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Mike Tyson Technique Breakdown pt 2: Southpaw attacks

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In this multi part series we will breakdown Mike Tyson’s complete boxing game. A must read for fans of boxing and MMA alike.

Author’s note: there are 18 gifs embedded in this post so please be patient as they may take some time to load. If the clips are not visible on the page please click on the external links provided.

In part one of this series, we examined Cus D’ Amato’s concept of attacking at an angle that prevents your opponent from striking back and we elaborated on how Mike Tyson would just move to his opponent’s side and attack with vicious power.

Keeping an orthodox or southpaw stance is important in boxing as this is a fighter’s “base of operations.” Most orthodox boxers will use proper footwork and fight to keep their stance with their left hand in front and their power hand in the back.

Below, you can see a Kenny Weldon-inspired drill from one of our training sessions. This drill will help orthodox fighters maintain their stance, pivot correctly and keep their opponents in-front of them at all times. The right uppercut is the weapon of choice here.

Here is a gif/clip of Kenny Weldon teaching a student how to step back and pivot left in order to avoid an opponent coming forward and to the student’s right side. Stepping back a bit before turning is important here. Notice that, when this footwork is done correctly, fighters can place themselves at an advantageous angle in order to attack with the right hand. From this angle, a kickboxer can also attack with a right kick and an MMA fighter can go for a takedown.

This is fundamental footwork used by most orthodox fighters. Mike Tyson on the other hand, instead of keeping an orthodox stance at all costs would often turn to a southpaw stance. Tyson would do this for a variety of reasons.

In the image below you can see two main ones:

A. Tyson moves forward and misses and as his opponent is located close to Mike’s right hand, Tyson turns southpaw to deliver right hooks or uppercuts.

B. Tyson attacks with left punches and opponent moves to Mike’s right side in order to escape. Tyson stops his opponent’s trajectory with right hooks to the head or to the body.

Tyson would also initiate his attack in an orthodox stance and preemptively land in a southpaw stance with his right foot placed on the side of his opponent’s left foot in order to cut the ring/prevent his opponent from moving to the right or catch him with southpaw right hands if he manages to escape.

Keep in mind that turning southpaw works great with Tyson’s peekaboo movement and footwork which will be the focus of our next week’s breakdown. Also an important detail in analyzing this part of his game is that Tyson had power in both hands and that played a key role in his attacking tactics.

That being said let’s examine some examples of southpaw attacks.

Turning southpaw by crossing legs in order to cover distance and cut the ring.

Technique 1

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Here Mike slips an incoming jab, steps his right foot to the front and then steps his left foot delivering a jab. This is called crossing the feet in boxing and beginners are advised to avoid doing it.

Using this kind of footwork Mike could cut the ring and keep his opponent near the corner as well as confuse him and cover more distance.

Technique 2

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Here, Mike starts in a southpaw stance to keep his opponent to his left. Tyson’s right southpaw hooks are ready to be launched if need be. Mike steps-in with his left foot in order to deliver a left and a right hook, close the distance and turn orthodox again.

Cutting an angle and attacking from the left side.

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This is a beautiful attack as Mike steps to the front and to his left, then turns his hip to momentarily turn southpaw and attack with a left hand from his opponent’s side. Tyson would also attack with a southpaw right hook from this position as we will see below.

Preemptive placement of the right foot to the front

As noted above, Tyson was an undersized heavyweight and would preemptively place his right foot to the front to cover distance and confuse his opponents. Please notice that in all examples below, Tyson’s opponent is towards the left corner with Tyson in-front of him.

Technique 1

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Tyson attacks with a leaping left hook and as his opponent is near the left corner of the ring, Tyson preemptively lands his right foot in front, in order to cut the ring and get in a position to attack with southpaw right hands.

Technique 2: The “Tyson trip”

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Here is another preemptive placement of the front right foot. Mike Tyson exaggerates so much in his movement that he actually trips his opponent. I call this the “Tyson trip”

Technique 3: Another “Tyson trip”

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Here is a similar trip like the one above but this time Mike places his right foot to the front following a right cross and then delivers a southpaw left hook that helps trip his opponent.

Note: I am not saying that Tyson tripped his opponents intentionally, just that the placement of the foot makes this possible.

