In boxing, both upper and lower body coordination is critical for the proper delivery of combat strikes and defense. However, most fighters have a stronger or preferred arm-leg positioning when delivering their signature finishing punch. Let’s look at the differences between two of the most popular footwork stances used in combat sports.

Orthodox and Southpaw primarily differ based on the arm-leg position of fighters when squaring up for a fight. In Orthodox, the left foot (paw) takes the front, with the right foot and arm at the back. Southpaw keeps the right foot in front, with the other foot and left arm behind.

Orthodox and Southpaw are the two most common standing positions and determine footwork styles used by fighters in the ring. In most cases, combatants devote their careers to specializing in one stance, a few to mastery of both.

Let’s look at the factors that set Orthodox and Southpaw stances apart in boxing and other combat sports.

Southpaw Stance

You’ve probably heard the term southpaw when the ring announcer introduces a fighter before the runway walk to the stage. Some of the most celebrated names in the sport’s history are famous for their Southpaw stance in most bouts. Two prominent examples are Manny Pacquiao in boxing and Conor McGregor in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

In Southpaw, fighters have their right foot forward and their left foot and left arm back. This technique is rare because most combatants are right-handed, with better and stronger right-hand coordination. 

In combat sports, the strong hand is always in the back. That’s because it gives the fighter more room to throw big punches.

That’s why Southpaw favors left-handed people. It’s because the right paw is out front and the left foot and arm are at the back. So, they can thrust forwards for an explosive power punch with their left arm. This stance gives fighters a better defensive style against their Orthodox-styled opponents and a clear path for accurate body shots.

Advantages of Southpaw

In most cases, the southpaw position can confuse and overpower a right-handed boxer, who deploys an Orthodox stance. This advantage is primarily because most orthodox-style fighters often fight opponents with the same stance. Southpaw introduces a different fighter experience than they’re accustomed to.

In such scenarios, the orthodox-style combatant has to change their tact and navigate differently to land clean shots. Southpaw is like a mirror reflection of the orthodox fighter, characterized by a reversal from front to back. 

It’s like the orthodox fighter will be fighting an opposite version of themselves. This aspect makes detecting and anticipating punches and combat moves recognizable and predictable by their southpaw opponents.

This aspect throws off most orthodox-stance fighters whose attack and defensive strategies are predictable, leading to a loss in fights. Therefore, Southpaw grants its practitioners better control during fights.

In addition, a southpaw fighter can use their strong hand to lead punches. This ability allows them to throw uppercuts and hooks using a single jab hand. 

Orthodox Stance

Orthodox stance is the most common boxing style used in combat sports. It occurs when a fighter stands with their left foot out front while their right arm and foot are behind. The fighter’s left arm becomes their jab hand or lead hand in this stance. This style suits most right-handed fighters. They can bounce off their back foot, to offensively throw right-hand straight shots at their opponents in bouts.

The stance orients the fighter’s left side closer to the opponent. However, a strong right backhand lingers to deploy a powerful right straight.

Through Orthodox, fighters have the advantage of setting in multiple punch combinations that serve them well in a fight situation. Some of the most famous fighters who apply the Orthodox include Terrence Crawford, Floyd Mayweather, Muhammed Ali, and Wladimir Klitschko.

Orthodox style is common in both MMA and boxing bouts. That’s mainly due to its suitability for the right-handed fighters, who make up most of the fighters in combat sports. This stance’s hand-foot positioning is applicable across all categories and weight classes and is accessible to beginners and professional fighters.

Advantages of Orthodox Stance

The biggest advantage of an Orthodox fighter is that there are more fighters of this type in the combat universe. As a result, they have more access to a trainer who can teach them how to use this ability. In addition, they’re more likely to fight against another Orthodox fighter and train for that kind of combat. This way, they can predict their opponents’ tactics and strategies and act accordingly. 

However, being an Orthodox fighter can be a disadvantage at the same time. That’s because they’re used to Orthodox opponents and may not do well against Southpaws. 

Can You Be Both Orthodox and Southpaw?

A fighter can be both orthodox and Southpaw. The ability to deploy whichever stance suits these fighters best in varying fight circumstances is a great advantage. Switch-hitters are fighters with the ability to do both stances. 

