Boxing’s Greatest Switch-Hitters
4 MIN READ
While most boxers will take to the ring in one set stance, there are rare fighters who utilise the technique of switching between both orthodox and southpaw.
BOXRAW outline the top fighters throughout history who have mastered switch-hitting and explain the technique and how to succeed at using it.
What is switch-hitting?
The majority of fighters tend to fight out of the orthodox stance; leading with their left hand and left foot forward.
While this is the most commonly used stance, there are others who fight from the southpaw stance (typically left-handed boxers); leading with their right hand and foot forward.
Then there are those who can comfortably and smoothly interchange between the two stances - also known as switch-hitting.
There have been several high-profile champions to truly master the art of switch-hitting and use it to their advantage in the ring at the highest level...
Marvelous Marvin Hagler
Perhaps the greatest switch-hitter in boxing history and one of the best middleweight champions ever. Marvelous Marvin Hagler was a complete fighter; technically able to fight at the elite level from either stance effortlessly.
Despite being a right-handed fighter, Hagler was trained mainly out of the southpaw stance, which saw him develop a sledgehammer jab. He utilised his versatile skill set to become a dominant undisputed middleweight ruler and a truly destructive operator in his Hall of Fame career.
A three-division world champion and former undisputed light-welterweight king, Terence Crawford has become a genuine master of switch-hitting in his era. The Nebraska-native’s stance switching is that seamless it’s perhaps surprising to learn he’s a natural southpaw.
‘Bud’s’ unique style and ability to adapt to any opponent in front of him make him one of the most dangerous finishers in the sport today; capable of clinically ending a fight from orthodox or southpaw.
With his unorthodox movements and eye-catching reflexes, Naseem Hamed was unconventional in everything he did in the ring, including when planting his feet in different stances.
Constantly switching and leaving his opponents unsettled with his sudden movements from orthodox or southpaw, ‘Prince Naseem’ could knock them out with either hand and rallied to a featherweight world title reign at the height of his powers.
One of the best heavyweights of the modern era, Tyson Fury has become a hugely effective and versatile fighter on his way to world title success. Fury can’t be labelled as a specific type of fighter due to his unique style, as he constantly switches stances during the course of a bout.
Keeping his opponents guessing with smooth footwork switching and a constant barrage of feints, ‘The Gypsy King’ adopts a hybrid style that can easily be switched up from being a swarming fighter or defensive mover.
Featherweight legend and all-time great Willie Pep can’t be labelled an out-and-out switch hitter but he possessed some of the best footwork in the sport’s history; which he used to become a defensive genius.
Rarely hit clean, Pep was like a shadow in the ring, making opponents foolish at times as they swung at fresh air. ‘The Will O’ The Wisp’ regularly switched stances as a means of defence and feinting to get himself into safe positions, while he would often throw a backhand directly from switching to keep opponents off balance.
Another fighter who blended a mix of styles and worked rigorously on all aspects of his craft, Andre Ward was able to switch stances at times in some key fights in his career. Rather than constantly switching to keep opponents on edge, Ward would utilise his switching abilities efficiently; whenever he saw an opportunity or needed a different approach mid-fight.
The excellent footwork he developed throughout his Hall of Fame career was key to his success, being able to keep opponents at an optimal range at all times and use his solid jab alongside this.
How To Succeed As a Switch-Hitter
All of the aforementioned fighters have traits in common that allow them to switch-hit effortlessly; possessing attentive footwork, versatility and agility. They have utilised their talents from both stances to great effect and been able to adapt within the ring ropes to achieve success.
There are ways of becoming a better switch-hitter and developing the technique over time so it becomes second nature in sparring and a fight a scenario.
Practising and drilling the basic combinations from both stances is essential. Every day in the gym, turning from both the dominant stance to the other will help improve skills for when it matters and build the muscle memory needed.
Playing to strengths will help with switching too. For example, a fighter that possesses a strong right hand for their power shots can transfer this across to southpaw and develop a stinging jab from the other stance.
One of the key aspects of switching stances is gaining an understanding of new angles and how to capitalise on them. Get used to the angles involved leading with both the right and left hand in order to fully grasp the benefits of switch-hitting and achieve superior positions in the ring.
Header image: CNN