Right-handed brothers, fear the wretched lefties no more! I have solved the southpaw puzzle at last! Learn how to outmove, outpunch, and outbox the southpaw. This is my official guide to beating southpaws.
Fighting a Southpaw
Fighting a southpaw has always been a tough battle for orthodox fighters. The angles, footwork, and advantages all seem to play out in favor of the southpaw. In theory, every tactic a southpaw uses against you could be turned around against him, but this is never the case. The southpaw has faced more orthodox fighters than vice versa, carrying the advantage in experience. He holds a technical advantage in familiarity over common orthodox moves. Every punch he throws seems to land, and you’re unable to defend against what you can’t see. Many lesser skilled southpaws will beat their more skilled orthodox counterparts.
The southpaw is more familiar with right-handers
than you are with southpaws.
It’s never a good idea to stand there and trade with the southpaw, shot for shot, combo for combo. I’m not saying that you can’t be successful at it, I’m just saying that you will be at a disadvantage to go that route. There are better ways to beat the southpaw, tame him, control him, and dominate him. The key to successfully fighting southpaws is to understand their stance and attack angles.
The 2 Most Important Rules to Fighting Southpaws:
1. Get your front foot on the outside
2. Counter the southpaw’s left hand
The Southpaw Stance Advantage
It is the stance, moreso than your defense, that determines what southpaw punches you can be hit with. When retreating against a southpaw, re-establishing a neutral stance will do better to stop the punishment than resetting your defense.
In a typical southpaw-vs-orthodox match-up, the boxer with the front foot on the outside can punch with both hands whereas the other boxer can’t reach with either. If you don’t want the southpaw to hit you, don’t let him get his front foot outside yours. (Note: I will be stressing this point about 50 more times during this article.)
Controlling the Position
The stances are the main essence of a southpaw-orthodox match-up. Learning how to move around a southpaw is more important than anything else. The punches and defense you use will be determined by your stance! The awkward stance is what makes fighting southpaws so difficult, and it will be your knowledge of positioning yourself around the southpaw stance that determines your success against southpaws!
Control the foot positioning against the southpaw,
and you will control the fight!
When one fighter’s front foot is behind the other, more punches will be thrown. When the stances are even, both fighters are more likely to prod cautiously from a distance. The man with the outside foot positioning will have better attacking angles as well as defending angles.
The mirror position is the neutral position. Your game from here is to attack or move. Both of you will have the same opportunities to do the same thing. Throw your jabs, crosses, and hooks as you watch out for his. The fight almost always evolves to a battle of constant foot movement. Both of you will be fighting to get your lead foot on the outside, to seize the positional advantage.
Getting Your Front Foot Outside
There are 3 ways to get the foot on the outside:
1. Just walk over
Yes it’s that simple. Just walk in and inch your foot to the outside when he’s not paying attention. The move itself is easy, doing it without your opponent noticing is incredibly hard.
2. Punch your way over
Throw some punches and step to the outside while he’s busy blocking.
3. Slip a punch
Slipping Behind the Jab
- Step in as you slip outside his jab. Slide your front foot up behind his and take your whole body with you.
Slip inside the southpaw left
- It looks crazy to slip towards his next punch (right hook) but you’ll understand later on in this guide.
Try to get your front foot outside
as you prevent him from doing the same.
Keep working to prevent him from getting his foot on the outside. Be aware of his foot placement and don’t get too carried with punching that you can’t see him running up behind you.
Front Foot Outside
The most important step when fighting southpaws,
is to have the front foot on the outside.
Having your front foot on the outside holds many advantages:
- the southpaw is in your punching range
- you are out of the southpaw’s punching range
- you can move in all directions whereas the southpaw can only retreat
- this position gives you most advantage against southpaws
The moment you get your foot on the outside, all you have to do is throw punches. You’re behind his right shoulder so he can’t reach you with jabs or right hooks. The southpaw’s left hand is too far away and also blocked by his own right arm. The further you are behind the southpaw, the more he has to pivot into you to reach you with punches.
