The Ultimate Guide To The Boxing Clinch

boxing clinch

Boxing fans don’t like the clinch. It can slow down fights and sometimes it can feel like fighters are hugging each other instead of fighting, which can lead to some very boring fights. You’ll rarely, if ever, see a full fight without a clinch though and understanding the reason that it’s done will give you a better understanding of boxing and a better chance of winning fights.

Why Do Boxers Clinch?

In simple terms, the clinch is done to stop you from getting hurt. Some fighters do it far too often whereas others are masters at doing it at the right time. One of those masters was Floyd Mayweather who rarely got hurt but when he did, he’d clinch like his life depending on it.

Imagine being on the other end of it, you’ve just thrown a shot which has hurt your opponent and you want to take advantage of it and try and stop him. You press forward and instead of your dazed opponent stepping back and running away they come forward, he might take a couple of shots on the gloves but all of a sudden he is in your face and you can’t get your arms free, you can’t hurt him. This will give the hurt fighter at least five seconds on breathing space to get his senses back while the referee breaks it up and if it’s not long enough, he’ll do it again.

Clinching feels counter-intuitive as when you get hurt the instinct is to give yourself a moment by avoiding punches and stepping away, not going forward to take some more. Anyone who hurt Mayweather, and it didn’t happen often, didn’t hurt him for long.

Perhaps the best example of this is back in 2010 when he fought Shane “Sugar” Mosely who hit him with perhaps the hardest shot that Mayweather has ever taken. If you watch the fight back though you’ll see that Mayweather literally grabs the right arm of Mosely after the punch and then clinches him. He then covers up and then clinches him again.

The art of boxing is as much in defense as it is attack and reacting to punches is a huge part of that. For all his many qualities, Mayweather was also a master at reacting to the punch. Mosely would have been able to finish off most fighters after that punch, but not Mayweather.

Are There Other Reasons To Clinch

There is one other main reason to clinch and that is simply to take a break when you are tired. This is why the clinch is a lot more associated with heavyweight boxing as when you’re that size it can be easy to run out of steam when you’ve thrown a flurry of punches or it could be a heavyweight boxer which is carrying a bit too much weight.

Whatever the reason to take a break, sometimes it’s easier to just clinch in order to buy yourself some more time and get through a round. An example of this can be seen in the Joshua vs Klitschko fight where Joshua knocked his opponent down in the 5th round before gassing out and then being knocked down in the 6th. From that point on Joshua used the clinch effectively in the 7th until he could get another wind on energy.

Using the clinch is one of those tactics which can separate you from an average fighter. No-one wants to be tired in the ring but everyone will be at one stage and giving yourself that little bit of time until your next attack can be very effective. The art of boxing isn’t in just throwing beautiful combinations, but also doing things like the clinch better than anyone too.

Reasons To Clinch:

  • You’re hurt and need to avoid getting knocked out
  • You’re gassed out and need to get your breath back
  • You’re losing the battle on the inside and need to reset

How To Clinch Properly

So, enough on why you do it, you need to know the steps you need to take in order to clinch effectively. Of course you just can’t walk forward with open arms and go in there for a hug as you’re going to get yourself knocked out so you want to make sure that you’re doing it the right way. The clinch can either be a premeditated move or done in the spur of the moment when you’ve been given the chance to.

So the first thing you need to do then is be able to get yourself into the right position as if you’re not then it’s going to cause you serious issues. Sometimes the clinch can be done in the heat of the moment when either you or your opponent has swung their arms and you end up being tangled up together, this is where you can clinch and hold on instantly and you don’t have to worry about working your way into the position.

If it’s a little bit more premeditated though then there had to be a process in which you go through in to get close into your opponent. When you get close to the opponent you are aiming for a point where your opponent can’t get a shot away but you’re still able to wrap around with your arms.

I order to get to that point you need to cover up completely for a moment by holding your hands high so that you’re covering all of your head and tucking your elbows into the side of your body, that way to can move forward without getting hurt. It could well be the case that you want to clinch because you are hurt in which case you are probably going to be covering up anyway and only need to take a step forward in order to be close enough to your opponent.

The ideal clinch would involve your hooking your arms over your opponent and locking them up that way. If you do this then your opponent obviously can’t get their arms free to throw any shots at all and will be totally powerless to do anything at all. All the while, you’ll be able to get off a few cheap shots to the body or the head until the referee steps in to break up the clinch.

