Boxing Sparring Tips – Train Better Instantly

So, you have punched heavy bag  more than enough and now you want to get more “real” and punch a “real person”.  You want to test everything, which you have learnt so far, in sparring. When you know more about how to spar in boxing, implementing all movements will get easier and it will surely give you an incredible satisfaction.  Below you will find very useful boxing sparring tips  for your training session.


Be Ready, be Comfortable

guy with boxing sparring gloves

Right now, you have done enough training, practiced shadowboxing, jump rope  and all other painful boxing trainings. But, you did not do the MOST basic things  like throwing a punch to “real person “  or even defending a jab.

In my first sparring training, I felt excited a lot. “How will I throw punch?”   “How will I defend myself?”  Honestly I was feeling overwhelmed and it is totally normal if you feel that. However, I was aware that  I show up in ring to learn something “real” and improve myself. But you are not going to learn and focus on anything if you are not comfortable enough. So get ready and be comfortable before you get in the ring.


Also don’t ever forget that it is okay to get beat up. You are in the ring to experience everything about boxing. Being comfortable is the way to accomplish it.


Here are the main factors – Will you get good sparring training or not?

There are lightweight, middleweight, heavyweight… classes in boxing and also there are boxers who are experienced and some people are not. These are basic factors when you choose boxing sparring partner.  If your sparring partner is much bigger or smaller than you, it is not fair and it leads to basically zero experience. Because one of the sides always try decreasing the impact of the punches in training. It can also jeopardize your health.  Classes exist in boxing sparring training as well as in real matches.

Another risk for health can be your pair. Choosing the wrong one can jeopardize your sparring partner’s health and choosing right one can improve your skills better, protect your opponents at the same time. You can check the thorough sparring boxing gloves guideline for more info.

After choosing the right gloves and right size partner, experience is the other huge factor. If one of the opponents is significantly more experienced than the other,  it benefits only one side. Because experienced opponents exactly know when to punch and how to defend. They may already have found their own best boxing technique long before they face a rookie opponent. So rookie opponents won’t offer much for them.

Even if you are the experienced side, most of you will get bored after a while. Well I know I will 😉


So How to Choose Boxing Sparring Partners?

Firstly, they should be close to your size, so there will be no advantage regarding power. Secondly your partner should have slightly more experienced or slightly less experienced than you. In this way you will both have something to offer for each other.

boxing sparring partner

One thing people tend to forget is that they train with same sparring partner over and over again. It goes on maybe for months. After a while they exactly know what to do against each other’s punches, jabs… They already predict how their partner will react , and this training won’t improve any skills.

So, changing boxing sparring partner time to time gives you a new experience. New partners will move, punch and react differently than your previous sparring partners.  Other than their boxing sparring technique; their weight, length of arm…  shortly everything is different.  I think you are already seeing the pattern here.

While changing your partner time to time, being careful about their size and experience level will benefit everyone.


Your Feet Have not Worked Like This Before

Heavy bag session is a good place to train your footwork. While you are moving around the bag, you look for a right time to strike. However it is not ideal, because it is not a “real” person. When you train with sparring partners, they react like a real fighter in a real match. So, you have a good chance to improve and learn the “actual” footwork in sparring sessions.


Best Energy Saver

Always try to control and pace your breathing: Right now you are probably asking “how I am going to do that?”  When your opponent is punching furiously, you try defending yourself,  throw punches  and jabs here and there, you may even forget breathing let alone pacing the breath. I know it sounds impossible. But just try it, because if you are able to control your breathing even for a certain degree, significant energy is saved when you spar. If you feel exhaustion, focus on controlling the breathing.


boxing cardio training

Mean It

When you throw punches, mean it.  When you move your head to protect yourself, mean it… One of the most important lesson ,which I have learnt in boxing, is not to do it  if I don’t aim for success. There is no room for using energy without purpose. Actually, it is exactly same for life. I don’t do it if I don’t aim for success.

When you use your precious energy for basically nothing instead of  defending yourself well and throwing good punches, gaining any real experience is not possible.


