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Mike Tyson Technique Breakdown pt 3: Peekaboo

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In this multi part series we will breakdown Mike Tyson’s complete boxing game. A must read for fans of boxing and MMA alike.

Author’s note: there are 27 gifs embedded in this post so please be patient as they may take some time to load. If the clips are not visible on the page please click on the external links provided.

In part one of this series, we examined Cus D’Amato’s concept of attacking at an angle that prevents your opponent from striking back and we elaborated on how Mike Tyson would just move to his opponent’s side and attack with vicious power.

In part 2 we focused on Tyson’s southpaw game and how he was able to catch opponents with unexpected southpaw punches.

An obvious missing part of Mike’s boxing game is his famous peekaboo style of boxing. According to Wikipedia Peekaboo is a boxing style where the hands are placed in front of the boxer’s face, like in the baby’s game of the same name. It offers extra protection to the face and makes it easier to jab the opponent’s face. Peekaboo boxing was developed by legendary trainer Cus D’Amato.

Peekaboo boxing utilizes relaxed hands with the forearms in front of the face and the fist at nose-eye level. Other unique features include side-to-side head movements, bobbing, weaving and blind siding the opponent.

A fighter using the peek-a-boo style is drilled with the stationary dummy and on the bag until the fighter is able to punch by rapid combinations with what D’Amato called “bad intentions”. The style allows swift neck movements as well quick duckings and bad returning damage, usually by rising uppercuts or even rising hooks.”

So that is a generic definition of the peekaboo boxing style.

Here are some extra details from this great video:

According to the video, when using the peekaboo style of boxing you should:

  • Slip punches left and right, up and down.
  • Slip punches by turning your ears towards your shoulder. Slip all the way to the right and all the way to your left.
  • Bend your knees when you change levels, not your back
  • Always keep your eyes on your opponent
  • Keep your gloves glued tight on the sides of your chin to avoid getting hit by your own glove when your opponent’s punch hits your hands.

These are some general rules on Cus D’Amato’s peekaboo fundamentals and here is a highlight of his fighters using this style of boxing:

Although Mike Tyson was heavily influenced by Cus’ training and concepts, he was a unique fighter and as such he implemented a personal peekaboo style of boxing that did not necessarily follow the aforementioned guidelines. This article will focus on Tyson’s specific version of peekaboo, as a system of defending against and delivering punches.

Naming conventions

I will not use the traditional bobbing, weaving and slipping terms in this article as I do not believe that these accurately describe Tyson’s peekaboo game. I will use my own personal terms like the “metronome peekaboo”, the “runner’s posture”, the “crouching peekaboo”, and the “shooting peekaboo” which I have used several years now to describe just that: Mike Tyson’s variations of the peekaboo style bobbing, slipping and weaving game. Also keep in mind that the term peekaboo in this post is used to describe a certain rhythm of movement not a static posture or a boxing stance.

Finally, pieces of the puzzle that will give you the full picture of the peekaboo system such as the leaping left hook, the short jab and the uppercut/jab hybrid will be analyzed in upcoming posts. In this post we will focus today on peekaboo as a “base of operations” for defending, countering and landing punches.

Aspects of the peekaboo game

Mike’s peekaboo game was a multi-functional tool. Here are some obvious functions:

Range finder: Mike was always the shorter fighter so the peekaboo patterns of movement were his method of closing the distance and getting in range to hit his opponent.

Defensive: Head movement and changing angles while protecting your chin is the most effective method of avoiding damage.

Offensive/Generation of Power: As we will examine below, Tyson would move his head left and right, transferring weight from one leg to the other. This enabled him to explode forward or leap at an angle in order to land punches with devastating force.

Counter-offensive: Rolling under or slipping punches is a very effective way to launch and land counter-punches.

Strategic: The punches that knock opponents out are the ones they do not see coming and confusing the enemies is the best way to create openings and defeat them. The peekaboo style of movement keeps opponents guessing and creates openings in their defense. It is also a very intimidating and frustrating style of fighting for the opponent that is trying to counter it.

