In boxing, the term “southpaw” refers to the fighting stance where the boxer has his right hand and right foot forward, throwing right jabs and following them with either a left cross or a right hook. The “orthodox” or right-handed stance, which is the default stance of most boxers, is basically a mirror-reverse image of the southpaw stance.
As the mega fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. nears, astute boxing observers opine that Pacquiao’s southpaw stance will pose problems for Mayweather Jr. This observation, of course, elicits the following query: Just what’s in a southpaw stance that right-handed boxers dread?
Back in the late 1980s, when I was a reporter covering the boxing beat for several local sports magazines, I remember Toti Sangalang, one of the most respected and well-loved trainers in Philippine boxing, explaining the difficulty of training a southpaw. “Mahirap i-train ang kaliwete kasi lahat ng itinuro mo sa right-handed na boxer, kailangan baligtarin mo (It is difficult to train a southpaw fighter because everything you have taught the right-handed boxer, you have to do it in reverse),” he said.
To this day, the prevailing sentiment among trainers is that it is difficult to fight a southpaw, particularly one who has a very active right jab. If you are a right-handed boxer facing an opponent who moves in a mirror-reverse mode, you will find it difficult to move around, especially with the southpaw boxer’s protruding right foot getting in the way and eating up your space. Simply put, the southpaw stance messes up a right-handed boxer’s movements.
A problem also crops up when the right-handed boxer tries to trade jabs with a southpaw.
When two right-handed fighters clash their jabbing arm is on the opposite side, allowing both of them to jab freely. When a right-handed boxer faces a southpaw’s jab, the latter’s jab is coming from the same angle and this makes it difficult for a slick right-handed boxer who relies on his left jab to use it effectively. More often than not, the right-handed boxer’s left jab ends up being blocked by the southpaw’s right jab.
When Mayweather Jr. takes on Pacquiao, it will mark a rare occasion that he will take on a southpaw opponent. One can count on the fingers of one hand the number of southpaw pugs Mayweather Jr. had fought. There was Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero in 2013, who Mayweather Jr. handled with ease because the former did not know how to take advantage of his southpaw stance. A more revealing and demanding fight against a southpaw for Mayweather Jr. happened in 2006, when he took on fellow American Zab Judah for the International Boxing Federation welterweight strap. Mayweather Jr. struggled to move and put his combinations together in the early rounds and was a sucker for Judah’s left hook/straight thrown after a series of right jabs. A right hook actually knocked down Mayweather Jr., only referee Richard Steele did not notice it.
Pacquiao figures to be the toughest southpaw adversary for Mayweather Jr. What makes Pacquiao more difficult to handle today is that he has developed his right hand/jab/hook, throwing it with alarming frequency and confidence. Pacquiao also knows how to vary the left, throwing it either in a cross or straight manner, in a wink of an eye. Pacquiao, though, may want to favor the cross over the straight. The Filipino’s tendency to lunge in with a straight left will make him predictable and a sucker for Mayweather Jr.’s counter over the top right hand. Instead of just barging in, Pacquiao will have to use a lot of feints to make his offense a difficult read for Mayweather Jr. One can already envision Pacquiao feinting as if about to throw his patented left only to unload a right hook instead.
A southpaw fighter like Pacquiao is used to fighting right-handed boxers, but a right-handed fighter like Mayweather Jr. rarely experiments with a southpaw foe. To his credit, Mayweather Jr. is preparing in earnest, having tapped the services of no less than Judah.
Down the road, Mayweather Jr. figures to hire younger and more aggressive southpaws to imitate Pacquiao’s style.
The prevailing opinion is that Pacquiao’s southpaw stance will give Mayweather Jr. headaches. Then again, the fistic genius that he is, Mayweather Jr. is likely preparing an antidote already, one worth discussing in a future column.
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