Southpaw vs Orthodox: Everything You Need to Know

Every fighter in combat sports will have to choose between two stances.

In this guide, we'll explain the differences between Southpaw and Orthodox stances, how it affects fighters, and the advantages and disadvantages of each stance.

southpaw vs orthodox

What Are the Two Fighting Stances?

Orthodox Stance

orthodox fighting stance

The orthodox stance is a traditional boxing and martial arts positioning that places the left hand and left foot in front while the right side stays back.

This stance is prevalent among right-handed fighters as it allows them to generate significant power with their strong hand and foot.

The orthodox stance gives fighters the advantages of stronger jabs and straight rights, and better balance, making it a popular choice for many combatants.

Southpaw Stance

southpaw fighting stance

The southpaw stance, on the other hand, is the opposite of the orthodox stance, with fighters positioning their right hand and right foot in front with their left side back.

This arrangement is most common among left-handed fighters. With the right limbs leading, southpaw fighters can take advantage of the element of surprise against orthodox opponents, as well as utilize powerful left-handed strikes.

Stance Lead Hand Power Hand Common Among
Orthodox Left Right Right-handed
Southpaw Right Left Left-handed

Right-Handed vs Left-Handed

Right-handed fighters typically adopt the orthodox stance, while left-handed fighters usually opt for the southpaw stance.

This division comes from the natural arrangement of strong and weak arms, allowing fighters to achieve maximum efficiency and power.

However, there are occasions when a right-handed fighter might choose the southpaw stance or vice versa, called a switch stance.

Footwork and Movement

orthodox fighting

Orthodox Footwork

In the orthodox stance, the lead (left) foot primarily sets the direction and pace, while the right foot provides stability and power generation.

Orthodox fighters often use a range of footwork patterns to maintain proper balance, evade incoming attacks, and create openings for counterattacks.

Some common techniques include:

  • In-and-out movements: The fighter moves quickly in and out of their opponent's range, launching attacks while minimizing the risk of being hit.
  • Lateral movements: Shifting left or right to keep the opponent off balance and create angles for punching.
  • Pivoting: Rotating on the lead foot, allowing the fighter to change direction quickly and avoid attacks.

Southpaw Footwork

Southpaw fighters enjoy a unique advantage, as their footwork and movements are often unfamiliar and challenging for orthodox opponents to deal with.

Southpaw footwork emphasizes creating angles to exploit the open guard of an orthodox fighter, using techniques such as:

  • Outside stepping: Stepping outside the opponent's lead foot, making it easier to land the rear hand or implement other attacks.
  • Switch stepping: Temporarily switching to an orthodox stance before switching back to southpaw, momentarily confusing the opponent.
  • Cutting off the ring: Using lateral movements to control the opponent's movements, limiting their escape routes and forcing them to engage or retreat.

Both orthodox and southpaw footwork requires mastery of movement and coordination to effectively evade, attack, and counter in the ring.

No matter the stance, footwork remains a critical component in the overall success of a fighter.

How Stances Affect Techniques and Punches

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When comparing southpaw and orthodox fighters, jabs play a crucial role in maintaining distance and probing for openings.

In the orthodox stance, the left jab is thrown with a quick extension of the left hand, while in a southpaw stance, the right jab is deployed similarly.

Both stances follow the rule of stepping into the jab with the lead foot to have more power and precision.


In both southpaw and orthodox stances, hooks are powerful punches that target the opponent's head or body.

They can be thrown using either hand, but the mechanics differ slightly.

In an orthodox stance, a left hook is thrown by pivoting the lead foot (left) and rotating the hips while the right hook is executed by pivoting the rear foot (right).

In a southpaw stance, a right hook employs a pivot and rotation with the lead (right) foot, while the left hook uses the rear (left) foot.

Right and Left Hooks

Southpaw and orthodox fighters have their unique ways of delivering effective right and left hooks.

The main difference is the foot position and the angle at which the hooks are thrown.

  • Orthodox stance:
    • Right hook: pivot rear foot and rotate hips.
    • Left hook: pivot lead foot and rotate hips.
  • Southpaw stance:
    • Right hook: pivot lead foot and rotate hips.
    • Left hook: pivot rear foot and rotate hips.

Additionally, when facing an opponent with a different stance, fighters should aim to target the open side that is more exposed due to the mirrored foot position.

Powerful Punches

powerful punch

When discussing powerful punches, both Southpaw and orthodox fighters have their unique methods for generating power.

These punches are generally thrown using the rear hand, making use of the entire body's weight and momentum transferred through the legs and hips.

  • Cross: In an orthodox stance, the cross is thrown by pivoting the rear foot and extending the right hand. In a southpaw stance, the left hand is used for the cross while pivoting the rear foot.
  • Uppercut: Delivered from below, the uppercut targets the opponent's chin and midsection. In an orthodox stance, the right uppercut comes from pivoting the rear foot and extending the right hand, while the left uppercut in a southpaw stance uses similar mechanics with the left hand.

