Unleash Your English Vocabulary With Boxing Idioms-Learn From A Native British Speaker Ep 621

A dramatic photo of a boxer throwing a punch. Don't miss out on your chance to improve your English and explore the rich history of our language!

📝 Author: Hilary

📅 Published:

🎈 Updated On:

💬 3042 words ▪️ ⏳ Reading Time 16 min

📥 Download 12.5 Mb ▪️ 👓 Read Transcript

Why You Need To Know Boxing Idioms For Fluent English | British English Teacher Explains

Today’s podcast will discuss idioms in English that come from the world of boxing, inspired by the recent Tommy Fury and Jake Paul fight. We will explore the meanings and origins of popular boxing idioms such as "throwing in the towel" and "pull your punch." There are many idioms that have become commonplace in everyday English, and we’ll examine their meanings and origins. So, join me as we explore the rich history of these boxing idioms and uncover how they’ve become an essential part of our language today.

#LearnEnglishWithBoxing #BritishEnglishIdioms #ImproveEnglishFluency
Language is the road map of a culture.
⭐ Rita Mae Brown

Learn English idioms related to boxing with our latest podcast episode. Improve your vocabulary with simple explanations and real-world examples. Join us now and enhance your fluency in British English!

More About This British English Idioms Lesson

The latest Learn English Through Listening podcast episode is here to help English language learners improve their fluency by exploring boxing idioms with a British English teacher. With clear explanations and simple language, learners can easily master popular phrases and gain a deeper understanding of the English language and culture. Start your journey towards fluent English today!

  • This lesson will help you understand and use common English idioms, making communication with native speakers easier and more enjoyable.

  • With the knowledge gained from this lesson, you’ll be able to understand and take part in English conversations, helping you to connect with others and feel more integrated in your community.

  • By improving your understanding of English idioms through this lesson, you’ll feel more confident in your language abilities, allowing you to communicate effectively and without fear of embarrassment.

  • Help us make more content with a donation

Idioms are a pain to learn! Why do I need to learn idioms?

Idioms have been an integral part of the English language for centuries, enriching the language with metaphorical expressions and cultural references. They are a testament to the power of language to grow and adapt to changing circumstances. They continue to be a consistent part of everyday language in the UK, communicating complex ideas and emotions in a concise and memorable way. Idioms help to unify and distinguish different regions and communities within the UK, reflecting their unique histories and cultural identities.

Idioms are the colours of the mind.
⭐ Sam J. Ervin Jr.

Do we still use idioms in everyday British English conversation?

In a recent interview, British politician Boris Johnson used the boxing idiom "punch above our weight" when discussing the UK’s role in international affairs: "I think that this country has a fantastic future, we are going to continue to punch above our weight."

So yes! You will hear lots of people using idioms in everyday conversation. Idioms are still relevant.

Most Unusual Words:

  • Ambivalent: Having mixed feelings or thoughts about something or someone.
  • Hype: Excessive excitement or publicity, especially for something not that important.
  • Rope: A thick, strong string made of fibers twisted together, used for tying or pulling things.
  • Ring: A small circular band, often made of metal, worn as jewelry on a finger.
  • Punch: To hit something or someone with your fist (closed hand).
  • Fist: The hand when the fingers are bent in towards the palm and held tightly.
  • Interrupt: To stop someone from speaking or doing something by suddenly speaking or acting yourself.
  • Towel: A piece of absorbent fabric used for drying things, like your body after a shower.

Frequently Used Words:


Listen To The Audio Lesson Now

The mp3 audio and pdf transcript for this lesson is now part of the Adept English back catalogue . You can still download and listen to this lesson as part of one of our podcast bundles.

Transcript: Unleash Your English Vocabulary With Boxing Idioms-Learn From A Native British Speaker

Let's do some idioms from the world of boxing

Hi there. Today let's talk about some idioms in English that come from the world of boxing.

I was witness last Sunday to the big fight between Tommy Fury and Jake Paul. What a big internet hype that was! Not my TV, not my house, not my choice. But that's what was on when I was visiting my daughter last Sunday. So that's what I watched.

And that gave me an idea for this podcast - idioms that come from the world of boxing. And there are quite a lot of them.

Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.

Don't forget the Seven Rules of Adept English to really get your learning going!

Before I do that, don't forget to go to our website and check out The Seven Rules of Adept English. You'll find it on our Courses page, and this is our free course that shares with you the secrets of learning to be fluent in English. It shares the Adept English method of learning English and gives you lots of tips and advice on how to learn using our podcasts. You can subscribe to this course on our website.

