The hug in boxing is called clinch. It’s a strategic move where we trap the opponent’s arms under our own, stopping the action and causing a break. There are many reasons why boxers use the clinch and, as is often the case, it can feel like a hug. Some boxers have taken the clinch game one step further and used it to perfection during fights.
Isn’t grabbing forbidden in boxing?
For hugs to be in order with the regulations of this sport, we must differentiate between grabbing and holding. It is true that it is against the rules to hold your opponent, so care must be taken not to penalize. The goal is to close the distance by getting into the opponent’s guard and pinning their arms under ours, seemingly hugging them around the body.
This action is often used to prevent the opponent from gaining momentum and prepare the attack. Fighters with a longer reach usually lock in after their opponent tries to close the distance for their shorter reach. It not only stops the opponent’s momentum, but can upset the rhythm completely and have a huge impact on the dynamics of combat.
Another reason boxers get insured is to take a breath within the active assault. As they approach the clinch, they get a few seconds of rest from keeping their guard up and taking hits before the referee separates them and restarts the action. Taller fighters tend to lean into shorter opponents in the clinch and push them down to rest and wear the other fighter down.
Another smart action when using the clinch is when they are in a dangerous situation. For example, if the opponent throws a good punch and we feel nervous, we can grab it quickly and have a few more seconds to recover.
How should the hug be?
Hugging is not illegal in boxing in terms of being disqualified for doing so. The clinch is an important aspect of boxing, but it comes with restrictions.
You can’t stay in a clinch for very long, especially if both fighters aren’t actively trying to improve their position or throw punches. The referee will stop it and restart the action quickly. Also, hugging the opponent and holding them while maintaining a free arm to hit it is also illegal.
You can also be penalized with point deductions if you clinch too much and don’t engage in active combat. Clasp play isn’t illegal, but it can also be pretty dirty, and some brawlers use it a lot to their advantage. Therefore, hugging or clinching is not completely legal in boxing, especially if the fighter intends to play dirty. However, it remains a crucial component that every boxer must develop in order to be successful, especially at the highest level.