Be in the Moment

Being in the moment, giving split second decisions are going to benefit you all around. Learning how to defend yourself  and attacking actual opponents with your own technique  is everything in boxing. Some people ask and search for “what is best sparring technique?” . Actually there is not such a technique which works for everybody. You create best sparring technique yourself  after a lot of practice.


Eyes on Opponent

First rule of being in the moment is to keep an eye on your opponent and nowhere else. If you don’t look heavy bag once in a while, it doesn’t hit back. But unlike the punching bag, real opponents can even knock you out.


Try, try and try

Maybe even Mike Tyson might have failed to throw good punches in his first sparring session. We don’t know that. When you have your first training, don’t be surprised if you have not landed good punches. However, just try.

Your sparring partner may come to you hard and fast.  Because of this, I have witnessed lots and lots of people forget punching and just focus on defending themselves.  They don’t fight back. One of the most important boxing sparring tips is to just try  attacking. When you try, you will figure out what works better.


Millisecond Decisions

I sometimes find myself waiting for punching the heavy bag. With that, you have maybe 1/10 time of that to throw a punch in sparring training and it gives lots of rush. This is the ONLY training type which offers fast decision making in real environment. Personally,  it makes me feel alive and leads to getting better at auto brain controlled movements. In sparring session, take action no matter what.  So, you can counter attack and defend yourself better.



Torso Positioning for Stronger and Faster Punches

Lots of training have made you stronger and now it is time to show it. When you punch your opponent, aiming your torso to the target make the real difference. In that way, you can use all your necessary muscles including back, chest, shoulder to strike.  However, you may not always have the chance to do that, but it is a necessary skill to work on.


Strength is nothing without…

Having lots of strength is really a cool thing. I mean who wouldn’t want that? But, having it can knock you out  if you have not balance. When you miss the punch without balance, lots of body parts will be wide open and these will be waiting for your sparring partner to punch. Even your partner can’t hit you,  you try to save yourself from pucnhes and it is energy consuming. I highly suggest you to have balance with every punch and  don’t use all the strength, if you won’t be having the balance after the punch.


Work Your Head

Well your head is wide open when you work on heavy bag, but is it the same when you do sparring? I don’t think so. Boxing sparring is the best way to learn strike, defense, positioning of your feet and also positioning of your head.  It is vital to keep your head above chest level and protected.


All these will lead to..

You will get the real experience in  real environment to implement all you have practiced so far. This is simply priceless. After  a sparring session, you will have at least an idea for how to do counter punch, how to move your feet against a real opponent.


Take The Quiz Before and Know What You Haven’t Studied Well

When I was at high school,  I thought that I studied well for math. I thought that I know all about the derivation, integration and so on. After that,  I got in very difficult exam  and found out what I know and what I don’t know. Boxing sparring training is the good all around quiz for boxing and lucky for you it is not real. So you see everything  and have a good chance to see weak sides. So, you can adjust your boxing training exclusively for your weak sides.


Focus on Gaining Experiment not Winning

I am a competitive guy and generally want to win everything if I am in any kind of competition. It does not matter whether it is table tennis match or  playstation game with my little brother 😉 And I know how cool can be if you beat your gym body in sparring, you will feel better and maybe even brag about it. I hear you. Even if you are in this category, you can still get pretty good sparring experience but not the BEST.

Instead of winning, you can focus on finding opponent’s weak-sides. This can help you to learn how to spar in boxing better and you can find your best sparring technique relatively sooner.

Well folks, these were all boxing sparring tips I have. I hope  you enjoyed the content and if I you want to ask questions or give personal experience, tips about sparring, please leave a comment below.


Image Courtesy of Us army  and Luta Clothing via Creative Commons licence, some rights reserved
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20 thoughts on “Boxing Sparring Tips – Train Better Instantly”

  1. Great advice! I remember my first time sparring and it is pretty scary! Only thing is the “Mean It”. Although this is true in an actual match, I’d advise to not try to knock our your sparring partner. As you mentioned, sparring is meant for learning, not fighting. One of the things that will really get under my skin with a new sparring partner at my gym is if that person tries to hit me as hard as they can when it’s clear that the sparring session is strictly for learning. Usually I notice only people a little bit newer to sparring tend to hit hard than 70% power.

