A southpaw is a left-handed fighter. Think of them as being inverted compared to a conventional fighter. This means that their jab hand is their right hand while their cross is their left hand. This sometimes makes them quite tricky to box. Since most people are orthodox, you’ll get much more practice boxing conventional fighters. However, when it comes to boxing a southpaw, it may feel very uncomfortable and unnatural as the punches don’t come from where you’re expecting.
The most important thing when boxing a southpaw is to be aware of the left hand. It’s straightforward to not see coming. Especially if you stand square. Ideally, you want to use lateral movement and avoid their power hand. This means moving to the left and keeping your front foot on the outside of theirs. Not only will this keep you out of range from the left hand but it will also give you the opportunity to land your own cross. The battle of footwork is integral when boxing a southpaw unless you’re comfortable standing in front of them and exchanging punches.
Use Your Lead Hand To Parry The Southpaw Jab
Most fighters will typically use their backhand to parry the jab. However, against a southpaw, this sometimes doesn’t work because of the angle that the punch comes from. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to parry with the backhand against a southpaw but rather it can be awkward and tricky. Instead, you want to get really comfortable parrying with your lead hand.
You want to try and stay in control by tapping their jab out of line and keeping your hand above theirs. This will place you in a favorable position to land your own jab over theirs. Especially if you’ve got the reach advantage. More sophisticated boxers like Floyd Mayweather Jr often use their forearm to parry to jab upwards also throwing it off target. However, the result is the same as it ensures that the southpaw’s jab is out of line.
Get Comfortable Boxing Southpaws
The best way to learn how to beat a southpaw is by spending a lot of time sparring with them. There will usually be a couple of southpaws at your local gym and see if they are interested in some light sparring. Boxing a southpaw is awkward at first, especially once you’ve found your rhythm boxing orthodox fighters.
The most important thing is to keep composed and use it as a good learning opportunity. Its very easy to become so preoccupied with a Southpaws jab that you accidentally walk onto a left hand. Avoiding a counter left from a Southpaw who knows how to counterpunch can be tricky, especially if they have a long reach.
I think a higher guard with lots of lateral movement is the best way to approach a Southpaw. Many fighters will often use adaptations of the “Philly-shell” or “shoulder-roll” made infamous by Floyd Mayweather Jr. However, this is not a viable guard when boxing a Southpaw and your lead hand is by your waist. Trying to box a Southpaw as you would an orthodox fighter is redundant. You’ll have to adjust your style to match theirs.
Keep Your Front Foot On The Outside
If you and your opponent have comparable arm lengths, you’ll want to stay on the left outside of a Southpaw where their left hand can’t touch you and you’ll be able to see right hooks from a mile away. When you gain this position, your opponent will look to change angles and get back into a favorable position as being kept on the outside leaves them vulnerable. The battle of footwork is an integral one and whoever is able to maintain a favorable position for the duration of the fight will likely win the bout.
Use Feints To Confuse Southpaws
Southpaws are usually counter-punchers. They want you to engage first, they want you to make the first move, and they absolutely want you to make the first mistake so they can punish you. When fighting southpaws you don’t want to over-commit to big obvious punches. Using plenty of feints is a great way to keep a Southpaw guessing and getting a reaction out of them. Since most southpaws typically like to counter, they sometimes have a difficult time attacking in an effective fashion. If you’re patient enough with your feints and out-think your opponent, you may be able to frustrate them into opening up with the first attack which will give you the opportunity to counter.
Pressure Southpaws Into Punching First
Working the jab and using feints works well against Southpaws if you’re tall and have a long range. However, if you’re significantly shorter than your opponent, gaining a favorable position is harder and requires more risk. However, there is an advantage of being shorter against a southpaw. Especially if you’ve got a front-footed aggressive style.
As we mentioned earlier, Southpaw’s usually aren’t very aggressive. They like to wait for their opponents to attack first so that they can counter. However, if you’re very aggressive and shorter than your opponent you can use this to your advantage. If you go to the inside and close the distance fast, your opponent will be forced to punch first and since that isn’t their natural style you’ll have the advantage in the exchanges.
While this is risky, it is much better than being on the end of a Southpaw’s jab. You can also the ropes of the ring to keep them corned and pinned. You don’t want to give them any room to breathe which will force them to fight at your pace. If you’re fighting a Southpaw that is just as aggressive as you and you’re physically similar, this probably isn’t the best approach, at least when it comes to taking damage. However, if your opponent is tall and likes to counterpunch, this could be an incredibly effective strategy.
The other thing you have to take into consideration when employing this technique is how much energy it uses. The work rate you have to maintain with this style is considerably higher than that of a counterpuncher.
Southpaws are rare which makes them difficult to fight. If there were many more Southpaw fighters then they wouldn’t be considered nearly as difficult as they are. Frankly, most boxers don’t get enough rounds in with a Southpaw which is why when they are faced with an elite Southpaw they often crumble. A great recent example of this is Joe Joyce vs Zhang Zhilei. Joyce was the favorite coming into the bout and many critics figured he’d eventually wear Zhang down.
However, quite the opposite happened simply because Joyce didn’t have an answer against a big powerful Southpaw which was more than likely down to a lack of practice against Southpaws. Joyce is the younger, stronger, and more refined boxer but his lack of experience against opponents like Zhang eventually led to the fight being stopped.