When it comes to boxing, there’s a lot to be said about stance and style. The fighting style of boxers is often a topic of debate, where some boxers use styles that other people will simply disagree with based on their body type.
The traditional way it’s always been is that taller fighters will stay on the outside and shorter fighters will go for a more pressuring closed-distance approach.
Two prime examples of this traditional styles are Tyson Fury and Manny Pacquiao. Both fighters follow their traditional styles based on the training they received.
It should also be noted that some fighters, tall or small, can be more defensive and aim for counter-punches at any distance.
If you’re looking for answers about boxing styles and techniques, check this out.
An Introduction to the Swarmer Style
In this small introduction we’ll be covering the key points of the swarmer boxing style.
They use pressure to close the ring off as well as the distance before using hooks and uppercuts to deal damage quick and dirty. This style tends to use the jab to close the distance quickly, like a snake lunging to bite its prey.
You’ll need some cardio training before you’re ready to do this in the ring, and here lies a few exercises to help you strengthen your cardio game.
Health is Important
If you’re ready for a career in boxing, there’s a lot of things you’ll need to give up. For example, no more greasy burgers or alcohol, you’ll be on a strict diet and thirsty before every fight.
If you want to improve your physical conditioning, which you’ll definitely need to keep up the swarmer boxing style for 12 rounds.
Also, a tip if you’re going pro, familiarise yourself with the WADA banned substances list. There are things on the list that seem quite mild, but are taken seriously if found in one of your samples.
Tips for Swarmer Boxers
- Reach Advantage – Against taller opponents you could face a disadvantage from a lack of reach. The best way to close that distance to make you dangerous is to use that jab to close the distance quickly. You’ll need to practice stepping in with a fast jab. Don’t focus on getting a powerful jab in, the idea is to use it as cover to get in, do some damage, and get out before taking too much damage yourself. Remember, throwaway fast jab, then hooks and uppercuts are your best friends.
- Speed Punchers – Boxers with a lot of speed can be very hard to deal with. They don’t deal their damage with a single hook or straight, they keep using a snap jab to keep you at a comfortable distance while also messing up your good looks. When a speed puncher tries to circle you, you can close off the ring and force him to fight toe-to-toe. An example is Pacquiao vs Broner.
- Hyperaggressive Boxers – When you’re fighting a boxer that just won’t let up, use that tactical miracle known as the clinch. It’s good for positioning your opponent as well as getting into a position where you can get hooks and uppercuts into the head and body. If you can use your speed or skill to get them on the ropes, you can do a lot of damage before you get clinched.
- Defensive Fighters – It’s worth noting that defensive boxers tend to have a lot of skill and practice their craft enough to ensure they take minimal damage from a distance. They’ll stay on the outside ready to pounce if you make a mistake. If you jab and don’t follow through, eventually you’ll be made to pay for it. If, like a swarmer, you follow the jab with a lunge to close the distance, you’ll have free reign to fight on the inside, making it harder for the defensive boxer to use his defensive training. Defensive fighters tend to try and gain distance when trapped, meaning they rely on speed. You need to be faster to make this work. Speed and stamina first, then power. An overwhelmed defensive fighter is much less of a threat than from a distance. Use your ability to stay on the inside of the ring and force the defensive towards the ropes.
- Control the Fight – Manny Pacquiao is a prime example of controlling the fight with speed and aggression. He’s also got the knowledge of when is best to lunge back out to minimise incoming damage. If you too can master this, then you’ll leave your opponent dismayed and not knowing what to do with you.
- Become a Winning Underdog – As a swarmer, you’re not in the ring to be beautiful with your technique. Quick and dirty, hooks and uppercuts. With enough experience it’s possible to learn beauty in swarming your opponents. Bigger opponents with more wins on their record could see their first loss as you, which is big enough in its own right, but it’ll take dedication and practice.
