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  • Ian Bailey

Southpaw or Orthodox...what's the correct stance for me?

Are you orthodox, or southpaw, and how did you find out? The vast majority of boxers didn’t find out, they were told which stance to box from, based on whether they were left, or right handed. If you walked into nine out of ten boxing gyms in England, you’d be asked; “Are you left or right handed?” and then told which foot you should have forward, based on that. Once your stance was established, you’d be discouraged from experimenting with the other stance, at least until you’d been training for several years.

Why are boxers told to adopt a stance based on left or right handedness? It’s usually based on the principle of having your “strongest” hand, the furthest from your opponent, so for an orthodox boxer; the left hand is for the jab, a punch not designed to knock opponents out, or cause significant damage, and the right hand is for the cross, a much more powerful technique. Many top boxers seem to follow this formula, but there are many notable exceptions including; Marco Antonio Barrera, Andre Ward, Miguel Cotto, Oscar De La Hoya, Kelly Pavlik, Chad Dawson, and, ironically, the first ever southpaw heavyweight world champion, Michael Moorer. Many Cuban amateur southpaws are said to be right handed, converted to southpaw to make them more awkward to box.

Clearly, there are hugely successful fighters, who defy conventional boxing teaching, and adopt a stance perceived as the opposite to what they should do. They choose what’s comfortable for them, and not what the textbook would dictate. This is evidence enough, that left or right handedness should not determine your stance, and a boxer should adopt the stance that they feel most comfortable in.

Beginners who walk into Fighters Republic, are not asked about left or right hand preference, they are taught the basics of footwork in the early stages of their development regarding control, foot position, balance, and effective movement. I don’t have any interest in which foot a boxer puts forward…as long as they are able to learn the basics. If a boxer does things slightly differently to how they’ve been taught, and still manages to be effective, providing I feel their technique will be transferable to a high level of competition, I will always allow them to be different and embrace the unique elements of their style. As Bruce Lee said, “Obey the principles, without being bound by them”.

There are many principles, and concepts that a boxer will be taught during their development. They must all be learned, because, regardless of their style, and preferred approach to fighting, a boxer will need to be adaptable, and be able to operate in all areas of the sport. Certain basics of footwork, for example (feet don’t come together, or cross over) can oftentimes be omitted by a boxer who fights on the back foot, constantly changing direction to confuse his opponent, and open him up for attacks. But if the same boxer faces an opponent who they need to pressure, by coming forward, cutting off the ring, trapping them on the ropes and in corners, they will need to revert to the absolute basics they were taught on day one, maintain stability at all times by keeping the feet away from each other and not allowing them to cross. There are many “Rules” you are taught early on, that can be bent, or broken as you develop your own style, but you must always have the basics there for when you need them, and be assured, when a fight gets hard, you will need them.

In summary, most of the things you are taught in the boxing gym make sense. You know why you should keep your balance. You understand why you need to keep your chin tucked in when you punch. If you are ever given a rule, or told to do something, that doesn’t make sense, question it. A good coach will be happy to explain their teaching in detail, and the reasons for it. If they cannot give you a satisfactory explanation, maybe it’s time to try another gym! There is absolutely no logic in a boxers stance being determined by left or right handedness, stand how you feel comfortable!


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