This question is specifically in the context of boxing.

I am 45 y.o., ~197cm (6'5") tall with 2m (78") reach weighing in at ~98kg (215 lbs). I've been training ~ 3 years but have little sparring experience, maybe a dozen rounds over the last year and a bit. Due to a lack of skill, my physique and poor conditioning compared to my much younger sparring partners my go-to tactic is to use my jab to keep opponents at a distance & control the pace.

I got to spar against one of our newer boxers and got completely overwhelmed, he would slip my jab and basically run in very low and hammer away at my body. Makes sense from his standpoint as I have maybe 20cm (8") reach on him, and according to my sore abs was also very effective.

So my questions:

  • How can a tall boxer counter or defend against a smaller one who is willing to rush in for an inside fight?
  • How can this be done most efficiently in terms of managing my energy and letting me dictate the pace of the fight?
  • I'm no boxer, but circling out and using uppercuts to punish his blitzes sounds like it could be a start. Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 14:02

3 Answers 3


Here is my opinion:

  1. Your jab is the most important weapon to use (if you are taller then your opponent), it is different if he is left handed, then a different tactic is preferred.

  2. Your footwork is the second important tool that you need to work on, always try to fade away from his 'hitting' hand .. depends if left/right handed usually the back-hand. The reason for this is that you are creating a bigger distance for him and to hit you with his 'hitting' hand he heeds to over extend and looses power and gives you the opportunity to recognize the punch earlier.

  3. The problem you are facing is probably the right timing for the jab. You can train that only in sparring though, practice will help you recognize the right timing when to throw the jab to intercept his rhythm and giving you the opportunity to counter attack and keeping him on distance.

  4. A simple trick for you as you just started with sparring ... try to use as much combinations as possible. I mean try to avoid just single punches as you tend to become foreseeable and giving him the opportunity to avoid the jab (only) and come close to you. (try 3 punches from time to time, and I guaranty that the first and last one will hit the target!)

  5. Stay calm and controlled, if you get too emotional, you loose your goal and are forgetting your tactic - to keep him away from you. You are getting less tired too if staying calm. (This is important if your conditioning is not at peak)

  6. Try to stay in the middle of the ring, avoid the ropes and corners, to prevent that he nails you there so you are having hard time getting out without receiving a good punch.

look at some fights from Klitschko btw, he won most of his fights because he was taller then the rest ...

have fun...

  • Thanks. Edited the typo... I may be a big boy but not quite that big :-)
    – Doug B
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 16:37

Some great points in existing answers, but for whatever another slant on things is worth...

  • if you're trying to push forwards but he gets the chance to slip past you, then you've both advancing and he gets to close the distance in a flash; instead

    • try to be moving forwards as his momentum is backwards and be fully prepared to move backwards as his momentum is forwards, and circling away from him at other times - that stretches out the time window in which you can hit and he can't
  • don't focus too much on the one tactic of landing a good jab to keep him at a distance as that gets predictable, and unless you get good clean contact past the guard or heavily and frontally into the guard or body, it won't be effective at stopping him closing the distance; instead

    • mix in feints

      • if he tries to slip forwards then you'll still be balanced and cocked to hit where he's moving - either move away to maintain distance while jabbing, or step in for a heavy cross leading into a flurry of punches - some heavy hitting until he's driven backwards

      • if he retreats then follow with just enough commitment to hit him before his back foot lands and gives him a chance to change direction: if you can just tip his momentum to keep him back-pedalling, you can keep feeding in punches without having to commit overly (unless you see there's a good chance for a heavy strike)

    • mix in combos

      • sometimes step in behind the feint with a combination
    • if you don't have him backing up, don't feel you can't step back and see if he follows you - again, if you're moving in the same direction, then you have a nice long window as he tries to close ground - you can pick him off with some punches and have more time to think about closing yourself for a heavy combination

  • if he's in close and you're exchanging body blows, make sure you're making effective contact; in particular, if he's shorter and keeping his torso angled forwards, he'll be able to hit you hard while keeping his palms downwards; if you try to do the same to the body then your punches will tend to slide down his torso - but if throw body punches with your palm upwards you may find he's just outside the range where you can hit hard; instead, hit with a vertical fist and you can reach out as far as you need to with decent power

  • make sure you're using your legs and hips when you hit: when you practice on the heavy bag, keep the legs bent and as the back leg straightens drive the hips around and through the bag; even as a boxer you can learn a lot from just watching Shotokan Kagawa-sensei teach hip rotation and thinking about how it works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdIJVDKJ_Os

  • pay careful attention to how he's slipping your jabs: is it on the inside or the outside? If inside, then make sure you're fully ready with the back hand. If outside, make sure you're not too side on, and thereby preventing the back hand coming into play.


I have no experience in boxing, but it's a problem that's also present in Tae-kwon-do. When you're much taller than your opponent, the opponent will wait for a good moment to "get in", hit you, then quickly get out.

Here is some advice:

  1. Make him pay the price: he wants to get close, make sure it'll hurt on the way there. Get him hard while he's coming, you'll hit before he does since you have more reach.

  2. Be more aggressive: you're in poor physical condition (taking OP's word, not inventing anything) so it's much more exhausting, but if you're more aggressive, you'll leave fewer opportunities for your opponent to enter your zone. If he feels overwhelmed, he won't be able to correctly enter.

  3. Keep your distance: it may seem obvious, but if you move a lot and know your reach well, you should be able to punch him while being out of his reach.

  4. Expect him: fighting someone is largely mind games. You expect him to come to you after your jab. Wait for him. Adapt to his tactic. In Tae-Kwon-Do, we'll throw a light kick to trick the smaller opponent into coming closer then we go full blow when he thinks he got us. This'll work for a time, because your opponent should adapt (If he doesn't, keep going; you've got this!). When he has adapted, he'll change tactics. Then you'll have to adapt again. Get to know his pattern and use it against him.

For all these tricks, you will need good conditioning. It's always important in sparring, for any martial arts. You need to move a lot and stay active.

  • "You have 8 inches over him, forget the jab." The meaning here is unclear to me. Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 20:35
  • @DaveLiepmann Yeah eh, thinking about it I'll remove that sentence. I'm not experimented in boxing so I don't think I can give meaningful advices about that!.
    – IEatBagels
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 20:38

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