Mike Tyson’s body punching, part 2: counter-punching

In part one of this article we examined Mike Tyson’s offensive attacks to the body. It is now time to provide some examples of body-punches that can be used within the context of counter-attacking scenarios.

Definition and types of counter punching

According to Wikipedia, a counter-punch is a boxing punch that immediately follows an attack launched by an opponent. It exploits the opening created in an opponent's guard.

This definition notes that counter-punching relies on opponent's mistakes in order to gain an attacking advantage both in terms of winning the round or getting a chance to score a knockout. 

In my opinion this is not exactly accurate. Yes, counter-punching is often about attacking after blocking or avoiding an incoming attack. But in reality, boxers often counterattack during the incoming attack. They avoid getting hit by using proper footwork, changing levels and angles. Mike Tyson's peekaboo style of boxing was a great example of this. 
Generally there are two main categories of Mike Tyson’s counterattacks:
  • Counters when Tyson’s opponent takes the initiative and attacks first.
  • Counters when Mike is on the offensive and his opponent counter-attacks during or after Tyson's combinations.
There is also an "invisible" counterattacking mode, where a boxer, using footwork, feints and movement prevents opponents from finalizing their attacks and makes them hesitate. This can be achieved by countering their footwork and change of stance, level or angle. It is often described by commentators as a "fighter not being able to get something going".

The importance of rhythm, range, footwork and cutting off the ring in counter-punching.

Counter-punching is not just about punching. Boxing is a fighting system where punching is just the tip of the spear.

In order to understand the path to correct technique, it is important to understand the obstacles that a boxer may encounter when following this path. There are levels of expected resistance that a boxer has to overcome and levels of difficulty that need to be mastered in order to get the job done.

Generally, it is difficult to counter an opponent who:

A. Has established a dominant rhythm.
B. Keeps cutting off the ring thus controlling escape routes and having opponents fight going backwards. 
C. Keeps attacking with smart combinations where avoiding one punch makes opponents get hit with another.
D. Keeps mixing real punches with feints. 

On the other hand, in order to counter-punch effectively, boxers should be able to:

A. Establish their own rhythm or break their opponents' rhythm.
B. Control the distance and make opponents reach or, even better, lose their balance.
C. Fight using angles that enable them to see all punches coming and in return make them pay for missing with punches that the opponents don't see coming.

In order for counter-punching to be effective there is one basic rule:

Boxers need to make opponents pay for missing.

If opponents don't get hit when they miss they will keep coming, they will eventually get close and catch the defensive fighters.  

As you can see, all aforementioned factors have to be considered in the planning process of any effective counter-punching game.

Tyson's counter-punching game and his body-punching counters are no different. 

That being said let’s start analyzing some basic counters in Mike Tyson's body-punching game.

There are 5 main counter-punching categories. These are defined by the type of the incoming punch. These are:
  1. Countering the jab
  2. Countering left hooks
  3. Countering uppercuts  
  4. Countering right hands
  5. There are of course counters to body punches but these will not be examined here. 

Let's provide some examples for each type:

Countering the jab

The jab is the most common and effective punch in boxing. This punch has to be countered in order for a fighter to close the distance and deliver effective offense.

 (Jab) change levels + jab to the body

In this video the jab to the body enables Tyson to duck under the incoming jab and land on his opponent’s body with a jab of his own.

(Jab), slip + jab to the body, left hook

Here Tyson slips the incoming jab and lands a jab to the body. Mike follows-up with a leaping left hook.

(Jab) change levels or slip + jab to the body, right hand

This is a similar sequence as in the previous example but this time Mike follows up with a vicious right hand. This video includes several variations.

(Jab, cross), jab + change levels, right cross to the body

In this example, Tyson finishes the combination with a right hand to the body.

(Jab) slip or duck under, left hook to the body

Tyson slips or rolls under his opponent’s jab and attacks with a left hook to the body AKA a liver punch.

(Jab), slip left, slip right, right hook to the body

In this video, Tyson uses a “metronome” style peekaboo movement to make the jab miss. As you can see he moves left and then right before launching a right hook to the body.

Countering left hooks

Unlike MMA fighters who mostly tend to block left hooks, boxers generally prefer to use head movement and roll under incoming hooks. Here is how Tyson deals with incoming left hooks by attacking the body:

(Left hook) roll under right hook to the body

In this video you can see several clips of Tyson slipping or rolling under left hooks and landing right hooks to the body. This is a common counterattack in boxing.

Left hook to the body, (left hook), left hook to the body

As you can see in the video above a left hook to the body can also be used to counter attack against a left hook. Personally, I prefer this option as this can be a devastating punch.

Left hook to the body, (left hook), right hook to the body

Left hooks to the body should be used with caution. Boxers have to get close in order to land them and their opponents will often counter with left hooks. A left duck-under or a roll are the easiest ways to avoid these left hooks due to the fact that fighters usually bend left when delivering liver shots so their body is already moving that way.

(Left hook) slip or block, left hook to the body

The sequence above can be applied twice in a row as you can see in the following video. Tyson lands a left hook to the body, slips a left hook and lands a second left hook to the body:

Countering uppercuts 

In order to counter a punch it is important to see it coming. Sometimes it is difficult to determine if an incoming left hand is a hook, an uppercut or a hybrid of the two. Slipping works better with uppercuts than with left hooks.

(Left uppercut), slip, left hook to the body

In this example Tyson slips left and attacks with a left hook to the body.

(Right uppercut), slip, left hook to the body

Here, as in the previous video, a left hook to the body is also the weapon of choice  against a right uppercut.

Countering right hands

Right hands are hard punches and avoiding them is preferable to blocking them. They offer, however, a great opportunity to counter by landing punches to the body.

(Right hand), slip or duck under, left hook to the body

A left hook to the body is the best way to make opponents pay for missing with their right hand. This is due to the fact that the right hand often leaves the liver exposed. Many fighters overextend when launching right hands and this compromises their posture. Thus they are unable to pull their arms back in proper form after the punch. This makes it difficult for them to defend liver punches.

(Right hand) right hook to the body

Another way to deal with right hands is to attack the right side. In this example, Mike attacks with a right hook to the body and follows up with a variety of punches.

This is the last example for now. Hopefully all these sequences can help you understand how Tyson was able to close the distance, counter and land attacks to the body. 

Final thoughts.

Attacks to the body seem brutal and simple to to the untrained eye. Fans often get the impression that it is just speed or power or even luck that gets the job done. Truth of the matter is that repeated results don’t just happen on a consistent basis no matter how talented a fighter is.  In peekaboo style boxing, every punch preceding or following an attack to the body is part of a well established system.

Every punching variation and every boxing combination derives from a rich history of high level competition where every idea, every concept was put to the test again and again.

Whenever a punch or a combination lands, talented coaches notice. Eventually, they manage to identify patterns that can be replicated and applied in similar situations. One such trainer was Cus D’Amato who was instrumental in helping Mike Tyson achieve greatness.

Although we can never hope to reach heights of wisdom of a trainer like Cus D’Amato, we can at least appreciate his legacy, his love of the sport and his teachings. These articles try to do just that: help you appreciate the science behind successful application   and encourage you to do your own research. Sooner or later you will reach a point where a left hook is not just a left hook but a door leading to endless possibilities.

This article is dedicated to boxing scholar Kenny Weldon (1945-2018).

That is all for today. The next part of this series will focus on Mike Tyson’s uppercut game.

Navigation: Tyson main menu -  Angles of Attack - Southpaw Attacks - Peekaboo - Jabs - Leaping Left Hooks - Offensive Body Punching - Body Punching pt 2: Counter-punching 

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