Boxing For Muay Thai: How To Punch With Purpose

Everything You Need To Know About Boxing For Muay Thai

It’s normal to see someone in combat sports with big, explosive punches and consider them a good boxer. This is not always the case. Boxing is not the punches themselves, but everything that happens in between the punches.

Keep in mind that while all of these techniques will work in the Muay Thai ring or the MMA cage, you must find a time and place to use them, as the rule set you fight under can bring certain counters to these techniques that you might not expect.

Read on or click the link below to discover how best to apply the Sweet Science to the Art of Eight Limbs.

Samart was a Thai fighter with slick counters and surprising power who really understood the science of boxing. His most famous win came over fearsome Mexican boxer Lupe Pintor, who was not only a tough challenge and the defending champion, but also came to the fight overweight. Samart defeated Pintor via knockout in the fifth round.

As a boxer, Samart was known for his almighty left hand. His crisp boxing technique served him well in his career as a pugilist, but it was his slick, upward-flicking jab that lit up the Muay Thai world. Samart’s jab carried him to victory throughout most of his professional fights. In Muay Thai, it was devastating when paired with his side teep.


This is the most comprehensive video guide unifying Boxing & Muay Thai techniques. Wield ALL eight limbs to devastating effect. Are you prepared to take your Muay Thai game to the next level?

I. Head Position

No matter what technique we’re covering, regardless of whether its defensive head movement or transferring weight for a more powerful punch, your head should never be the closest thing to your opponent! You should never allow your head to be in front of your knee. Even if you are performing very low ducks and weaves, your head should always be above your feet.

Keep this in mind when practicing any of these techniques, even when you’re throwing an almighty punch. No matter how hard you want to throw, do not allow your head to fall in front of the rest of you.

You must also ensure that you are defensively responsible. Whenever you are throwing a punch, you keep your opposite hand tight against your head, regardless of how slick you believe your head movement to be.


Not exactly boxing-centric, but there is no single man who serves as a reminder of the importance of head positioning better than Mirko CroCop.


II. Fist Formation

For your safety, it’s imperative to discuss fist formation. While it may seem condescending to explain, a proper fist has more to it than keeping the thumb on the outside.

Look at your hand while it’s open and then curl your fingers in from your pinky all the way up to your index in that order while keeping them very tight. If your knuckles are all horizontal to each other, then you need to tighten your ring and pinky fingers more until the only knuckles that make contact when you punch are your index and ring knuckles.

You want to avoid the situation in which your smaller, weaker outside knuckles make contact with the target, as that can be very damaging to your hand. Even when wearing cushy boxing gloves, it’s important to make a proper hard fist with the first two knuckles protruding in order to keep your hand as safe as possible.


Once you’ve mastered fist formation, it’s onto the next challenge: developing that one-punch KO power.


III. Footwork


What good is power without movement?

Look carefully and you will find that 99% of the boxers and nak muay who have the most success in the ring possess spectacular footwork. Finding and capitalizing on vulnerable angles is made possible by movement.

Light heavyweight champion and pound-for-pound kingpin Andre Ward once said, “Most boxers are taught hands first; I was taught feet first.” Ward is fortunate: without correct footwork, he would never be able to get himself in position to hit his opponent.

A fighter with a good command over footwork, even with poor punching technique, will usually get the better of a fighter with great punching technique but poor positioning.


Good movement is more than just fancy footwork. GLORY champ Tiffany van Soest demonstrates switch-hitting.



While it might not be the most exciting tech to learn, no skill will benefit you more than a jab.

In order to really nail jabbing technique, I’d recommend you stand in your fighting stance with your lead shoulder an inch away from a wall. Now extend your arm, keeping your elbow pointing down until you’re fully extended.

This is the end goal for your jab: it needs to be as long as possible, but also defensively responsible with the shoulder protecting you from a potential counter hook. This is the basic jab form; every variant of a straight punch you learn is just a variant of this form.

Pictured right: Sean “Muay Thai Guy” Fagan snapping a crisp jab in the face of an opponent.

One of the primary functions of the jab is to serve as a range finder. If your jab either lands or falls an inch short of your opponent, then your rear straight will be able to land. However, the human arm can only reach so far, you will need to be able to move your body. This is where the step jab comes in.

The step jab is a combination of your basic jab and a forward half step. It is best to throw your jab as you make the half step, since this timing adds a bit more power to your jab and gives you more range.


