The hook is one of the most effective and important punches in boxing, and it’s a signature move of power punches and counter punchers and a real highlight shot among knockout artists in particular.
Boxing of course has many different types of shots, from the basic straight jab to the uppercut and various other punches.
The more punches a boxer is proficient with, the more likely they are to be able to win a fight, as they will have more tools in their arsenal to dismantle an opponent, regardless of individual style.
The hook is one of the most effective punches in the sport, however, it’s a difficult punch to master when compared to simpler shots as it requires a lot of technique, as well as good timing, positioning, strength, and power to be used to its full potential.
Many people make a lot of mistakes when learning how to box, and these mistakes can become ingrained which can be disastrous for a boxer’s development and become chronic issues that will make you more inefficient as well as less likely to be able to use these punches effectively.
In this guide we’re going to look at the hook in-depth, focusing on how to throw the punch well and what to avoid to prevent mistakes from creeping into your game.
The sweet science is all about fine margins, and starting out on the right track is the best way to make sure you stay in these margins and develop an effective hook, as well as effective boxing in general. But let’s look at what a hook actually is first and foremost.
What Is A Hook?
A hook is a power punch that can be thrown with both hands and aims to attack the opponent from the side as opposed to head-on as with straight shots like jabs.
Hooks can be used to target the head or the body, and are often used as power shots by both orthodox and southpaw boxers as they can be thrown with either hand to great effect, devastating opponents with their power.
Hooks are often highlighted reel punches and lead to a lot of knockouts. Unlike the jab, a hook is a real damaging punch designed to apply pressure and cause damage, and isn’t typically used to probe defenses or accumulate points and damage like the jab.
The hook can be identified by the posture of the puncher, as well as the movement of the body and fist.
A hook is usually thrown from the side with a stiff and slightly bent arm, and the force of this devastating punch is generated by the lower body and torso turning into the punch as it connects, delivering the puncher’s full weight and force into the opponent.
This is why so many power punchers rely on hooks to deliver their knockouts.
Hooks are generally favored by shorter fighters and fighters who thrive on close, inside fights and the brawling style, however, it’s also an effective tool for counter punchers who want to pick holes in their opponent’s defense and deliver devastating shots in specific areas and windows of opportunity.
When To Throw A Hook?
This is a difficult question to answer, as proper shot selection takes years of practice to develop, and is one of the most difficult elements of boxing.
It requires an understanding of your capabilities, as well as those of your opponent, good technique, a good sense of timing, hand speed, and a host of other factors from fatigue to specific game plans and combinations.
More generally though, hooks should be thrown behind the jab or screening punches instead of as single shots.
This is because the hook is a big gamble, and while it is a knockout punch, it opens you up to being countered and uses a lot of energy to throw.
Screening your hooks with a good jab, cross, feint or footwork, and movement are critical to being able to land a hook and maximizing its damage potential while reducing your chances of being caught on the way in or out.
The most famous and best examples of proper hook usage arguably come from Mike Tyson, who was renowned for his devastating power shots and masking his devastating hooks to the body and heat with superb lateral movement and footwork.
Alternatively, look at Canelo Alvarez as a more recent example, a counter puncher who has the power, speed, and timing to be able to throw hooks with near impunity and impressive accuracy.
Indeed, Canelo’s mastery over how to make sure he lands his shots, particularly devastating hooks, and uppercuts explains why he is able to fight and dominate at various different weight classes and still overwhelm opponents with far greater reach and height.
Mistakes To Avoid When Throwing A Hook?
As with all things in boxing, there are many mistakes to avoid when throwing a hook.
Don’t Telegraph Your Punches
This means, don’t be predictable and don’t wind up too much.
It’s natural for boxers who rely on hooks to want to wind up and use all their power, but this opens you up to counters and makes it easy for opponents to either move their head or feet out of harm’s way and cause you to hit nothing but air, while likely getting countered due to how hooks can expose the head and body.
Transfer Your Weight Correctly
The most common mistake people make when using a hook is to not transfer their power properly, which can reduce your power considerably and make the punch weak and uncoordinated.
The power of the hook comes from your lower body, so you need to ensure you’re able to harness this power effectively and channel it up through your torso, into your shoulder and arm, while also turning into your punch to actually land with maximum power.
Naturally, this takes a lot of practice to master as the kinesthesia it takes to develop good technique is very complex and a lot to deal with. Avoid just throwing with your arm. This will likely end up injuring you more than anyone you’re actually punching at.
Hooks are close-range shots, end of story. At distance, use jabs and crosses to screen your approach and manage distance effectively. These can be leveraged to get you in range to unload your more devastating combinations and punches, such as hooks and uppercuts.
Don’t Drop Your Guard!
Getting into the habit of keeping your guard up should be something all boxers do, as it’s ingrained into beginners religiously.
Still though, in the pursuit of power boxers can sometimes fall into the habit of dropping their guard to throw a hook, and this leaves you wide open to a potentially devastating counter.
Always keep your non-throwing hand up and close to your head to offer protection as you move in for a hook. Combine good head movement, lateral movement, and footwork to move off the centerline as you throw, which will help protect you from getting hurt as you move in.
This is related to distance management but is a slightly separate issue. Don’t overreach when you throw a hook, as this will likely end very badly for you. Be patient, and don’t force yourself into a bad situation.
Manage distance, probe defenses with your jab, and try to establish some feints while you figure out patterns and timings that can show you openings to exploit with your hook later.
Which Boxers Throw The Best Hooks?
There have been many proficient and high profile users of this fabulous weapon, from Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson to Jack Dempsey and even modern boxers such as Saul Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin.
The list is far too long to complete, as almost all boxers will have a well-established hook before they get close to competitive boxing because it’s such an important part of a boxer’s offense.
While harnessing it can take a lot of practice, it’s one of the most effective punches in boxing and when used correctly can be totally devastating, as long as you avoid the mistakes mentioned above.
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