21 Outstanding English Boxing Idioms

Boxing as a martial art dates back to the early Greek civilizations and has been a part of human culture for a long time now. So it is no surprise that many expressions from this popular sport have entered into everyday language and became idiomatic. Some of them sound so natural and genuine that it is hard to trace back to the original boxing term. Here is the list of the 21 outstanding boxing idioms frequently used in everyday communication:

  1. heavyweight – an expression from the boxing and wrestling weight classification. As an idiom, it means a professional or something renowned.
    BMW is a heavyweight in the automobile industry.
  2. heavy hitter – as a term it means a boxer who frequently gives hard punches. In everyday language, its meaning is similar to that of a heavyweight
    He acts as a heavy hitter but in reality, he is just a pretender.
  3. lightweight – opposite to ‘heavyweight’, something insignificant
    The producer expected most of the songs from the new album to be lightweight, but somehow they became viral.
  4. knockout/KO – the final blow to defeat the counterpart; a knockout can also be something impressive or influential
    His outfit for Met Gala was a complete knockout.
  5. take it (something) on the chin – in boxing it means to remain standing after receiving a strong blow. In general, it refers to enduring something with dignity or standing up to criticism.
    During the feedback, Pete felt uncomfortable, but he took it on the chin.
  6. bare-knuckle – this term originated from boxing without gloves. It means something very extreme and hard
    Our business partner is very unsatisfied, so this meeting will be a bare-knuckle.
  7. hit below the belt – in boxing, it is prohibited to land a blow below the waistline of the opponent. This idiom means to act unfairly, be overly rude or hurtful
    His affair with the maid was a hit below the belt for his wife.
  8. low blow – a synonym to ‘hit below the belt’, an extremely insulting action or comment
    I would have accepted everything but his comment about my appearance was a low blow.
  9. saved by the bell – during the boxing match, the bell is ringing to signify the end of the round which can be beneficial to a boxer who is about to fall. The expression is suitable for situations when someone is saved at the very last minute
    He was saved by the bell when his lawyer rushed into the room.
  10. sucker punch – a sudden blow that was not anticipated
    I expected to get a good grade on my history paper, but the result turned out to be a sucker punch.
  11. have (somebody) in your corner – the boxer’s support team is placed in a specific corner of the ring opposite to that of the counterpart. It means to have someone a supporter or an ally
    I am glad that I have my boss in my corner, his support means a lot.
  12. down and out – it refers to a boxer who has been completely knocked down. This idiom means to be in a poor condition (can refer to the emotional state as well)
    We found the kitten on the street when it was down and out, so we brought it to the vet.
  13. beat a person to the punch – to advance someone or to accomplish something faster than others
    Helen didn’t get along with her sister and always tried to beat her to the punch in everything.
  14. straight from the shoulder – a blow made with one’s full strength; signifies something straightforward or made directly
    Some find Laura rude but her straight from the shoulder comments are indeed honest and fair.
  15. spar – a boxing maneuver, in everyday language it is transformed into a verb that means to fight or compete with someone.
  16. glass jaw – signifies the most fragile target point on a boxer. Idiomatically it means fragile or vulnerable
    Your words would hurt me if I had a glass jaw  I just don’t care.
  17. undercard – a boxing match preceding the main one, a warm-up activity
    The critics say that the guy on the undercard tonight is expected to become a star soon.
  18. throw in the towel – it is a gesture made by someone from the boxer’s support team that means accepting the defeat or physical inability of the boxer to continue fighting. The idiom means to give up on something.
    If it didn’t work out from the first try, it doesn’t mean that you need to throw in a towel.
  19. round – a period of time during a boxing match (12 rounds in total) a term frequently used in games or any timed competitions like rap battle –
    The final round of the debate will be decisive.

My dad would often spar with uncle Tom when he visited us on holidays.

  • roll with the punches – the term refers to the ability of a boxer to stay in motion after having received several blows in a row. In everyday language, it means to be very flexible
    Being a working mom requires rolling with the punches to be able to save time for fitness classes.
  • one-two punch – during the fight it stands for a sequence of two powerful and precise blows. As an idiom, it means two things that come one after another and have a strong effect or to do something without any effort
    This task is easy for a professional, I will do it with a one-two punch.
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