of course means that a bout is also not on one of the premium networks that requires a subscription.
- Gate: The gate is how much money an event makes from the ticket sales for the bouts.
- Gatekeeper: A gatekeeper is a fighter that up and coming prospects face in order to move ahead to the next level and tougher competition. Gatekeepers are generally good enough to put on a decent show, but are not equipped to beat the best.
- Getting Caught: When you get caught, you get hit with a hard punch that hurts you, and potentially leads to a knockdown or a knockout. It’s one big punch, and it comes as a surprise.
- Glass Jaw: A fighter with a glass jaw is a fighter that does not take his punches well, and may be prone to being knocked out easily once hit.
- Haymaker: A haymaker is a wild, looping punch thrown with full power, and generally poor form, designed to impart maximum damage, while therefore also leaving the thrower at risk for counters.
- Heavy Bag: The heavy bag is one of the staples of boxing training. It’s a long, cylindrical bag typically filled with sand or another filling to a set weight, ranging from 40 to 100 lbs. It can be freestanding or hanging from the ceiling or a rack, and can be used for technical training, cardio training and other aspects of learning the discipline of boxing.
- Holding and Hitting: Holding and hitting is when a boxer holds onto another with one arm during a clinch, but then punches him with his free hand. Holding and hitting is a foul.
- Hometown Cooking: A phrase used to described the favorable judging that a fighter receives when he is fighting in his home state, or even more acutely, when he is fighting in his home country and an international fighter comes into his locale for the fight.l
- Hook: A hook is a power punch thrown typically with the lead hand of the fighter, which arcs to the side and then back to the target, creating more power from the motion and from the windup and footwork. When thrown, the arm looks like a hook in shape.
- Illegal Blow: An illegal blow is any kind of punch, or potentially elbow, which is against the rules. This includes low blows, rabbit punches, kidney punches, and more.
- Infighting: Infighting is fighting in close quarters to one another, at a short range and distance.
- Jab: The jab is the lead punch of a fighter. It’s a quick, straight punch thrown with the front hand, and while sometimes powerful, is often used to set up other punches or used as a defensive tactic.
- Journeyman: A journeyman is a fighter a step below or on par with a gatekeeper. With many losses and not much of a chance at every winning a championship, he fights up and coming prospects and other journeymen in club fights.
- Judges: Boxing judges are the individuals responsible for scoring the bout, and therefore deciding the verdict if there is no stoppage. In professional boxing, three judges independently score the bout using the 10-point must system.
- Knockdown: A knockdown is caused when a fighter falls to the canvas from a punch that the other fighter threw. Knockdowns should be counted even when just the fighter’s glove touches the canvas, or when a fighter falls into the ropes and otherwise would have fallen to the canvas.
- Knockout: A knockout, or KO, is when a fighter is knocked down to the canvas and is unable to continue as a result of not beating the 10 count.
- KTFO: Knocked the F*ck out!
- Low Blow: A low blow is a punch that lands in the area of the other fighter’s groin, landing beneath the belt line. Low blows can be intentional or accidental.
- Making Weight: Making weight is when a fighter cuts weight to reach the limit of his weight class. Besides heavyweights, all fighters have to make weight before each contest. Failing to do so may lead to a cancellation of the bout, or to fines and other penalties.
- Majority Decision: A majority decision occurs when two judges score the bout for one fighter, and the third scores the bout a draw. (ex: 115-113, 115-113, 114-114)
- Majority Draw: A majority draw occurs when two judges score the bout as a draw, and the third scores it for either of the two fighters. (ex: 114-114, 114-114, 116-111)
- Manager: The manager of a fighter works with his man to get him fights, publicity, successful dealings with promoters and other agents or agencies, and so forth.
- Mandatory Defense: A mandatory defense is made when a champion defends his title against a challenger that is dictated by the sanctioning body. This is a mandatory challenger, and the champion must face him or be stripped of his title.