Understanding the techniques and punches from both stances can provide a foundation for better offense and defense while facing a southpaw or orthodox opponent.

Regardless of the stance, training, and practice remain essential to mastering the art of boxing.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Orthodox Pros and Cons


  • Familiarity: Orthodox fighters typically face other orthodox opponents, giving them a familiarity advantage in most fights. They are accustomed to the movements, angles, and techniques of fellow orthodox fighters.
  • Higher success rate: Due to the majority of fighters being orthodox, the likelihood of success in boxing and mixed martial arts when using an orthodox stance is generally higher.


  • Vulnerability against southpaws: Orthodox fighters may struggle against southpaws due to the unorthodox angles and techniques they employ, leading to difficulties in both attacking and defending.
  • Rigid stance: The orthodox stance is considered more rigid, potentially hampering the defense and movement of the orthodox boxer compared to a southpaw stance.

Southpaw Pros and Cons


  • Rareness: Southpaws are less common in combat sports, which gives them an element of surprise as opponents will have fewer opportunities to practice against Southpaw opponents.
  • Evasive head movement: Southpaws generally have an easier time avoiding headshots, as their hand placement is different from orthodox fighters, leading to more difficult angles for their opponents to land clean strikes.
  • Fluid stance: The southpaw stance is often seen as more open and fluid compared to the orthodox stance, allowing for improved movement and control during a fight.


  • Less exposure to different fighting styles: Since southpaws face mostly orthodox opponents, they may lack experience against fellow southpaws or unique fighting styles.
  • Limited choice of training partners: Due to the lower prevalence of Southpaw fighters, finding suitable training partners may be more challenging.

Defense and Offense Strategies

Orthodox Defense and Offense

Orthodox fighters, with their left foot forward and right foot back, typically rely on a combination of footwork, head movement, and properly placed guards for their defense.

They keep their hands up to protect the chin and body, while constantly moving to create angles and avoid their opponent's punches. Defensively, they use their footwork to create distance or move out of striking range when necessary.

Offensively, orthodox fighters often initiate their attacks with a sharp jab (with the left hand) followed by a right cross or hook.

They focus on establishing a strong jab to set up powerful right-hand punches, which can lead to knockouts or create openings for combinations.

The strategy for orthodox fighters is to maintain distance and capitalize on their opponent's mistakes by counter-punching with precision.

Southpaw Defense and Offense

Southpaw fighters, who keep their right foot in front and left foot behind, can use their unorthodox stance to their advantage when facing an orthodox fighter.

They tend to keep their hands high and tight for defense while using their lead right hand for jabs and hooks.

Footwork plays a crucial role in southpaw defense, as maintaining proper distance allows them to evade punches and counter with their strikes.

Offensively, southpaws frequently look for opportunities to land their powerful left hand, often in the form of straight punches or overhand lefts.

Additionally, they can use their lead right hand to counter orthodox jabs with hooks or uppercuts. A common strategy for southpaw fighters is to repeatedly circle to their right, away from the opponent's dangerous right hand, while finding openings for their left-hand attacks.

Role of Dominant Hand and Eye

In boxing, the role of the dominant hand and eye play a crucial part in determining your fighting stance and overall boxing style. 

Orthodox Dominance

In the orthodox stance, fighters have their left foot forward, and their right hand is closest to their face.

This implies that their right hand is the dominant hand, responsible for power punches and stronger strikes.

The dominant eye, typically in sync with the dominant hand, provides more precise targeting during exchanges.

Orthodox fighters generally rely on their left hand for jabs and quick combinations. The dominant right-hand remains at the ready, available for heavier punches. Advantages of an orthodox dominance include:

  • A natural stance for right-handed fighters
  • Wider range of opponents with similar stances to practice against
  • Familiarity with some strategies as a result of their prevalence in the sport

However, both fighters will find it essential to learn movements and strategies for combating southpaw opponents, due to the rarity and uniqueness of the southpaw stance.

Southpaw Dominance

Contrary to orthodox dominance, southpaw dominance entails the leading of the right foot and placing the left hand closest to the face.

Left-handed fighters often adopt this stance, with their left hand as the dominant hand.

Southpaws also typically have a dominant left eye for improved accuracy.

The Southpaw dominance offers several distinct advantages, such as:

  • More unpredictable and challenging for predominantly orthodox opponents to defend against
  • Versatility in strike combinations and maneuvers
  • Better footwork and utilization of angles due to stance rarity

While southpaw fighters may catch orthodox opponents off guard, they need to practice against other southpaw fighters to ensure they are prepared for mirror-match situations.

Understanding the role of the dominant hand and eye in both orthodox and southpaw stances allows a fighter to strategize effectively and adapt to various opponents and situations in the ring.

