Benny Leonard vs The Southpaw


benny leonard

How to Fight a Southpaw

There are countless of articles out there on how an orthodox fighter can box against a southpaw, including some I have written myself but what I wanted to see was how the old school pros handled a left handed fighter. There is a tendency to forget about many of the past greats but the reality is there is nothing new in boxing. Lomachenko is a genius and a master of footwork but going back to the 80’s and 90’s we see similar footwork from World Bantamweight champion Orlando Canizales. So I took a trip down memory lane and had a look at how a fighter from almost 100yrs ago fought when faced with a southpaw and if it was any different to what we see today.

The fighter I chose was one of the best ever. Benny Leonard was masterful in numerous areas of his game. One of the greatest at lightweight, one of the best with his defence and one of the smartest in his ring IQ so Leonard makes a good choice and the footage in the video below is taken from a fight of his in 1922.

The Stiff Arm

The first tactic we see Leonard use is the stiff arm. Now early on especially this is a great move to use because you are still getting used to the range of your opponent and with the southpaw having their lead hand closer to you it makes good sense to keep them at range until you have figured out the distance. The stiff arm can stifle any attack of the opponent and set you up for the next move which is…

The Jab Counter Over the Top

The most common counter of a southpaws jab is to simply parry down the jab and jab over the top of the southpaws jab in one motion. With the lead hand of the orthodox and southpaw fighter being so close due to the angle this makes perfect sense to use this as your counter to the jab.

The Touch and Shoot

Now this demonstrates Benny Leonards ring IQ. Leonard would touch the lead hand of the southpaw with his own jab, he would do this to occupy the lead hand of the opponent and he would then shoot the right hand down the middle. He has no intention of landing the jab he just wants to occupy the guard of the southpaw and then throw the right cross down the pipe whilst the southpaw is pre-occupied about what’s happening with the pawing of the orthodox jab.

The Right and Roll

Another smart move from Benny Leonard. Leonard would throw the right hand – now in normal circumstances as an orthodox fighter you would roll to the right after throwing the back hand because you want to avoid any potential left hook and right cross counter. Now faced with a southpaw Leonard would roll to the left after throwing the right cross, thus ensuring he would avoid the counter punches of a southpaw.

The Lead Foot Inside

Commonly we are told to keep the lead foot on the outside of a southpaw and vice versa, this is because of the angle not just in taking you slightly away from the southpaws power hand but also in creating a better line for your own back hand. However Leonard would step inside the southpaws lead foot, this is something I have seen Floyd Mayweather Jr and Roy Jones Jr get credit for(I even made a video on the latter) yet here we see Benny Leonard from 100yrs ago using this same move! Leonard used this to set up various shots such as the left hook over the jab of the southpaw, another excellent counter and with his lead foot on the inside it gave punches such as this a better chance of landing on the opponent. There is risk at being inside the line of fire but the reward can be great…

The 2-3

Probably the most common counter punch combo against a southpaw is the 2-3 or the lead right followed by the left hook. Naturally this is because as explained earlier due to the difference in angles so your back hand becomes a potent weapon down the middle which is then followed up with the left hook around the outside or over the top of the southpaw jab. Now Leonard would also throw the lead right to the body, this is also a great move for a couple of reasons. You can combine it with the left hook so lead right to the body then switch levels with the left hook to the head and also you can combine the lead right to the body with an outside slip and use it as a counter to the southpaw jab – the 2-3 can also be used as a counter to the southpaw jab.


So there we have it, what’s changed in 100yrs? Nothing really…Benny Leonard shows again that old school is the best school. Here is the video of Benny Leonard carrying out these tactics.

*No copyright infringement intended for the main article picture of Benny Leonard. Image is used solely for analytical and educational purposes in accordance to the fair use allowance law.

About the author 


Boxing Coach
Strength and Conditioning Coach
Boxing Author of:

The Boxing Cheat Sheet - Your Ultimate Guide to Ring Survival

Strength and Conditioning for Boxing - Work out Hits to get you Fighting Fit!

Forgotten Legends of the Ring - Ten Past Masters of the Squared Circle

*Any videos or images used on this site to support my articles that are copyrighted are used for educational purposes and in accordance to the fair use act and are not my own - all credit is due to the respective owners. No copyright infringement intended.


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