Why do boxers Hug? The All-Important Clinch

If you’ve ever watched a boxing fight you would’ve seen what looked like hugging between the two boxers. But, they’re not hugging affectionately, and in boxing, this is called clinching.

So, why do boxers clinch during fights? Well, that’s what we’re going to explain in this article.

Why do boxers clinch?

Learning to clinch isn’t taught as much as it should be in boxing gyms as it’s a vital part of a boxer’s fight strategy.

There are a few reasons why boxers clinch and we’ve outlined these below:

  • To break up the opponent’s momentum
  • When feeling tired and need a seconds rest
  • To tire out your opponent
  • When hurt or injured to stay in the fight

Break up the Opponent’s Momentum

If an opponent is on the constant offense and you don’t have space to step out or pivot then clinching can get you out of this. The last thing you want is to end up on the ropes. 

This will break up their attack and allow you to get into a stronger defensive position or even go on the attack yourself. It’s also a great way to slow the pace of the fight down.

When facing a swarmer-style boxer you should practice clinching before the fight and apply it when needed. This is because this style of boxer’s aim is to apply constant pressure.

When feeling tired

Even if you have great boxing stamina, there’s always a time in a fight when you’ll start to feel tired.

This is especially the case if you’re having to defend a lot against a pressure-fighter (swarmer). But, this is where tactical clinching comes in and allows you to get a few seconds to breathe.

First, you’ll be able to slow the fight down in the clinch, then when the referee breaks it up you’ll have another short space of time to catch your breath.

Don’t feel like you’re cheating with a clinch either. The greatest boxers of all time have used this strategy to catch some needed rest and gone on to win the fights.

To tire your opponent out

As well as using it to catch a breather, you can also clinch to tire your opponent out. This works better if you’re a tall fighter as you can lean on them making it a lot of effort to clinch back and get out of it.

The referee will step in and break it up but again you’ve used this as part of your tactical strategy. Don’t make a habit of this in the same fight either as you could end up penalized if you do.

When hurt or injured

If a punch rocks you and you feel like you might go down, one of the best things to do is to hug the other boxer.

This runs down the time on the clock and stops you from getting KO’d by any follow-up punches.

Why is clinching allowed in boxing?

Clinching has always been a part of boxing and as the rules on it are vague it is still allowed today.

Clinching does come with its own set of restrictions and it is up to the referee to penalize excessive use. Boxers can receive point deductions if they are penalized. But, this doesn’t happen often and the fighter will get a warning first.

Boxers aren’t able to block both opponent’s hands and then have one hand free and use it to punch, this is illegal.

There are many intricacies when it comes to clinching as some would class these tactics as dirty boxing. Though others know what they can get away with without being penalized and that’s what they do.

Tyson Fury is a master at this and it was easy to see in his third fight with Deontay Wilder.

How long can you clinch in boxing?

There is no specific length of time that you can clinch in boxing, but you can be penalized for clinching too much.

The referee will break up a clinch if it goes on too long. Also, if a boxer refuses to listen to the ref and continues the clinch then they could also be penalized.

Can you punch in the clinch in boxing?

Yes, you can punch whilst in a clinch and that is one of the goals if you have a shorter reach than your opponent.

What you can’t do, is block both your opponent’s arms and then punch with your one free arm, this is illegal.


Hugging was illegal in the Queensberry rules, but in modern boxing clinching has become a key part of the sport.

Boxers clinch in fights for many reasons as we’ve discussed. It is a useful way to stop your opponent’s momentum and it helps you catch a breather when tired or hurt.

But make sure that you’re not clinching too often in a fight as you can get penalized for doing so.

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