- Matchmaker: A matchmaker is a person, often working directly for a promoter, although sometimes independently, who decides which fighters face one another in upcoming matches. Smart matchmaking can be the difference between successful careers or flops.
- Mouse: A mouse is a wound that occurs on the face, generally a small bruise or swelling, from the opponent’s punches.
- Must system: The 10-point must system is the way that all boxing matches are scored. The winner of a round “must” get 10 points and the loser must get 9 points, pending any other deductions, making the typical round score 10-9.
- Neutral Corner: The two neutral corners in a bout are the additional corners where neither man and his assistants are stationed. Fighters are sent to the neutral corners for a variety of reasons, including to wait after the other man has been knocked down.
- No Contest: A no contest is a bout that is declared over before the end of the fourth round, stemming typically from an injury caused by an accidental foul. After four rounds, these injuries lead to a decision, but beforehand the bout is ended without a verdict.
- No Decision: Same as no contest.
- On the Button: A punch that lands on the button lands to the perfect place on the opponent’s face, typically the tip of the chin, leading to a knockdown or knockout.
- On the Ropes: A fighter is on the ropes when his back is touching or near-touching the ropes or the turnbuckles, leaving him pinned in one location by his opponent.
- One-Two: The one-two is the jab-straight right combination, the most basic of all boxing combinations.
- Open Scoring: With open scoring, the judges for a bout have to have their scorecards announced publicly at set intervals during the contest, such as after the fourth and eighth rounds, alerting the fighters to where they stand.
- Orthodox: An orthodox boxer fights right handed, meaning his left foot is in front, and he jabs with his left hand.
- Overtraining: Overtraining prior to a bout, just doing too much work, or too intensely, leaves a fighter drained of energy come fight night.
- Parry: To parry is to block and deflect an opponent’s punch to the sides with your gloves.
- Pay Per View: A boxing PPV telecast requires a fee to be purchased, generally ranging from $29.95 for small events to $54.95 or $59.95 for the biggest bouts. The majority of the biggest fights are now held on PPV to maximize revenues.
- Peek-a-Boo: A peek-a-boo defense is generally holding one’s gloves high and in the front of the face, and then popping out of that posture to throw your own punches.
- Phantom Punch: The phantom punch was Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston II, when nobody saw the punch that knocked Liston out. Generically, a phantom punch is any blow that isn’t seen right away with the naked eye.
- Point Deduction: A point deduction can be implement by the referee for a foul or illegal blow, or other illegal action, such as excessive clinching, or as in the case of Corrales vs. Castillo I, removing one’s mouthpiece on multiple occasions to buy time. The point is deducted from the fighter regardless of the scoring of the round.
- Pound for Pound: Pound for pound is a phrase used to describe the all-around skills and capabilities of a fighter, regardless of weight. If all fighters were the same size, which ones would be the best?
- Power Shot: A power shot in boxing is any punch besides the jab, because the jab is a quicker punch which doesn’t bring much body momentum or torque into the equation. Power punches include straights or crosses, hooks and uppercuts.
- Pressure Fighter: A pressure fighter is a fighter who is constantly coming forward, throwing punches, and is on the attack.
- Promoter: The promoter is the person or company responsible for putting together an event, including an entire fight card, selling tickets to the event, working out television arrangements, and so forth.
- Puncher’s Chance: A fighter with a puncher’s chance is one who doesn’t have a very good chance of beating the other fighter, who is probably more skilled, but could still pull of the win by landing a great punch and knocking his man out, hence a puncher’s chance.
- Punching Mitts: Punching mitts are the flat or semi-curved pads that boxing trainers use with their pupils to practice punching, putting together combinations, targeting shots and more.
- Purse: The amount of money a fighter makes for a bout.
- Pushing the Pace: Pushing the pace refers to a fighter forcing the action, throwing a lot of punches and making both men be very active throughout the round.
- Queer Street: A (now politically incorrect) term to refer to a fighter that has been badly hurt, but is still on his feet.
