Originally posted by Kami...
I've read a lot of books on boxing (training and strategy) and have yet to find one that speaks to the Southpaw. Instruction is always given for conventional fighters; yet the same tactics that work for a guy who fights orthadox are not the things that work for a lefty. Since I began training with my new coach (who was also unfamiliar working-with/training a Southpaw) we've sort of had to start from the ground up.
There have been quite a few questions on the boards about Southpaws. So, as opposed to continually answering individual questions about it, I wanted to start this Post and have it be an ongoing guide to fighting Southpaw. I will be adding to it as new tactics and strategies come up, and Admin or anyone else please add on anything useful that I happen to miss.
What follows is stuff that was picked up through studying video of great Southpaw fighters like Wright, Whitaker, Hagler, Judah, Pacquiao and many more. All theories and strategies have been tested in the gym and in sparring for functional value. Hope you'll find this helpful.
- As a southpaw you should adopt a high/classic guard (lead hand up under your right eye, rear hand up along the side of your jaw). One of the difficulties of fighting a southpaw is that the lead hand of you and your opponent are aligned. This is why most orthadox fighters do not throw their jab against a southpaw. Jabs are usually deflected off the gloves and the face is not an available target. Fighting in a speed stance/philly shell is not a recomended approach. With your lead hand lowered to your waste you will be making yourself very vulnerable to your opponent's jab. Think of Rocky: what's the one punch you can't miss Balboa with? The jab, cause he keeps his right hand low. It's a movie, I know, but probably the best illustration I can think of. So, again, adopt a traditional/classic guard. Also, having that lead hand up, will help prevent damage from head butts (which you will experience as a southpaw).
- NOTE: It is very important to keep your left hand up and covering your jaw. As a southpaw, your opponent will be relying on their right hand. It is a strong punch, and you'll need the protection of that left to absorb the impact/deflect the shot. Your opponent's right hand is your worst enemy. That left hand of yours is your best friend. I would recomend seeing Winky Wright for a perfect example of how a southpaw should guard.
- NOTE: Also, as a southpaw, your liver is on the side closest to your opponent. You should actually be safe from the left hook (the punch that most often finds the liver when two orthadox fighters face each other), because the left hook will actually hit the side of your abdomen or high on your right hip. The one you need to be careful of is the right hook, or straight right hand, to the body. With this in mind you want to keep your elbows tucked close to your sides at all times. Unlike an orthadox fighter, though, you want them slightly tucked in closer to the front of your body, as opposed to your side. Again, see Winky for a perfect example.
- Circle mostly to your right. Lead leg (right leg) moves first, left leg follows. By moving to your right, you are carrying yourself out of range for your opponent's right hand. At the same time, this will put you in the proper position to throw your left hand.
- If you have to move to your left (which you should do sometimes, you never want to be prefictable) be ready to duck/slip and fire your left hand. You should practice stepping while ducking to your left, firing your left hand, and then resume moving to your right.
- Move quickly, but most important: maintain your balance, never let your legs cross. For some reason, there's something about the southpaw stance that leaves people off balance. This is partly a result of front legs entangling, but also (I believe) do to the direction of the right hand in relation to the way that a southpaw fighter has his weight distributed. Especially while moving a right hand can potentially knock a southpaw completely off balance. The answer to this, a concentration on economy of movement. What I mean by "economy of movement" is making sure that nothing is wasted. Each step should stick to proper form, it should carry you with precision, to where you want to be and leave you set on your feet and balanced. This is somewhat standard procedure (i.e. orthadox fighters have to worry about this, too) however, I believe that it is especially important for southpaws.
- NOTE: A huge key to victory is keeping your right foot on the outside of your opponent's left foot. This accomplishes several things. 1.) It traps your opponent within your range of power. With your foot on the outside of his, you're in position to throw your left, while they are out of position for their right. 2.) It puts you in control of movement. Your opponent cannot easily cross over your leg (especially without leaving themselves vulnerable), so they are forced to move to their left, maintaining their position in your range of power.
- The southpaw jab is a funny thing. As I mentioned in "Guard", the jab can often be nullified by your opponent's lead hand. However, there are a lot of factors that will effect how and when you use your jab.
When you want to use the jab: If you have the advantage in speed (i.e. you can fire first), or if your opponent keeps his lead hand low. If you can fire first (or have an available target because of a low guard) then your jab serves the traditional purpose, it disrupts your opponents rhythm and opens him up for harder shots.
When you don't want to use the jab:If your opponent has a speed advantage on you, or if their guard prevents you from hitting the optimal targets (the nose/eyes). If this is the case, then your jab will primarily be reduced to a range finder.
- Fire the jab hard from the traditional guard, using your right shoulder to protect the right side of your head (to protect against the counter left hook). And be sure to keep your left hand up (to protect against the counter right).
- Don't be afraid to throw the jab to the body. One of your goals should be to get your opponent to lower his lead hand. One way to do that is by jabbing to his chest, or the lower ribs on the left-hand side of his body. A good thing to practice is a double jab, first one low, second one to the face. However, be very careful throwing the jab to the body. Your opponent could time you and blast you with a right hand. The low-jab will leave you vulnerable, so I don't recommend relying on this punch unless you are quick, and i mean quick (on your feet as well as in your hands).
