In boxing and MMA, there are basically two major stances, those being southpaw and orthodox. You might have noticed that many top contenders and people with great boxing ability are southpaws. But is there a special reason for this? Are southpaws simply better than orthodox fighters?
Well, southpaws aren’t necessarily better fighters per se, but they have more experience fighting orthodox fighters than orthodox fighters do against southpaws. This means a southpaw will know what to expect against an orthodox fighter, while an orthodox fighter will not be as prepared when fighting a southpaw, which gives the southpaw an advantage.
That’s pretty much the only reason why southpaws might have an advantage against another fighter. Let’s look at how many of the top fighters are southpaw, as well as what makes them better fighters.
By the way, I did some analysis to show just how much better southpaws are than orthodox fighters, so if you don’t read anything else, please read the section labeled ‘The Data”, as it has some great information and insight.
Why Exactly Are Southpaws Better?
So as mentioned already, southpaws aren’t exactly ‘better’. There is no boxing ability that a southpaw has that an orthodox fighter cannot replicate. It simply comes down to experience against the opposite stance.
Notice how Pacquiao is a Southpaw. If Matthysse circles to his right, which is commonly taught, then he will move right into Pacquiao’s dominant hand.
Here’s an example. As a beginner boxer, you will start hitting pads and you will be taught certain movements. This includes bobbing and weaving, as well as how to avoid power punches. The problem with this is that you are typically taught to circle to the right side of your opponent.
The reason you are taught to circle to the right is because most people are right-handed, making them orthodox boxers. Of course there are exceptions, but most people choose to fight orthodox if they are right-handed.
If you circle to your right, then you are moving away from your opponent’s right hand, which is their dominant hand. This is a good maneuver, because you effectively limit the range of your opponent’s right hand by circling away from it.
However, if you are fighting a southpaw, circling to the right is problematic. This is because when you circle them to your right, you are walking right into their left hand, as shown in the image below.
Here you can see Floyd Mayweather (left) circling to his left. This is a smart maneuver because Pacquiao is a southpaw, so Pacquiao’s dominant left hand is now out of range.
If Floyd Mayweather had made a mistake and moved to his right, then Manny Pacquiao would have hit him with a left hand, which could have changed the fight. We can assume that Floyd Mayweather trained exclusively with southpaws in preparation for his fight with Pacquiao.
So not only does Floyd avoid the lead hook of Pacquiao, but he also forces Pacquiao to move in order to face him, as Floyd is basiclly behind him.
And of course, Pacquiao had the advantage of being southpaw, so he probably expected Mayweather to be less comfortable than if he was fighting someone orthodox. If Pacquiao was fighting someone with less experience than Floyd, his advantage may have been more apparent.
How Much Better Are Southpaws?
Now let’s talk about just how much better southpaws are than orthodox fighters. Now if you guys know me, you’ll know that I love to look at statistics and analyze fight data. Well, this is no different. To find out if southpaws are really better than orthodox fighters, we’re going to look at the percentage of high-ranked fighters that are southpaw.
Then, we’re going to compare this percentage with the percentage of people in the population that are left-handed. However, this analysis will make a few assumptions, as most do.
The first assumption is that the same percentage of average left-handed people is the same as the percentage of left-handed people who decide to become boxers. So if 10% of the population is left-handed, then I’ll assume 10% of boxers are also left-handed, for example.
The second assumption is that the percentage of left-handed people directly correlates to the percentage of fighters that are southpaws. Now I know for a fact that this is not true, because many boxers are right-handed, and yet they fight southpaw. However, I’d say the overwhelming majority of southpaw fighters are left-handed.
In the analysis, I assume that southpaw fighters are left-handed. But this is not always the case, as seen with southpaw Tevin Farmer (left), who is right-handed.
And lastly, I’m going to assume that the top pound-for-pound boxers can accurately represent the state of boxing in terms of how ‘good’ an orthodox fighter is versus a southpaw. Let’s get started.
Many sources indicate that about 10% of the population is left-handed. However, if we look at the Pound for Pound list by BoxRec, we find some interesting info. I created a spreadsheet that details the top 25 Pound For Pound boxers as of September 15, 2019.
Of the top 25 best pound-for-pound boxers in the world, 24% of them are southpaws. This is a much higher rate than the average population’s 10%.
But it gets better. If we look at just the Top 10, we find that an astonishing 40% are southpaws! That is an insane percentage of southpaws. To show you how crazy this percentage is, let’s look at a hypothetical situation.
Let’s say we have 100 random people, and 10 of them are southpaws, making them an accurate representation of the population’s 10%.
Now let’s say they all become boxers, and we rank them. In the top 10, there are 6 orthodox fighters and 4 southpaw fighters. So out of 10 southpaws, 4 of them landed in the top 10. This means the average southpaw has a 40% chance to land in the top 10.
But out of 90 orthodox fighters, there are only 6 in the top 10. that means that the average orthodox fighter only has a 6.7% chance to land in the top 10.
That means the average southpaw is about 6 times more likely to become a top ten ranked fighter than an orthodox fighter is! This shows you how just how much better a southpaw fighter is than an orthodox fighter.
If you have any questions about the data or the analysis I did here, feel free to reach out to me at quinones.gerardo19 at gmail.com, I’d love to clear up any confusions you might have.
In short, Southpaws tend to be better boxers than Orthodox ones because Southpaws have more experience fighting Orthodox fighters than Orthodox do fighting Southpaws. Even though only 10% of the population is naturally Southpaw, 24% of the Top 25 Pound-For-Pound boxers are Southpaws. Southpaws are also 6 times more likely to make it to the Top 10 than an Orthodox fighter.
I hope this post gave you some insight as to just how much better a Southpaw is than an Orthodox fighter. If you liked the post, please consider checking out the rest of the site, such as the Training Tips page, where I answer common training questions. Thanks for reading!