- Southpaw Caution – As a southpaw, you tend to lead with your face anyway, so our right jab has to be on-point to give you the clearance you need while you’re making your way inside. But when you get inside, you can do a lot of damage if you place your hooks on the inside. The body is a good starting point for the first few lunges because it’s a bigger target, lesser defended and can help to slow your opponent’s feet and his right-handed punches. You’ll likely need to adjust the game-plan below to suit your style exactly, but that’s fine as long as it works for you.
Fighting Like a Swarmer
Getting your swarmer game-plan down may be hard at first and take training, but when you get where you need to be, you’ll be happy with the results if used correctly.
Your guard will influence everything from your game plan to your stance. It’s highly important you pick a guard that’s right for you:
- Peek-ah-boo – Used by boxers as famous as Mike Tyson, it helps with a lot of protection and allows for powerful strikes to be used but at the same time, anecdotal evidence suggests it’s harder to manoeuvre and slip than it is with other guards.
- Crossguard – This guard makes use of the arms for protection, but in an interesting way. The lead hand goes over the body and the rear hand comes up to the lead shoulder to protect against head punches, making it a fascinating way to defend yourself if it can work for you. Slipping is a bit easier without your elbows on your ribs, but it’s doubtful that it can match the peek-ah-boo for protection.
When it comes to your stance, it’ll depend on what you’re looking for in a guard.
Your guard will largely influence what stance you’ll end up taking, meaning the only thing that will be different and chosen by you is whether you go orthodox or southpaw.
The rule of thumb tends to be your dominant hand goes at the back.
The movement that you use in the ring will help you to keep on top of your opponent and to keep the pressure on.
Manoeuvrability is key to make sure you don’t give your opponent too much time to catch his breath.
The way it goes in boxing is if you’re on two limp legs, you’re ready to be looking at the ceiling. Here are some tips on footwork in the ring:
- Cutting Off – With the fancy movers in the ring, they’re happy to keep moving and countering a chasing foe. Your best bet is to predict your opponent’s next location and cut him off. It closes the distance, and you’re less likely to get punched 25 times more than you’re punching.
- False Movement – When you’re trying to work an opening from distance, moving closer and further away to knock-off your opponent’s ranging for jabs and straights. Move in and out before using a lunging jab to create the best possible opening for you in the early rounds. In the later rounds your foe will likely have adapted to it.
- Jabs are forever – You can mask steps and lunges with jabs. They’re the most under-appreciated punch in the boxing world to fans because they aren’t massive and powerful, but using jabs to mask your movement is a great way to get close and keep your opponent pressured.
- Slips Are A Goldmine – You need to be able to slip punches. For shorter fighters that the swarmer style is great for, without slipping punches you’ll get KO’d sooner than you’d think. Being able to slip a punch can give you an edge to strike at a vulnerable opponent.
- Don’t be afraid to Hold a Glove – When boxers strike and get blocked or slipped, there’s occasionally the opportunity to hold your opponents glove with a closed arm. This should open up your opponent for a brutal body shot. It’s important to note that grabbing the arm with your glove is an illegal move.
Punches & Combinations
Punches and combos are how you’re going to win the fight or at least put the other guy on his ass. As the swarmer technique, it’d be wise to consider this method is for smaller fighters.
This means you may see some moves that aren’t necessarily compatible with really tall fighters.
For example, the overhand may not be as effective against a much smaller opponent unless they have a low guard.
Your guard is important.
It’s what stops you from taking it right in the teeth or the jaw, so deciding what works for you is going to require some defensive practice and eventually sparring. Always remember to keep your guard up.
Wilder in Wilder vs Fury 2 had a lower guard than he should of, then he paid for it repeatedly, including with a bloody ear. Professional boxers tend to work on hand speed to allow for a lower guard at times and if they see an incoming punch they try and block, and sometimes counter.
Pacquiao in Pacquiao vs Mosley shows a prime example of that hand speed coming up as an advantage on defence too.
Some of you that are new to boxing may not be familiar with the overhand, as it’s not used all that often in the higher weight classes these days, and tends to be used in the lower weight classes.