A step jab would serve as an excellent method of transition into a Muay Thai clinch, followed by savage knees and elbows.



The mark of a good boxer is having a good rear straight, commonly called the cross.

The rear straight is the punch that is most commonly thrown incorrectly, particularly in other combat sports like Muay Thai. This is because the mechanics of the rear straight have largely been lost to time, with very few coaches teaching it properly.

While it’s commonly considered normal to throw the straight while pivoting on the back foot, the kinetic chain that made the cross the hardest punch a boxer can throw is often forgotten and in non-boxing combat sports, usually just not taught.

Pictured above: The Muay Thai Guy launches a monster right hand.

To throw a cross, you need to shift your energy up from the ground and into the punch. First, pivot on the ball of the rear foot and then bend at the knee while rotating the hips as far round as they can go. A millisecond after the hip rotation, you should be rotating your upper body as far round as it can go. Finally, the arm is released and your opponent should be feeling your power in no time flat.

In doing this, you are making the most of your punches’ kinetic chains, sitting down on the punch and transferring the weight from your back leg onto your lead leg, maximizing the power. This is all very tricky to do, which is why it’s recommended to punch with this technique quite slowly to ensure you have your balance.


Often times, boxing sets up the flashy Muay Thai techniques. Could a big kick set up an even bigger rear straight? Most definitely!



Nothing stops an overly aggressive fighter quite like an uppercut.

It’s fast, it comes from a blind angle and, seeing as pressure fighters are typically on the shorter side, it often only has a short distance to travel.

In the Cuban school of boxing, uppercuts are taught after straight punches, probably because they both require the elbows to point at the floor and both travel along a straight path.

When throwing an uppercut, there is not a huge weight transfer. This is because you’re not trying to push your weight forward, you’re trying to bring your weight up. Please don’t confuse this for exploding upwards or jumping into an uppercut like Ryu from Street Fighter.

Above left: A lunging uppercut straight to the jaw of an unwitting victim.

An uppercut should be less like a mad swing upwards and more like a stab. It helps to imagine that you have a knife or punching dagger at the end of your gloves.

This basic uppercut can be exaggerated further in order to create a corkscrew uppercut in which you take a full step outside your opponent, only to pop them with the uppercut from the new diagonal angle.


There is nothing quite as shocking to your opponent as an uppercut. Check out these brilliant uppercut combos to keep your opponents on their toes (or backs).



The final basic punch is the lead hook.

The lead hook is responsible for the vast majority of knockouts in boxing. This is because a tight lead hook will come from a blind angle to physically twist the head and neck around, causing a greater concussion. From Joe Frazier to Gennady Golovkin, all the best boxers have slick lead hooks.

Once again, we start from the ground up. First, you need to pivot on your lead leg while shifting your weight to the rear. As you do this, pull your rear hip and your rear shoulder back in order to pull your lead shoulder through your target.

Pictured left: A heavy lead hook slugs Sean’s opponent’s head around.

As for your arm, you want your forearm to be perfectly horizontal with the back of your hand facing your target. As you pull your lead arm through the target, extend your arm at the elbow slightly in order to get more reach on the hook. As always, the real punch comes from the body and the force comes from your fist being pulled through the target.

The lead hook and all its derivatives have served many fighters very well. By taking a half step towards the opponent and jutting the lead shoulder, a boxer can fake a jab at their opponent only to surprise them when they’re cracked with a hook.  The brilliant Miguel Cotto used the hook to bewilder and outwit his opponents for years.



Learn Thai-tested drills, techniques, strategies & combinations from your elite-level instructors – Pro fighter, Sean “MUAY THAI GUY” Fagan and 9-TIME Muay Thai champ, Paul “REAPER” Banasiak.



In hand-to-hand combat, there is little to no offensive output possible without a strong, resistant defense first. Let’s review the cornerstones of defensive fighting.

A. Block & Parry

We agreed in the beginning that when throwing a punch, you should always remain defensively responsible with your other hand protecting your head. When an opponent is attacking you, the principle remains the same.

While there will always be exceptions to the rule, generally it is best to parry straight punches and block hooks.

To parry a straight punch you see coming, you bat the punch down using the palm of your hand, often from the wrist.

This should only be a very small movement otherwise you will leave yourself open to counters. This parry should immediately be followed up with a counter since if all you do is defend, eventually you will just turn into a heavy bag.

Parry the jab or straight, then immediately follow up with your own jab or straight. This will become particularly easy if you bait the punch you want to be thrown.

