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Peekaboo Boxing Style Explained (Breakdown of Different Boxing Styles and FAQ)

The peekaboo boxing style was very unique and seemed to come to a peak with the usage of it by Mike Tyson as taught by his coach Cus D’Amato.

Watching highlights of Tyson bob and weave and pressure forward to land devastating knockouts makes many boxing fans (including myself) wonder why it was never as popular with other boxers.

Hopefully, our breakdown of different boxing styles will help explain the rise and fall of the peekaboo boxing style along with other popular styles.

The Peekaboo Boxing style emphasizes head movement and active evasion, with the boxer maintaining a high, tight guard with his hands (similar to the baby’s game) and continuously moving forward to apply pressure.

Peekaboo Boxing – Key Points

  • The peek-a-boo boxing style was popularized by legendary boxing coach Cus D’Amato.
  • Known for defense craftiness, the peek-a-boo style allows boxers to control the speed and rhythm of a fight.
  • The most famous practitioner of this style was “Iron” Mike Tyson, whose aggressive, power-punching style fit perfectly with the peek-a-boo method.
  • However, the effectiveness of the peekaboo style may be a bit overstated and not the best universally applied style for all boxers (again, Iron Mike was an outlier and could have probably been effective using a variety of different methods)
  • The peek-a-boo boxing style favors specific attributes like Quick Movements, Ambidextrous Capabilities, and Devastating Power.
  • Despite its effectiveness, the trend of the peek-a-boo style may have waned as the sport of boxing has continued to evolve along with other styles and trends
  • Other very popular styles are we’ve see are aggressive counter puncher (as see by Canelo and Ugás) and more of Slugger style (as used by George Foreman)

What Is the Peekaboo Boxing Style?

Again, the Peekaboo Boxing style emphasizes head movement and active evasion, with the boxer maintaining a high, tight guard with his hands (similar to the baby’s game) and continuously moving forward to apply pressure.

It is essentially a defensive technique that lends to quick, powerful counter punches. It’s like playing an intense game of hide-and-seek within the boxing ring, using a variety of skills that leaves opponents struggling for the right move. From quick jabs and swift undercuts to explosive hooks and overhand rights, the Peekaboo style incorporates it all.

However, many believe that the style doesn’t provide the best ability for efficient attacking.

The use of the Peekaboo Style by Mike Tyson is certainly iconic. Keep in mind that Tyson was far from being the average fighter – his ferocious aggression and unmatchable speed made the peekaboo style all the more effective.

He fused all these skills with the Peekaboo style to create an offensive powerhouse, continuously pressuring his opponents, slipping under their punches and delivering devastating counters – usually in the form of hook and uppercuts.

Finally, Iron Mike was trained under the guidance of the legendary boxing trainer, Cus D’Amato, who is credited for this style’s persistence. If you peek into Tyson’s fights, notice how swiftly Tyson manoeuvres within the boxing ring and the impeccable setup of his winning knocks. Side note: Ultimately, his successful career and notorious reputation stand as proof to its effectiveness.

The Fundamentals of Peekaboo Boxing – Quick Breakdown

Fundamentals of the Peekaboo Boxing Style:

  1. Defensive Hand Position: Hands are positioned in front of the face, resembling the baby’s game ‘peek-a-boo’. This stance offers added protection to the face.
  2. Tight Defense: A term preferred by Cus D’Amato, it emphasizes keeping gloves close to the cheeks and arms tight against the torso.
  3. Counter Punching Strategy: Instead of backing up, Peekaboo practitioners aggressively charge forward, provoke opponents into making mistakes, and then capitalize on those openings.
  4. Hands and Upper-body Movement: The style requires relaxed hands, forearms in front of the face, and side-to-side head movements. It also incorporates bobbing, weaving, and blindsiding opponents.
  5. Footwork: Aimed at closing the distance, this element is essential to the style but often overlooked. Footwork helps cut off escape routes, negate the opponent’s reach advantage, and sets the base for punching with leverage.
  6. Punches by Numbers: Simplifies instruction by assigning numbers to specific punches, such as left hook, right cross, jabs, and uppercuts (we breakdown the punching number system next*)

Pros of the Peekaboo Boxing Style:

  1. Enhanced Protection: The hand positioning offers additional defense to the face.
  2. Aggressive Counter Punching: Allows practitioners to move forward aggressively, causing opponents to make mistakes that can be capitalized upon.
  3. Versatile Movement: The style emphasizes swift neck movements, rapid ducking, and quick counterattacks.
  4. Effective Footwork: Helps in cutting off escape routes, negating reach advantages, and gaining dominant attack angles.
  5. Numbered Punch System: Simplifies instruction and combination execution.

