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The meaning and origin of the expression: Punch above one's weight

Punch above one's weight

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'Punching above his weight'?

Competing against someone who you are no match for.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Punching above his weight'?

The different classes of contestants in boxing matches are distinguish by the weight of the competing boxers - heavyweight, middleweight, lightweight, flyweight etc. The sport is regulated so that only boxers of the same weight fight each other. Someone from a lighter weight wouldn't be expected to have much chance if 'punching above his weight' against a heavier fighter.

The meaning and origin of the phrase 'Punching above your weight'.The term is often used figuratively in situations where someone finds themselves competing outside their usual class; for example, the Irish comedian Graham Norton described that, since becoming well-known, he was able to attract better-looking partners than previously and that he was 'punching above my weight' when it comes to relationships.

The phrase might seem to be something from 1930s boxing or the like. In fact it is much more recent. The earliest example I can find of it in print is an article in the English magazine The Economist, August 1986:

Though only some 12% of Nevadans are Mormons, they punch more than their weight.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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