In part one of this series we analyzed Mike Tyson’s angles of attack and in part two his southpaw tactics. In part three, we stressed the importance of Cus D’Amato’s peekaboo style as a base of operations for Iron Mike’s game. Finally, an often neglected part of his game, his short jab was thoroughly examined in our last article. You can click on the highlighted links above to read all four articles and here are parts 1 and 2 in video format.
Now that we have all these important parts of Tyson’s game in our disposal, we have the essential “vocabulary” that can help us understand how Tyson’s peekaboo movement, angles and tactics were able to keep opponents constantly guessing, in order for him to land his greatest weapon: his leaping left hook.
But what is exactly a leaping left hook? Let’s examine the gif/clip below:
As you can see, when throwing a leaping left hook, Tyson steps his left foot forward while leaning left and changing levels, thus loading weight and energy on that foot. Mike pushes with the front foot like a sprinter and leaps forward. During that leaping trajectory, his right foot jumps forward and lands on the floor as his left foot follows and lands even further. The left hook often connects while his right foot is still in mid air and the power comes from pushing the left foot against the ground (photo 4). The leap closes the distance, cuts off the ring and resets Tyson’s stance back to orthodox.
Make no mistake about it. This is a devastating punch. It is devastating enough when examined in isolation, but when you analyze this simple yet effective attack within the context of the D’Amato boxing system you can’t help but notice connections everywhere in Tyson’s game.
One of the reasons this punch was so successful throughout his career, is because Tyson’s “shooting peekaboo” movement allowed him to load and unload weight on his left leg in a continuous fashion. Opponents did not know what to expect when Tyson would lean left: a right hand, a short jab, a leaping jab, a body attack, or a leaping left hook?
Most would often anticipate a leaping jab or uppercut coming their way and would extend their right hands forward in order to parry the punch. This is where the effectiveness of the leaping left hook comes into play: the punch will catch you as you are going backwards and behind your guard, often on the back of the head.
Before we continue, it is important for our readers to watch the video above where Mike Tyson explains his crouching style of fighting. Here is the transcript:
“Most opponents I am used to fighting are 6 ft 3, 6 ft 2, the average heavyweight and I think I use it to my advantage because I move my head, I am very quick and I am low to the ground so it is very difficult to hit me. I crouch low to make my opponents punch down, because I know where they are going to punch at, I am down there and I am looking at them, I am so low and when I come up I feel this is to my advantage because they cannot see my punches coming. I get a lot of leverage for my punches and it does not matter if I punch straight or down or round, I have good leverage.”
One important detail in making the attack more successful: pausing for a split second after leaning to the left, just before launching forward, maximizes the chances of landing the punch. The pause disrupts the opponents’ rhythm and makes them freeze for a second. This “trick” also works when shooting for takedowns.
The “Tyson trip”
As we noted in a previous post, in order to cut off the ring, Tyson would often preemptively place his right foot forward. This placement comes naturally with leaping left hooks. Mike Tyson exaggerated so much in his movement that he actually tripped his opponent. I call this the “Tyson trip.”
This also works when your right foot steps on your opponent’s left foot and you attack with a left hook (not legal in boxing).
Note: I am not saying that Tyson tripped his opponents intentionally, just that the placement of the foot makes this possible.
Leaping left hook to the body
Another way to explode forward with left leaping attacks is to attack the body. It is important to do this in order to “mix things up” and keep your opponents guessing or when they keep moving backwards pulling their head out of range (see Jon Jones).
Tyson would often get the clinch after landing leaping left hooks to the body as you can see bellow.
Leading with leaping left hooks
Leaping left hook to a right hand
A leaping left hook is a great way to close the distance and set up right hand attacks. In fact, it is often advisable to do so due to the fact that when you attack with a leaping left hook you can land with your chin up and standing tall. A right hand is a good way to change levels and go back to crouching or shooting peekaboo rhythm right after the leap.
Leaping left hook to the body to a left hook
Combining two left attacks is a great way to catch opponents as most of them expect left-right-left combinations. The leaping left hook to the body can force opponents to drop the hands and open up their defense in order to land the left hook.
Double Leaping Left Hooks
The double leaping left hook is a great tool for both boxers and MMA fighters alike. It is a great way to get the clinch as the left hand moves like an antenna, constantly reaching for contact. You can attack by transitioning from a left hook to a leaping one, vice versa or with two leaping left hooks in a row.
