How to improve your boxing IQ

Boxing IQ is your natural intuition to understand the technical aspects of boxing. Everything from game planning to distance management is part of boxing IQ. It’s essentially how well your brain can adapt and make decisions in the ring. The better you are at making these decisions and remaining composed whilst doing so is an indication of a higher Boxing IQ. 

There are several fighters throughout history that have become renowned for their technical and strategic prowess. But Floyd Mayweather is probably the most iconic example of a boxer with a particularly high boxing IQ. 

Floyd’s ability to adjust is what kept him at the pinnacle of boxing for the better part of 20 years. Even the likes of Canelo Alvarez and Manny Pacquiao fell victim to Mayweather’s technical brilliance.

A boxing instinct like Mayweather’s is incredibly rare and a special gift that only a handful of individuals possess. However, there are still certain practices we can do in order to improve our boxing IQs and make us more strategic fighters in the ring.

Why Boxing IQ Is Important

I think people generally have this misconception that boxing is a tough mans sport. This is partially is true, you can go a long way in boxing with toughness. However, most of the great fighters tend to be both smart and tough.

This is because you won’t always be able to out-power or out-work someone. In this situation you will be forced to out-think them or lose. Continuing with Mayweather as an example, he faced the likes of Zab Judah and Miguel Cotto. Both of whom had him physically beaten in the department of speed and power. But due to Floyd’s mental sharpness, he was able to calculate the risks and adjust, allowing him to put on masterful performances.

Knowing how to properly box is imperative. While brawling makes for a more exciting fight, technical boxing prepares you for a wide variety of opponents and puts you in a better position to protect yourself against them.

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It’s fair to say that there are many aspects of boxing IQ. Predominantly the most important one is reacting and adjusting. But one of the most important things to remember is don’t over-focus on it, some people are naturally gifted with strategic intuition and some aren’t. Have fun with your training and it will eventually progress. Experience is the biggest factor behind boxing IQ, so while watching tapes is greatly beneficial, nothing will help more than getting stuck in.

Methods of Improving Boxing IQ

Figuring out where you are is essential before you start trying to improve, this can be done by making a mental note of your strengths and weaknesses, whether you are a beginner or getting ready for your first fight. Understanding where you can improve is the way to start.

I believe studying the mental side of boxing is just as important as the physical. This can be done by watching fighter’s interviews too analyzing their fights and detecting things such as body language and composure level of an individual fighter. Once you start to spot these tendencies when watching boxing, you’ll grasp a far better understanding of the sport in general. Here are some things to look out for when watching tapes:

  • Watch how fighters react after receiving multiple blows or landing multiple power punches on their opponent.
  • Analyzing footwork, how do fighters move around the ring and avoid or set up opportunities.
  • Look at what effects different punches have on fighters as well as the different situations that are suited to particular shots.
  • When you watch a fighter lose, envision how you could have prevented that outcome against that particular opponent.
  • Cardio is extremely important, you’ll be able to tell how a fighter’s performance suddenly declines once they’ve run out of steam.
  • Watch all levels of fighters from world champions to armatures, you can learn from all different categories.

After observing the next step is implementation which is most effectively done through training. It’s a good idea to choose a specific aspect of your training to improve on, which will allow you to focus and get closer to mastering that skill.

Boxers With Incredible Boxing IQ

Here’s a table showing the some of greatest fighters of all time along with links to watch their fights. Watching and analysing boxing footage makes you really think about what the fighters are doing and what kind of strategy they are using in their fights:

Muhammad Ali1960-1981Ali was far more technically advanced than any other heavyweight of his generation. His movement was truly second to none and we’re yet to see someone in the division come close to his agility. Ali used a fast jab and clever footwork to circle his opponents before using blistering handspeed and counters to often finish fights.
Bernard Hopkins1988-2016Hopkins was one of the most technically sound fighters ever which led to his longevity. He able to compete into his 50’s and even obtain world titles at the end of his career.
Roy Jones Jr1989-2018Roy Jones was one of the most exciting and brilliant fighters to watch. He used lots of head movement, feints, and clever footwork to run rings around his opponents. On top of this, he had knockout power in either hand, making him incredibly dominant during his prime.
Vasyl Lomachenko2013-TBCLomachenko has displayed unmatched boxing IQ in some of his fights. With over 300 wins as an amateur, Loma is certainly a master of the sweet-science. His ability to remain evasive while being aggressive is second to none.
Floyd Mayweather1999-2017Mayweather has arguably the highest boxing IQ of any fighter. He has absorbed very little punishment throughout his career thanks to his defensive style. Floyd’s ability to read his opponents is his greatest attribute. He’s able to analyse styles and adjust appropriately.
Mike Tyson1985-2005While most people remmember Mike for his vicious knockouts, he was actually very technical in his approach and displayed brilliant boxing IQ. Mike would always come forward with his chin tucked down and both fists covering his face. He would then use lots of lateral movement and pressure to breakdown taller opponents while remaining evasive.
Sugar Ray Robinson1940-1965Sugar Ray Robinson is regarded by many as the greatest boxer of all time. He was a great counter punching, with incredible combinations, blinding speed, and astonishing power in both hands.
Tyson Fury2008-TBCFury is quite an unconventional fighter. You’d expect someone with his stature to be sluggish and slow. However, Tyson Fury is a slick boxer with a fast jab, great reflexes, and he’s got serious knockout power as shown in his last two fights with Deontay Wilder.

Implementing Specific Training To Improve Boxing IQ

Below is an example of using boxing IQ to improve fighting ability:

‘I’ve been boxing for a few months now and my power is coming along nicely. I’ve also been working on my footwork which has significantly helped my defense and I’m managing to avoid lots of heavy shots during sparking. My current weight is 80kg and I feel that my speed is defiantly lacking when compared to other areas of my training. I’ve watched lots of great fighters and have come to the realization that speed gives many advantages in the ring so would like to focus on improving my speed’

Anonymous Amatuer Boxer

Using this example we are now going to tie it all together. This individual has spent the necessary time needed studying all different aspects of boxing from watching old fights to seeing the new world champions defend their titles.

Resulting in an increase in general knowledge of the sport. The individual has gained a higher boxing IQ and therefore knows training drills and exercises to improve speed which can now be added into training.

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As speed can often be counteracted very easily by perfect timing the individual also knows that there are ways to outsmart very fast fighters. This means that when sparing our fighter will be able to think through the situation and detect how to break down his opponent by either using his own speed which he has now developed or by using his boxing IQ and timing the opponent’s punches.


Boxing IQ is really just someone is strategic. Some people will naturally have a strategic approach to fighting whereas others will prefer to brawl. However, its important for every fighter to be acknowledge the importance of Boxing IQ. So while it does take time, it is definantly worth trying to improve.

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