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What Is The Difference Between A Jab And A Cross?

If you’re new to boxing, the different types of punches can sometimes be confusing, especially when considering left vs right hand dominance. If this is you, then no need to worry! In this post, I’m going to help clarify the difference between the two most common punches in boxing, which are the jab and the cross. So what is the difference between a jab and a cross?

The main difference between a jab and a cross is that a jab is a straight punch with your lead hand, while your cross is a straight punch with your rear hand. For people who are right-handed, this means you jab with your left hand and cross with your right, and vice-versa for left handed people. A jab is commonly used to keep an opponent at bay, while the cross is a harder, more powerful punch.

Let’s look at the more subtle differences between the two, and the proper form for throwing both punches.

Differences In Form

Let’s talk about the correct way to throw each punch. Before we start, I want to address the two types of stances, orthodox and southpaw. Your stance is often determined by your dominant hand, so if you are right handed, you are orthodox, and if you are left-handed, you are a southpaw.

Thomas Hearns (left) is an orthodox fighter, so he jabs with his lead hand, which is his left hand.
Thomas Hearns (left) is an orthodox fighter, so he jabs with his lead hand, which is his left hand.

To get into your stance, put your non-dominant side forward, and keep your dominant side slightly back.

Throwing A Jab

Now that you know your stance, let’s get onto throwing a jab. As mentioned before, if you are right-handed, you will jab with your left hand, and vice-versa for lefties.

Your hands should both be up by your face, protecting you at all times. When you throw a jab, all you do is simply extend your lead hand out in front of you, and then bring it back to your face.

At the same time that you extend your arm, you should step slightly forward with your lead leg. You should also lean your lead shoulder forward as you punch.

Notice the elements of Klitschko's jab: his left arm is fully extended, leaning slightly forward, with his stance more angled.
Notice the elements of Klitschko’s jab: his left arm is fully extended, leaning slightly forward, with his stance more angled.

Throwing A Cross

As for the cross, the technique is a bit different. The cross is thrown with the rear hand, also known as the power hand. The power hand will be your dominant hand, giving it the strongest and most accurate punch, hence the name ‘power hand’.

Because the cross is thrown from your rear hand, it has a longer distance to travel before it hits the target. So there are some steps involved in landing it effectively. The first thing you need to do is pivot off of your rear leg, kicking your heel out.

Notice how the fighter on the right throws his cross: his right leg is turned in, his hips are slightly turned in, and his right shoulder comes forward.

This drives power from your feet, which will get transferred into the cross. then you want to turn your hips to the opposite side. For example, if you are right-handed then your hips will turn to the left, so that you face your opponent squarely.

At this point, you should lean the shoulder on your dominant side forward, and extend your punch. After it lands, reset back into your stance. The image above shows a perfect cross. The fighter’s right leg is poised, his hips turned, and his should is forward, passing his left shoulder.

Also, compare this picture with the last picture of the jab. Notice how a cross makes you face your opponent, while the jab keeps your shoulders in line towards your opponent.

When done correctly, the cross can cause significant damage, much more than a jab alone. Let’s address the correct situations in which you should use each punch.

Differences In Usage

Due to the natural differences in each punch, they are each useful in different scenarios. For starters, the cross is always more powerful than a jab, due to a combination of momentum, hand dominance, and distance traveled. But it also leaves you more exposed, making you an easier target to hit.

First, we should cover the jab. Every combination you throw will build off of the jab, and it is the most used punch during a fight. The jab is used often because of the lead hands proximity to the opponent. Because it travels a short distance, it is a punch that can be thrown very quickly with no notice.

Throwing a jab frequently prevents your opponent from getting close enough to hurt you.
Throwing a jab frequently prevents your opponent from getting close enough to hurt you.

For the same reason, it is very effective for keeping some distance between you and your opponent. As your opponent attempts to close the distance, the jab is easier to land, keeping them at bay.

But as already mentioned, the jab is not as strong as the cross. In order to cause some real damage, you will want to land some shots with your power hand.

The cross should usually be thrown just after your jab, and strung together in combinations. This is because a cross on its own is a lot easier to avoid than a jab, as it takes longer to land, giving your opponent time to dodge.

You should use your jab often throughout a fight, and sporadically throw a cross in after your jab to surprise your opponent. Throwing the cross every now and then will give you chances to stun your opponent, without your punches becoming too predictable, which would give your opponent a better opportunity for a counterattack.

The most important thing is to keep your punches straight and fast, so as not to give away what you are about to do, which is known as ‘telegraphing’ your punches.

Conclusion

To sum up the difference between a jab and a cross, the jab is a fast punch with the lead hand that can keep your opponent at bay while setting up your combinations. In contrast, a cross is much stronger, and is much more effective in causing damage, although it does give your opponent an opportunity to strike back.

Just remember to keep your stance angled, keep your punches straight, and to put momentum into your cross. If you’re new to boxing and would like to know more about techniques used by the pros, check out the Training Tips page. Thanks for reading!