Technique 4: The southpaw left hand

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Tyson is in his crouching stance and his opponent goes for a left uppercut. Tyson moves his right foot to the front and this time he delivers a beautiful southpaw left hand.

Foot placement follow-ups: Attacking with southpaw right hooks when opponent escapes.

Technique 1

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Tyson attacks with a right hand, places the right foot and goes for the left hook. This time around his opponent is able to escape and keeps moving towards Mike’s right side. Tyson delivers a second left hook and is now in a southpaw stance with his right hook in position to land with vicious intentions.

Technique 2

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Here Tyson uses a right hand, two leaping left hooks and a leaping right hook landing in a southpaw stance in order to hunt down his opponent. This clip is a clear indication of Tyson’s unorthodox style and how he would defy traditional stances and footwork in order to catch his opponents and cover more distance. Notice that his opponent has to almost run backwards in order to escape.

Technique 3

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This is another example of Tyson using a southpaw stance/right hook to stop opponents from escaping to the right. The best way for his opponent to escape this is using a duck-under like Floyd Mayweather would often do.

Slip left, “southpaw reset”, attack with right hooks

One of Tyson’s most impressive techniques was to slip to the left, perform a leaping switch to a southpaw stance and deliver nasty right hooks. I call this the “southpaw reset” (similar to the “Weldon reset”). Other analysts call it the D’ Amato shift.

In all three following clips please notice how he places his right foot in front and between his opponents’ legs as he switches to southpaw. Also it is important to note that by slipping left and then switch stances, Tyson uses a spring-like motion to store kinetic energy and then explode with power. The mechanics of this will be examined in detail next week in the peekaboo movement breakdown of this series.

Finally take a look at the angle of the attack. Tyson is to the side and in perfect position to look at his opponent’s right ear and this is important in compromising an opponent’s defense as we explained last week.

Example 1

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Example 2

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Example 3

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Turning southpaw in order to land front right uppercuts.

A front right uppercut with a fighter’s power hand launched from a southpaw position is a devastating punch. If fighters step their left foot back before launching the right uppercut, their weight is being transferred to the front/right foot loading their hips with kinetic energy, like a spring. From this position the right uppercut explodes with great power. Here are several examples of Tyson going southpaw to deliver right uppercuts.

Technique 1

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In this sequence you can notice how Tyson intentionally pulls his left hook back to get in position for the right uppercut (photo 3). Tyson had some of the most vicious uppercuts in boxing history.

Technique 2

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Tyson is with his back against the ropes and his opponent goes for a right uppercut. Tyson slips left to avoid the uppercut, gets out of the center-line cutting an angle to the left by using a “southpaw reset,” delivers a right uppercut, misses with a left hand and lands two beautiful right uppercut/hook hybrids. Notice how he loads weight on his right foot right after his slips the uppercut.

Technique 3

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In this example Tyson attacks with a left hook to the body and as his opponent escapes to the right, Tyson turns his hips, stays southpaw and goes for the right uppercut.

Technique 4

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In the photos above, Tyson moves his right foot in front of his opponent’s left foot and attacks with a right uppercut. Tyson southpaw-resets, re-positions the right foot to the middle of his opponent’s feet, goes for a second right uppercut in order to force his opponent to lift his hands up and attacks with two left hooks to the body now that the hands are not there to protect the liver.

More on Tyson’s uppercut game in week six of this series.

Next week: Peekaboo style explained

Fourth week: The jab and countering jabs.

Fifth week: Leaping left hooks

Sixth week: Combining uppercuts and body attacks

Final: Using Tyson’s boxing style to get takedowns in MMA.

For a list of my previous technique breakdowns on Bloody Elbow, check out this link.

About the Author: Kostas Fantaousakis is a researcher of fighting concepts, tactics, and techniques, and a state-certified MMA, grappling, and wrestling coach in Greece. He teaches his unique Speedforce MMA mittwork system © which combines strikes, takedowns, knees, and elbows applied in the Continuous Feedback © mittwork system of the Mayweather family. Kostas is a brown belt in BJJ under MMA veteran and BJJ world champion Wander Braga (the teacher of Gabriel Napao Gonzaga).

Follow Kostas on Twitter: and search #fantmoves for more techniques.