Switch Hitting: Southpaw Guide

Hey folks,
I've been promising a third installment of the southpaw guide, and this morning I actually found the time to write it. This edition will focus entirely on switch hitting - whether it be in the midst of a technique or a "Shift", as Ray Sefo did, or through footwork as Anderson Silva, Willie Pep and Jersey Joe Walcott did. This is very much a taboo in boxing, and largely in kickboxing, so try to keep an open mind as you read it - because your coach probably won't like it! ;)

P.S. I wrote this the morning after a long night at the pub with friends, so if there's any hangover grammar / spelling, please let me know but go easy on me this time! =)


Switch hitting is an enormously useful tactic to employ and one that is grossly under-estimated by traditional boxing and kickboxing coaches. When watching high level boxing matches one will notice that both fighters get hit a lot and come out bruised. A boxer will have 20 - 50 fights in his career and finishing it with slurred speech and slowed movement, whereas a switch hitter such as Lyoto Machida, Anderson Silva or Prince Naseem Hamed gets hit relatively little and leaves the sport with most of their wits in tact.

Switch hitting is largely frowned upon in boxing circles because it is done exceptionally poorly by most of those who attempt it. Many fighters switch stance where they stand, with an energy expending hop, and get nailed with a powerful straight as they change stances. Switching stances by hopping where you stand leaves an instant where neither foot is planted, and a moment either side of this where you are focused on the stance change more than your defense. Switching stance should be effortless and serve to confuse everyone but the man switching stances.

There are several ways to change stance intelligently. One can change stance while circling away from the opponent's power hand, thereby limiting their offence to the one, weaker hand. Or one can change stance in the midst of a technique or combination. An excellent example of how shifting stance during an attack will serve to bring the strike from a confusing angle can be seen in the first meeting between the Hercules of K-1, Jerome Le Banner, and Ray Sefo. Sefo, fighting against the southpaw Le Banner, performed a switch step and struck a hook with his right hand - changing it from his rear hand to his lead hand. This drastically shortened the distance it had to cover and changed it's angle of entry. Southpaws do not expect to have to deal with a lead hook from another southpaw stance, preferring instead the game of outfighting based on hand fighting, footwork and rear hand leads.

This right hook, known as the Balmoral Special (Balmoral being Sefo's hometown in New Zealand) is a signature of Sefo's style, and variations of stance switching hooks, stepping forward or backward, have been utilized by many of the fighters Sefo has trained such as Jay Heiron and Vitor Belfort. It is certainly an excellent way to press home the significance of stance switching. It is, however, simply a trick and does not prepare you for the change of game that comes from a stance switch.

Notice how Sefo, an orthodox fighter against the southpaw Le Banner, draws his left leg back, steps forward with his right leg into a southpaw stance and lands a right hook. Because the right hand becomes his lead hand as he changes stance, his hips are already moving to an angle that makes the right hook a short, lead hook, rather than a long, looping blow as it would be if he stayed orthodox. This type of stance switching punch is known as a "Shift", and only a few men have made a specialty of them. Benny Leonard used to utilize a ducking or "drop shift" from orthodox to southpaw, and the great middleweight Robert Fitzsimmons won the heavyweight title of the world from Gentleman Jim Corbett with his famous "Fitzsimmons Shift", a switching left hook to the body which felled Corbett in a single blow.

Some truly amazing fighters have made extensive use of stance switching, and it hasn't simply been a gimmick, it has served as a confusing offense AND as a deterrent of the opponent's offense as he has to re-assess the dynamic of the bout due to the change in distance and lead side. Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, Alistair Overeem, Takanori Gomi, Jersey Joe Walcott, Marvin Hagler and Prince Naseem Hamed are all great examples of fighters who spent a great deal of time switching from stance to stance until they found a power punch (or kick) as their opponent played catch up.

Continues at great length with Anderson Silva, Jersey Joe Walcott and Willie Pep, videos and stills at:

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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