The outside foot advantage is the most important factor of a southpaw-orthodox match-up. If you get your front foot outside, he will not be able to exchange punches with you effectively. Sooner or later, he will be forced to go into a shell and retreat. Make sure you follow him and keep your front foot on the outside!
KEEPING THE FRONT FOOT ON THE OUTSIDE
The southpaw will not like being at a disadvantage and will most likely try either of the following 3 tactics to get his front foot out (escape your outside foot advantage):
- back up
- pivot into you
- punches at you
1. The southpaw runs.
Keep chasing him and attacking him with punches.
When he blocks, re-adjust your front foot to the outside again.
2. The southpaw pivots into you.
Here, the southpaw pivots his back foot up. He appears to be an easy target for my right hand but this is NOT the right move. If I go for the right hand, he can easily evade it by leaning back.
If you catch him pivoting, you must pivot with him.
- Do not get tempted into trading punches until your front foot is on the outside again.
- Don’t let his front foot escape!
3. The southpaw punches at you.
You didn’t think he was just going to stand there and take punches, did you?
I slip inside of his desperation left hand!
- As long as your head is behind the southpaw’s right shoulder, he can’t hit you.
- When your front foot is outside, it’s easier to slip inside the left cross than outside.
- Yes, I did sneak a right hand counter to the body but this isn’t necessary.
I pivot clockwise off my front foot to avoid the southpaw’s left hook.
- My head turns away right as the southpaw’s right hook is coming.
- Once again, the advantage is held by man with his front foot on the outside.
- Alternatively, I can counter with my own right hook as I turn away.
- I also don’t have to counter, I can push on the southpaw’s right shoulder or body to turn him away from me (for an escape or easy counters).
At first it may seem scary slipping towards the southpaw’s left hand. If you time it right, you will be pivoting away when the southpaw throws his right hook. You’ll end up in a better position after the pivot and still have nice opportunities to counter.
What To Do When Your Front Foot is Inside
Now I’ve lectured you on getting your front foot on the outside. No matter how hard you try, some southpaws will beat you to it. They’ve been doing it longer than you and it’s probably the only real boxing strategy they’ve ever been taught. Having your front foot on the inside sucks but trust me, it’s not the end of the world…because I’ve got some nasty tricks up my sleeve!
Here are 6 ways to get your front foot out:
- forearm crush
- run like hell
- back him into the ropes
- extended left arm
- wide pivot
1. Forearm Crush
Some southpaws are a little sloppy when they slip outside your left. If you catch him leaning in with his head too far out from his hips, drop your left arm against his neck. Walk into him, push him off balance, and crush him under you.
You can also put him in a head lock. Just hang your arm over him, don’t close your arm or you’ll get penalized!
- Whatever you decide to do, forearm crush or headlock, follow it up with a nice right to the body or head.
- VERY IMPORTANT TIP: when you are walking into the forearm crush. make sure you cover your head with your right forearm to avoid walking face-first into an overhand left! (Pacquiao was notorious for landing these blind overhand lefts when he slipped outside his opponents. Watch Pacquiao’s fights against Hatton or Marquez 2.)
- This is a common tactic for tall fighters. You see Manny Pacquiao’s taller opponents like Mosley or Margarito neutralizing him with this tactic all the time.
2. Run away
Yes, just run away. Quickly take a step back or two and even your feet up again. No further explanation needed, right?
3. Back Him Into the Ropes
Many southpaw vs orthodox fights will end up here. Both guys backed up along the ropes so the other guy can’t get behind him. Anytime the southpaw gets his front foot outside yours, try to lead him into the ropes. Once he’s backed up along the ropes, we turn to our first trick…
Pivot into the southpaw.
- He’s backed up along the ropes and can’t pivot with you. Now you can exchange punches with good power from both hands whereas he’s too square to fire back. You can even use your left hand to hold him back while you hammer him with your right.
- He can only cover up, lose an exchange, ORRRRR…..
…he scoots over and gets behind you again.
- Ok, NOW you have to back away. Not all southpaws will take shots along the ropes. Some of them are clever enough to jump into the position shown above. Just back away, do NOT try to fight him!