The choice between an Orthodox and a Southpaw stance primarily derives from being left-handed or right-handed. However, some fighters choose their primary stance regardless of their stronger hand and can even use a combination of both. Such switch hitters include legendary names like Mike Tyson, who could do both Southpaw and orthodox in boxing matches.

Another famous example is Floyd Mayweather’s orthodox stance. He can quickly switch to a defensive southpaw position in boxing dynamics to his advantage. The ability to do both stances makes it tactfully easier to take down any factor regardless of their footwork orientation.

Inter-switchers have an advantage when fighting their single-stance opponents in their ability to change stances for fight advantage and takedowns.

Differences Between Orthodox and Southpaw

Laterality and Foot-Arm Orientation

Laterality is the tendency to prefer one side of the body to the other, particularly when it comes to tasks. This aspect reflects people attributing themselves to being left-handed or right-handed.

The first noticeable difference between these two stances is the foot-arm positioning of fighters. For orthodox, the fighter’s left hand is the lead, with their right foot and right hand (backhand) taking the back. 

This stance mainly favors inter-switch and left-handed fighters. Conversely, the right hand takes the lead for southpaw style, with the left arm and foot staying back. This stance is suitable for both inter-switch and right-handed combatants.


Lefties make up only a quarter of the world’s population. Only a handful of these people take to combat sports as careers like boxing and MMA. This aspect indicates that a left-handed fighter in combat sports is quite rare. It is no wonder most ring announcers highlight this fact in fighter stats as a rarity.

Also, southpaws mainly train for orthodox fighters, who are the most likely opponents, given their vast population in combat sports. In addition, one in every ten combat sports fighters is a left-hander.

Being a lefty is advantageous as these fighters have no space sensitivity bias compared to their right-handed counterparts. This aspect grants the Southpaw a better advantage, both offensively and defensively, making accurate shots and guard.

Performance Superiority

Southpaw fighters, who are primarily lefties, have an advantage in the ring over their orthodox competitors. That’s because it’s more likely that orthodox fighters train to fight other orthodox stance fighters. It makes the outlier element of their leftie counterparts challenging to predict and anticipate both defensively and on the offense.

Typically, the lateral advantage of southpaw fighters over their orthodox counterparts is irrefutable. That’s due to the high probability of southpaws making it to the elite level of performance in combat sports.

In addition, most southpaws will likely outperform orthodox stance fighters with the long-range punch. With the lack of space and sensitivity bias, they are most likely to develop stronger left-right hand power scientifically.

This aspect gives them the ability to save their dominant hand for the hardest left punches strategically. Southpaws benefit the most from their ability to introduce elements of surprise, changing the dynamics of the entire fight.

Is There Such a Thing as a Right-Handed Southpaw?

Technically, there’s no such thing as a right-handed southpaw. This claim goes against the very definition of the stance, Southpaw. However, you can have an orthodox fighter converting his stance to Southpaw for trickery purposes.

Very few fighters have perfected their switch-hitting abilities. In most cases, they either have a dominant right, backhand, or are lefties, favoring the southpaw stance. However, certain fighters could do a converted southpaw, straight from orthodox, to trick the opponents of their switch-hitting abilities.

This make-believe stance helps them gain an edge over their opponents. This way, they temporarily throw their opponents off rhythm by the switch, making them vulnerable and exposed.

Therefore, there’s no such thing as a right-handed southpaw. We just have dominant right-hand people who can switch up stances to the Southpaw in bouts. It’s more accurate to call this attribute a quick orthodox-to-southpaw conversion technique, shrewdly deployed by certain fighters in combat sports.

Final Thoughts

Two of the most common fighting stances in combat sports include Orthodox and Southpaw. Southpaw mainly favors left-handed fighters while orthodox favors the right-handed.

As observed in history, most elite fighters in combat sports are usually left-handed, depicting extraordinary performance than their right-handed counterparts.

The third category comprises switch hitters, who have no left-right dominance bias, and can do both orthodox and Southpaw stances. They are a much rare occurrence, giving them an upper hand in most bouts against their single-stance opponents.

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