The “metronome” peekaboo

I use the phrase “metronome peekaboo” to describe Tyson’s head movement when he is standing with a straight posture and moves his shoulders left and right resembling the movement of a metronome, a device that produces an audible click or other sound at a regular interval that can be set by the user, typically in beats per minute (BPM). Metronomes typically include synchronized visual motion usually an inverted swinging pendulum.

Here is a video of such a device:

The metronome peekaboo is not your typical bobbing, weaving or slipping method of head movement as it does not involve crouching. This inverted pendulum/left-and-right motion is a risky type of head movement unless a fighter is very, very fast (and shorter). This kind of movement also requires a lot of energy. The truth is that Tyson did not use the metronome peekaboo for extended periods of time, especially as he grew older and started losing his speed. He usually used the crouching version of the peekaboo or a combination of the two.

In the clip below you can see Mike training the metronome peekaboo on a hanging speedbag variation that is swinging like a pendulum. Tyson adds some uppercuts at the end of the clip.

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The metronome peekaboo and the peekaboo pressure footwork

Here is a basic clip of the metronome peekaboo applied in a great mittwork drill designed to help a fighter slip jabs while moving forward. Please take a look at Tyson’s footwork, he synchronizes shoulder movement with his feet moving forward: head moves to the left /left foot comes forward, head moves to the right to the right/right foot comes forward. I call this type of footwork the “peekaboo pressure” footwork. It can be combined with other elements of Tyson’s game analyzed in the previous two articles of this series, the preemptive southpaw right foot placement and cutting angles to go to the side AKA blind siding.

Here is another angle, please take a look at the shoulder/head/knee alignment in photos 4-6 as Tyson is moving forward:

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Setting up a rhythm

Like the metronome device, the purpose of this type of peekaboo is to establish a rhythm or a pattern of movement and then break this rhythm in order to catch opponents off guard. There are three rhythms being established when using peekaboo: footwork/angle placement, head movement and launching punches. It is extremely difficult for opponents to deal with a a fighter that is:

a. Moving in a way that is hard to hit.

b. Constantly trying to reach the side or blind spots

c. Aggressively getting close throwing punches

It is more difficult when all of these three issues have to be dealt with at the same time.

We must note here that the metronome version of the peekaboo worked for Tyson because he was always the shorter boxer. A taller fighter would expose his chin moving left and right with the chin high like that but Tyson was moving his head left and right below his opponents’ eye level and this made it easier for him to make them miss. Theoretically, the placement of the gloves on the sides of the chin is a good form of protecting the chin, but Tyson, like most boxers, did not always keep his gloves in place.

Crouching peekaboo

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.”

As I mentioned before, Tyson would not always use the metronome version of the peekaboo style (standing straight up). He would often crouch (hence the crouching peekaboo term) or even go lower, like a wrestler going for a takedown (shooting peekaboo). In all three versions of the peekaboo style of boxing, Tyson would bend his knees or step forward to change levels. He would often combine moving up and down, left and right, back and to the front, in a squaring posture, pressuring forward or stepping to the side thus cutting an angle.

In the clip below Tyson is slipping jabs using the crouching peekaboo on the mitts. Notice how he is moving his feet backwards at an angle or cutting the ring going forward. His forehead is in-front of the chin and this is a more common way of moving left and right.

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The importance of the runner’s posture

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In this clip Tyson bends his knees all the way down like a runner, then starts moving forward with very short steps while rolling under left-and-right hooks thrown by his trainer. The runner’s posture is very important in Tyson’s peekaboo defensive game. This type of fighting and moving with the knees bent reminds me of basketball footwork and freestyle wrestling shooting stances. It is designed to cut angles and/or explode forward like a runner while keeping the head close and to the outside of the opponents’ shoulder. We will examine how this posture works from an offensive standpoint in our leaping hooks section.

In the video below you can see how Mike would train his explosive runner’s posture by skipping rope really low (easier said than done):

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As this article focuses a lot in training drills you can see how Tyson fought like he trained and that all the drills listed here are parts of a puzzle designed to work together in unison like a well oiled machine to make his game effective.