Double leaping left hooks are also a great way to catch fighters when they are trying to escape from the corner as is the case below.
In the next clip Tyson fails to land and uses the double leaping hooks to get the clinch.
Finally, you can see below one last double leaping left hook sequence. Take a look at how Tyson misses with the first and is able to land the second time. This is very common. In kickboxing a right high kick would be a great follow-up attack.
Using leaping left hooks as follow-up attacks
Jab to a leaping left hook
In both clips below you can see how Tyson’s jab forces the opponent to drop the right hand in order to parry and Tyson explodes forward, landing a leaping left hook behind his opponent’s guard.
Jab feint to a leaping left hook/Tyson trip
Please notice that his opponent falls down, despite being able to block the hook. He was out of balance trying to catch Mike with a counter left hook.
Of course, Tyson would often follow-up a leaping left jab with a second jab or a jab/uppercut hybrid. You can examine such an example in the clip below.
Jab to a leaping left hook to the body
In this clip, Tyson throws a jab in order to close the distance and attacks with a leaping left hook to the body. Please notice that his opponent covers up after the jab and that exposes his liver. Mixing things up is the only to make opponents compromise their defensive posture.
Leaping left hook to the body to a series of left hooks
In this sequence, Tyson attacks with a leaping left hook to the body. His opponent is with his back against the corner and tries to escape to the right. Mike follows up with a leaping left hook, a right hook to the body and two left hooks.
Left uppercut to a leaping left hook
Mike is in a low crouching stance, comes up with a left uppercut/jab hybrid and misses. He pulls back in order to reload his momentum and explodes again forward with a leaping left hook.
Counter-punching with leaping left hooks
Peekaboo defense to a leaping left hook.
In the clip below you can examine the effectiveness of this punch when it is launched after the defensive head movement of the peekaboo style of boxing. All three types of peekaboo style movement are combined here (metronome, crouching, shooting).
Here is the full clip (angle #1)
Here is another angle from the top:
Peekaboo defense vs jabs to a leaping left hook
The shooting or crouching peekaboo postures and rhythms are a great way to neutralize continuous jabs as you can see in the sequence above. As noted before, in these defensive postures, the body is already positioned correctly in order to attack with a leaping left hook. Tyson does so in this case, and is able to catch his opponent. Notice how successful leaping left hooks can be in neutralizing the reach advantage of longer opponents.
Slip right hand-left hook-leaping left hook
In this sequence Tyson uses the “metronome” peekaboo rhythm and is able to slip a jab and a following right cross. Immediately after slipping the cross, Mike closes the distance with a left hook, misses but reloads by taking advantage of his own momentum and this time lands a leaping left hook. A second left hook usually has a higher success rate than the first one.
My students asked me to demonstrate how leaping left hooks are incorporated in my Continuous Feedback© mitt-work system and I did so in the following clip.
Please note that this was my student’s first attempt at leaping left hooks, and although his form was not perfect, he almost injured my forearm when he connected. This is a devastating punch so please be careful, retreat fast and keep your chin away from the mitt.
The objective of this drill is to provide an unexpected, non-verbal signal for a short overhand right to a leaping left hook at some point during the mittwork routines. The signal is demonstrated in the following photo.
Once the right hand is launched, step back in order to provide the necessary space for the student to leap forward with the left hook. In all clips provided, my student was not aware when the signal was coming. This enables students to go from counter-punching to offensive mode without hesitation.
This will be all for now. The next part of this series will be Mike Tyson’s counters against the jab. The series will conclude with his attacks to the body. Please make sure to hit the rec button in order to let the good people on Bloody Elbow know that you appreciate all the effort that was put into this series, which is the most complete technical breakdown series ever published on Mike Tyson. Despite being an MMA website, Bloody Elbow continues to support all combat sports and especially the sweet science of boxing.
For a list of my previous technique breakdowns on Bloody Elbow, check out this link.
About the Author: Kostas Fantaousakis is a researcher of fighting concepts, tactics, and techniques, and a state-certified MMA, grappling, and wrestling coach in Greece. He teaches his unique Speedforce MMA mittwork system © which combines strikes, takedowns, knees, and elbows applied in the Continuous Feedback © mittwork system of the Mayweather family. Kostas is a brown belt in BJJ under MMA veteran and BJJ world champion Wander Braga (the teacher of Gabriel Napao Gonzaga).