Give Him The Left Hook
by Bobby Franklin
When first learning how to box, students of the Manly Art are usually told about the three basic punches: The jab, the right cross, and the left hook. (These would be reversed in the case of a southpaw.)
The jab has been called the most important punch in boxing, and it is. If you can’t reach your opponent with a jab, you will not be able to reach him with any other punch. It is both an offensive and a defensive blow and has many variations.
The right cross is used as a counter to the jab as it is the jab that it crosses over. When encountering a jab the person on the receiving end will attempt to slip it and fire a right hand over it with the intent of landing a good shot to the jaw.
The left hook is a great punch, but it is useless if not properly set up.
The left hook can be used in many ways. It is utilized as both a head and body punch. Like the jab, it can be thrown as a single punch or double and even tripled up. I have seen fighters through five and six in a row. It is also usually part of a combination such as, jab, right cross, left hook, all thrown in quick succession.
Many fighters have been known for having a great left hook, and it is a common, and usually true belief, that most boxers who rely on the hook tend to be shorter and often stockier then their counterparts. However, this is not always the case. Gerry Cooney was very tall and possessed a devastating left hook to the body. Tommy Morrison at 6’2” also had a tremendous left hook.
Robinson landed a perfectly timed hook to the chin of Fullmer knocking him out cold. Ray called the punch the most perfect of his career.
What has been called the greatest left hook ever thrown was not launched by a short stocky boxer but instead by a 5’11” middleweight by the name of Walker Smith Jr, more widely known as Sugar Ray Robinson. In the 5th round of his 1957 bout with Gene Fullmer, who was known as a hooker, Robinson landed a perfectly timed hook to the chin of Fullmer knocking him out cold. Ray called the punch the most perfect of his career, and many boxing experts have concurred with that sentiment. It was the only time Gene was ever knocked out. He was stopped in his last fight, but in that bout he retired on his stool.
A tall lanky boxer also landed two other memorable left hooks. Bob Foster at 6’3” and 174 pounds landed a picture perfect hook in winning the title from Dick Tiger. This was not a wild punch. Foster set Tiger up for the blow and then landed it flush on the chin with precision timing. Tiger was out cold for the only time in his career. As in Fullmer’s case, Tiger had only failed to go the distance one other time in his career, and that was a between rounds stoppage because of an injured thumb.
It is the paradox of boxing that fans were witnessing an artful display of boxing skill, a move that would rival that of any world class choreographed dancer, and at the same time watching a man possibly being killed…
In defending his title against Mike Quarry, Foster once again demonstrated the absolutely lethal power in his left hand. Again, he used his jab and shoulder feints to set up the
courageous Quarry. Once he made the opening, Foster let go with a left hook that rendered Mike unconscious before he hit the canvass. People in the arena and watching on closed circuit TV gasped as they saw the challenger fall to the canvas in a comatose state. It is the paradox of boxing that fans were witnessing an artful display of boxing skill, a move that would rival that of any world class choreographed dancer, and at the same time watching a man possibly being killed, and for a number of minutes following the blow it was in question whether the young Quarry would ever open his eyes again. Fortunately, he did regain his senses and got to his feet, but that punch will be remembered by all who witnessed it, and it will continue to invoke the question of how we can find such beauty in something so damaging to a fellow human being.
Ironically, Foster would later become the recipient of one of the most deadly left hooks ever landed when he challenged Joe Frazier for the Heavyweight Championship.
Joe fit the stereotype of the left hooker, being shorter and stockier then his opponent. He had also made a name for himself with the punch. His stoppage of Jimmy Ellis was another textbook example of how to throw the hook. In the final knockdown of that bout Frazier pivoted to his right and then landed a left hook flush on Ellis’s chin. Somehow Jimmy managed to get to his feet as the bell sounded, but Angelo Dundee mercifully stopped the fight at that point.
In the Foster vs Frazier fight Bob came out in the first round determined to make distance between himself and Joe. He was not going to fall into the trap of trading hooks with a hooker. He was jabbing and attempting to land his powerful right hand on Frazier, and he did manage to get a few in, but Joe was relentless. In the second round Joe dropped Foster with a left hook. When Foster arose, the champion pummeled him to the ropes where he landed a tremendous left hook to the jaw of the challenger. Foster was out cold. This time it was Bob Foster who was being counted over.
The left hook is a great punch, but it is useless if not properly set up. Yes, many boxers have gone out there and just thrown lots of hooks and eventually gotten lucky in landing one to win the fight, but as they move up to a higher caliber of competition they find that it takes more then just tossing punches. Both Foster and Frazier knew how to set up their opponents for the hook. Foster with his jab and feints, Frazier with his pressuring, slipping, and stepping to the side. It is these moves that put the art into the Art of Boxing.