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Shoulder Roll

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but there is nothing quite like an original!

Like the Ali shuffle that has been duplicated so many times after him, the shoulder roll is no different. Floyd Mayweather Jr. has brought on a new era of copycats trying to perfect his technique.

You are about to find out how to use the shoulder roll, and when.

And if you’ve ever wondered if the shoulder roll is made for you, find out here how you can utilize this tool in the ring or on the mitts with the coach.

What is the shoulder roll

The “Shoulder roll” also known as the “Philly Shell” is a defensive technique. The lead shoulder will deflect punches while the rear hand stays up to block and counter.

This is a subtle movement, saves energy, and loads you up for a counter punch.

Very effective to neutralize an opponent but not easy to master. This takes countless hours of practice and error to get a solid foundation. 

If used incorrectly it puts you in some of the worst positions in boxing, the hand is trapped, your weak side is easy to rotate on, and your feet have to be re-adjusted.

High-risk high reward.

How to do a shoulder roll

Start in your traditional boxing stance. I’m going to use an orthodox fighter as an example. 

You see a cross punch coming from an orthodox fighter, start rotating your lead shoulder up and in across your chest, both movements happen at the same time.

Shift your body weight onto the back leg with a slight lean backward. Keep a slight bend at the knees.

The second part of the shoulder roll is parrying. The rear hand will be resting on the side of your body.   

Your opponent throws a jab, you won’t roll, simply parry their punch, turning your palm towards the jab. Meet the punch ¼ of the way don’t go too far overextending your rear hand.

To be effective you must maintain balance and use rhythm. A good shoulder roll to defend can roll back quicker with a counter punch.

Counter punches have to be included at some point. As good as a defense you may have, this will be the cherry on top of completing the shoulder roll. 

Strike back with crosses, uppercuts, and sneaky jabs that come from the bottom up.

Side notes

Chin tucked: your chin should be hiding behind the lead shoulder as you roll.

Parry: keep your guard tight as you parry the jab, overextending will leave you open.

Rotation: over rotating is a disadvantage because you will give them your back, causing a bad angle to counter, while losing all your advantages. Rotate just enough to avoid the punch.

Eyes: Keep your eyes on the target at all times.

Pivot: use your lead foot to slightly pivot inward, freeing up the hip and shoulder to rotate as well.

When do I use it

When you see a jab you parry when you see a cross punch you roll. 

If you are the taller fighter this technique is easier to use. When you are the shorter fighter it’s much harder. 

Being the shorter fighter and using the shoulder roll. The disadvantage is the overhand right can still catch you on top of your head. 

This can be your style of fighting like Mayweather Jr., or you can utilize this technique when you need, switching between styles being a hard puzzle to figure out.

Inside fighting is not an option with lead arm folded. Instead, you tie up and reset after you break up and take a step back.

How do I practice

First, we start in front of a mirror. The mirror isn’t only to see how good our muscles look or fix our hair.

The common theme of practice forms comes first. Make sure you have your stance and you watch yourself act the move out finding your own gaps.

Rule of thumb this is practiced without being used with a punch or a partner for a week. Some gyms train longer, you are lucky.

Next week grab a friend and start parrying before the shoulder roll. The reason is you will see a jab a lot more than the cross.

In your 3rd week start rolling off the cross from your opponent, you want to be starting your roll at the same time the punch is being thrown.

Start too early and you get hit in the back, start too late and the punch might slip on the inside of your guard.

4th week, the money maker week. Put it together! Throw on some headgear and have your partner throw a jab-cross at moderate speed. You are here to work, communicate what level you are at.

Speed it up slow it down, don’t trick your opponent by faking or fainting on them. Not yet at least.

Work on perfecting the movement, go slow take mental notes on what works and what doesn’t.

Use a coach to get feedback on what you cant see from the outside. Holding mitts helps you put this practice into motion before actually taking it to the ring.

While in the ring this is totally depending on the situation. If you have an aggressive fighter you have to make sure you fire back more often to demand respect. 

If you have a laid-back fighter, push the action once in a while by closing the distance before you punch. The shoulder roll works best when your opponent starts the offense attack, make them engage.


Shoulder rolling is difficult I’m not going to lie. It takes countless errors and practice. It’s a simple move that’s difficult to pull off successfully.

Try to perfect this move step by step, and remember no matter how good you get there is a good chance you get caught. The key is to keep rolling with the punches.

You don’t have to always use the shoulder roll just because you want to use it in a fight, be adaptive and use it when it works, put it away when it’s not working.

True champions adapt!