Developing footwork and strike techniques tailored to one's dominant side is crucial for maximizing the potential of one's inherent physical traits.

The Stances Famous Fighters Preferred

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali is considered one of the greatest boxers of all time, and his success came while using an orthodox stance.

Ali had a unique style that made it difficult for opponents to hit him, and he used his quick footwork and incredible hand speed to maneuver around his opponents.

His ability to "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee," as he described it, set him apart from other fighters during his era.

Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao, also known as "PacMan," is a Filipino boxing legend who held world championships in eight different weight classes using the southpaw stance.

Pacquiao's incredible speed and power have allowed him to dismantle his opponents with ease.

His southpaw stance gives him an advantage against many orthodox fighters, as it makes it difficult for them to predict his next move and defend against his powerful strikes.

Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson, or "Iron Mike," is an American former professional boxer who is renowned for his aggressive fighting style, devastating punches, and orthodox stance.

He was known for having excellent footwork and delivering powerful, short-range punches that often led to early knockouts.

Tyson's speed and strength made him a formidable opponent, and his intimidating presence in the ring only added to his legend.

Training and Sparring Using Both Stances

When it comes to training and sparring in boxing, having experience with both orthodox and southpaw stances is crucial.

This broadens a fighter's knowledge and allows them to adapt and respond effectively to various opponents.

For orthodox fighters, facing southpaw opponents can be quite challenging due to their less common stance and style.

As most people are right-handed, orthodox fighters may find it difficult to find left-handed partners to spar with.

On the other hand, southpaw fighters are more likely to train and spar with orthodox fighters due to the higher prevalence of right-handed individuals in the sport.

Sparring sessions are essential for practicing footwork, timing, distance, and strategy.

Facing both orthodox and southpaw opponents allows a fighter to develop their skills in various scenarios.

When sparring against a southpaw, orthodox fighters must adjust their strategies to counter the southpaw's specific angles and techniques. Similarly, southpaw fighters need to adapt their strategies when facing orthodox opponents.

Another aspect of training is incorporating drills that cater to both orthodox and southpaw fighters.

Coaches should ensure that their fighters practice adjusting their footwork, positioning, and techniques to effectively counter different stances. By incorporating both types of stances in training drills, fighters can improve their ability to recognize and react to different situations, making them more versatile and well-rounded athletes.

Unique Challenges With Fighting Stances

In the world of combat sports, the distinction between southpaw and orthodox stances presents unique challenges and opportunities for fighters.

Both stances have their own set of advantages and disadvantages, requiring athletes to develop specific skills and talents to find success in the ring.

Southpaw fighters, who lead with their right foot and right hand, often pose a unique challenge for orthodox opponents, who typically face fewer Southpaw fighters in their careers.

This unfamiliarity can give southpaws an element of surprise, allowing them to exploit openings and create opportunities against an orthodox adversary.

Furthermore, due to their differing hand placement, southpaw fighters may find it easier to dodge head strikes from their orthodox opponent.

On the other hand, orthodox fighters, who lead with their left foot and hand, often hold the advantage of experience.

As the majority of opponents they face are also orthodox, they can draw upon a broader knowledge base when strategizing and adapting their techniques in the ring. However, this can also lead to predictability, making it essential for orthodox fighters to hone their skills and remain versatile against southpaw fighters.

Both Southpaw and orthodox fighters must also consider the defensive aspect of their stance.

The positioning of their lead foot can determine their ability to evade their opponent's strikes. For example, orthodox fighters may find it easier to avoid southpaw jabs, while southpaw fighters can evade right hooks from orthodox fighters more effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which famous fighters are known for their southpaw stance?

Several well-known fighters have been recognized for their southpaw stance throughout boxing history. Some of these fighters include Manny Pacquiao, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, and Vasiliy Lomachenko. These fighters have greatly utilized their southpaw stance, often capitalizing on their opponents' unfamiliarity with facing a left-handed fighter.

Can a right-handed person successfully adopt a southpaw stance?

Yes, a right-handed person can successfully adopt a southpaw stance. There are examples of successful right-handed Southpaw fighters, such as Michael Moorer and Terence Crawford. Adopting a southpaw stance as a right-handed fighter can offer some advantages, such as using the strong right hand as a lead hand for jabs and hooks. However, it may take some time and practice for a right-handed person to become proficient in a southpaw stance.

How do orthodox fighters adapt their strategy when facing a Southpaw opponent?

When facing a southpaw opponent, orthodox fighters often adjust their strategy to account for the mirrored stance. They may focus on keeping their lead foot outside the southpaw's lead foot, which enables better positioning for landing their right hand. Orthodox fighters might also use more left hooks and jabs to exploit potential defensive openings in their southpaw opponent's guard. Additionally, orthodox fighters can practice sparring against southpaw partners to become more comfortable with the unique challenges posed by a left-handed opponent.

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