- Wanna know why you shouldn’t fight him in this position? Because if you might end up in the worst position EVER…
…DON’T EVER LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!
This is what I call “southpaw suicide”.
- Sandwiched between the southpaw’s front foot and the ropes. Head is trapped in line of the southpaw’s left cross. I bust out laughing anytime I see anyone get trapped like this. You have to be really bad to ever let this happen.
4. The Extended Left Arm
I’ve never seen any trainers teach this but it works so well for me that I have to share it.
One of the only advantages of having your front foot on the inside is that you can reach your opponent’s head with your lead arm easily. Just know that it’s not easy to jab with good power when his head is angled to the side of your shoulder. You are using your left arm to push him away, not punch him.
But that’s ok, because you’re not looking to jab. Extend your arm and use your left glove to push his head away as you retreat. Pushing his head keeps him from getting closer to you and further running behind your front foot. You have to be VERY CAREFUL to make sure you are pushing his head. The moment his head slips past your glove, he can reach your head and body with big punches.
Another variation of the extended left – to the body.
- Extend to the body or jab at the body as you step away to your right. Make sure you step away to your right, don’t try to circle him which puts you dangerously closer to his left.
- This tactic works very well if you do it as he tries to jab you. Your inside jab will keep his from landing.
Extending the left glove into his face is a great tactic to give you room as you back away. The southpaw can’t land his right on you which means he will probably try to jump in at you with a left hand…
…which perfectly sets up our 5th and 6th final tactics to get your front foot out…
5. The Side Step
The southpaw knows it’s hard to land his jab from the outside if you keep circling away towards his left. Now we just have to wait for his left hand…
Now step out to your right. Voila! He’s no longer southpaw!
- If you time it right, stepping your right foot out to the right side (pivoting your body CCW) will take away the southpaw’s outside front foot advantage. You’ve turned it into an orthodox-vs-orthodox foot position in your favor.
Exchange punches freely while you have the advantage.
- The side-step is one of the best ways to counter the southpaw left cross.
- Now suppose you’re being overwhelmed by punches and can’t see the left hand. Maybe you’re bent over and don’t have room to step over. I’ve got another trick for you…
6. THE WIDE PIVOT! (ADVANCED MOVE)
The wide pivot is a sneaky way to turn the tables on a southpaw that’s got his front foot outside yours. It works well against aggressive southpaws and especially against ones that get too close to you. In fact, you can only do this move when the southpaw close to you. The closer he is behind you, the more effective the move.
The further behind you the southpaw, the better. Try to bait his left hand by leaning away as you frustrate him with your left arm.
- You’re looking for him to throw a big left hand. It can be any left, a left cross to the head, left hook to the body, ANY LEFT!
Bend over at the waist, UNDER the left hand.
- The moment you see a left hand, bend at your waist and duck under it. (I know you’ve bend taught to slip by bending the knees but this is exception.) You need to get your whole body under sideways because you don’t know if it’s a head punch or body punch, get down as low as you can!
- If anything, you want him to miss you entirely and even fall over your hip. Notice how I’m bending over to the side and not into his left hand.
- My left arm is straight along my left side for many reasons. It protects against rib punches, clears room to bend over, and makes for a faster hook counter after this “wide pivot”.
Pivot INTO the southpaw!
- Now here’s the tricky part! You want to pivot counter-clockwise off your left foot as you swing your upper body INTO him. You’re pivoting INTO him and not around him. Make a wide pivot, swinging your right foot all the way around anywhere from 90 to 180 degrees.
Push him off balance as you come up from the pivot.
- As you’re finishing the pivot, use your shoulder and upper body to lift the southpaw, pushing him off balance.
Come out of the pivot in an orthodox VS orthodox stance. Exchanges punches for the win!
- If you’ve done the wide pivot correctly, you will end up in an orthodox VS orthodox stance. Your opponent will probably be disoriented and off balance because you pushed him as you were pivoting into him. Now all you have to do is trade punches because he’s standing orthodox and off balance!
