Sparring is as essential to a boxer as any other mode of preparation. It gets two fighters in the ring and partially mimics a real fight. Sparring sessions generally follow a similar format, but they all differ in intensity. So, how hard do you hit when sparring?

How hard you hit when sparring is as hard as you expect to be hit in the scenario you’re trying to depict. The intensity of a sparring match depends on the intention of the fighters and how hard a hit is needed for the hypothetical situation.  

Below, I’ll explain why you should only hit as hard as you expect to be hit. I’ll also give you tips on how to get the best out of sparring and detail the best way to respond to a hard sparring hit. 

Hit As Hard as You Expect To Be Hit When Sparring

Sparring sessions differ in intensity depending on the fighters’ intentions. Therefore, before a sparring session, the boxers should be clear on what they expect to gain from the session. 

If you and your sparring partner agree to mimic the intensity of a real fight, both of you expect hard punches. Conversely, if your goal is to sharpen movement and technique, you don’t expect hard punches from your opponent. Similarly, your opponent won’t expect hard punches from you. 

Sparring depends a lot on your agreement with your sparring partner. If you both agree to hit hard, proceed to do so. If you decide to go lighter and slower to sharpen on technique, do so. It ensures that you both benefit from the sparring session. 

Boxers often tell tales of getting unexpected hard hits during what they thought were light sparring sessions. An experienced fighter might brush it off, tell you off, and keep going. However, an inexperienced boxer might treat the hit as disrespectful, leading to a brawl. None of you will benefit from an out-of-control fight. 

To better explain how the intensity of punches varies, I’ll detail the two broad types of sparring: hard and light. 

What Is Hard Sparring? 

Hard sparring refers to a type of sparring where you expect punches that can rock you. The main goal of hard sparring is to get you or your partner ready for a fight. This type of sparring resembles a real fight. 

Your sparring partner will hit you hard and expect the same from you. 

You should only participate in hard sparring with people in your weight class. An opponent below your class won’t provide the challenge you expect in a real fight. 

Conversely, an opponent above your class can overwhelm you. Either way, your sparring session wouldn’t be as productive as it would be with a person in your class.

Let’s explore the benefits and drawbacks of hard sparring. 

Benefits of Hard Sparring

The main benefit of hard sparring is that it prepares you for a real fight. Skill and technique help in the ring, but so does the ability to last the whole match. 

Skill training and drills don’t help you build stamina. Hard time in the ring does. 

Hard sparring allows you to practice what you’ve learned in drills in a high-pressure situation. No sparring session can fully mimic a real fight. 

However, knowing that your opponent will hit you hard at any time will build tension and adrenaline. It’ll help eliminate any fear you may have about getting hit. 

The best boxers can fight and withstand hard hits. Several hard hits during sparring will build your confidence and eliminate your fear. 

Drawbacks of Hard Sparring 

The main drawback of hard sparring is deteriorating brain health. Research has proven that sparring impairs short-term brain function.

Boxing is also known to cause long-term brain damage. Therefore, as much as boxing makes you feel alive and fit, you should reduce the times you receive head punches.

The solution isn’t to eliminate sparring but to only do it occasionally

Hard sparring also hinders skill development. The threat of receiving a hard punch might dissuade you from attempting a new skill. 

What Is Light Sparring?

Light sparring is less intense than hard sparring in that the punches have less intensity. The objective of light sparring is to sharpen technique and build stamina. Ring movement mimics a real fight, but the punching is a bit toned down.

How far down depends on the techniques you and your partner are practicing. 

Benefits of Light Sparring

Light sparring builds technique and helps you apply new skills in a simulated match situation.

It helps commit skills to memory by practicing in the ring rather than with your trainer. 

Drawbacks of Light Sparring

Too much light sparring can build false confidence in your abilities in the ring. 

Light sparring is way less intense than what you will experience in the ring. If you only do light sparring, the chances are that you will lose most of your matches.

Occasionally, you’ll need hard sparring to see how your skills hold up in the ring in high-pressure situations. 

Why You Should Blend Hard and Light Sparring

Hard sparring will make you a warrior in the ring but will likely affect your health.

Light sparring will sharpen your skills but will leave you vulnerable in the ring. 

The solution: Blend hard and light sparring. 

Ideally, light sparring should form the bulk of your sparring sessions. Practice techniques and tactics a massive chunk of the time, and test them out with occasional hard sparring. 

The levels of attention you should give to both also depend on your weaknesses. If you have strong technique but struggle to tough it out in the ring, give more time to hard sparring. 

If you can take multiple hits but struggle to land a punch, put more time into light sparring. 

Tips on How To Make Sparring Productive

Sparring can be very productive to a boxer if executed well. 

Even the most experienced and successful fighters spar occasionally. 

Regardless of your skill level, the following tips will help improve your sparring sessions:

  • Get professional advice. Let a professional advise you on when to spar and what to look for in a sparring session. There’s no need to get into a sparring session without a particular aim. A professional will guide you on how to maximize that session. 
  • Create goals and rules with your sparring partner. Speak with your sparring partner to set goals and regulations for your sparring session. Sparring is more beneficial when your partner knows your goals. 
  • Observe safety. This is a no-brainer. Observe all the safety rules you would observe in a professional bout. There’s no need to emerge from sparring with an injury that you could have avoided. 
  • Spar against a person with similar or more experience. Spar with a person with similar experience and at a similar weight class if you need to simulate an actual match. Ideally, the best person to spar with is someone with more experience, as they’ll guide you through the session. 
  • Find the right gym. Preferably, find a gym that encourages both hard and light sparring. Some gyms place too much emphasis on one type of sparring. Consequently, they produce half-baked fighters. Find a gym that practices both so that you can become a well-rounded fighter.
  • Approach the session without fear. The chances are that you’ll take a hard hit when sparring, even if it’s a light session. Nevertheless, approach the session without fear. It’s the best way to build confidence for your upcoming fight. 

Sparring is supposed to be fun. It’s the closest you’ll come to actual boxing without the pressure of winning. 

Therefore, relax and enjoy it. Take a hit while you’re at it – it’s guaranteed to make you a better fighter. 

How To React to Taking a Hard Hit When Sparring

You will inevitably take a hard hit when sparring. Luckily for you, you don’t need to ‘win’ a sparring session. The goal is that you learn from your mistake and guard better next time. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when you take a hard hit when sparring:

  • If you need a break to re-gather your composure, say so. It’s only a sparring session; your partner will ease off. 
  • Take a sip of water and let your brain neurons recover. 
  • Resist the temptation to shake your head – it will only make matters worse. 
  • If needed, de-escalate the situation before you get back in the ring. If your partner surprised you with an unexpected hit, go over the rules again with them. 
  • Take an honest assessment of what just happened. If the hit is a consequence of poor defense, swallow your pride and keep going. However, if the hit was too big, it’s best to throw in the towel for the day and focus on recovery. 

Conclusion 

How hard you hit during sparring depends on the goals and intensity of your sparring session. 

For a hard session, hit hard as you expect to be hit hard. For a light session, hit with less intensity as the goal is to sharpen technique and skill. 

To get better at boxing, blend both hard and light sparring. Hard sparring will build your endurance, and light sparring will improve your technique. 

Finally, maintain your composure even when you take an unexpected hit during sparring. Save the aggression for the real fight.