How low can you go? The shooting peekaboo

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I call this the “shooting peekaboo” style due to its resemblance to wrestling’s shooting stance. It is important to watch the clip and examine how low Tyson was willing to go in his crouching/staggered stance. Also please notice that although his feet are close to his opponent’s feet while he is rolling under punches in the shooting stance, he immediately jumps back at a safe distance in order to stand straight and transition to the metronome peekaboo rhythm. The three types of peekaboo head/shoulder/torso movement work in different ranges. As fighters started studying Tyson’s game they were able to neutralize his shooting peekaboo by clinching and using their weight to make him work.

Peekaboo mittwork training drills

Mike trained the metronome peekaboo on the mitts, on a loose variation of a hanging speedbag, the heavy bag and in shadowboxing drills. One of his basic mittwork sessions was to have a trainer throw fast jabs and Tyson would keep coming forward while peekaboo-slipping and cutting angles.

Slipping jabs with peekaboo pressure, right hand

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In this clip, Tyson keeps moving forward and at the end of the drill he slips left and finally steps/pivots left cutting an angle in order to land a right hand.

Metronome peekaboo pressure, slipping jabs, jab, move left

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In this sequence, Tyson combines his peekaboo forward pressure with a jab and then moves to his opponent’s right. He probably goes southpaw in order to land right hooks.

Slipping jabs with peekaboo pressure, move right, left hook, right cross

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In the photo sequence above you can see how Tyson was able to train his peekaboo forward pressure in combination with his attacks from advantageous angles. The trainer keeps attacking with jabs going backwards as Tyson keeps going forward while slipping the jabs. When they reach the ropes, Mike steps his right foot towards his trainer’s left side, turns his hips to face him from the side and throws a left hook and a right hand. More on cutting angles here.

Advancing forward and rolling under incoming hooks

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In this drill, Mike can be seen training the crouching peekaboo on the mitts, this time rolling under incoming hooks and punching back with left hooks and right hands. In this specific drill, Tyson does not land on the mitts, he slightly touches his trainer’s shoulders with his counter-hooks.

Slipping jabs with the metronome peekaboo and rolling under hooks with the crouching peekaboo

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In the training clip above, Tyson’s trainer Kevin Rooney combines jabs and hooks forcing Mike to go from the metronome to the crouching/rolling-under versions of the peekaboo. An interesting mittwork variation used in the clip is that Tyson is able to catch one of the hooking mitts mid-air with a left hook of his own and subsequently cut an angle to the right.

I use this drill in my mittwork sessions and highly recommend it as it teaches students to explode with devastating punches from a low posture and actually land on the mitts. Should you decide to use it as a trainer please be careful when training punchers because if they connect on your forearm and not the mitt they can hurt you, that is how powerful these punches are.

Right cross-left hook-right cross to crouching peekaboo pressure

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Here is a similar clip:

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in these two clips, Tyson throws a lead right-left hook-right cross combo and starts moving his head left and right to the outside of Kevin Rooney’s shoulders while moving forward in a squatting-like posture in order to trap him with his back against the ropes.

Shadowboxing: Metronome peekaboo to crouching peekaboo

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Tyson starts his inverted pendulum movement on a loose hanging bag (looks like a loose speedbag), keeps moving forward and then transitions to the crouching peekaboo’s roll-unders. I added the arrows on the photos to illustrate the difference between the left-right metronome movement and the crouching peekaboo that is typically used in a “U“ shaped motion.

Fighting Applications

Crouching Peekaboo head movement and parrying jabs

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As you can see in this clip, Tyson would often combine slips and jab parries with his crouching peekaboo stance. Making boxers miss is no easy task and a fighter should mix things up and be unpredictable in order to avoid getting hit.

Landing leaping jabs

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In the photos above you can see Tyson using a leaping jab in order to attack after slipping right in his crouching peekaboo rhythm. As he is leaning right, Mike’s weight is on his right foot and that helps him explode forward with a leaping left step while launching the jab.

