What is Southpaw in Boxing?


The opposite of a right-handed person is a left-handed person who is also called the southpaw. The term however is mostly used in the context of sports such as baseball and boxing. Southpaw is a term used in boxing to denote a left-handed person. While the boxer who is right-handed is termed orthodox, the mirror-image of the stance adopted by a southpaw.

It is normal for the majority of the people to be right-handed. So to be a left-handed was considered unfavorable and in fact in some cultures use of left hand is strongly condemned and children with a tendency to use their left hand are forced to use their right hand. It is believed that about 20% of the population belongs to the category of southpaws.

What is the history of the southpaw?

The use of the term southpaw dates back to the 1880s used as baseball slang. The origin of the term southpaw is found in American baseball, probably used in Chicago where the ball field was positioned facing east and west, with home plate facing west. Due to this a left-handed player pitched from the south side and hence came to be known as southpaws. It is believed that the term southpaw was used by Finley Peter Dunne in 1887, who was in charge of the sports coverage for Chicago News.

In boxing a southpaw has certain advantages over the orthodox players. A southpaw’s abnormal positioning makes it difficult for the right-handed person to deal with the punches that are delivered from the direction opposite to what the players are generally trained in boxing. The moves of a southpaw seem awfully wrong to the orthodox fighter. He feels that the jab, the hook and the rear cross are all coming from the wrong side. As such a southpaw is considered dangerous, unorthodox and best avoided. The orthodox fighter may think that the southpaw does things ‘wrong’ but he can still be the winning streak.

Who are the famous southpaw boxers?

Mike Schreck was a heavyweight boxer who fought during 1899-1916 and is one of the first boxers to be recorded as a southpaw. But he was largely unsuccessful in his boxing bouts against the top fighters of his time.

George “KO” Chaney and Knockout Brown were the early southpaws who were fairly successful in their left-handed stances. Chaney, a featherweight and a lightweight boxer, during 1910-1926 scored ninety-two knockouts from his hundred and thirty-seven winning bouts. Brown fought from 1908-1916 as a lightweight champion and scored nearly sixty knockouts from his ninety-three winning games. They scored a large number of knockouts being southpaws and thus got the word ‘knockout’ attached to their names.

But it was only with the coming of Lew Tendler, a great southpaw boxer during 1913 to 1928, that the southpaw boxer got his share of respect and honor in the game. What made him unique was that in spite of his southpaw, he delivered straight punches in the most perfect manner. Though he never won a title, he was considered a formidable fighter.

Al McCoy, a middleweight boxer from 1914-1917, became the first southpaw champion winning against George Chip on the 1914 boxing bout in Brooklyn, New York. The all time famous southpaw fighters during 1980-1991 were Marvin Hagler and Pernell Whittaker. 

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