Cons of the Peekaboo Boxing Style:

  1. Perceived Limitation on Attack: Some critics argue that it’s challenging to launch an efficient attack from this defensive position.
  2. Requires Exceptional Speed and Agility: The high guard stance demands incredible reflexes to dodge incoming punches.
  3. Predictability: If not combined with other techniques, the style can become predictable to seasoned opponents.
  4. Intensive Training Required: Mastery of the Peekaboo style demands rigorous training to understand its intricacies.

How Effective is the Peek-a-boo Boxing Style?

The peek-a-boo boxing style can definitely be quite effective. However, it requires the athlete to intensely train within the method and maintain constant (and risky) forward pressure. Finally, it may not be the best overall style for many as there are several boxing styles that suite different boxers.

We go over which body type, attributes, and skills that work best with the peek-a-boo style next. While we’ve seen how effective it was for Iron Mike, there really haven’t been to many other top tier boxers to use the style at that same leve.

What Body Type and Attributes Work Well with Peekaboo Boxing

As we mentioned the peekaboo boxing style, despite some of the highlight reel knockouts by Mike Tyson when using it, isn’t a universal fit.

It’s highly compatibility-dependent which makes it work wonders for certain boxers while falling flat for others. Originally designed to leverage shorter fighters’ attributes, Peekaboo works best for fighters who can close in on the distance fast and have swift feet that can get them in or out quickly.

  • Strength and agility are two crucial attributes this style demands
  • It’s tailored for high-energy fighters who aren’t wary of maintaining a continual defensive state and springing into an attacking mode within the blink of an eye.
  • Requires ambidexterity of the boxer; having the ability to punch effectively with both hands significantly amplifies the benefits of Peekaboo Boxing*
  • Also, if a fighter possesses a lower center of gravity, then Peekaboo can be a potent ally in their boxing journey (a lower base provides greater maneuverability and augmented lower body strength)

Disadvantages of Peek-a-boo Style

1. Uses a ton of energyRequires non-punching movements like fast footwork and quick-shifting head movements, wasting more energy than efficient styles.
2. Fighting off-rhythm can be riskyGoing against the rhythm exposes a fighter to risky moments where the chances of getting hit hard increase.
3. Requires power to be successfulForward-moving style requires power to gain respect from the opponent and to make the style effective.
4. Requires an iron chinForward-moving fighters are more susceptible to hits, hence they need a sturdy chin to absorb more damage.
5. Not great for amateur competition (scoring*)It’s a pro-style that doesn’t score well in amateur competitions due to its aggressive and explosive nature.
6. Slows down taller/longer fightersTaller or longer fighters may struggle with this style due to energy loss, balance issues, and covering up their larger frames.
7. Not ideal for taller or longer fightersTaller/longer fighters might not need to adopt this style, as their natural reach and distance can be advantageous.

Basically the peek-a-boo style uses a ton of energy in the ring plus it favors shorter and stockier boxers. Next, it can definitely be countered by an opponent with a solid jab, and leaves the boxer open to considerable risk.

Have Any Other Boxers Used the Peekaboo Boxing Style?

Surprisingly, despite the clear effectiveness of the style, not many boxers have adopted the Peekaboo style. In fact, Tyson seems to be the last of the lot. Why? One possible reason is the difficulty in mastering it. The Peekaboo style demands technical skills, endurance, speed, and precision – a level of craftsmanship in the ring, not everyone can develop.

However, before the Tyson era, Floyd Patterson ruled the ring turning the Peekaboo style into somewhat a signature move. Side note: Patterson was D’Amato’s first world champion which led to the initial recognition of his unique boxing philosophy.