- Like I said, the wide pivot is an AWESOME trick to beat the southpaw’s outside foot. The wide pivot is so fun to do, I sometimes LET my opponent get his foot on the outside.
Attacking & Defending Against Southpaws
Once you learn how to control the stance against a southpaw, fighting them becomes quite manageable. The defense, the offense, all that stuff comes easy when you have the position advantage. Below are some basic tips for defending, attacking, and countering the southpaw.
Defending Against the Southpaw
The second most important key to beating southpaws:
Countering, not just avoiding, the left hand!
1. Watch for his left hand
The southpaw left is probably every orthodox fighter’s most feared punch. Years of training to watch for right hands have now left you vulnerable to the left cross. It’s powerful and catches you completely by surprise. Even if you see it coming, you’re still not used to getting hit at that angle. Everyone thinks they’re prepared to slip the left hand until they get in the ring.
Oh hey, it’s this again…
Slip outside the southpaw left.
Counter right over the southpaw left.
- Are you tired of seeing this sequence yet?! Anytime you see a left hand coming, pull your head back to the outside and come back with a counter right. It also helps to step out to the side with your right foot.
- You can also parry it a little.
- If he throws it curved or to the body, just block or step out.
The Right Hand Position
Anyone that’s ever fought a southpaw will know the right hand position is one of the trickiest aspects of defending against southpaws. Southpaws can easily throw straight through or around your right glove, so you’ll have to keep moving your right hand back and forth.
There will be times when you are overwhelmed by his left that you don’t know where to place your right hand. In those scenarios, I like to place my right hand tight to the side and rotate my entire body to the front. This way, you’ll be able to block any left.
2. Don’t focus too much on his Jab
The southpaw jab is a dangerously distracting punch. Every fight starts off with you trying to out-paw each other with your jabbing arm. Next thing you know, you get hit by a hard left because you were too busy trying to out-jab the southpaw.
Don’t let the southpaw jab distract you from the left cross!
Keep your eye focused on the southpaw’s left. As for avoiding his jab, just keep your head moving and throw a few of your own jabs, but always watch for his big left! The southpaw jab will always be dangerous because it sets up bigger punches. You need to defend against it using well-trained reflexes practice through hours of drills and practice. Your active defense focus, should be spent looking for the big left hand.
3. Watch out for his right hook
The southpaw right hook is one of the deadliest punches I’ve ever seen. Watch out for it and be sure to pull your head back or block it! If you decide to block the right hook, make sure your hand protects both your chin and your temple. Anytime that you’re too close, make sure your left hand is by the side of your head and not in front of your face! (The southpaw right hook is a dangerous weapon that hits orthodox fighters even when they know it’s coming.)
Lucky for you, many southpaws don’t have a very good right hook. It’s probably because they’ve been able to beat orthodox fighters using only the left cross. Nonetheless the southpaw hook is still very dangerous. Demarcus Corley hurt Miguel Cotto and Floyd Mayweather for the first time in their careers with a right hook to the temple.
Attacking the Southpaw
1. The right hand
Your best punch against the southpaw is your right hand.
Throw the right hand in as many ways as you can. Fast lead rights, hard right uppercuts, right crosses, rights to the body. Lead with it, counter with it, finish with it. Just throw the right hand!
The straight right hits the southpaw right up the middle.
The overhand right goes around the southpaw guard.
Try mixing straight rights and overhand rights to the head or body to confuse his defense. Keep his left hand busy defending so he can’t punch you with it.
Land your right hand while avoiding the southpaw’s left.
A clever way to use the right hand would be to throw a fast 1-2, then pull your head back to slip his left cross counter, then come back with a big counter right. Lucian Bute throws a great southpaw uppercut to the body. Please watch this and use it against southpaws!
The right hand will be your bread and butter against the southpaw, because it’s pretty hard to beat the southpaw with a jab. He’ll either out-jab you (out of experience), or he’ll exchange his left cross for your left jab. Neither of those options are good for you, but this doesn’t mean the jab is useless.
Finish with the Jab
Since you can’t always lead with the jab, try finishing your combos with the jab. Finishing with the jab rotates your body back to your normal stance so your head is not leaning in vulnerable for the counter left. Finishing with the jab also keeps him from chasing you with counters.