- Rabbit Punch: A rabbit punch is an illegal blow thrown to the back of the head, which is dangerous and therefore prohibited.
- Rehydrating: Rehydrating is done by a fighter after he makes weight and completes the weigh-in process. After cutting weight and dehydrating himself for days or weeks, he then drinks plenty of fluids and gains much of the weight, and his energy, back.
- Ring Generalship: Ring generalship is one of the criteria used by judges to score a fight, and it refers to how well one man controls the action and dictates the fight the way he wants it to happen.
- Ringside Doctor: The ringside doctor is on hand to make sure the fighters are well enough to continue. They may examine the severity of cuts and other wounds, judge a fighter’s mental condition or awareness in between rounds, and so forth. Depending on location, they can advise the referee to stop a contest or directly call a stop to it on their own.
- Rope-a-Dope: Rope-a-dope was the classic Muhammad Ali move against George Foreman (and Rocky Balboa move against Clubber Lang), where ALi let Foreman tire himself out by throwing punches that he mostly blocked, leaving him prime for a counter attack down the road.
- RTD: RTD stands for retired, and its when a fight is stopped by the referee, or doctor, in between rounds. RTD results count as TKOs in most instances on a fighter’s record.
- Rubber Match: A rubber match is the third fight in a trilogy, particularly when the first two contests were split with one man winning each.
- Rubbery Legs: A fighter with rubbery legs has been hurt and is standing, but does not have his full balance, strength and coordination about him. It could be said that he has jelly legs, or that he doesn’t have his feet beneath him.
- Sanctioning Bodies: The sanctioning bodies are the organizations which rank fighters and crown champions. In boxing today, they are the source of much controversy and chaos. The four major belts are the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO, but there is a plethora of other regional belts and minor sanctioning bodies.
- Sanctioning Fee: A percentage of a fighter’s purse that the sanctioning bodies essentially charge for the privilege of fighting for and maintaining a championship belt. The going rate is 3% per sanctioning body, for each fight. So a unified titleholder with all four of the major belts gives up 12% of his earnings, each and every fight! Wonder why you don’t see that too often?
- Saved by the Bell: A fighter is saved by the bell when he is being counted out from a knockdown, but the round ends in the middle of the count, cutting the knockdown count off, giving the fighter a chance to recover for a full minute between stanzas.
- Scar Tissue: Scar tissue for a fighter generally occurs above and under the eyes, where he was previously cut once or on many ocassions. When the wound isn’t healed properly, the scar tissue develops and often bulges the skin, leaving the fighter more susceptible to cuts in the future.
- Scorecards: A fight goes to the scorecards when all of the scheduled rounds have been completed. This leaves it in the hands of the judges, three in total for professional boxing, who have each completed their own scorecard of how the fight played out and which man won.
- Seconds Out: Seconds out is a phrase used in a boxing ring in between rounds prior to the bell ringing for the beginning of the next stanza. It alerts the chief seconds and cornermen to leave the ring, and remove their gear.
- Shadow Boxing: Shadow boxing is a style of boxing training where the fighter doesn’t hit any bags but instead punches the air and moves around on his own, often watching himself in a mirror to help perfect technical skills.
- Shell Defense: The shell defense is a defensive tactic involving holding the gloves high and in front of the face, with the elbows and forearms tucked in tight beneath. This puts the fighter into a shell, where it’s hard to strike them.
- Shoulder Roll: The shoulder roll is a defensive tactic wherein the fighter avoids the punch by moving his front shoulder up and rolling it back, while leaning back or down in the opposite direction. When done effectively (see: Mayweather, Floyd), the shoulder roll defense blocks, deflects or causes a complete miss for most shots, while also allowing the fighter to keep his front hand low.
- Slip: A slip is ruled when a fighter falls to the canvas, but it wasn’t from a punch, so there was no knockdown. Slips can also be ruled when contact is made, but a fighter still clearly fell from another cause, such as water on the ring canvas.