THE STRAIGHT LEFT:
- This should become the southpaws bread and butter. It's basic and effective. If you find that your opponent is beating you to the jab, or that your jab is ineffective for some other reason (their guard or whatever), the straight left will take the place of your jab. It will serve as a counter for your opponent's jab and make your opponent more wary of throwing their jab (leaving you more opportunity to land your own jab).
- Throw it hard, right down the middle. Aim at splitting your opponents guard with it.
- Don't neglect throwing it to the body, aim for the chest/solar-plexus. Some fighters also find great success throwing this to the liver. It can be a very damaging punch that is also relatively sneaky. People are usually expecting hard body shots to come in wide, or at least from the sides, not usually straight into the belly. THe straight left can be a very useful tool. When throwing it low, make sure (just like when you throw the jab) use your left shoulder to protect the left side of your head.
THE RIGHT HOOK:
- Incredibly usefull. Second only to the straight left. This punch can also be thrown lead, just like the straight. It can also be used to counter your opponent's jab (another reason why it's good to lead with).
- Work on throwing it in a downward arc. Depending on your opponents stance/guard you will need to get past his left shoulder. A typical hook, thrown level with the shoulder, will only hit your opponent in the shoulder. So you have to get the hang of angling it over the shoulder. Your target with this punch should be the temple/ear.
- This punch should be an integral part of any combination you put together. It will land a great deal of the time, and your opponent will probably not know how to guard against it.
- Concentrate on the left uppercut. Because of the way your bodies will be aligned the left will be much more effective for breaking his guard and doing some damage. The right uppercut should target the left side of his ribcage, because of how you are standing the right uppercut will have a hard time finding your opponents jaw. So the left becomes your primary uppercut.
- As a southpaw, one of the main things that you are relying on is being awkward and confusing your opponent. You want the guy standing across from you to be frustrated, to feel like a fish out of water, unsure of himself and everything he's learned in the gym. Boxing is a cerebral sport. In my opinion, as a southpaw you have to be even more intelligent, more capable of examining what's happening in the ring and in your opponent's mind. There are lots of ways to do this.
- Work at range. Take away his jab, and stay just out of reach of his straight right. This is sure to frustrate him. Work on parrying/deflecting the jab. From a classic guard this can be done easily with either hand. Work on countering with the opposite hand (i.e. if you parry with the left, throw a jab; if you counter with the right, throw a straight left).
- Feints. A good way to make an opening for your jab. Feint a jab or straight. If he's defensive minded he might bite at the bait and try to slap away a punch that isn't there. A good reason to work on the double-jab. Feint then immediately throw the jab. This works equally well if your opponent has been trying to counter your jab. Feint, draw his counter shot (which you should still be in good position to duck/slip), and then return with a hard shot of your own.
- Switch-hitting. This is a dangerous tactic that can either pay off big or leave you extremely vulnerable. For southpaws who are right-handed (like myself) this can be incredibly useful as it puts your dominant hand in the power position. Fighters like Marvin Hagler excelled at switching orthadox in the middle of a fight. Hell, he would sometimes switch back and forth so regularly he would often throw one punch southpaw, switch and throw one shot orthodox, then switch back to southpaw while he retreated. Frighteningly slick, and incredibly risky. The safest place to do this is at range, however this takes some of the element of surprise out of the tactic. On the inside you have a better chance of catching your opponent off guard and making an opening for yourself. One method that great fighters like Hagler and even Roy Jones Jr. used was throwing the straight left, and bringing the left leg forward with the punch, leaving you standing (hopefully balanced) in an orthadox position. Another quick method for rapidly switching, while retreating, is shifting (see "FOOTWORK").
- Inside-Fighting: While earlier (in "GUARD") I recommended that a fighter never fight from a philly shell, things change dramatically on the inside, and a shell is a decent position to fight out of. On the inside, concentrate on the left uppercut to break the guard, and the right hook to soften the left side of his body. Keep your right arm hung low to protect your body, your head on his shoulder, and your left hand under your jaw to protect from uppercuts. On the inside, it is even more important to try and keep your lead foot on the outside of his lead foot. Try very hard to maintain the dominant position, because it will give you a huge advantage. If you do have this position, you can also find success with short overhand lefts. - HOWEVER - Fighters like Winky Wright find a lot of success with maintaining a traditional guard on the inside. It all comes down to what you're comfortable with, and what works for you. Be careful of eating uppercuts when you adopt the traditional guard on the inside, though. With this guard, and while standing in the dominant position, look for a left hook to the liver, it is probably your best opportunity to land it.
- This is still a fight, it is still a boxing match, so a lot of the traditional rules/concepts still apply. Especially in terms of punching. Just because the right uppercut doesn't usually land, doesn't mean that it will never land. Use your judgement, if you see an opening: take it! Obviously. The same goes for the right hook. Just because you should practice throwing it over the top, that doesn't mean you shouldn't also work on throwing a tight, compact right hook that will find the jaw.
- Timing, reflexes, intuition, they are all equally important as a southpaw fighter. Train hard. A lot of people will fight southpaw out of convenience, because its hard at first to learn to fight orthadox (leading with your less coordinated hand). It takes a lot of work to become proficient at boxing southpaw. It all comes down to being versatile. Excel at all aspects of the science of boxing.