Are southpaw boxers as good as advertised, or just picking on opponents who aren't at their best?
In the world of fighting it's long been thought that you should lead with your weak hand and follow with your strong hand. Let the small artillery clear the way for the big boom.
And since most people on earth are naturally right-handed, most fighters train in the "orthodox stance", leading with the left. Almost everyone does it, and not many question it.
So when a "southpaw" fighter comes along, leading with their weak hand, the right, and following with their stronger left hand, it changes the game quite a bit for the average fighter. All the targets they've been programed and trained to hit with full force and accuracy are reversed.
Much of that training they've done is now useless.
Not only are they at a disadvantage hitting their opponent, but protecting themselves is ever so strange.
The power shots come from the opposite side, attacking a part of the body not used to being hit in the same places as the other. A fighter could feel slightly vulnerable, and more than a little naked in the ring without their usual defenses.
And everyone's looking.
A question I've had the last few months as I've started boxing training is whether I could successfully train as a southpaw, even though I'm a natural righty?
When I was 16 my brother showed me a street-fight self-defense video that instructed you to lead with your strong hand. It was the first time I'd heard it mentioned, conventional wisdom being not to.
I was intrigued.
A few years later, in a friendly sparring match with my friend in his basement, with no boxing experience, I led with the right. It worked. My first jab smashed through his defense with pretty good power, and followed with a smooth left-cross, bloodying his lip.
Not that this makes me a contender or anything, but it felt pretty natural.
My coaches, however, have been training me in the orthodox stance. I have no complaint with it, but notice my jab feels weaker and slower than when I throw it with the right, especially the double and triple jab.
I'm not complaining about my weaknesses, since that's what training's for. I'm just wondering if more fighters should train from both sides: right and left.
If you've read my articles, you know I'm a Manny Pacquiao fan, and he's a southpaw. I think it's what helped him win so many fights in the first half of his career when he was obviously lacking any real boxing skill or technique.
It's not a problem anymore, but in the early days he was a one-trick pony. A one-trick pony anyone not named Juan Manuel Marquez couldn't figure out.
It's that southpaw stance, complimented by blazing speed.
So are left-handed fighters simply luckier than right-handed ones, privileged enough to be born southpaw? Not necessarily.
I recently saw in an ESPN video clip "Bad" Chad Dawson talk about fighting as a southpaw, even though he's naturally right-handed. He just wanted to imitate his father.
It's worked for him, and then some.
Also, if I'm expected to improve my weak left jab in order to preserve my power shots for the right, the opposite could be true, too. I could train my left to throw the power shots, using my right to stay busy and get tricky as the lead.
On the opposite side of the ring from Dawson, is Miguel Cotto. He's a natural lefty who fights orthodox. He should be southpaw, gaining that awkward advantage, but he's not, and he has an advantage all his own.
His jabs and left-hooks hurt a whole lot more than they're supposed to.
Would Cotto have a greater advantage if he were a southpaw? I'm not sure he would. Him and Dawson share an advantage few others use, and that's a strong lead.
The list of fighters who have achieved success from a southpaw stance seems disproportionately larger than that of orthodox fighters. When you add in a few of the greats who mainly use orthodox but can switch to southpaw, like Shane Mosley or Oscar De La Hoya, the question grows:
Why don't more fighters lead with their strong hand, or at least train for both?
When you think of climbing to the top of the boxing world, past and present, sooner or later you run across a southpaw or two.
Here's a list of the who's who in Southpaw Land: Pacquiao, Dawson, Paul Williams, Vic Darchinyan, Zab Judah, Naseem Hamed, Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Marvin Hagler, Pernell Whitaker, Edwin Valero, and the list goes on.
It's clear to me, especially with new President Barack Obama, the left is strong, and getting stronger. Expecting socialist southpaws to dominate boxing, those on the right should learn more about them, or join them.
Doing nothing will get your head knocked off.