While it’s always ideal to be able to wrap your arms over a fighter, it’s not always possible and sometimes you have to make a compromise. Wrapping your arms under them, or only over one arm, will mean that your opponent is still able to get small shots off but these are just annoying more than anything and will allow you to recover. If your opponent is able to get shots off pretty clearly though which are bothering you, then it’s for the best to get out of the clinch as the referee might not break it up immediately.

One thing you should do when you’re in a defensive clinch is keep your head as tight as possible in order to lessen the effect of any punches that you might take in order to make the clinch as effective as possible. If you’re the stronger fighter or have the balance advantage then it’s a good idea to use that strength to push your opponent back and tire them out. The clinch can be a dirty business so pushing your head against your opponent and using your weight are great ways to win the clinch.

Remember the reason you are in the clinch, and try to keep it going for as long as possible and do so by using the least amount of energy as possible and only using energy to either bully your opponent whereby they’ll be using more energy or by getting off a few cheap shots when their arms are tangled up.

Clinching Key Points:

  • Go in with a high guard
  • Trap your opponent’s arms under yours
  • If you can’t minimize damage
  • Lean in and take a rest
  • Get off some shots if you can
  • Leave the clinch if it’s not working

If you’re looking for a bit more information, check out the video below by Sneak Punch on how to clinch.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Won’t the referee just break it up straight away?

A: How long a clinch lasts is completely in the hands of the referee and sometimes you’ll have a referee who will break up the clinch as early as possible and this was seen in the Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker fight where the referee was keen to immediately stop any clinching and there are other examples where it will be allowed to continue for a while.
The referee won’t let a tie-up clinch where nothing is happening last for long, and when he goes to break it up you can take that extra little moment before releasing without being penalized. If you’re leaning your weight on your opponent and pushing them back then it gives the referee fewer opportunities to break up the clinch as well.

Fighting in the clinch can take energy out of you so throwing a few punches if your arm is free is a great idea if you’re hurt as this might extend the cling but doing this while you’re tired will make the break you are having meaningless. If you’re good at clinching then obviously you can obviously just repeat the process time and time again until you’ve recovered.

Q: What if I need to leave the clinch?

A: Whether you’ve tried to clinch and not quite managed to get it right or your opponent has gone to clinch you, you need to know the most effective way of getting out of a clinch. There are two main methods when it comes to this and this is either spinning out or pushing yourself out of the clinch.

Spinning out of a clinch can be a good way to stop any counter-attack from your opponent and also land one of your own shots on the way out. This involves pushing yourself off from the side of your opponent and spinning out of the move, this will rotate you and your opponent enough to shake off the clinch.

The second method is to just simply shove your way out of a clinch by pressing your boxing gloves against your opponent’s chest and stepping back. You need to do this with enough force so that your opponent can’t get off any shots on the way out as you step back to get out of danger. While you’re doing this it’s a good idea to leave your lead hand out so that it can block any possible counter.

Q: How do I avoid being clinched?

A: You know by know how effective the clinch can be so if someone is attempting to put it on you then you want to do everything you can in order to avoid it. A large part of this is in anticipation as if you see a hurt or tired fighter come up at you with a high guard and reaching out with the arms then you want to avoid it.

Rather than punching them on their gloves, it’s best to try and step back or step to the side in order to avoid the grab. If you do start to find yourself having your arms trapped, when the above two moves mentioned in the above section can also be used before you’re actually clinched to avoid yourself being tied up. This takes quick foot movement and a quick mind to stop yourself from being caught.

Only Use The Clinch When It’s Necessary

No-one likes clinching, the fans don’t like it, the judges probably don’t like it and you probably would rather not do it either. While the clinch might not help you win a fight on its own, it sure can stop you losing one. There have been many times where you watch a fight and the boxer in trouble is not clinching before being knocked out.

There are other times too when a tired boxer will walk around the ring like a zombie before suffering the same fate. The art of boxing is knowing when to do things the ugly way and not just throwing off pretty combinations all the time.

The best fighters of all time might look great in attack but they also know how to react when they are hurt and that involves clinching. Mastering the art of the clinch will give you what extra weapon in your armory to being unbeatable. In that fight that we mentioned with Joshua, after his knockdown and in the 7th round he protected himself, took a breather and clinched. He knew how to not get beat and we all know what happened in the 11th round.