There are three main defensive guards adopted by boxers today. Each individual fighter will change the guards slightly, depending upon their personal preferences. Some boxers will choose to raise their guard in order to provide more protection for their head. On the other hand, some boxers prefer to lower their guard to provide greater protection for the torso. In reality, though, most fighters will change the positioning of their guard constantly throughout a fight, depending upon the particular situation.
The peek-a-boo guard is a defensive style that is extremely popular with professional and amateur boxers. This type of guard is also commonly known as ‘the earmuffs’. To adopt an effective peek-a-boo position, hold your hands next to each other in front of your face. Keep your elbows tight against your body whilst maintaining a relaxed stance. This guard will minimise damage from direct strikes to the head but it is a difficult guard from which to mount a counter-attack. The main drawback to the peek-a-boo is that it leaves the boxer vulnerable to hooks from the opponent.
The peek-a-boo defensive style is especially suitable for shorter fighters. This is primarily because shorter boxers have shorter arms and are therefore able to gain more leverage in looping punches. Furthermore, shorter fighters will be able to cover the gaps in the guard position more effectively. Taller fighters, who will presumably have longer torsos, are more vulnerable to strikes on the body than shorter boxers. This is not to say that they should avoid employing the peek-a-boo guard but they should always be more aware of this increased vulnerability.
This guard was introduced by the legendary boxing trainer, Cus D’Amato. Famous fighters to have employed this style include Floyd Patterson, who was trained by Cus D’Amato, and Winky Wright. Wright’s victories over Felix Trinidad and Jermain Taylor owe much to the success of the peek-a-boo guard. Former Golden Gloves champion, Kevin Rooney, is a peek-a-boo expert. He passed on his skills to Mike Tyson when the two boxing legends trained together.
To adopt a cross-armed guard, position your forearms on top of each other. One of your hands should be on top of the elbow of the opposite arm. Hold your arms in front of your face and maintain a balanced stance. This defensive style reduces the ability of your opponent to land direct strikes on your head. Indeed, the only head punch that this guard leaves you vulnerable to is a jab to the upper part of the head. The cross-armed guard leaves your body open to punches from your opponent, due to the positioning of the elbows. However, you can minimise the risk to your torso by bending and leaning forward. The only drawback to this guard is that it is a difficult one from which to counter-attack.
The crab guard is established by placing your lead arm across your upper body. It is up to the individual fighter precisely where the arm is positioned but, as a rough guide, it should be placed between the belly button and the chest. Place your other hand on the side of your face. If your right hand is dominant, your hand will be against the right side of your face. Keep your lead shoulder pressed firmly against the other side of your face. Whereas the other two guards cause potential problems for counter-attacking, the crab guard provides the perfect opportunity for counterpunching. Whilst in the crab guard, you will be able to slip potential strikes from your opponent by constantly ducking your upper body. This movement will cause blows from your opponent to glance off your body. As this is happening, you will be able to punch your off-balance opponent with your back hand.
This counter-attacking move requires the fighter to use a shoulder lean from the crab guard position. During a shoulder lean, you should twist and dip (to the right if your dominant fighting hand is your right hand) when your opponent is about to punch you. As your opponent brings his hand back, rotate your body back in his direction and quickly punch with your back hand. The one drawback to this guard only exists when the boxer is stationary. If you maintain constant athletic movement, you will not encounter any problems with this defensive style.
The one way to combat an opponent who is employing the crab guard consistently during a match, is to repeatedly strike his shoulder and upper arm. After a while, the pain caused by these punches will reduce the effectiveness of the defensive style.