    1. Its reason can be adrenaline rush when they show up to boxing ring, your partner feel that. I have felt the exact same thing in my first boxing sparring training. Also some people want to show how strong they are and forget to learn anything at all. Maybe you can talk to your sparring partner and get easy on you. Then you both start gaining better experience.

  2. Great post on how to get the most out of sparring. I know you must need to feel confident to go in the ring with a sparring partner, but some people may keep thinking they aren’t ready and train with a bag more. My question is when is it a good idea to move on from a punching bag or other training, and step in the ring with a sparring partner?

    1. Confidence and being relaxed is the key for sparring training. Actually, you should have at least and idea to to how to move your feet then you are good to go. You may never feel ready, but if you take action, you start learning more.

  3. A wonderfully informative post!
    I suffer from depression and anxiety and do a lot of “punching bags” to help work through the stress. But doing it as a sport has never occurred to me before…
    Keep up the great work! I will be keeping an eye on your posts 🙂

  4. From all indication, you are a boxer but it is not clear if it is professional or just something you do to defend yourself. However, no one that is interested in boxing that would not learn one or things here in your post because you just laid out simple and plain.

    I did enjoy your post pal

    1. hi Nnamdi, I am not professional boxer, however I have been in amateur matches, ı write this post for the people who already knows sparring and how them can train better with simple tips. It is tips for getting better at sparring.

  5. Nice Post! I have recently decided to join my buddy in boxing. He has been boxing since he was a kid and I have never even put on boxing gloves. I appreciate the advise you gave here. Hopefully this can translate into a smaller learning curve when I begin training. thank you!

  6. A lot of great information here. I agreed with a lot of what you said. The only true way to get stronger is to face a stronger opponent but at the same time, sparring isn’t a duel to the death. Respect should be kept between training partners at all times

  7. It’s interesting how focusing on breathing is never a bad idea, anywhere for anything, and you include it in the list here, Furkan.

    I haven’t sparred yet. But I can only imagine how challenging it would be. I can hit the heavy bag for a while and feel like I’ve had a good workout. But when I work with a partner to hit the mitts and interact with him, it wears me out QUICKLY.

    This is another great article. Thanks!


    1. Focusing on breathing will surely help and when you spar first time, it will probably make you very tired. However when you get used to it, trust me it will get better 😉

  8. Hi, Great post.

    I and a Work Colleague have just signed up to do “White Collar Boxing”. These tips are going to be so helpful. Thanks so much. So Glad I found this page

  9. Loved this post, brought back many memories of the British Army, I boxed for the last 4 years of my service, I found myself both grinning and frowning.

    Breathing certainly is one of the most important factors, you become exhausted if you don’t have the oxygen in your blood. Focus on your tact when sparring, practice your techniques and work hard, anyone can jump into a ring to hit, but technique, timing and defense will certainly improve your skill, trust me, I learned the hard way.

    1. 4 years is a long time 😉 And I did not learn the hard way but I know breathing will help. When I spar I always try controlling and when I can, I really feel like I can do anything too.

  10. Love this post Furkan – so much hard-won wisdom contained in your words. My own background was out of more traditional ‘no-contact’ martial arts. Nearly all martial arts use boxing style hand techniques and I can remember my first session using gloves with a friend of mine who had made the jump to kick-boxing before me. I had all the moves and could hit a bag quite hard, but what I definitely wasn’t prepared for was the jolt when you really catch a punch in your face. There is an old military adage that runs ‘no plan survives first contact with the enemy’ and I was definitely in that territory as soon as I got hit. Your words flooded my mind with so many early training memories – I was back in the training hall flailing away! Wish I could wind back time having read these first.

    1. Hi Steve,
      Well I had exactly same experience, I was quite good with punching bag but I was not ready for sparring 😉 I get punched quite a few times and was not prepared for that.
      I actually did not know all when I first started training either but I hope these tips will help someone who will start sparring.

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