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Mike Tyson Technique Breakdown pt 4: The Jab

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

In pt. 1 of this series we analyzed Mike Tyson’s angles of attack and in pt 2 his southpaw tactics. Finally, in part three, we stressed the importance of Cus D’Amato’s peekaboo style as applied by Iron Mike. Here are parts 1 and 2 in video format.

In this post we will analyze an often neglected part of his game: his short jab

Before we proceed please watch the following videos in order to get familiar with different types of jabs and their mechanics.

Three types of jab (especially the uppercut/jab hybrid):

Moving your head after the jab with follow up attacks:

How to lower your eye level while jabbing going backwards and other important details:

More important details and jabbing on a heavy bag:

And since we are in jab heaven let’s start raining jabs:

Mike Tyson’s version of the jab

The boxing jab is a unique punch in fighting arts. It is a versatile tool; a Swiss Army knife with many functions. The jab is a range finder, a way to set-up a rhythm (or disrupt one), an offensive move (stiff jab), a way to block an opponent’s vision and a diversion. A fighter with a long reach and a good jab is tough to beat. A master can use the jab like a magician drawing the audience’s attention to his left hand while the other is doing all the dirty work.

Here is Mike shadowboxing using his jab:

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Here is a clip of Tyson training the jab on the heavy back

As you can see in the clip and images above, Mike uses his peekaboo crouching or metronome movement to throw a short jab. What I mean by short jab, is that he does not extend his hand completely in order to take advantage of his full reach and his left shoulder stays in line with his right shoulder.

Another thing he does is the “chicken wing”, lifting his left elbow up. This is considered, traditionally, a mistake and here is a way to fix it:

We will explain below why Tyson would often (not always) jab in such a manner.

Finally as you can see in picture 4 below, Tyson would move his head to his left, slip left and then come up with a second jab.

There are several reasons why Tyson used this type of jab.

  1. He was shorter and was attacking from a lower level stance. This meant that no matter how far he would extend his arm, he would always be at a reach disadvantage. Using footwork to land a not-fully-extended jab, allowed him to close the distance. To make this simple, imagine you are Mike Tyson. If you throw the short jab and it lands close to your opponent’s face this can only mean one thing: your right hand can easily reach him and you can throw a right punch with maximum leverage.
  2. Tyson’s jab cannot be analyzed in isolation. It was developed to work within the complex Cus D’ Amato boxing system which was designed to confuse enemies and land attacks from advantageous angles with maximum leverage and fight-ending intentions.
  3. This jab was a very confusing punch due to the fact that Tyson, from a similar launching position and his continuous peekaboo movement, would launch a number of attacks and this kept his opponents going backwards with their chins up. Consider this sequence: jab, slip left, crouch as a base of operations that allowed him to follow up with right and left hand attacks in a totally unpredictable manner.

That being said let’s analyze some of his basic jab combinations.

The “Forearm Crush” AKA the “Chicken Wing”

As I mentioned above, Tyson often used the “chicken-wing” jab in a way similar to Floyd Mayweather’s left forearm crush or elbow defense. When the left elbow is up, a boxer can use the forearm or the elbow to push their opponent’s face away should they try to clinch. The forearm is also a clinching/connecting tactic that can help a fighter control or “feel” a boxer’s guard.

In the example below, Tyson jabs with the elbow up and his forearm connects with his opponent’s. This enables Mike to feel the opening in his opponent’s guard and land an uppercut punch.

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Alternate angle

This high elbow jab, keeps opponents at bay and also resembles a left hook, thus confusing opponents. Keep in mind that Tyson’s left leaping hook was his most unpredictable punch and opponents were looking for it all the time.

Slip left, crouch, jab

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As I mentioned in the peekaboo section of this series, Tyson’s opponents did not know what to expect when he used the crouching peekaboo while loading energy on this left foot. In this instance he explodes with a jab while stepping forward.

Continuous jabs

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Tyson would often attack with double jabs or a series of jabs hunting down his opponents, often mixing in left hooks. Keep in mind that he had power in both hands and his stiff jabs would often do damage. Multiple jabs are not easy to counter when a boxer mixes them with uppercuts and hooks as we will see below.