Boost Your Learning With Adept English

And if you're not sure how to use the podcast and you need a plan, a strategy for your learning, then here it is. This is what this course will give you. Very important.

Which boxing idioms shall we cover?

So today, some boxing idioms for you. Let's look at the following:-

  • On the ropes
  • To pull your punches
  • Saved by the bell and
  • To throw in the towel

My ambivalence about boxing

First of all, the word 'boxing', B O X I N G. Well, 'boxing' is a sport. You'll recognize it perhaps if I mention some famous boxers. Mike Tyson, Joe Frazier - that's a long time ago! Lennox Lewis. Muhammad Ali.

If I'm honest, I find myself really ambivalent about boxing. 'Ambivalent' means 'I'm in two minds'. Watching the fight last weekend, I can see that it's exciting, but I also feel aware of the damage that can be done by it.

The damage that blows to the head can do. Perhaps I'm just too aware of neuroscience to think that boxing is a good idea. Anyway, regardless of what we might think of boxing, there are a lot of idioms in English, which come from the world of boxing and we use them in everyday English conversation.

And if you didn't know them and you heard them, you would wonder, 'What on earth does that person mean? What are they saying there?' Because it wouldn't make sense in the context without knowing the idiom.

Boxing idiom - 'on the ropes'

So the first one - 'on the ropes'. The word 'rope', R O P E, it means 'a thick cord'. If you wanted to climb up the side of a cliff, you would use climbing ropes. And in a boxing ring, which is the area where boxers fight, the edge of the boxing ring has ropes.

Bizarrely, a boxing ring is square or rectangular. It's not actually a ring, and yet that's what we call it 'ring', R I N G.

But the ropes round the edge of the boxing ring stop the boxers falling out of the ring and into the crowd. But the ropes still allow everyone to see the action, to see what's happening in the ring. If a boxer is 'on the ropes', as we say, it usually means his opponent, the other boxer, is winning in that moment, is boxing rather well and beating him, so he's 'on the ropes'.

'On the ropes' means you're probably taking a punching. '

So we use this expression 'on the ropes' in other contexts to mean 'close to losing', 'close to defeat'. Examples might be 'Our company is on the ropes with the drop in customer orders.' Or 'The teacher had the boy on the ropes with his argument.' ' After that scandal, the governor of California was on the ropes.'

Listening Lessons

Boxing idiom - 'to pull your punches'

OK. The next one. 'To pull your punches', or rather, this one is usually said in the negative. 'Don't pull your punches'. A 'punch', P U N C H is what a boxer delivers. Boxers punch with their hands. So you curl your hand up and make a fist. Mine probably aren't very effective for punching, but you punch with your fists. That's a fist, F I S T. Of course, it's much safer with boxing gloves on to protect your hand.

And if you 'pull your punches', what that means is you 'go easy' on your opponent. If you're 'pulling your punches', you're not punching as hard as you can. You're not with full force, if you 'pull your punches'.

So often when we use 'to pull your punches' as an idiom, we're using it in the negative.

You might hear 'She doesn't pull her punches'. And what this means is 'She tells it how it is. She doesn't hold back on her opinion to spare your feelings.' You might hear something like ' Don't pull your punches. I really want to know what you think.'

Or 'He was a journalist who was known for not pulling his punches.'

Notice of course, that the phrase changes according to who is pulling their punches or not pulling their punches. His punches, her punches, our punches, my punches, your punches.

Boxing idiom - 'saved by the bell'

OK. What about the next one? ' Saved by the bell'. So again, this phrase comes from boxing. A boxing match typically consists of 12 rounds.

Sometimes it's 8, but usually 12 and boxing rounds are 3 minutes each.

So the boxers fight for 3 minutes, and then the bell rings and stops the round. And they go to their corner of the ring to recover for a few minutes.

Another idiom, just by the way, 'You're in my corner', means 'You're my supporter.' Again, that comes from boxing.

So when we say 'saved by the bell' within boxing as a context, we mean that, a particular boxer is not looking great. He's receiving a punching at that moment, and then the three minute bell sounds and the fight stops. And that might give that boxer time to recover before the next round, but if the round had carried on, he would've been in trouble.

He or she. There are women boxers, of course.

So we use this saying, 'saved by the bell', to mean that something intervened, something happened that prevented events from continuing in a way that would've been bad. If we'd continued, if it had lasted longer, something bad might have happened, but we were 'saved by the bell'.