- Southpaw: A southpaw is a left handed boxer, who uses his right hand as his lead hand to jab, and his right leg as his front leg.
- Sparring: Sparring is when two fighters battle one another in training sessions, typically with extra-padded gloves, and full protective gear.
- Split Decision: A split decision or SD is when two judges have a verdict showing one fighter winning, and the third has it in favor of the other fighter. (ex: 116-112, 115-113, 111-117)
- Split Draw: A split draw is a type of draw where one judge had each man winning, and the third judge had the bout ruled a draw. (ex: 116-112, 112-116, 114-114)
- Standing Eight Count: A standing eight count is given when a knockdown occurs but the fighter stands up relatively quickly. The referee continues to count until 8, ensuring the fighter is adequately recovered to allow the bout to continue.
- Stick and Move: A fighter that sticks and moves typically throws one or two punches at a time, then gets out of the way and circles to the side, avoiding return fire from the opposition.
- Sweet Science: The sweet science is the nickname for the sport of boxing, and is specifically used to describe the more artful, fluid and technical version of the sport as opposed to mindless aggression or poor tactics.
- Swing Bout: A swing bout is a bout on a fight card that could end up being shifted around to before the main event or after the main event, and potentially occurring with a varying number of rounds, to fit into time constraints, typically for television.
- Take a Dive: A fighter that takes a dive allows himself to be counted out from the contest even when he could have gotten up, typically for illicit gambling reasons.
- Technical Decision: A technical decision, or TD, occurs when a bout is stopped due to injury stemming from an accidental foul. The fight then goes to the scorecards as long as it has been after four rounds, and the judges give a technical decision, of how the bout had been scored up until that point.
- Technical Draw: Technical draws are a type of technical decision, when scorecards are used to decide the winner after an accidental foul halted the bout. Technical draws can also occur within the first four rounds of a bout, before the allotted time has passed enabling the fight to move to the scorecards. However, no contests or no decisions have replaced this version of the technical draw in most locales.
- Technical Knockout: A technical knockout, or TKO, occurs when the referee or any other party calls a halt to the bout, generally from punishment a fighter is absorbing, even without being knocked out. TKOs can also occur from bad cuts stemming from legal punches, and TKO wins/losses are recorded for a variety of other stoppages.
- Third Man in the Ring: The third man in the ring refers to the referee.
- Three Knockdown Rule: The three knockdown rule states that if a fighter is knocked down three times in any single round, the bout is automatically stopped.
- Throwing in the Towel: A cornerman for a fighter can throw in the towel to halt the contest and save his man from more punishment at anytime that he chooses. The loss counts as a TKO loss.
- Toe to Toe: When two fighters go toe to toe, they are infighting, standing right in front of one another, and exchanging shots back and forth.
- Tomato Can: A tomato can is a unworthy opponent, a fighter with no real future in the sport besides being a placeholder for prospects, come-backing challengers or other tomato cans looking for a club fight.
- Trading: When two fighters are trading with one another, they are exchanging punches back and forth.
- Unanimous Decision: A unanimous decision, or UD, is a judges’ verdict where all three men are in agreement and score the fight with the same fighter winning the contest. (ex: 116-112, 118-110, 115-113)
- Undercard: Undercard bouts are the fights that are scheduled to occur before the main event. Over the past few years, pay-per-view undercards have been decried for being lackluster.
- Unified Rules: The unified rules are established by the Association of Boxing Commissions, and are used in championship or qualifier bouts to create even standards throughout the sport.
- Uppercut: An uppercut is a power punch thrown, typically with the back hand although it can be done with both, where the fist moves in an upward arc to meet the target.
- Weigh-In: The weigh-in, now held a day before the event itself, is when the fighters have to make their contracted weight for the contest. Many within the sport feel that weigh-ins should be moved back to the day of the affair, for fighter safety.
- Whiskers: Whiskers is another term, such as beard or chin, used to refer to how well a fighter takes a punch.
- Work Rate: A fighter’s work rate is how many punches he is throwing per round.