The overhand punch is performed by the rear hand in most cases, and is similar to a hook, but it comes in at a downward ark.
Think like a catapult launching rocks over walls to cause damage. It’s the same principal and an overhand can be absolutely devastating.
Working on your combos is one of many things that can be the difference between a big juicy win and a soul-crushing loss.
It’s great that you can land a jab or a straight, but if you can’t really follow up then you’re going to be in trouble when your opponent throws a flurry of punches your way.
Jab + Cross + Lead Hook
It’s a nice starting point for a couple of reasons. Firstly it’s a good way to close the distance while asserting dominance.
Secondly it’s a nice, basic combination that should be practiced most of all. If done well, it’s an amazingly underrated combination.
Lead Body Hook + Lead Head Hook + Rear Head Hook + Lead Uppercut
Throwing the two lead hooks first should hopefully keep the opponent guessing, but this isn’t worth relying on all that much.
It’s worth practising, and it’s worth working up your hand speed with your hooks to make it work.
(Against The Ropes) Throwing Mixed Hooks + Rear Uppercut
When your opponent is up against the ropes, you’ll be as close as you’re going to get outside of a clinch.
Beware your opponent trying to outmanoeuvre you, if they can slip off the ropes, they’re snatching an advantage right out of your gloves. Be prepared for them to move left or right.
Jab + Lunge
This is important to the swarmer style. There’s nothing that will close the distance and buy you time like a jab and lunge.
It’s effective, but remember you’ll need to escape quickly after throwing a flurry. If you don’t escape and you have a strong opponent, you could end up taking a close range hook with a lot more accuracy.
There are a few important things to remember. The list below should explain it well:
- Inside Boxers – Inside boxers use more powerful punches, but tend to be shorter and therefore lacking reach. Find whatever the best way is for you to close the distance.
- Closing The Distance – When fighting against taller boxers, you need to remember that if you don’t close the distance at every opportunity then you’ll be eating more jabs than you should be. If you’re a southpaw you might eat a lot anyway.
- Dealing with Faster Boxers – Faster boxers are going to slowly but surely hit you until you go down. With boxers with great footwork, you might have the problem of being circled and punched repeatedly. The best approach to deal with faster opponents with great speed and footwork is to cut off the ring, and then close the distance to the inside.
- Don’t Be Afraid To Clinch – Sometimes you’re going to come up against opponents that are just as offensively aggressive as you tend to be. The use of the clinch to throw off their momentum and put them in a corner or on the ropes can put you in the position of power you need to let loose.
- Practice Switching Stances – When you’re using the swarmer style there will be times where you’ll be in a position where the other stance would be better. For example, if your opponent is in a corner and you’re positioned to keep him there, you’ll likely find it a time that can be very useful to be proficient with your off-stance.
- Weight Distribution – The way you distribute your weight from punching on the outside should differ from how you’re punching on the outside. With the lunging jab, the weight should be on the back leg as it’s pushing forward. On the inside, stick to a relatively even distribution. If you’re going to throw power from that inside position then put your weight on the opposite leg. Doing so should see a little more weight added to your punches
- Volume is Important – To any swarmer, volume should be a big prerogative. The thing about a good swarmer is that if you want to win, you’ll need to be part brawler. Don’t just wait for an opportunity to make a move. If you’re getting hit more than twice every ten seconds, start throwing them back at the same time. If you’re not throwing a good volume of punches, you’re not going to win.
Swarmer’s Guide To Grappling
When it comes to the clinch, it’s a tactical and strategic choice that is usually used for one of two reasons. In some cases it’s possible for the tactical use of the clinch being used for a couple of different purposes.
The first purpose for the clinch tends to be when you need some time. This can happen either when you’ve let off one too many flurries, then you’ll likely be angling for a few seconds to recover a bit.