Even if you can’t hit anything, make sure you jab at his guard to psychologically keep him on the defensive. Even a quick tap at his guard can keep him closed up for split second longer to give you time to get away. My favorite combo against southpaws are 1-2-1 (move or pivot away on the last jab). Make sure you’re ready if he pops open with a big counter left.
Throw Your Left Hook
If there’s one definite advantage orthodox fighters usually have over the southpaw, it’s a more powerful hook. Many southpaws have so much success with their cross that they never develop a good hook. Even when they do learn how to throw a hook, the angle alone is so effective that they never learn how to throw it with real power. I would say that almost all orthodox fighters have a more powerful hook than their southpaw counter-part (but the southpaw hook will hurt more because of its awkward angle).
Landing the left hook against a southpaw usually feels awkward because your opponent can reach you with his jab before you land your hook. The angle always feels weird and your front feet are blocking each other from getting into hook range.
It is however, still very possible. It’s very common for southpaws to leave the right side of their head open when they throw the left cross. (Watch any southpaw spar and verify this for yourself!) His right hand is most likely busy loading a right hook or protecting the front of his head instead of the side. Even the ones protecting the side of their head hold the glove too low, exposing their forehead. THAT right there is your opportunity to land hooks. (In fact, southpaws have been doing this against orthodox fighters for a long time, luckily the same tactics also work well against them.) Knowing that, I present to you 4 ways to land the left hook against a southpaw:
1. Slip outside southpaw jab.
Slip outside the southpaw jab as you come into range.
Land the left hook from the outside. (You can also throw to the body.)
Extra Tip: angle the left hook down over the southpaw’s right shoulder.
- Your left hooks might have hard time getting around the southpaw’s right shoulder.
- Try angling your left hook downwards over his front shoulder.
- Let it smash into his temple or chin.
2. Slip inside southpaw left.
Throw a counter left hook right, rotating your body as the southpaw comes in with a left cross.
- Your body rotation from throwing the hook will rotate your head out of harm’s way.
- Even if he blocks, he will be pushed off balance.
- Try to slip INSIDE the southpaw’s left cross as you counter.
3. Slip outside the southpaw left.
Lean or step outside to your right as you throw a counter left hook.
- Try aiming at his chin first, and then his temple next. One of them is bound to be open.
- Even if he blocks your left hook, he will be pushed off balance for your follow-up right hand.
- Try stepping out to the right, moving laterally as you attack his far side.
4. Roll into a left hook after a blocked jab.
Feed him a lazy jab and let him slap it down with his right glove.
Relax your arm and let the momentum of his parry roll your arm around…
… into a left hook over the top!
Tips to Fighting Southpaws
Learn to fight like a southpaw
- At least understand the southpaw if you can’t use his own tactics against him. Read the Southpaw Guide to Beating Orthodox Fighters. Learn the angles that orthodox fighters just don’t see and don’t know how to defend against.
Always expect the counter left
- Always expect the southpaw to counter your every move with the left cross. Be ready for it at all times. Watch for the left cross anytime you throw a punch, ANY PUNCH. Once you understand this behavior, you can take advantage of it.
- Try throwing a right hook/uppercut to his body (or elbow), giving him an easy block as you pull your head to the left. Then slip your head down outside the southpaw’s counter left. Then come back with a counter right to the head.
Do Not Stand Still Against a Southpaw
- Because of the stances, you cannot just close up and rest against a southpaw. You’re either eating punches, trading punches, or countering punches. Either way, you will have to fight! You cannot stall the fight with your shoulders and movement like you can against another orthodox fighter. Don’t forget about the constant battle for foot position. You will need stamina to keep moving the entire fight.
Use More Punching Angles
- Chasing a southpaw down with basic jabs and 1-2′s is not going to work. You’ll have to throw some tricky hooks and uppercuts to catch a southpaw. Mix up left hooks with your jab and overhand rights with your right crosses. Keep moving your head up, down, and sideways to get yourself some new punching angles. The southpaw is more open than you think. Keep looking for that open angle!
