In the film Rocky, Rocky Balboa gave his girlfriend, Adrian, the perfect description of a southpaw fighter: “You know where southpaw comes from? I’ll tell ya. A long time ago there was this guy, maybe a couple a hundred years ago, he was fighting around, I think it was around Philadelphia, and his arm — he was left-handed — and his arm was facing toward New Jersey, you see? And that’s south. So then naturally they call him south paw. You see? South paw, south Jersey, South Camden, south paw. You know what I mean?”
Indeed, the majority, of southpaws are left-handed, standing with the right hand and right foot forward, the mirror image of the orthodox stance. Unlike in western boxing, there are many more Muay Thai fighters who are southpaws. This is because many trainers in Thailand teach young fighters both stances, regardless of their dominant side.
Since most southpaws are left handed, both their left cross and left body kick are their most dangerous weapons. Being in the southpaw stance allows them to utilize these weapons to attack their opponents. Some of the greatest Muay Thai fighters are southpaws: multiple-time Muay Thai World Champions Sam-A Gaiyanghadao, Orono Wor Petchpun, Samart Payakaroon, Saenchai PKSaenchaimuaythaigym, and Yodsaenklai Fairtex are all known to be deadly southpaws.
The Advantages Of A Southpaw Fighter
Regardless of their sport, left-handed athletes have always been feared by their opponents. This is because everything they do comes from the opposite side that a normal right-hander is used to seeing. In fact, in the past, left-handed boxers were often persuaded by their trainers to switch to an orthodox stance so that they’d have someone to fight against.
One of the biggest advantages of being a southpaw is that many orthodox fighters simply aren’t used to fighting southpaws. Because of the stance, they are thrown off by the angles at which they normally use to throw punches or kicks or defend. In fact, many southpaws are used to fighting orthodox fighters, giving them the advantage in experience. Also, during training, southpaws would have been taught in the orthodox stance in the beginning, which makes them more technically adept in common orthodox moves. Thus, for many orthodox fighters, fighting a southpaw can certainly pose many challenges.
Thus, for an orthodox fighter to successfully combat a southpaw fighter, he/she must understand the southpaw fighter and the techniques he/she uses in order to setup his/her attacks, counter attacks and defense.
Recognizing The Southpaw Stance
As we mentioned above, a southpaw fighter stands with the right hand and right foot forward. Instead of jabbing with their left hand, they will jab with the right so that they can finish with their powerful left cross. Because they are stronger on the left hand side of their body, they will attempt to throw left body kicks, left knees and left elbows. Hence, being aware of these attacks would help you decipher which stance your opponent is using.
Common Southpaw Attacks
The left kick is one of the most commonly used attacks of a southpaw. Because it is thrown on their strong side, it is their most effective weapon against orthodox fighters. In this video, multiple-time Muay Thai World Champion Sam-A Gaiyanghadao demonstrates 5 roundhouse kick combinations. As a southpaw, Sam-A kicks with his left leg and jabs with his right. To prevent a left kick from landing, you can block it with your right leg.
In this video, one of the most decorated southpaws in Muay Thai, Yodsanklai Fairtex demonstrates the KO power behind his left kicks. As you can see, the left kick is one of the best attacks a southpaw fighter can use against an orthodox fighter since it always lands flush against the body on the open side.
Because of the angle the orthodox fighter’s stance is in, it is easy for a southpaw to land a devastating knee on their opponent. In this video, Sam-A shows how he sets up his left knees. To block the knee, you can use your front leg or turn your hip to the inside. Instead of his knees hitting you, his thigh will land on you instead, lessening the impact of the strike.
Just like any elbow attack, the left elbow is certainly one of the most brutal strikes a southpaw could throw. In this video, Orono shows how perfect timing and distance could help a southpaw land a KO worthy elbow.
As always, you must keep your hands up and maintain a high guard to defend against an elbow. You can also slide back to create distance by pushing with your legs or your hand. This technique is also known as a long guard. Watch how multiple-time Muay Thai World Champion Yodteera Sityodtong defends elbows in the video above.
The power punch of the southpaws, the left cross, is usually set up with a right jab to close the distance. They will also try to set it up by lining it up, stepping outside their orthodox opponent’s lead food to send the punch straight down the middle. The next time you face a southpaw, try to focus on the southpaw’s left. You can avoid the jab by keeping your head moving and throwing a few of your own jabs, but always keep an eye out for his left cross.