If you keep one of your gloves (which should be pressed against your face) slightly lower than the other, you will invite a punch from the same side. This allows you to quickly bring up your glove to block it and immediately counter.


Parrying, of course, is not exclusive to boxing. Muay Thai, too, offers its fair share of projectile attacks that can be parried, such as the teep.


B. Tie Up (Clinch)

Tying up is often considered a last resort defense. Knowing when to clinch may get you some boos from the crowd, but it’s important when it comes to defending yourself.

The best fighters know when to tie up; in fact, Muhammed Ali famously mocked heavyweight Joe Lewis for not knowing when to tie up.

In order to tie up, you want to keep your guard very tight, get close to your opponent, and then wrap your arms around his. Once you have control of his biceps, you want to keep your head to the left of his and then boom – you’ve successfully initiated the clinch.


Advanced or novice, you will likely end up in an aggressive clinch if you practice Muay Thai. How do you defend yourself on the inside?


The best boxers in the world are able to make the most out of their clinch games.

It would be easy to assume that clinch fighting doesn’t exist in boxing and that it’s only a staple of Muay Thai, but that’s not entirely true. The most technical boxers around – savvy aggressive fighters like Miguel Cotto, Vasyl Lomachenko and Floyd Mayweather, know how to wrestle their opponent around and tire them out.

First, let’s talk about head position. If you come from a Muay Thai background, then this shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, but your head should never be above your opponent.

Keeping your head higher than your opponent (without a forearm pushing them down) is a head butt waiting to happen.  Just because head butts are not legal in boxing and Muay Thai doesn’t mean they don’t happen and drastically affect fights.


The clinch is a deceptively complex position to be in. Wrap your head around some common beginner slip-ups.


Your head should be either underneath the opponent, which will keep your arms free and enable you to hit out of the clinch or to the side of your opponent.

Keeping your head low and punching your way out of the clinch is a pretty reliable way of punishing your opponent for attempting to tie up. Alternatively, a low head will allow you to simply slip out under your opponent’s arm, pivot and reset in the middle of the ring.

If your opponent’s head is lower than yours, it’s not a bad idea to lean on the back of his head with your forearm. By leaning on the opponent, you make their punches pretty useless as they’re not able to get any weight or form behind them. This keeps you safe and tires them out.

While it’s commonly overlooked, having a decent “wrestling” game is crucial to being an effective boxer. The best boxers in the world are able to make the most out of their clinch games to wear down their opponents and keep them safe in uncomfortable close quarter ranges.


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These are two Muay Thai fighters that demonstrate slick boxing technique that even boxers themselves would be happy to have.

The first and most obvious is Thai superstar Samart Payakaroon (pictured above), a fighter who is not only the greatest Muay Thai fighter of all time but also had a very respectable career in professional boxing.


A breakdown of styles between the “Jade-Faced Executioner” Samart Payakaroon and the dominant Saenchai.

Sagat Petchyindee (pictured right with Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu), the famed Muay Thai master who was the inspiration for the Street Fighter character, Sagat, is a horse of a different color.

When you look at the movements of, say, Samart, he is flashy and very impressive just to look at. He seems like he is untouchable.

Sagat, on the other hand, had something few fighters do: thunderous power and unbelievably smart, minimalistic technique with little wasted movement. While there are many boxers with great technique, to this day Sagat has probably the slickest uppercut I have ever seen.


Made famous by none other than Sagat himself, this is the so-called “Superman punch” (or, as Sagat called it, the “Cobra punch”).


As you can tell, the best pugilists in Muay Thai are nak muay who have closely studied the art of boxing and demonstrated it in the ring with thunderous KO victories.

Sean “Muay Thai Guy” Fagan is that nak muay! A devastating puncher, Sean has put together an amazing comprehensive course on how best to incorporate the Sweet Science into your Muay Thai game, making you a fuller, better fighter.

Don’t wait a second longer! If you’re only working with 6/8 weapons, you’re at a HUGE DISADVANTAGE in sparring and real combat. Click below and sharpen YOUR fists into deadly Muay Thai weapons!


A fully digitized athletic development program with 50+ progressive training videos, PLUS more than $100 of bonus video content. NO OTHER PROGRAM comes close to offering the same comprehensive & polished content that unifies these two great striking arts!


Andrew Bryan

Andrew Bryan is an actor, writer and martial artist based in the UK. He likes long walks on the beach, fighting technique, and history.


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