Southpaw boxer Manny Pacquiao landing a jab.
Alex Ho (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Southpaw vs Orthodox Stance: Differences & Advantages

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One of the first decisions every fighter has to make is whether they’ll train in a southpaw or orthodox stance. For most people, the decision is pretty natural and based on whether they’re right-handed or left-handed.

But have you ever wondered whether one stance has an advantage over the other? Let’s take a closer look at the differences in fighting orthodox vs southpaw and the pros and cons that come with each.

Orthodox Boxing Stance

Orthodox fighters lead with their left foot and hand forward, using their right hand as their rear or “power” hand. Because the rear hand tends to be the one that generates the hardest blows, most people keep their dominant hand toward the back while leading with their weaker side.

Orthodox fighters usually use their left hand for strikes like jabs, left hooks, and liver shots. Their right hand is then reserved for delivering crosses, right hooks, and other power shots.

Due to the fact that most people in the world are right-handed, it’s no surprise that the orthodox stance tends to be the most commonly used in sports like boxing, MMA, and kickboxing.

Fighting orthodox comes with a number of advantages, as well as a couple of drawbacks.

Advantages

  • Most Common Stance – One of the biggest advantages of fighting orthodox vs southpaw is that most other fighters use an orthodox stance as well. Facing off against an opponent who uses the same stance makes it easier to predict their next move.
  • Training – Most coaches also fight orthodox and train with the assumption that that’s the stance that most of their fighters use. If you fight orthodox, it’s also going to be a lot easier to find a gym mate who can hold pads for you without getting incredibly confused.
  • Liver Shots – Delivering certain shots, such as the liver shot, is far easier for orthodox fighters. This is simply because an orthodox stance keeps a fighter closer to the right side of their opponent’s body, which is where the liver resides.

Drawbacks

  • Blocking– For an orthodox fighter, it can be incredibly confusing to go up against a southpaw. All of a southpaw’s moves seem to be delivered backward, making it harder to anticipate and block strikes.
  • Distancing – When an orthodox fighter faces off against a southpaw, the angles and distancing change dramatically. It can also feel strange for an orthodox fighter to have a southpaw opponent’s leadfoot on the same side as their own and make them feel like they’re always about to trip over it.
  • Familiarity – Southpaw fighters are far more used to fighting orthodox fighters than the other way around. This can give the southpaw fighter time to gain control of the fight if the orthodox fighter isn’t prepared to make adjustments.

Southpaw Boxing Stance

The southpaw stance is the exact opposite of an orthodox stance. Southpaw fighters lead with their right foot and hand, with their left hand and foot to the rear. Most southpaw fighters are naturally left-handed, so this stance tends to feel the most natural to them.

While the southpaw stance is less common, there are plenty of legendary fighters who use it. Some of them include boxers like Manny Pacquiao and “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, as well as MMA fighters like Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.

Fighting in a southpaw stance also comes with its own list of pros and cons.

Advantages

  • Familiarity – An orthodox fighter’s confusion is a southpaw’s gain in that southpaws are usually far more experienced at fighting opponents who use a different stance. Whereas it may be disorienting for an orthodox fighter to face off against a southpaw, the opposite is rarely true.
  • Range – Orthodox fighters are often thrown off by the shift in distancing that comes with having a southpaw opponent’s lead foot on the same side as their own. Southpaw fighters, on the other hand, are used to this and are trained to deliver longer-range punches to make up for it.
  • Open Angles – In an orthodox vs southpaw fight, the angles suddenly become far wider and more open. This can be strange for an orthodox fighter to navigate, whereas it feels totally normal to a southpaw.

Drawbacks

  • Training – It can be a lot harder to find a good coach who is familiar with training southpaws in a way that best utilizes their strengths. The same is true for gym mates- trying to hold pads for a southpaw can be a nightmare for an orthodox fighter.
  • Landing Certain Shots – Given that their opponent’s lead hand is so close to their own, it can be harder for southpaws to land jabs. The same is true for liver shots because the southpaw fighter is positioned so much further away from their orthodox opponent’s right side.
  • Foot Positioning – While fighting with their lead foot on the same side as their opponents can be an advantage for a southpaw, it can also turn into a drawback. If they aren’t able to establish and maintain outside foot control, they can get tripped up just as easily as their orthodox opponent.

Can You Do Southpaw Stance Right-Handed?

Technically you can, but it’s going to feel pretty uncomfortable until you get the hang of it. While the majority of southpaws are left-handed, there are some right-handed boxers who train in a southpaw stance.

It’s rare, but it does happen. It’s more commonly seen in fighters who purposefully train in both stances.

Can a Southpaw Fight an Orthodox Boxer?

Absolutely and they do all the time. While watching two southpaws go up against each other always makes for an interesting fight, southpaw fighters would severely limit their careers if they never faced off against opponents who use an orthodox stance.

Due to their rarity, most southpaws are trained alongside orthodox fighters and are well aware of the adjustments they need to make in order to win.

Do Southpaws Have an Advantage over Orthodox?

The argument could definitely be made that they do, simply because most are so much more familiar with going up against fighters who use the opposite stance. If they end up facing off against an orthodox opponent who isn’t familiar with their southpaw ways, they can quickly take advantage of their opponent’s confusion.

That said, this isn’t always the case. Especially at the professional level, many orthodox fighters know well in advance if they’re going to face off against a southpaw opponent and adjust their training accordingly. Some even develop techniques to take advantage of the situation.

In the end, being a southpaw doesn’t necessarily mean a fighter will win the match. A variety of other considerations also come into play, including skill, fighting style, technique, and preparation.

Choosing a Boxing Stance

The vast majority of fighters choose their natural stance based on whether they’re right or left-handed, simply because the dominant hand tends to be the most powerful.

If you’re just starting out, choosing your stance based on your dominant hand is almost definitely the way to go. Either a southpaw or orthodox stance is likely to feel far more natural to you and the last thing you should do is make learning the basics even harder for yourself.

There are a small number of fighters, known as switch-hitters, who end up training in both stances once they reach a certain level. They tend to be exceedingly rare, simply because switch-hitting is such a hard skill to master, but they do exist.

Traditional southpaws such as“Marvelous” Marvin Hagler and Conor McGregor both developed a solid orthodox stance they could shift into at will. Orthodox fighters like Terence Crawford and Mike Tyson also perfected the art of switch-hitting, making them even more unpredictable and formidable opponents.

  • Choose Orthodox – If you are naturally right-hand dominant. Most people should begin with the standard orthodox boxing stance
  • Choose Southpaw – If you are naturally left-hand dominant, or for some reason feel more comfortable with a lead right foot.
  • Switch Hitter – You don’t choose to be a switch hitter, switch hitter chooses you. It takes years of training to even attempt this.