Boxing is a sport that is almost entirely dictated by your bodyweight and the ways in which you utilize it. This is why boxing classes are divided based on weight, as it helps to ensure a more even fight.
But outside of just that, there are many other things to consider before sparring against an opponent. Namely, the length with which a person is able to reach has an extensive influence over their fighting abilities.
When we watch our favorite fighters on television, this is probably something we don’t pay much mind to. But in reality, a fighter’s reach is an extremely important facet in determining their ability to perform inside the ring.
So what exactly is reach? And how can you measure your own?
Based on the sounds of it, it might be safe to assume that reach refers to the distance that a boxer’s arm extends from their chest during a jab or hook. However, reach is actually a little bit different.
Reach refers to the total length of a fighter’s arms from one fingertip to the other. Think of it like a boxer’s wingspan. This is not to be confused with arm length, which only measures from shoulder to fist in one arm. And while arm length is commonly used when describing a fighter’s statistics, reach is an equally common term that’s really good to know, especially if you want to learn how to box yourself.
Your reach is usually determined by your height, meaning that taller people tend to have longer reach. Like most things, there are exceptions to this. But generally, you can assume that Shaquille O’Neal would have a longer reach than Danny DeVito.
The average reach across professional boxing is 71 inches. Depending on how much you vary from this length, you may have short or long reach. We’ll talk about that in a second!
Believe it or not, it’s really not as simple as just pulling out the tape measure. There are a few steps you need to take before you properly measure in order to ensure accuracy.
In order to be as precise as possible, you’ll want to remove any clothing on your upper body. This is important because even the slightest inclusions from your tee or tank might throw off the measurement. However, sports bras are perfectly fine to keep on.
After that, you’ll want to engage in about three to four minutes of light cardio, such as jogging, jumping jacks, or even kickboxing. This helps the body release any pressure build up, allowing your muscles to loosen and provide a more accurate measurement. Through proper stretching of your muscles, you can actually slightly extend your arm’s length!
Stretch your shoulders and arms by pulling each arm across to the other side of the body. This will loosen your shoulder joints to give you a better measure, as well as just make you feel nice and stretched out!
The next step might be the hardest part: find a partner! It’s difficult to get a precise measurement without a little bit of help. Once you do that, you’ll want to extend both arms outward, perfectly perpendicular to your chest. You should be in the shape of the letter T.
Then, using a tape measure, let your partner measure the distance between the fingertip on one hand to the fingertip of the other. It might be best to do this from behind, as your back might be a bit flatter than your chest.
Record the length in a notebook or on your phone, and you’re all set!
Arm length is another valuable measurement that you might want to know. And if you’ve already got your partner and tape measure with you, you might as well kill two birds with one stone!
Measuring arm length is done similarly. Extend one arm perpendicular to your chest, just like how you would with reach. Then, have your partner measure the distance between your underarm and the end of your closed fist.
Record that number in a manner of your choosing, and then do the same thing for the other arm. It’s quick and simple but will really help as you start to plan your next sparring match.
While they’re both valuable resources for a boxer’s statistics, they both have their own limitations.
Arm length can give a really good indication of just how much distance a boxer can strike. Fighters with a longer reach might play a bit further removed from their opponent compared to those with shorter arms.
But since reach takes the back and shoulders into consideration, it could mean that a broad fighter with short arms could have a deceptively long striking distance.
With this in mind, neither one really has a leg up over the other. Since they’re both so easy to identify, you might as well know them both!
Boxers are identified by their weight because it can usually make the difference between being knocked out or doing the knockout. But reach plays an equally important role in determining the outcome of a boxing match.
Usually, boxers with a longer reach have the advantage during a given spar. This is because it’s inherently advantageous to be able to reach a greater distance than an opponent, especially given the personal nature of the game. When boxers with shorter arms are unable to properly close the distance, this can lead to some tricky and unwanted situations.
Larry Holmes is a boxing legend who is known for having one of the longest reaches in history. His wingspan clocked in at a whopping 81 inches, which is nearly seven feet from side to side! If you happen to have an equally giant reach, you may benefit the next time you step in the ring.
So you just measured your reach and saw that you have a wingspan of 78 inches. Congratulations! You’ve got some really long reach! Let’s look at how you can make the most of this.
First and foremost, you need to develop good footwork so that you can move around quickly. By utilizing proper stance, you can make sure that you’re prepared for an opponent’s blitz while simultaneously being able to move forward on the offense.
You’ll also want to make use of straight punches whenever you can, as this will utilize the entire breadth of your arm’s length. And while hooks are also your friend, your long arms might actually throw off your balance if you’re not in the proper stance.
Make sure you’re also cognizant of your predictability in the ring. Boxing is a mind game just as much as it is physical. So if you’re spending much of your time on the outskirts of the ring, your opponent might easily pick up your habits. Make sure you switch up boxing styles throughout the fight to keep your opponent guessing.
If you haven’t been graced with Holmes level arms, that’s okay! Boxing is really for everyone, and you shouldn’t be discouraged based on a measurement. If anything, you’re going to have to work just a little bit harder to keep up with your lengthy rivals.
Remember that boxers with a long reach will try to keep you at a distance, so you’ll need to fight inside so that they won’t be able to use their arm length to their advantage.
One of the best ways to do this is through bobbing and weaving. This is a defensive maneuver where you wait for your opponent to punch, ducking underneath to slip outside or inside. This is a classic move that lets you move closer to your opponent when they are vulnerable.
A downside of long reach is that their punches can take longer to travel through the air. So dodging punches is actually a bit easier against a longer reach.
Another option that’s a great choice for beginners is known as the double jab. For this, all you do is walk towards your rival while jabbing twice. This is great because even if your first jab doesn’t land, you’ll have distracted your opponent for just a second, giving you more time for your second hit to pack a literal punch.
Measuring reach is one of the most important statistics for a boxer to know. All you need to do to measure your reach is put your arms in an outward position, perpendicular to your body. Then, just have a friend measure from one fingertip to the other.
Having a longer reach can usually give you a leg (or arm) up in the competition. It lets you stay on the outside, giving you more leeway to defend yourself against an opponent with shorter reach. With that said, having a short reach doesn’t eliminate you from the competition. With a combination of bobs, weaves, and double jabs, you can knock out your opponent in no time!