Another notable practitioner of the Peekaboo style was Jose Torres, a promising light-heavyweight. Joey Hadley, known for winning multiple Golden Glove awards, tried his hands on the Peekaboo too. But, despite these few instances, none have used this approach with the same level of dominance as Tyson.

Does Peek-a-Boo Style Work at Lighter Weight Classes?

In terms of applicability in different weight classes:

  1. Lighter Weight Classes:
    • Pros: The style’s emphasis on fast movement and hand speed aligns well with the characteristics of lighter weight classes.
    • Cons: Fighters in these categories often manage distance using their legs, rarely staying in the pocket which the peekaboo thrives in.
  2. Heavyweight: The style has been more prominent in the heavyweight division, where boxers like Tyson and Patterson effectively leveraged the peekaboo.
  3. Misunderstood Usage: Some believe styles like peekaboo are non-existent in lighter weight divisions because they equate a style’s success to the unique guards used by successful fighters.

In lighter weight classes, often boxers can use more effective method and styles of boxing.

The Peekaboo style requires:

  • a good amount of power
  • is more effective for shorter/stockier fighters
  • may not be a good use of energy for lighter fighters

Why the Peekaboo Style Isn’t Really Used Anymore

While many reasons contribute to this, if we had to choose one main factor it would be that the Peekaboo style demands high levels of physical conditioning (and energy expenditure), quick reflexes, and exceptional defensive skills.

To master the Peekaboo style, boxers must expend immense amounts of energy, constantly staying on the move with the rhythm of bobbing and weaving. This style requires the boxer to keep an offensive pressure, which can, at times, lead to them tiring more quickly than their opponent.

Next, this distinctive style relies heavily on reflexes, which tend to naturally decline as a boxer ages. Thus, sustainably maintaining peak reflex performance can be a tough ask for

Related Frequently Asked Questions

Did Mike Tyson Create the Peekaboo Boxing Style?

No, Mike Tyson did not create the Peekaboo boxing style. However, it was heavily used and popularized by his long time trainer Cus D’Amato.

What Boxing Style Did Muhammad Ali Use?

Muhammad Ali utilized an unorthodox boxing style which was characterized by potent right hand leads and hard, fast punches. Predominantly known for his ‘Ali Shuffle,’ his style was a fusion of speed, timing and finesse, combined with the ability to take a punch.

If we had to choose which style Muhammad Ali used it would be the Out-Boxer style which is characterized by using reach and footwork to jab, retreat, and strike from a distance.

One advantage of Ali’s boxing style was its unpredictability. Where other competitors relied on methodical setups for their attacks, Ali was known for his sudden and unexpected assaults. For example, instead of using a conventional jab to set up a power punch, Ali would often lead with his right hand – a high-risk manoeuvre that, because of its unorthodoxy, frequently caught his opponents by surprise.

Did Muhammad Ali Use Peekaboo Style?

Though Muhammad Ali’s boxing style was innovative and unique, it wasn’t categorized as a Peekaboo style. The Peekaboo style is characterized by high defensive guard and explosive offense through small, calculated movements which is quite opposite Out-Boxer styles used by Muhammad Ali.

Side note: One may even argue that Ali’s style shares more in common with modern forms of boxing, which prioritize speed, technical prowess, and strategic thinking over brute force. However, the beauty of boxing lies in its intense subjectivity. Two fighters may adapt the same boxing style, yet their individual variations and interpretations of it can result in vastly different performances.

Does Floyd Patterson Use Peekabo Style?

Yes, Floyd Patterson was a notable practitioner of the Peekaboo style of boxing, a tactic devised and broadly promoted by his trainer, Cus D’Amato.

However, Patterson’s implementation of the Peekaboo style was not in its purest form. Instead, he took elements of the style, combining them with his own exceptional speed and mobility.

To illustrate, Patterson placed significant emphasis on footwork, which is not typically a central component of Peekaboo boxing.

This reliance on rapid movement set him apart from other fighters who adopted this style, such as Mike Tyson. Tyson’s Peekaboo style was distinguished by his ability to move forward aggressively, slip punches, and deliver counter punches with devastating knockout power. Patterson’s approach was different, relying on agility and swift movement to evade and counter his opponent’s attacks.