Dirty Boxing [13 techniques you must know!]

Dirty boxing can be an extremely effective form of fighting and consists of various moves and techniques that might be illegal in some combat sports, but not others.  The majority are initiated at extremely close quarters making them difficult to anticipate and difficult for the referee to see.

Is dirty boxing effective?

They are particularly good for wearing down and frustrating an opponent.  Some of these techniques will be frowned upon and regarded as unsporting at best and illegal at worst. 

However, if you’re fighting a much stronger or more skillful opponent, these techniques may well help to even the odds.

As the saying goes:

“Age and treachery defeats youth and skill. “ 

“Never fight an old man because he might just kill you.” 

– Ernest Hemingway

Even if you don’t  want to use these move yourself, it’s wise to be aware that they exist so you can be prepared for them.

Dirty Boxing in the Boxing Clinch

When watching a boxing match you’ll often see the boxers come together in a clinch.  It often occurs when the boxers get too close too each other to be able to punch each other or when one boxer is tired and grabs onto the other in order to rest.

It’s whilst in the clinch that  a number of dirty boxing techniques can be employed.

Arm Pull Down

The idea behind this move is to pull down on the opponent’s forearms as you’re in the clinch.  You can utilise both your powerful lat muscles in the back and take advantage of the downward pull of gravity.  Your opponent, wanting to maintain his guard, will want to keep his hands up and to do so must engage the much smaller bicep muscles which is extremely fatiguing. 

Dirty Boxing

In order to get out of this situation, your opponent will find it difficult to punch you since you’ll have control over his arms and he’s going to have to shove you away, expending further energy.  You should be able to feel this shove coming and be able to move out the way.  

If you get into a clinch, you can also pull down on his upper arms.  In this situation, your opponent will have to use the much smaller deltoid muscle in order to resist.  This is a stronger position than the previous move I’ve described as it allows a greater degree of control over your opponent.

In both these close positions, you’re able  to launch short quick punches to your opponent’s head much more easily than they can attack you and whilst they’re distracted by the downward pull on their arms.  

Elbow Push

In the scenario, you’ve come together so that your bodies are touching and your head is literally next to your opponent’s.  It’s very difficult to do anything in this position.  

However, if you get your glove behind their elbow and quickly rotate your body, you can get their body to spin away.  This also sets your body up for an immediate punch to your opponent’s stomach.

Elbow Pull

You can also use this technique when close in to reach across the opponent’s body and pull them round.  As they rotate, you can instantly punch with the other hand towards their floating ribs. 

Head Ram

To use this technique, you drop straight down to avoid a jab, bending your legs to do so.  You then move forward and upwards into a clinch.  Your head moves in this same direction so that it’s positioned under your opponent’s chin.  

This is a quick movement, so there is the possibility that the top of the head rams into the opponent’s jaw.

Of course, once in this close position, you can then deliver body shots.  If attempts are made to block these, you can then hook punch to head without even having to look up since you know that their chin is directly above your head.

Arm Trap and Jab

If your opponent tries to put their arm around your back in an underhook during a clinch then you can counter by putting your arm over theirs and trapping it in place.  Due to the large boxing gloves they’re wearing, they can’t simply pull their arm free.

At this point, with their arm trapped you can quickly jab to the head with your other hand before releasing their arm.  If you continue to hold on to their arm for any length of time, you’re likely to be pulled up by the referee.

A similar technique can be used if they try to put their hand behind your head to pull it down.  You can throw your arm over theirs to trap it.  Once trapped, you can then jab with your other hand, release the trapped arm and make distance.

To see these techniques in more detail, see the video below:


Dirty boxing techniques can also be used outside of the clinch.

Guard Knock Down

In this move you perform two quick successive circular movements with the lead hand to first knock the opponent’s guard out the way and then to deliver a punch to the head.

This sets you up nicely to launch a hook to the head with the other hand.

Jab Knock Down 

The idea behind this technique is that as your opponent throws a jab, you knock it down with your rear hand and immediately counter with the same hand with a straight punch of your own.  This is very similar to the successive circular movement outlined above.

Shoulder Strikes

In the clinch, the shoulders can be used as an additional attacking weapon.  By getting your shoulder under your opponent’s chin and raising it quickly you can deliver a powerful blow.  Often the strike is so quick that you can do this multiple times before your opponent is able to escape the clinch. 

More detail can be seen in the excellent video below:


MMA gives more freedom for additional dirty boxing techniques to be used as there are less constraints on what is and what isn’t allowed.

Randy Couture, UFC hall of famer, is famed for his dirty boxing techniques – moves that would be considered illegal in regular boxing.  

Randy was a master of the clinch and was able to employ a number of methods to wear his opponent’s down.

Dirty Boxing MMA techniques

Single Collar Tie and Pummel

Here Randy would throw a hook towards the opponent’s head.  He would then leave the punching hand outstretched at the end of the punch and grab the back of the person’s head.  From there he pulled down at the same time as launching a series of upper cuts with his other arm.  

With the head pulled down, it’s very difficult for the opponent to see where the punches are coming from.

Ear Pull

In the clinch, Randy employed a number of techniques to keep his opponents off balanced and unable to retaliate.  One such technique is the ear pull.  

When in the clinch Randy’s forearm would go round the back of his opponent’s head and grab their ear or side of the head.  The arm is then pulled sharply, twisting the person’s head and their body and keeping them off balance.

Single Underhook and Strike

Randy would regularly use an underhook – where the forearm goes under the opponent’s underarm and the hand hooks back onto the shoulder.  From there, the head would be driven into their chin, never allowing them to look at you and keeping them off balance. With the head in place, Randy would step back slightly  to create more space to allow additional punches to be thrown.  

These techniques can be seen in more detail in the following video:


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