Use More Defensive Angles
- Don’t just slip side to side. Try pulling going backwards and forwards. You can slip many of the southpaw’s punches simply by pulling your head back a few inches. It also helps to dip your head down a bit to bait his punches downwards, then just stand up taller and counter him over the top.
Best Examples of Orthodox Fighters Beating Southpaws
- Study Tszyu’s smart pressure and subtle movements to KO the slippery Judah…watch for Tszyu’s extended left hand.
- Morales has excellent timing on the jab and tricky right hands going up and down. This was the last time Manny Pacquiao lost!
- This is a classic textbook fight on how to beat southpaws!!!! Pascal gets his front outside over and over… look for the double right from the outside. (thanks for the link, Radd!)
- High variety of right hands from the cagey Hopkins. Sneaky head movement while punching and slipping. Very fun to watch an orthodox push a taller southpaw around on the inside.
- Excellent pivots, footwork and head movement from Matthysse to beat southpaw Corley.
- Mayweather utilizing excellent inside fighting, lead rights, and forearm crushes to neutralize Judah.
- Very smart pressure, clever body punching, and BEAUTIFUL left hooks to KO the bigger southpaw.
- Berto wins with lots of right hands, downwards left hooks, and good head movement slipping outside the southpaw left.
- Nice pivots, side-stepping, and body movement from Alvarez. Rhodes has some good moments, too. Just know that Rhodes switches stance a lot.
- Donaire shows how deadly a left hook can be against southpaws in a Knockout-Of-The-Year!
- Pawing jab, wide left hooks. He moves to his right, evades the southpaw’s left and lands many right hands. Beautiful example of the amateur style.
An example of me fighting a southpaw. I love this clip despite all the technical errors because there are so many tricks and tactics that I use against southpaws in such a short clip. See if you can identify all the little tricks I use to out-move him, push him around, or score tricky potshots.
Beating a Southpaw
Again, the keys to beating the southpaw:
- Keep your front foot on the outside.
- Counter his left cross.
Your success against the southpaw depends almost entirely on how well you keep your front foot on the outside, and how well you counter his left cross. Notice that I said “counter”, and not avoid. You want to take advantage of his left cross, punishing him every time he throws it. You must fight with foot positioning before you can fight with your hands. Your offense and defense are more effective when you get into the right position. You won’t need any special southpaw combinations because any punch you throw will have more effect.
Fighting southpaws has always made for my toughest fights. I learned how to fight southpaws by watching them in action. The next time you watch an orthodox fight a southpaw, see who controls the outside foot position. Then see how the fighter with the inside foot responds. Pay attention to who controls the pace and exactly what punches they are throwing. It took me a year of studying *COUGH* (getting beat up by) *COUGH* southpaws to finally understand exactly how they fight. It doesn’t matter if you’re the orthodox or the southpaw, the same tactics and skills will generally apply.
Orthodox fighters are usually more skilled than southpaw fighters.
Always remember that you right handers are almost always better trained than your southpaw opponents. All the coaches and guides and practice that you have is from an orthodox stance. All the combinations you have been taught and fancy skills have all been designed for the orthodox fighter. Most professional fights that you see will be with orthodox fighters. You have more practice and more technique at your craft. Don’t let the fight with a southpaw turn into a mirror match-up — jab vs jab or cross vs cross. Use all the skills you have, chances are you’ve got more than he does!
I have to dedicate this guide to my 2 southpaw friends, Van and Marc, two of the most difficult sparring partners I’ve ever had. If it wasn’t for them beating my ass for months straight, I would not have developed the skills to beat southpaws.
The next guide to the southpaw-orthodox match-up will focus on the many angles of attacks.
- 20 Combos and Counters for Fighting Southpaws (coming soon!)
- Southpaw-Orthodox Angles of Attack (coming soon!)
- Are you a southpaw? Here’s the Southpaw Guide to Beating Orthodox Fighters
So what happens next? Do I write another guide for the southpaws? Or help orthodox fighters win? Who wants it more? Let me know in your comments