The problem is that trying to outmanoeuvre your opponent to gain those few seconds requires work of its own. The best way forward, which was pioneered by the likes of Roberto Duran, a very talented boxer from 1968-2001. Having had over 100 bouts, it’s no surprise that this use of the clinch is still in use today.
Another purpose of the clinch is when you’ve taken a beating and you can feel yourself on the edge of hitting the canvas. This has been around for quite a while.
Even professional fighters at the top of the world of boxing have used the clinch to give them the precious seconds they need.
The last purpose, which is the one any swarmer should pay attention to and learn, is to use the clinch to grapple with, and hopefully change the angle and/or location of your opponent.
Doing this can help you alter the opposition’s location in the ring to a more preferable one for you.
For example, driving an opponent to a corner or the ropes can open your opponent up to a world of hurt. Providing yourself some extra inside fighting time will be a useful necessity that will have you praising the clinch in no time.
The Best Type of Clinch For a Swarmer
As a swarmer, you’ll often need to move your opponent, and the best way to do it is through the over-under hooks. The under-over is not just used in boxing, but is also used in MMA.
The over-under technique is something used to not only control your opponent’s arms, but also to gain the ability to reposition your opponent.
Underhooks is a type of clinch where you put your hands under your opponent’s arms and bringing your arms up to your opponent’s shoulder.
Overhooks is a clinch done by placing your arms around your opponent’s to keep them from throwing any punches, giving you some well needed rest when required.
They work by giving you, the swarmer, leverage over your opponent to help you drive them wherever you want them.
This is done by having one arm over the others arm, and the other one is hooking underneath your opponent’s and holding your glove on their shoulder.
This, when done correctly can help greatly with positioning and keeping the opponent’s momentum low
Swarmers need to be physically dominant to get the results they want. This is going to include pushing when in the clinch.
Pushing is how you’re going to get your opponent where you want them and using it as a skill to be practiced will provide exceptional results.
It’s not necessarily about being the strong boxer, because you’ll waste a lot of valuable energy in the ring trying to use brawns over brains.
The trick is to find the right point to leverage your opponent where you want them to go.
The Positioning of Your Head is Important
How you position your head is a very interesting factor in the clinch. The need for good head positioning is paramount. If your head ends up on the other boxer’s chest, it can be a difficult time when it comes to the attempt to relocate your opponent with a push.
You’ll want your head above the other guy, and it’ll make it worse for him if he’s a stronger boxer.
Even if you’re not the taller fighter, it’s important that you avoid putting your head on the other boxer’s chest, aim for the shoulder or above if you can.
It’s easier to manipulate the other fighter from there.
Seen among plenty of pro-fights, the headlock version of the clinch is ideal to minimise damage coming from the other boxer. It’s also a lot easier to manipulate position with a headlock and turn your opponent.
As far as it goes with escaping headlocks, people think the best course of action is to try and pull their heads straight out.
In actual fact, it’s easier to lift your head up to break the lock, as opposed to pulling your head straight and having a much harder time getting out of it.
Final Clinching Advice
- Avoid a tie-up – When a clinch is ongoing, if there referee see’s both fighters not making any moves for one too many seconds, he’ll break the clinch up to get the fight going again. Keep moving and punching in the clinch if you want the ref to keep it going, but don’t stay in a clinch for too long. If it’s not working you can either break it or try and tie-up a stronger opponent.
- Leverage and Positioning are Everything – When trying to either assert or keep dominance in a cling, the leverage you obtain from your clinch and the positioning of yours, and your opponent’s, heads. It matters when trying to find the leverage you need inside the clinch.
- Keep your Head – When you’re in a grapple and need to get yourself out of an awkward situation, keeping your head is absolutely necessary in getting a good result out of each clinch. Plus if you’re calm in the clinch it’s an ideal time to play mind games, if you’re into that sort of thing.
What’s Needed to Become a Good Swarmer
In boxing there are 5 key things you will need to learn to become a good swarmer:
- Footwork – Footwork is essential to being able to close the distance between you and your opponent quickly.
