There are many different types of punches that you can throw in boxing, from the humble jab to a devastating hook. One of the rarest but most underrated, however, is the bolo punch which can be highly effective when used the right way but it can also be a decoy for other punches too.
It’s a shame that it’s not used as often as other punches as not only is it a great punch but it is also entertaining as well. To see a big wind up on a punch can be highly distracting for an opponent when it is being thrown and very hurtful if it lands.
What is a bolo punch?
The bolo punch is often cited as a mix between a hook and an uppercut as it’s a punch that is directed upwards but one which is thrown in a similar circle arm motion to a hook. It’s a low swing where your whip your arm around in order to generate pace before delivering that blow onto your opponent.
It originated from the Philippines and has only been used by a few fighters effectively in the ring, partly due to the fact that your body has to be balanced and you need to multi-task as well because your lead hand needs to be going something to sell or disguise the punch.
While there may be exceptions, such as if you are facing a much smaller opponent or they are bent over, it is a body punch as it’s thrown from a low action. These shots are mostly going to be directed to the liver to hurt your opponent and it could well stop them. The bolo punch is a great option for taking the motivation and energy away from a fighter as they struggle with the hurtful body shot.
Where does the name come from?
Most punches have names which are pretty obvious such as the jab, the hook or the uppercut but a bolo punch is a diversion away from that. Bolo is actually the name for a type of machete which is used in the Philippines in order to cut sugar cane. When cutting the sugar cane a worker will sweep their arm in a manner which requires the least possible effort in the hot climate.
The way it is cut has many similarities to the way a punch is thrown as the hips will turn in, the body will rotate with the shoulders and then the arm will be able to follow through. The machete arm is then whipped forward with the action of your whole body in order to cut that sugar cane. That motion of whipping the arm around is then used in the boxing ring.
When you have a machete in your hand and you’re completing the action, the weight of the machete will be able to follow your arm through the cut the plant. In the boxing ring, this is where you use the speed of your arm to propel your muscles through the punch to hand the damaging blow.
How is it different from an uppercut?
While you might loop your hand to get in position to throw the uppercut, the finish of it is a straight line right up to your opponent’s jaw. This was most memorably seen in Anthony Joshua’s famous uppercut versus Wladimir Klitschko as the shot goes straight up and nearly takes his neck off.
The bolo punch stays in that looping action which is part of the reason it’s not a head punch and it is also has a bigger wind-up than an uppercut. That’s why it’s got a lot more similarities with the hook as it’ll be delivered in a much more circular motion which enables you to carry a huge amount of speed through the punch.
How do I throw it?
One of the reasons that the bolo punch is rarely used is due to the fact that it is pretty easy for your opponent to see it coming if you’re throwing it from a normal stance as you need to draw your hand back in order to throw it.
Due to this you need to throw it either when you see an opening in which to do so or after you’ve set it up with some other combinations of shots. One of the best things about the punch is that you are able to stay balanced while you wind your arm back and you can easily pull out of the shot if you need to.
When you start the bolo punch your arm needs to be in a relaxed position and ideally around the top of your chest as this will give you the easiest motion in order to swing into your opponent’s body. Any higher and the punch would be a little too awkward to throw and any lower and you couldn’t be able to generate the whip required.
From this position you will be looping your hand backward and then down as you start to establish some momentum in the punch. In order to keep the momentum throughout the punch you need to keep it in a circular motion in which your hand will spiral out of in order to generate the whip needed to make it such a good punch.
This motion is roughly in the form of a sideways ‘6’ as you will have the tight circular motion of your arm before unfurling out that arm and releasing that kinetic energy. This type of arm motion is often seen in sports when you want a high arms speed and you can think about a fast bowler in cricket during a delivery or a discus thrower in athletics, the principal is the same.
Once you have pulled that arm backward and down roughly to where your waist is, then it’s time to rip that punch and direct it toward your target. As we’ve said before, it’s asking a bit too much for that target to be in someone’s face unless they are stooping and you also want it to be much higher than the belt line.
The perfect spot for this punch would be at the bottom of the sternum, right around where the liver is. This will not only take breathe out of your opponent’s lungs but it will hurt like hell too and will help you to beat the life out of them. Once delivered then make sure you keep your face protected with your lead arm and look for opportunities.
- Start with your hand at chest level
- Wind it backward and then down
- Loop your hands forward
- Follow a sidewards ‘6’ pattern
- Rip the punch into the sternum
How do I use it in a fight?
As we referred to before if you go wildly into a fight throwing a ton of bolo punches then you’re going to look like an idiot and you’re going to get picked off and hurt. The bolo punch is highly effective in three scenarios.
Firstly, it can be highly effective when you don’t actually throw it at all. While you might be sitting there looking confused about how it can be a great punch even if it’s not thrown then you only need to look at Sugar Ray Leonard and a great example of this was his fight against Roberto Duran when he wound his arm back in a dramatic fashion, priming himself for the punch.
When done in this way the bolo punch is extremely distracting for your opponent and while they are wondering what on earth you are doing with your power hand, you’ll be hitting them with straight jabs and picking them off. If they start to get frustrated then you can throw the punch.
The next way it is highly effective if, like with a lot of shots, it comes at the end of a combination. For example, if you threw a dummy straight cross, followed it up with a jab then you could wind up the bolo punch while your opponent was protecting their head and deliver it into their body. The bolo punch can be a great shot when your opponent is on the defensive.
Finally the third great time is the same as with any punch. It could be that your opponent has ducked their head forward. I remember a fight I had where my opponent tried to bend forward to avoid shots which worked well for my jab and straight cross but I was able to hit him with a heavy bolo punch and he realized he could no longer defend that way. Another great time is if your opponent is off-balance or they are not protecting their sternum.
- Never throw it unless there’s an opportunity
- Use it as a dummy to distract your opponents and set up other shots
- Throw it as part of a combination
- Spot an opening and throw it when your opponent is off-guard
How often should you throw it?
Not often, as it works best as either a surprise punch or one to distract your opponents. The most important punch will be the jab as that is your bread and butter of boxing. If you don’t have a good jab then you will find it hard to set up anything, let alone a good bolo punch.
After that then you need to be perfecting your cross and your hook as these are going to be your brutal power punches. These three punches are your fundamental punches which are going to be vital in winning your fight and then you can build on these with the likes of the uppercut and bolo punch. A bolo punch is a terrific punch to have in your locker and if you throw it at the right time then it could well stop your opponent.
Throwing a great bolo punch is very rewarding but you need to have a solid foundation of the basics before you throw it. It requires a lot of balance and also multitasking as you can start to wind up your hand for a bolo punch while throwing out a jab. This not only makes the jab more effective but means you can deliver the bolo punch just after you hand the jab.
You have to be patient though and shot selection is a vital aspect of boxing but especially with punches such as the uppercut and the bolo punch. This is because you are completely abandoning your defense and leaving yourself open to a hook. So remain patient, practice the punch a lot on the bag and in sparring and then wait for the perfect moment to unleash it in a fight.