Shooting peekaboo to a jab

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This is another great example how the peekaboo head movenent variations can be used to confuse an opponent. Hiding behind the peekaboo repetitive patterns Tyson is able to land one of his trademarked short jabs and is still able to roll under an incoming right cross. Staying in rhythm is very important in most styles of boxing.

Staying busy with the metronome peekaboo and jabs.

Click here for clip/gif Here is another similar clip.

In this sequence Tyson’s opponent employs unorthodox punches including slaps and hammerfists in his effort to catch him with something. Mike combines his metronome and crouching peekaboo head movement with jabs in order to keep his opponent busy. Head movement without any threat of offense or feints is not as effective.

Here is another similar clip.

Crouching peekaboo, turning southpaw, right hook

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As we explained in our previous article titled “Southpaw attacks”, as Tyson is in his crouching peekaboo rhythm moving left and right, a southpaw reset to a right southpaw hook is always an option.

Crouching peekaboo pressure, right hook to the body, left hook

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In the gif above you can see how Tyson uses a squatting/runner’s style posture to hunt down his opponent while cutting the ring. As we analyzed last week, at the end of the sequence Tyson starts turning southpaw in order to prevent his opponent from going right and lands a right hook to the body and follows with a left hook. Finally, he resets his stance to orthodox.

Crouching peekaboo, right hook to the body, shooting peekaboo pressure

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In this example, Tyson throws a right hook to the body and stays low and close to his opponent in his shooting peekaboo rhythm in order to close the distance while rolling under punches.

Shooting peekaboo pressure to overhand right

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Constant head movement is a great defensive tool. In the photos above you can see Mike again in his low shooting peekaboo rhythm following his opponent. He slips left and as he comes back slipping right his head starts moving left again while throwing an overhand right. Mike misses and gets slightly caught with a right uppercut and a left hook. Unfortunately for his opponent, when the head is constantly moving, even if some incoming punches semi-connect, they fail to do significant damage.

Left hook to the body from the crouching peekaboo

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The crouching peekaboo style movement is an excellent way to land body punches, as is the case above. Here, Mike is able to slip a left uppercut and land a nice left hook to the body while staying in his peekaboo rhythm.

Left hooks to the body from the metronome peekaboo.

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In this case, Tyson is able to combine his metronome peekaboo head movement with a double left hook to the body. His opponent tries to catch him with a left hook and misses as Tyson’s hips are far away from the punch so when he gets back to his metronome rhythm his head is nowhere near the punch.

Putting it all together: Peekaboo to a leaping left hook.

In the clip below you can see how effective the peekaboo style movement is form a defensive standpoint. All three types of peekaboo are combined here. This first clip does not include the final punch of the sequence in order to help you appreciate the defensive aspect of the peekaboo game.

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Here is the full clip (angle #1) including the punch:

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Here is another angle from the top:

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Besides the obvious defensive benefits of using the peekaboo continuous head movement, it is important to note that this type of movement is a great way to launch powerful and unpredictable attacks and penetrate an opponent’s defense.

As mentioned above, the combination of the metronome and crouching versions of peekaboo head and torso movement is designed to store mechanical energy to the legs like a spring and the boxer can use this energy to explode from many different posture variations in an unpredictable manner, thus confusing the enemy.

One great example of this energy manifested in knockout power is the leaping left hook demonstrated above. In this sequence you can see that before launching the hook, Tyson slips and pivots left, thus slightly changing the angle, pushes with the right foot in order to load his left foot with energy and explodes with a devastating leaping left hook. We will elaborate more on leaping left hooks on the fifth post of this series.

Next week I will try to combine all three articles in a video and post here on Bloody Elbow. We will be back the following week with our next part of this series.

Please share on social media to support my work.

Next week: Parts 1,2 (video version)

Part Four: The jab

Part Five: Leaping left hooks

Part Six: Combining uppercuts and body attacks

Final Part: Using Tyson’s boxing style to get takedowns in MMA.

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).

Follow Kostas on Twitter: https://twitter.com/kostasfant and search #fantmoves for more techniques.

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