- Endurance – Endurance is key to a good swarming technique, without a substantial level of endurance you will become so exhausted your likely to hit the mat.
- Wrestling Skills – When in a clinch, having some basic wrestling skills will improve your swarming ability.
- Strength – Some strength is useful but not necessarily essential to becoming a good swarmer
- A Strong Chin – A good, solid chin will be essential as you are likely to take a knock or two to the jaw.
- Slipping Ability – When attempting to close the gap on an opponent having the slipping ability is a crucial component in your arsenal. Unfortunately the only way to improve and develop your slipping ability is by repetition and determination.
Examples of Successful Swarmers
If you’re looking to improve and gain some tips on becoming a good swarmer there are many famous swarmers you could take reference from.
To name a few, some of the world famous swarmers are the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Mike Tyson and Roberto Duran.
To get to know the swarmer style better I would recommend watching and analysing their fight styles for exceptional technique tips.
Exercises & Drills
The first and foremost exercise we would suggest would be the speed bag and double end bag drills. The key to this exercise is to hit the bag and wait for it to come back, dodging it with your head upon its return.
This unique exercise will aid in focusing your slipping dodging and weaving skills.
A second exercise that will aid in honing and developing the key skill of slipping, bobbing and weaving is, of course, sparring.
Sparring with a partner is the most helpful way to practice as people are unpredictable unlike a bag that only swings in the same direction.
When training to be a good swarmer another important aspect of your preparation should be conditioning. There are a variety of strength exercises and endurance drills to use when training and these are key for becoming a good swarmer.
You will use these techniques that you learn to have better clinch control in the ring. By focusing on these key drills and exercises you will have an exponential level of control over your opponent and you will be dominating them with powerful combos round after round.
For strength I would recommend free weight exercises such as pull-ups, hammer curls, concentration curls and lying dumbbell tricep extensions. In addition you could also use heavyweight lifting, such as, deadlift, bench press etc.
For endurance training I would recommend interval training. Do not run for more than half a mile, run in quick bursts with small rests between intervals.
This will peak your heart rate allowing for the cardiac muscles to strengthen, increasing your endurance steadily over time. Finally for exercises you will need to learn your combinations and this is done on the heavy bag.
Counters of the style
No boxing style is perfect, least of all the swarmer style. Below are the fighting styles that will put even the best of swarmers on the back foot:
Brawlers otherwise known as sluggers are the powerhouses of boxing. With their big punches and knockout power they can be a big problem for swarmers. They are so problematic because they are usually large and strong, as such, they can be difficult to control in the ring.
One example of this is that sluggers use their strength advantage to make you retreat on your advance. In the fight between George Forman (slugger) makes it extremely difficult for Joe Frazier (swarmer) to get inside.
In most cases swarmers will beat the out-boxers, however, there is an exception. Some out-boxers have extreme speed and footwork like a ballerina, this makes it extremely difficult for the swarmer to catch the out-boxer.
The out-boxer will circle the ring throwing jabs and keep you at a distance. The risk the swarmer faces is loss by points in this instance.
Well Balanced Wrestler Boxers
The key to controlling your opponent is to develop keen wrestling skills. To be able to control your opponent in clinches these skills are essential.
If your opponent s lighter on his feet and a better wrestler than you it can ruin your whole game plan and cost you the fight.
Before we wrap up, here’s a fantastic video with a few important lessons on the swarmer boxing style.
If you want to learn about the swarmer boxing style, do what all trainers have to do before they can teach something.
Watch it, live it, breathe it, by watching large amounts of footage of known swarmers, you can see just how effective they can be. Some interesting fights can be found here.
There are a couple of key things to remember. One is that the clinch isn’t just an effective technique, but something to be mastered to give you the best possible chance to get a high volume of punches in.
Lastly, remember when training to give extra time to training your strength for certain punches that you know you use a lot. Shadow boxing with dumbbells is effective.