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Sandy Saddler's Slashing Jab by Mark Hatmaker

Sandy Saddler was, is, and will always be one of THE bona fide legends of the vicious game that is boxing. He has his detractors, people who can point to his occasional less than kosher tactics such as his penchant for heeling, holding, thumbing, collaring, and a bit of wrestling here and there. But even his detractors will admit the man didn’t need the outside-the-rules tactics. Saddler could move, the man could box, the man would bring that vicious jab back to perfect position more often than most champions afflicted with the “curse” that is speed. His series of matches with another all-time great, Willie Pep, are the stuff of history.

There is a lot to learn from Mr. Saddler, but today let’s look at something mighty telling, let’s go to his record for evidence. Saddler fought 162 total bouts, won 144 of them, lost only 16 with 2 draws, but look at that knockout tally-103 knockouts. He is in the Top 10 All-Time KO list and earned the most KOs of any featherweight.

Now, consider that KO tally and have a look at any photo of the tall gangly Saddler. Just where is that power coming from?

It seems the answer may be found in some of the deliberate timing of what, from the outside, looks like an awkwardly thrown lead hand. When watching film of Saddler throw his jab we will see that often when his jab lands his opponent’s head turns or bobs with it more than is usual upon receiving a standard jab. Usually an unblocked jab results in a bit of a quick bump rearward as the head receives the blow. When Saddler’s jab lands flush we see the head either torque left (Saddler threw orthodox) or bump downward.

The secret to this extra-bump of the opponent’s head is how Saddle would slash or whip his jab. Let’s use the following drills to see if we can buy ourselves some of this unexpected power.


First things first, when we see Saddler throw his jab, more often than not it travels a slightly inward arc, or a slightly downward arc. Yes, he often threw the traditional straight-line in-out jab, but much of Saddler’s renown was for this arcing/slashing motion that could open cuts and provide some hard extra torqueing wallop. Saddler’s slashing angles are what provided that extra torque or stink to make his jab a bit more powerful even though they are often thrown (intentionally so) as glancing blows.


·        Throw your standard jab but…

·        Re-calibrate your landing target about 1 to 2 inches left of target for orthodox fighters (1 to 2 inches to the right for southpaws).

·        To help visualize this, if I want to land a jab flush on my opponent’s mouth, I will target my slashing inside jab to land on the right corner of his mouth or perhaps even 1 inch right of that corner. I would adjust this targeting to the right if I am throwing southpaw.

·        As my jab lands, I think less of penetrating through the target and more of immediately contracting the chest and stomach muscles to drag/slash/whip the jab to the inside of the target-in the mouth example, as if you were going to wipe the smile off of his face with your fist, literally.

I suggest honing the range and timing on the heavy-bag, then take it to the pads. Initially it may feel “off,” you may unintentionally stop your fist a few times, but once you find it, it’ll pay big rewards.


Saddler also bumped that head down with an alternate version of his slashing jab, let’s look at how he did it.

·        Fire your jab straight and true but…

·        About one inch above your mark.

·        Just as your jab makes contact above target, contract your abdominal and lat muscles hard to slash/rake the jab downward tearing into your target from above.

Keep in mind the key to Saddler’s slashing jabs is not to penetrate with the punch in the usual manner but to slash the skin of the opponent.
[This is excerpted from our book Boxing Like the Champs, for more old-school lessons from Saddler and other greats see the aforementioned book or the DVD set Boxing Like a Champ.]


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