Right Hook /Lead Right
Perhaps the deadliest punch of any southpaw is the right hook. Even when you know it’s coming, it can still be difficult to defend, especially when you’re in the right angle for it. Make sure you always watch out for the right hook and pull your head back when you see it coming. If you decide to block it, make sure your hand protects your chin and your temple. In this video, watch how Yodsanklai ends the fight with a deadly right hook.
Defense Against A Southpaw
To defend against a southpaw opponent, you must be ready for all the attacks to come from the left side of your opponent’s body. Thus, you must anticipate the angles he will need to use to utilize his weapons. In the match above, watch how Superlek defends against Sam-A’s attacks. Although he loses this fight, his tight defense made it difficult for Sam-A to finish the fight sooner.
Footwork – To properly evade a southpaw’s attacks, you must always work on circling away from his/her left side. Get your lead leg/foot outside your opponent to control the fight and get in a better position to attack and move. In fact, you’ll be in a great position to land your straight right and straight elbow between his/her guard since you’re in a perfect angle to do so. Because you’re fighting a southpaw, you must have your left foot on the outside of your opponent’s right foot.
Right leg block – Using the right leg block helps you take advantage of the momentum of using the same leg after blocking an attack with it. Because you are blocking with your lead leg, it’s easier for you to launch your counter attack.
Keeping a high guard – Maintaining a high guard with your hands close to your face and your forearms pointing towards your opponent protects you from elbows to the face, as well as head kicks.
The long guard – With one arm extended and the other covering your face, this guard prevents punches, creating distance between you and your opponent. Because you’re fighting a southpaw, the long guard allows even more range due to the stance he/she is in.
Best Offensive Techniques Against A Southpaw
As an orthodox fighter facing a southpaw, you must use your right side in all your attacks to disrupt the southpaw’s attacks. This will make it difficult for them to utilize the weapons in their power side (the left side) because they are too busy blocking your attacks.
Regardless of whether you are fighting a southpaw or not, you must remember to always attack the rear side of the guard. As you know, attacking the rear side of the guard gives you more surface area to land your attacks on.
Once you have a good angle, the straight right is sure to land between your opponent’s guard. Make sure you use good footwork and set it up with a jab. If thrown with enough power and accuracy, the straight right will surely have a devastating effect on your opponent. You can follow the straight right with a right high kick to ensure a knockout. Check out how Pakorn launches his straight right, landing perfectly between Jomthong’s guard.
To distract your opponent, you can use the right kick to set up your attack, especially a straight right. One of the most popular moves, this is a great way to land some serious damage on your opponent. In this video, watch how Buakaw uses the right kick to attack his opponent.
Right Body Kick
One of the best ways to neutralize a southpaw’s attacks is the right body kick. As they come in to attack and land a straight left, this gives you the perfect angle to land the right body kick. In this video, Sam-A shows 5 different set ups for the body kick. Perhaps you could utilize these in your own fight plan.
Take advantage of the angle your southpaw opponent gives you and land a right knee onto his mid-section. As he comes forward with a right jab, you can parry his hand down and come forward with a right knee. You can also set up the right knee with a feinted left knee or throw the right knee in a clinch. In this video, Buakaw manages to land right knees to counter his opponent’s punches.
In the video above, Nong-O demonstrates how to set up the right elbow. You can create openings for the elbow with the set-ups Nong-O shows.
Right Low Kick To Lead Leg
If your opponent is coming straight at you with punches, you can use the right low kick to stop him. Because his lead leg is directly in front of your lead leg, take the opportunity to stop him from attacking further by throwing a low leg kick.
In this video, watch how Pet-U-Tong sets up the left hook on Thaksinlek. He starts with two right kicks then launches the left hook as soon as he sees an opening. As soon as Thaksinlek tries to throw a counter high kick, Pet-U-Thong takes advantage of the opening and lands a left hook. If you have a good enough angle, the left hook can surely inflict a lot of damage on your opponent.
There’s no doubt that the key to mastering fighting a southpaw is by constantly sparring with a southpaw. Find a way to utilize feints and techniques that will convince your opponent to lower his guard and let you land your strikes. By learning the way of the southpaw, you’ll not only increase your arsenal of techniques, you’ll also learn how to face them in the ring.