T Nation

Peek-a-Boo Style Weakness?


More and more lately I'm watching videos of a young Tyson training and admiring the technical brilliance. I especially admire the way he'll have someone backpeddaling into the ropes and he'll leap across to their left side and unload. I know a lot of Amateur coaches who would chew you out for letting someone have a direct path of escape off of the ropes like that, but in my experience the more savvy guys will use the ropes to counter you as you come in, so Tyson's angles seem smart.

It's gotten to the point where I'm trying certain elements of his style in the gym, even though historically I've been a counter puncher working on the outside.

However I'm trying to understand the weaknesses of the style more. I've noticed traditional combos feel a little weird when combined with the high guard and head movement. As far as head movement goes, I can easily see how keeping the head moving creates a much harder target for guys who like to paw the jab out and dance. However, I'm also used to pulling my head out of the way at the last possible second to create a counter opportunity, so slipping left right left right right left bob weave bob every few seconds feels strange to say the least.

What do you notice when looking at this style?


My opinion.

Most people at a lower level of experience who want to fight like this don't follow the basics that really make this style hum. To be really effective you need to:

  • Have a really good level of fitness. A lot of energy is used to keep down low and moving.
  • Be moving the head all the time when anywhere close to being in your opponents range. For you as a counter puncher this is key to creating more opportunities
  • Have a solid jab that is used liberally. I'm convinced many people underestimate the value of the jab in this style.
  • Punches in bunches. Tyson at his peak was a combination puncher rather than a one shot knockout artist.

Hope this is of some use.


Rather than trying to emulate the peek-a-boo style, maybe have a look at Rodney King's (No not that one) Crazy Monkey. I've trained in this for use in MMA and it improved my defence ten-fold. You still have to adapt striking a little though.



Tyson had unbelievable explosiveness that's why even if the kept weaving left and right, he was pretty much ready to unload a flurry of hooks and uppercuts at any given moment. He also had a knack for landing body shots that transitioned well into chin shots. His uppercut was second to none.

The main weakness (as mentioned above) I guess would be that it really drained a fighter's stamina quickly. That's why Iron Mike grasps for air past the 7th round


i'm not much of a boxing fan anymore, but i love watching young Tyson. i heard Roy Jones Jr say a while back that Tyson wans't much of a boxer, and that he was just powerful.

i really disagree with RJJ's comment, and when i watch Tyson notice a couple things...

his footwork and head movement was light years ahead of most the people he fought, at least in his early years. obviously those are important for any boxer, but for him, it made him that much more lethal...

as he got older, he used his jab less, and became less of a boxer and more of a brawler. but to this day, he's the only boxer i've seen that can consistely KO someone off a jab-lead hook combo. obviously his natural power and explosivenss has a lot to do with it, but he's using a combo to make it work.

most fighters are terrible at utilizing all their targets....Tyson was great at jabbing, working the body, using the hook and uppercut consistently throughout the fight.


I tend to hold my gloves in a high guard, mostly because I don't like.. you know, getting hit.

However, when I'm moving to punch, my hands come down, unless I'm jabbing, which I can manage to throw pretty crisply from that high guard.

The weakness, to me, is that its awkward. I cant generate power from having my hands in front of my face. Mike Tyson could, but he's mike fuckin tyson, he could generate power punching in zero gravity.

Personally it's not how I fight. It's a shitload of head movement, it's tiring, and it saps a lot of energy. Tyson pulled it off well because he was so gifted and it FIT him- a smaller guy, crouching, his gloves in front of his face, going side to side = very difficult to hit.

I would be very wary of trying to emulate anything of his style. Unless you have his physical attributes, I think you're going to get tagged up pretty badly the first time you use it against a good fighter. It's like trying to fight like Roy jones.


I just noticed that some of the greatest boxers had very unorthodox techniques. RJJ and Hearns exposed their chins a lot, I mean wide open. Ali's stance was also left him vulnerable but he made up for it with his quick reflexes. He also threw his jab from the waist.

Thus, these guys got away with (and excelled at) using such techniques because of their physical gifts, Tyson included. To non-elite level athletes like us, it might be difficult to pull off but you never know


i tend to box like Tyson, and i do get hit a lot, mostly with jabs and crosses. rarely do i catch one on the chin or get my bell rung, but i do give up a lot of points for the power punch.

i'm not naturally quick, so that doesn't help me either...


Didn't Tyson use that style because he was generally smaller/had a shorter reach than his opponents? I can't think of any tall rangy pro with the same style. I've never met any amateur of average proportions (for their weight) with the same style. I knew a guy who boxed like that all the time, he said it was a bitch and he only stated doing it because he had put on weight.


Floyd Patterson


Floyd wasn't Tyson, but he wasn't exactly what I'd call "tall and rangy" either. I'm pretty sure he was blessed with a fairly average reach, and certainly fell a ways short of the mark against the ape-like Liston.

