punch below one's weight

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An allusion to the sport of boxing, where contenders fight in various weight classes.


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punch below one's weight (third-person singular simple present punches below one's weight, present participle punching below one's weight, simple past and past participle punched below one's weight)

  1. (idiomatic) To achieve or perform at a level lower than should be expected based on one's preparation, attributes, rank, or past accomplishments.
    • 2001 September 29, “For men who should know better”, in Telegraph, UK, retrieved 23 December 2009:
      But the overall effect is flimsy and insubstantial, a gifted writer punching well below his weight.
    • 2023 May 29, Jonathan Head, “Pita Limjaroenrat: Thai election upstart who vows to be different”, in BBC[1]:
      Under the military-backed governments of the past decade Thailand is widely viewed as having punched below its weight in international affairs, with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha taking little interest in foreign policy.