What is a bolo Punch?

The bolo punch was a punch first used in Filipino martial arts. It is like a huge circular uppercut strike and can be a devastating offensive blow if timed right. This punch features a massive wind-up that resembles a softball pitch. This wind-up and sweeping motion are sometimes employed as a diversion to strike a regular punch with the other hand.

Professional boxer Sugar Ray Leonard is known for using this punch. In his 1980 battle against Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard used an exaggerated circular bolo punch as bait as you can see in the video below.

The Bolo Punch’s History

The name “bolo” in the Philippines refers to a “machete,” a weapon used for lengthy sweeping motions when cleaning sugar cane in the field. In the early days of the country, Filipinos used this item as a weapon during martial arts fights. When America conquered Spain during the Spain-America conflict, the Americans took control of the Philippine island. This conflict drove a large number of Filipinos to immigrate to the United States, settling mostly in California and Hawaii.

The majority of them were laborers on the nearby manual farm. But, because the salaries were modest, they had to supplement their income with paid fights. Filipino immigrants would have already known old Filipino martial arts so they applied this to boxing and fights with weapons.

Filipino Dirty Boxing, also known as Papantukan, grew in popularity in the area occupied by these immigrants. In fact, for top fighters, it was so profitable that boxers were sent abroad to compete under aliases.

Many Filipinos were interested in boxing because it paid more than their day jobs on the farms. The Filipino boxers called the striking method they used in their bouts a “bolo punch” as it was comparable to swinging a machete on a sugar cane farm. As we mentioned “bolo” means machete in the Philippines.

Ceferino Garcia was among those who popularized the bolo punch in 1939. The bolo punch has remained in the world of professional boxing and combat sports such as MMA, Filipino Dirty Boxing, and Muay Thai since then.

How to Execute the Bolo Punch

Bolo punches are extremely strong and knockout punches that must be done correctly with the right movement and posture. To learn how to throw a bolo punch, follow these instructions.

  1. Try throwing a jab to entice your opponent to slide down. When your opponent ducks low to avoid getting caught by the jab, you can throw a bolo punch.
  2. From a relaxed stance, loop your hand backward and downwards in a circular manner.
  3. Throw the punch upwards to your opponent’s body or into his face.

The most significant component of it is a circular motion made with one arm to distract an opponent. This leads the opponent to move his gaze away from the attacker’s other arm, or focus on the fighter’s encircling arm.

When the opponent’s attention is drawn to the circling hand, the bolo puncher will generally sneak in a punch with the other hand. Just like you’ve seen in the video of Sugar Ray Leonard, one of the best boxers of all time. The opponent’s attention is drawn to the non-moving hand, the aggressor will generally follow through with a solid punch.

When is the best time to use the bolo punch?

  • When you have an adversary who does not counter you, this is the finest time. If they counterpunch, they will have a good chance of catching you on the windup exposed.
  • Another excellent time to use it is when you see your opponent shelling into a tight ball on defense. A person who shells usually lowers their head and bends at the waist. This is an excellent moment for a bolo punch.
  • The last scenario I’ve found to be effective is when you throw a combo and notice they favor diving beneath hooks. Then, throw a combination that looks like a hook is on its way, cut it out entirely, and go right to the hook.

What Boxer Is Known For His Bolo Punch?

Some renowned boxers have utilized bolo punches to knock out their opponents during the last few decades. Kid Gavilán, Ceferino Garcia, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Ike Ibeabuchi are among the prominent fighters. Kid Gavilán is the most well-known boxer who uses the bolo punch style.

Gavilán worked as a teenager on a manual farm, harvesting sugar cane with a machete. That’s how he developed his bolo punching ability since he had to swing the bolo in an underarm action that looked more like a broad uppercut.

It wasn’t until he began his boxing career that the skill he’d learned swinging a bolo became a lethal weapon. You can see him in action all those years ago in the video below.


The bolo punching method is an excellent boxing punch that can be more effective than other traditional boxing strikes. That is if it is executed correctly. Otherwise, you can leave yourself exposed if doing it at the wrong time. It isn’t a punch that is practiced by boxers a lot but it’s a good one to have in the arsenal.

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