I'm sure such fighters exist, but I can't think of any.


Well see that's where I'm not sure.

I've got pretty good reflexes and hand speed, so in theory I think I could make the peek-a-boo work for me, but then again, innovation is always better than imitation or so the saying goes...


I think Tyson was just lucky to get matched up with Cus D'Amato, otherwise he most likely would have had a different style.

You don't really see it that much unless it's just how the person was taught to box. The only weakness I've really noticed is that the fighter usually needs some fast hands to be successful with it, if the hand speed isn't there they'll have some trouble when they progress through the different levels of boxing.


Yeah this is probably true... a product of the gym rather than the man.


Some good points were already mentioned.

It's really not about weaknesses per se (long range jabs and right straights obviously can suffer) but the athlete's personal approach to fighting and if that style suits better.
If it does it might be a good thing abandon the conservative stance.

In my opinion, you need to be explosive above all else. There has to be a drive to go forward, at least on the offense. You need to understand how to throw all kinds of hooks in combinations, instinctivly.
Strength is important because a taller opponent can try o negate your technique and footwork by bullying you.
Its also a style where you have to accept a few glancing blows.


yeah....i got frsutrated in light sparring because i would lose on points, but in heavier sparring i could chew up most people due to my power. however, i never boxed/kickboxed at a very high level though....


Well update of sorts, I've watching alot of footage of tyson in his prime and emulating it in the gym. It's working rather well, I've been getting compliments on how hard I am to hit in sparring. As far as punching technique, nothing feels awkward or out of place, though I do feel more comfortable throwing hooks now than straight punches, but again, not that much different.

rapid lateral head movement and changes in elevation seem to work fantastically against opponents of the same height or taller (I'm 5'11) but against shorter opponents obviously weaving is a bad idea compared to utilizing the range to pull your head out of the way.

One thing that still eludes me is how Tyson manages to pull off that huge angle change where he leaps off to an opponents direct left or right as they are backing up and catches them with the hook.


A lot is misunderstood about the peekaboo style and the only guys left who know it with any degree of expertise are Atlas, Rooney and Tyson himself. I am the same size as Tyson, Frazier and Patterson so this style suited me well, especially as I was a heavyweight (215lb fighting weight). Here are the principles of Peekaboo as I understand them -

  1. Everything works off of the jab.
  2. The footwork is unorthodox with both feet moving simultaneously to create angles. This is done on the inside when within punching distance. This is not the case when stalking an opponent. When stalking footwork is conventional.
  3. Slips are used against straight punches.
  4. Weaving is used against round punches.
  5. The knees are bent and the head and torso are kept nearly vertical when weaving. The legs (knees) control level changes.
  6. If you throw a straight punch move twice.
  7. If you throw a hook, shovel or uppercut, move three times.
  8. Never end a combination on an uppercut.

The style was developed by D'Amato for short armed fighters, not necessarily short fighters. The idea in peekaboo is to get inside, underneath the arms / punches of a taller opponent or an opponent with longer arms. The quick, slashing movements are used create angles inside and actually punish your opponent for throwing a punch. When a taller fighter throws a punch down at a peekaboo fighter, the peekaboo fighter is to slip, slash and / weave to an angel and punch over the top the opponents punch by creating a level change. If you watch Mike Tyson in the early days and also Floyd Patterson, you will see this a great deal. You will also notice that both Tyson and Patterson rarely lost sight of their opponents when moving. It is one of the reasons that while you will see much head movement and many angles, you will rarely ever see a "roll". This is because D'Amato believed that a fighter could not be knocked out as long as he saw the punch coming, so he developed the style to keep the upper body more erect - using the knees, angles and level changes to avoid blows. To my knowledge, this is the only system in which a 3-2-3 combo can be thrown without a punching setup.

The weakness of this system is that you will take shots if you are not in supreme condition and remain directly in front of your opponent using conventional footwork and movement. You will get killed if you do. But if you keep moving and use the prescribed footwork and angles, you will make a very, very difficult target. In addition, your opponent will pay dearly for attempting to punch at those awful angles you create. It takes a conventional fighter right off of his game. Hope this helps.


great first post TJR.

hoping for more posts of this level.


I like watching peekaboo style, could never do it myself though. It takes the right guy, and a lot of practice to not eat a follow-up shot after avoiding the jab. Guys at the lower levels trying to do it seem especially susceptible to a jab-same side hook combo when they move in, they'll stop the jab and forget to keep moving, eating the hook while overextended. If you can't avoid the shots you'd better have a concrete chin, because you'll be eating them on your way in.

As Ippon said, it takes a lot of fitness to keep it up for any period of time, most guys aren't Tyson and won't be getting the 30 second KO. I feel like guys like Tyson, RJJ, and Mayweather are freaks, and while their styles work for them and are fun to watch trying to imitate them can get you in trouble if you're not a freak too. A lot of guys trying to be Tyson would be better off trying to be Larry Holmes.