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Copyright Jack Slack 2013
Some techniques get better with age, like a fine wine, and the Cross Counter is certainly one of them. The term "cross" has some to mean a straight right hand to the head, when in fact it originally referred to a right hook combined with a slip to the left - or what is commonly termed an "overhand".
Unlike the modern overhand we see utilized in Mixed Martial Arts by inexperienced strikers, the Cross Counter is designed to place your head inside of your opponent's jab so that your looping punch can travel over the top of his extended arm. The move came to prominence under the great Joe Gans but had existed even before he began fighting in the late 1890s. In the Spalding athletic library's first volume on boxing - guest written in part by the first gloved heavyweight champion John L. Sullivan - a great many variations of the Cross Counter are given. Here is a picture from the longtime Soviet boxing team head coach K. V. Gradapolov's book "Tactics of Foreign Masters". Gans is on the right, performing his cross counter over an opponent's jab.
The overhand has been called the great equalizer, but in truth the Cross Counter is even more dangerous. As so many top boxers and fighters have been taught to "establish the jab", it is almost certain that a fighter will open 90% of his combinations with a jab. A great many competitors who have been overmatched on paper have been able to land spectacular knockout blows on a complacent "scientific boxer" through the use of the Cross Counter from the opening bell.
For those Mixed Martial Arts fans among you, many of you will be familiar with Aleksander Emelianenko - the younger brother of heavyweight demi-god, Fedor and one of the most frightening boxers in MMA. Despite destroying fighters like Sergei Kharitanov and Pedro Rizzo, and being competitive with Mirko Cro Cop, Aleks was still knocked out quite recently by the first punch his opponent threw. Magomed Malikov, a relative nobody - comes out bubbling with nervous energy and obviously lacks the comfort which Aleks feels in the stand up game. From the start it is also clear that Magomed is waiting for Aleks to step into range, which he fakes several times. As soon as Aleks commits to stepping in however, Magomed cracks him with the Cross Counter over Aleks' jab.
Many of you will also be familiar with Alistair Overeem's overhand or Cross Counter. In his match with Ben Edwards, Alistair showed enormous improvement in his boxing game from his previous performances, where his over-reliance on knee strikes led to the K-1 organization (unfairly in this fan's opinion) banning the Thai clinch. Notice at 1:30 and 20 seconds later at 1:50 how Overeem uses his head movement coincided with a huge right hook to catch Edwards while he's jabbing. The beauty of the Cross Counter is that it can be landed after the jab has landed if the opponent is slow to draw it back, as at 1:30, or as the jab comes out, as at 1:50.
Many call the overhand a sloppy punch; but I implore those among you who look on it like that as an offensive weapon to consider it's context. When thrown as a lead or as part of a combination, the overhand is pretty telegraphed and amateurish, but when a lead is drawn out of the opponent and the Cross Counter employed, the overhand suddenly becomes the most dangerous weapon in a striker's arsenal.
The Cross Counter