The Boxing Clinch – How To Use It To Your Advantage

The Boxing Clinch – How To Use It To Your Advantage

The infamous boxing clinch, a vital yet irritating element of the “sweet science” that makes a great fight. Most casual boxing fans find the clinching phase of a fight annoying because it breaks the intensity of the fight. At the same time, others view clinching as a necessary pause to prevent fighters from pummeling each other’s heads into bits within the first few minutes of the fight.

Hate it or love it, clinching is an integral part of the sport and, if used correctly, can change the tide and ultimate outcome of a fight. As a boxer, you must learn how to clinch, even if you have no intention to use it, so you can prevent your opponent from using it against you.


The moment your opponent finishes their combination, quickly shorten the distance between the both of you by advancing with your lead leg. Remember to always keep your guard up.

Once you are close enough that your forearms touch one other, quickly slide your arms around his back.

There are two ways that you can perform a clinch:

  1.  Tie your arms around your opponent with their hands up without breaking their guard.

This move does not require any initial force to tie your opponent, but it is harder to keep the clinch from breaking because of his constant push from the inside with his arms.

  1.  Push your gloves between your opponent’s arms in order to break his guard, slide your arms around his back and bring your opponent’s hands down by putting weight on your elbows and forearms.

This move requires an initial application of force to gain an upper strategic position with your arms where your opponent has less leverage and strength to apply from getting free.

It is important that you constantly try to place your head on your opponent’s collarbone and push hard enough that your head can stay firmly attached in that position. If there is even the slightest opening between your head and your opponent’s shoulders, you can risk either an accidental head-butt or a hit from the shoulder straight to the face from your opponent. One hit from such a close distance from a hard bone like the human skull will most certainly get you a cut around the eye or the cheekbone.

In this video, Golovkin teaches Sullivan advanced moves on how to manage the head’s position


Escaping from the grip of your opponent can be risky if not done properly.  Usually, when in the clinch, your hands are lowered and distant from an optimal guard position that leaves your face uncovered.

Avoid the instinctive move of going backward in a straight line. The moment you step back, any fighter experienced enough will take the opportunity to land a resolutive blow on your chin. This happens because by moving backward you are providing the other fighter the necessary distance to fully extend the arm and consequently generate more power with his shots.

You have two main ways to evade from the clinch:

  1. Unbalance the opponent and step back.

Use your gloves and forearms to vigorously push the opponent on the chest. The fighter will be unable to punch you when out of balance, this is the right moment to step back.

  1. Spinning out.

If you cannot directly push your opponent away, spin around and then push yourself out of their grip.

Place your foot outside of their lead leg. Use your foot as the needle of a compass and drag the opponent in a body twist. Now you can safely evade from the opponent’s grip.



If you thought the reason was that your opponent had a lack of affection in their childhood and wants to “hug it out” – you are wrong.

There are many different reasons a boxer may want to clinch, but the two most common reasons are:

Strategy: If used correctly, clinching can neutralize almost every shot of your opponent or prevent them from building momentum by breaking their rhythm. This tactic is successfully used by Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Desperation: You have taken so many shots to the head that your body’s only response is to cling – or clinch – to your adversary. Clinching affords a fighter a moment to pause to regain lucidity and stamina. If timed correctly, clinching can afford a fighter a moment of rest until the gong of the bell. If timed incorrectly, clinching allows a moment of pause before your inevitable slaughter.


Per the Marquees of Queensberry Rules, a code of generally accepted rules in boxing that was drafted in the 19th century, clinching is not allowed – but the degree to which it is allowed ultimately depends on who is the referee.

The Marquees of Queensberry rules clearly state that neither wrestling nor hugging are allowed in boxing. Today, this rule is still applied (with some variations as to degree) by most commissions and sanctioning bodies of boxing.

The degree to which a referee will allow clinching in a fight widely varies. For instance, a referee may allow you to box your way in and out of the clinch, permit some sneaky dirty punches at your opponent’s kidneys during a clinch, or forbid any notion that you may tie your arms around your opponent – not surprisingly, this can all occur in one fight with one referee.

As a general rule of thumb, as long as there is some form of active work conducted by at least one of the boxers in a clinch, the referee will permit the fight to continue.


Some boxing fans can argue that fighters like Wladimir Klitschko or Floyd Mayweather Jr. built their legacies on hugging people, the truth is that the boxing clinch alone will not grant you the victory, but can surely avoid you a knockout.

Practice it inside your sparring sessions, learn how to evade it, make it an ineffective weapon for your opponents to use against you.

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