Jab, slip left, pivot left

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This is one of Tyson’s common jab attacks. As the title notes, Mike would jab, slip left (in this order or simultaneously), and then pivot left. It was a good tactic because the head needs to keep moving with each punch. As we mentioned before, this attack was a base combination that enabled Mike to launch various attacks.

Jab, slip left, pivot left, uppercut-jab

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Tyson would often throw the jab, slip left by changing levels thus going really low, and continue the attack with a second jab or an uppercut-jab hybrid. This can also be seen in the shadowboxing sequence above.

Here is a better example:

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Jab to a left hook

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Here is another example

As you can see in the two clips above, Mike would often throw a jab or a jab feint in order to close the distance and get in range, put weight on his left foot and explode with a common left hook or a leaping left hook.

Leaping left hooks are devastating attacks and I usually catch everyone with them during my mittwork coaching sessions. More on leaping left hooks in the next part of this series.

Here is an example of a leaping left hook where Tyson uses his right foot placement to unbalance his opponent as described in the southpaw section of this series:

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Jab to a left hook to the body

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In this clip Tyson throws a jab in order to close the distance and attacks with a leaping left hook to the body.

Here is a similar clip where both boxers go for the same move, although Tyson is more successful:

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Jabs to right hands

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This clip illustrates how Tyson’s short jab allowed him to close the distance in order to easily land right hands. Notice that although his opponent parries the jabs, he cannot easily block the follow up right hands that are launched by Mike from such a short distance.

Jab to a right overhand

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This is a devastating punch. Please watch the clip and look at the photos several times to appreciate how Tyson, using proper angle placement and footwork, is able to trap his opponent with his back against the corner and stay out of danger at the same time. Mike closes the distance with the jab, keeps moving sideways to get out of the straight line and moves his head to the left as he lands the right hand. Beautiful punch.

Here is another angle:

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This is another example:

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In this similar sequence, both fighters throw jabs but Tyson keeps moving his head to the left like he usually does. In this case he successfully launches a right overhand.

And here is a last clip for you to study:

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Jab to the body to a right cross

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This would not be a complete analysis of Tyson’s jab game without mentioning his jabs to the body.

The jab to the body (and the upwards jab) enabled Tyson to move his head to the right and load weight on his right leg in order to explode with a right hand as he does in the photos above. Keep in mind that proper power is generated from the ground and not the arms. Finally, a jab to the body often forces opponents to bring their hands down thus compromising their defense.

Upwards jab to a right hook to the body

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Unpredictability 101. In this clip his opponent is with his back against the ring and Tyson extends an upwards jab to keep him trapped. The opponent is expecting a right overhand as in the sequences above and lifts his hands up in order to defend. Mike chooses another route and attacks with a right hook to the body to a left hook.

Jab to a right hook to the body

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When a boxer throws a jab and the opponent’s head is covered up or he is getting out of range, a right hook to the body is a great follow-up punch.

Missing with the jab: Southpaw Reset

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One of Tyson’s most impressive techniques was to slip to the left, perform a leaping switch to a southpaw stance and deliver nasty right hooks. I call this the “southpaw reset” . Other analysts call it the D’ Amato shift.

In the clip above, Tyson throws a jab and his opponent slips right and crouches. Please notice how Tyson places his right foot in front and between his opponent’s legs as he switches to southpaw. Also it is important to note that by slipping left and then switching stances, Tyson uses a spring-like motion to store kinetic energy and then explode with power. The mechanics of this were examined in detail in the peekaboo movement breakdown of this series.

Finally take a look at the angle of the attack. Tyson is to the side and in perfect position to look at his opponent’s right ear and this is important in compromising an opponent’s defense as we explained in previous posts.

Missing with the jab, opponent keeps moving left: the “Weldon Reset”

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It’s time to throw three left hands in a row this time around. Tyson attacks with a double jab and his opponent crouches and pivots right, continuing to move and trying to reach Mike’s blind side (the back). Tyson is faster and pivots right, getting in front of his opponent’s left side and lands a hard left hook/uppercut hybrid.

In previous parts of this series I described this footwork as the “Weldon Reset” AKA “Bumping Right“ as taught by boxing genius Kenny Weldon, a boxing scholar and one of my main inspirations. He passed away on April 13 at age 72. Here is Kenny teaching the Weldon Reset.

That will be all for now. Please join me in two weeks for an upcoming UFC card breakdown. 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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