Often in boxing, a boxer will be saved by the bell. He goes and has a drink and a pep talk by his coach. That little break means that they may come out fighting again and recover their position in the boxing match.

When we use this in an idiomatic sense, so we're not in the world of boxing, rather than a bell, it's another type of interruption perhaps. We mean that a debate or a meeting or a discussion or something else happening between people would've begun to go very badly had it not been interrupted. 'To interrupt', I N T E R R U P T means 'to cut across', 'to break in', 'to stop something'.

So you might hear something like 'Luckily my bus arrived at that moment. I was saved by the bell.' So the bus arrived and stopped the difficult conversation. Or 'Just when we got to that part of the meeting, there was a fire alarm. We were saved by the bell.' Or just as the brothers were about to start a fight, their mother arrived. Saved by the bell.'


A smiling boxer learning against the ropes of a boxing ring. Join us and subscribe to our Learn English Through Listening podcast today to elevate your fluency and expand your vocabulary with engaging lessons taught by expert British English teachers.

©️ Adept English 2023

Boxing idiom - 'to throw in the towel'

Last idiom for today? 'To throw in the towel.'

So 'to throw' means that you take something in your hand and you launch it into the air. Often you might 'throw' a ball. And that's T H R O W, 'to throw'. But here 'to throw in the towel'. The word 'towel', T O W E L. This is the thing that you dry yourself on when you come out of the swimming pool, out of the bath or out of the shower. You look for your towel.

And this phrase 'to throw in the towel' comes from boxing because when a boxer is giving up, when a boxer concedes defeat, is owning that the other person has won, their trainer or coach will throw a towel into the ring.

And sometimes they do this because if a boxer is losing a fight, there's more risk of long-term damage if the fight continues. It's better sometimes to stop the fight or 'throw in the towel'.

Again, we use this as an idiom in lots of situations that are nothing to do with boxing. ' I'm so tired of doing invoices today, that's it, I'm throwing in the towel!' Or 'My son beat me so many times at Connect Four, I'm throwing in the towel. That's true, that one. ' After that election defeat, the party leader is throwing in the towel. He's retiring from politics'. So 'to throw in the towel', basically 'to give up', 'to stop doing something'.

A quiz at the end is really helpful!

OK, so a couple of people emailed to say that a quiz at the end is really helpful to get you to consolidate new phrases and pieces of vocabulary. Helps you remember things. So let's do a quick quiz. I'm gonna describe some situations and you can choose from the four boxing idioms I've given you today, which one fits with the situation?

Those idioms were again

  • On the ropes
  • To pull your punches
  • Saved by the bell
  • To throw in the towel

Quiz to check your understanding of boxing idioms

So let's go with the quiz. Here are some sentences that you might hear in a work context. You have to work out which of the four boxing idioms fits the situation best.

  1. Our company's doing really badly at the moment. They're not making any profit. They are...........................
  2. Our Managing Director has health problems, and I don't think he's going to remain at the company for very long. I think he's going to...........................
  3. That meeting got really heated. I'm glad that the tea and coffee arrived when it did! ......................
  4. My boss gives you very honest feedback. You certainly know when she's pleased and you definitely know when she's displeased. She doesn't...............................

OK. How did you do with the quiz? If you want to have another go or you want to go back and listen again, then please stop here and go back.

Download The Podcast Audio & Transcript

Answers to the boxing idiom quiz

Otherwise, let's do the answers.

  1. Our company's doing really badly at the moment. They're not making any profit. They are on the ropes.
  2. Our Managing Director has health problems, and I don't think he's going to remain at the company for very long. I think he's going to throw in the towel.
  3. That meeting got really heated. I'm glad that the tea and coffee arrived when it did. Saved by the bell.
  4. My boss gives you very honest feedback. You certainly know when she's pleased and you definitely know when she's displeased. She doesn't pull her punches.

OK, well hopefully that quiz helped you remember these phrases, these idioms from boxing. And when you come across them in English conversation, you will recognize and understand them and maybe even use them yourself. I hope so!


Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.

Thank you so much for listening. Please help me tell others about this podcast by reviewing or rating it. And, please share it on social media. You can find more listening lessons and a free English course at adeptenglish.com




The voice of Adeptenglish, loves English and wants to help people who want to speak English fluently.
🔺Top of page

TAWK is Disabled

Created with the help of Zola and Bulma