The Hook is important (diary entry)

hook jamieathena diary workshop hook15.02.21

Monday night’s second lesson was the third in Athena Karate’s course on Boxing techniques. Tonight we covered variations of the hook punch and a selection of legendary boxers who exemplified its use. For details on the hook in self-defence and its relationship with boxing, please check out my private lesson/teacher consultancy blog post.

Before we moved onto techniques, I warmed everyone up with a routine inspired by the late “Marvellous” Marvin Hagler who died last week. Hagler was an amazing switch-hitter who adapted as his opponents tried to attack him on angles. He also didn’t clinch much but instead used his guard and head movement to nullify punches on the inside.

I divided hooks up into mid-range, long-range, short-range and the rear hook. Within the ranges we discussed the positioning of the fist. Then we looked at variations on each of these ranges as punches in their own right.

The lead mid-range hook is probably the closest we have to a basic hook. It’s the punch I think most people throw when they are told to throw a hook. It’s also a great starting point for the mechanics on the hook. Jack Dempsey and Mike Tyson both give us good examples of how to throw a conventional, classic mid-range hook. A lot of Tyson’s style after all took its lead from Dempsey, including how he was originally marketed. Both used a lot of head movement, Dempsey being a bob ‘n weave pioneer and Tyson perfecting it with D’Amato’s peek-a-boo style. When I taught the hook, we coupled it a lot with slipping and rolling to get good weight distribution. However, both these boxers were also well known for other techniques; Dempsey had his falling step and Tyson had his uppercut. “Smokin'” Joe Frazier probably should take the award for the best use of the hook. He sometimes threw it with such forces that he exposed his back. However, there was no doubting its power and also his ability to throw this punch from a variety of angles. It harmonised perfectly with his regular bobbing and weaving head movement off the cross-arm guard and was the very punch that knocked Ali down in their first meeting. Prior to this an honourable mention must go to ‘Enry’s Hammer, Henry Cooper’s notorious left hook that also knocked Ali down in their first fight. Tommy “The Duke” Morrison is sometimes cited as the greatest wielder of the left hook and his record speaks for itself. Some people argue that the single best left hook delivered in boxing history should go to Sugar Ray Robinson who knocked Gene Fullmer out with it whilst he was back-peddalling! These days this punch is often called a check-hook.

The long range hook, sometime referred to as a straight hook, comes out like a jab. The incredibly talented Roy Jones Jnr. must be given credit for his ability to throw this move out of nowwhere. Floyd Patterson’s gazelle punch variation on this technique received my spotlight just simply because he doesn’t get enough attention. His gazelle punch was a thing of beauty.

The close-range hook can be delivered in different ways, but I have been generally won over by the shovel hook. This brings us onto the liver and spleen shots. You can hook to the body using the same technique used in a mid-range hook and they work very well when chained with the same side head hook or uppercut. However, the shovel hook is technique perfectly designed for this job. Here is a good link to explain why the liver shot is such a devastating technique to have at your disposal. Joe Frazier again gets attention for the work he could do inside the clinch with a variety of body punches and the hook was definitely his domain. Ricky Hatton often comes to my mind for his master shovel hooks, especially the liver shot. A fighter I didn’t mention who I really wish I had discussed was the great Henry Armstrong, a true master of the clinch in boxing and in wearing down opponents with body shots. Razor Ruddock used the shovel hook to the head. He was a southpaw who trained as an orthodox, which helped give him an exceptionally strong lead hand and limited him in other ways. His big punch was something he simply called “The Smash”.

The rear hand hook is a controversial punch for some when thrown from the outside. Within self-defence he it has certain set-ups that do not really apply to a combat sport thus demonstrating certain dynamic differences. However, there are several fighters who have successfully thrown this punch with very good effect from the outside. They include Roy Jones Jnr. and Manny Pacquiao. Just as the long-range hook is typically set-up and executed like a jab so the rear hook has some similarities to the cross. When throwing it, the fighter is best advised to slip to the opposite side of the punch.

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