Punch and Clutch' is a term you hear from veteran commentators and coaches from time to time and is a rather old school strategy of punishing an opponent without giving him the chance to counter with combinations or outpoint you. While many times you will hear the term used in a derogatory way; criticizing a fighter who is clearly trying to stall, properly executed punch and clutch makes for exciting, brutal fights. Punch and Clutch is a method wherein a power punch can be thrown without fear of retaliation. Normally a looping right lead or a powerful left hook is thrown and the clinch is established immediately after. Floyd Mayweather is not a big puncher, but can cause damage by jumping into his shots and clinching. Take a look at this short highlight of his right hand leads against the southpaw Sharmba Mitchell. At 0:09 he lands a huge right hand and immediately moves to clinch, smothering Mitchell's counter. At 0:15 he does the same again, this time dropping Mitchell, but he is clearly already moving in for the clinch, watching the slow motion replay one can clearly see him react and change stances to punch again.
This is not something he does only against southpaws either (he's fought so few of them). Watch his performance against Hatton, a much harder puncher and an expert infighter, whom he managed to land power shots on and tie up with ease in the middle and later rounds of their contest. Watch at 1:29 where he throws the right hand, leaping in to clinch with Hatton, then when Hatton attempts to hold him, Floyd cross faces him and lands some free shots on the way out.
The first time I recall hearing the term was in reference to Roberto Duran's strategy. During Duran's lightweight career he was known as a ferocious power puncher (hence his nickname Manos de Piedra or 'Hands of Stone') and he managed to carry this punching power up in weight to extent. While an extremely able boxer with world class defense, Duran's management decided while he was young to sell his punching power above all else and asked him to assure his popularity by scoring knockouts rather than clinical decision victories. To achieve this without sacrificing his facial features or mental faculties Duran made sure that when he threw his enormous right hand he clinched up immediately after. Should his opponent cover up he began berating them with hooks and uppercuts, if they clinched back he freed one hand and began uppercutting them anyway. Two more spectacular Punch and Clutchers are Naseem Hamed and Roy Jones - both of whom got remarkable power on their shots even in the lower weightclasses, primarily by commiting their whole body weight to them and either ducking or clinching immediately after.
Punch and Clutch is especially useful in Muay Thai, kickboxing and MMA due to the fact that a fighter needs neither hand free to strike and in the latter can throw his opponent to the floor. Here is a clip of Ernesto Hoost, pushing 40 years old, beating his third world class opponent in one night at the K-1 Grand Prix. In the first minute and a half it becomes obvious to Hoost his opponent is much stronger than him and is constantly applying pressure - Hoost attempts one of his trade mark low kicks and is pushed off balance into the ropes at 0:40. At 1:17 he attempts to punch and clutch but Le Banner muscles him off. The same happens at 2:22 and at 2:28. But on both of those occasions Le Banner is so concerned about keeping Hoost from clinching him so that he can get a punch off, that Hoost actually lands all his attempted right hand leads. He does again at 2:55 and 2:57 and each time Le Banner is caught because he is attempting to keep Hoost from clinching him. By the second round Hoost is tying him up more often - even landing knees as at 4:48. From the 6:00 mark Hoost is landing his right hand and clinching up immediately after at will, and Le Banner is clearly tiring from being hit and attempting to muscle the older man off of him. Le Banner's slowing movement allows Hoost the space to move back and use his kicks, such as at 6:42. Hoost is eventually given a yellow card for clinching - but his gameplan has already succeeded in exhausting the enormous Frenchman. Le Banner cannot pressure his opponent in the third for lack of energy and fear of Hoost's Punch and Clutch - at which point Hoost backs him onto the ropes for the first time with a salvo of punches. Hoost's right kick breaks Le Banner's arm and the fight is stopped - making Ernesto Hoost the oldest man to ever win the K-1 Grand Prix by tiring out a younger, stronger opponent. All through use of Punch and Clutch.
Finally an example from the world of Mixed Martial Arts. There are few who combine clinchwork and boxing so well as Fedor Emelianenko did in his prime and so I will illustrate using him. Fedor's third meeting with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is a clinic in Punch and Clutch. Using his fearsome right hand lead the Russian repeatedly forces Nogueira to 1) raise his hands and expose his waste or 2) take a huge punch and not be aware of Fedor taking him down. Take a look at this handy highlight Cyrax1984 has put together.
At 0:05 and 0:12 Emelianenko uses his right hand lead to upper body clinch to throw combination. And again at 0:27, and with a different throw at 0:31. At 0:20 he instead uses a strong jab but immediately steps in and puts his head on Nogueira's chest. It makes a great difference from the jab to double leg shot that seems to still be the only set up used by anyone outside of Georges St. Pierre today.
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Gary Goodridge (via nrse3567)
A final brilliant example is from Fedor's fight with Gary Goodridge. I advise anyone who hasn't seen this to watch the fight first in fast motion, be amazed, then watch the slow motion and see what Fedor does. Goodridge is well prepared for Fedor to take him down as he has done to Semmy Schilt, Heath Herring and Nogueira. At 3:50 the slow motion picks up with Fedor landing his left hook, but having jumped in far enough to be able to clinch - as Goodridges arms extend to initiate the clinch Fedor pushes Goodridge off of him, offbalancing Goodridge, causing his hands to drop and allowing Fedor to land a second, harder hook at 3:52. In using Punch and Clutch it is up to the fighter to use his judgement just as Mayweather did when he realised Mitchell was hurt or that Hatton wanted to hold him. If Emelianenko hadn't felt the first hook land cleanly, I suspect in all likelihood that he would have continued into a full clinch and secured a takedown, but instead he chose to land more blows upon realizing he had struck Goodridge cleanly.
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