The Ultimate Guide To Boxing Stances

Your boxing stance should be strong, align with your dominant hand and fit best for your body type. Different stances tend to work better for different builds and statures. If you are new to boxing you might inherently put yourself in the most common stance (the orthodox) to get started, but without practicing a few other stances, you could be missing out on a more powerful position for your boxing style.

Here we outline the major boxing stances, who should use them and how to practice proper form.

What Is The Difference Between Boxing Stance & Guard?

A boxing stance is how you position your feet and body, while a guard is where you hold your hands. While many stances coincide with certain guards, you can choose the most comfortable combination for you. Keep in mind that most boxing stances and guards are based on your dominant hand.

If you are just learning how to get into a boxing stance, start by putting your dominant hand and foot slightly angled back from your target. This position gives you more space to build momentum and force when striking your opponent.

Next, raise your dominant (power) hand near your chin with your non-dominant hand slightly covering your face. Your non-dominant foot should be about shoulder-width apart from your dominant foot.

If available, grab a mirror and take a few practice jabs. Your weight should be mainly on your non-dominant leg so you can pivot and move forward with your dominant leg. It’s common for boxing coaches to give their students a little push on their shoulders or chest to test their balance in their stance. If you feel like you could handle a little push without falling over – you’re in a good stance!

What Are The Different Boxing Stances?

Let’s get into the specific boxing stances you might want to try. The two most common boxing stances are Orthodox and South Paw. For a brief overview of these stances check out this video (link to video). But there are other, less common boxing stances as well. Keep in mind everyone can have their own combination of stance and guard as long as they use proper form.

Orthodox Boxing Stance

Who Should Use Orthodox Boxing Stance?

  • Right-handed boxers
  • All weight classes
  • Anyone, from beginners to professional fighters

The Orthodox boxing stance is the most common stance in boxing (and MMA). Most people are right-handed and naturally take this stance when getting in a fighting position. This fighting stance can even be found in depictions of prize fighting in ancient times.

Notable boxers who use Orthodox stance: Rocky Marciano, Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

South Paw

Who Should Use South Paw Boxing Stance?

  • Left-handed boxers
  • All weight classes
  • Boxers with intermediate to advanced techniques

The name “South Paw” is used in many sports to describe left-handed athletes, but most people recognize it as a boxing term associated with the mirror image of an Orthodox boxing stance. South Paw boxers tend to often have their stance announced in the ring because it is considered somewhat of a rarity in the boxing world. This stance can be a dangerous stance because many fighters do not have experience challenging South Paw boxers.

Notable boxers who use South Paw stance: Manny Pacquiao, Tiger Flowers, Shakur Stevenson, and the fictional (but ever famous) Rocky Balboa

Crouching or Semi-Crouching Stance

Who Should Use Crouching Stance?

  • Right and left-handed boxers
  • Works well for shorter boxers

Like the name suggests, the crouching stance is a stance where the fighter is slightly bent forward with the hands raised covering the face. Trainers may use variations of “full crouch”, “semi-crouch”, or “fight low” in defensive situations, or when approaching an opponent.

This stance can provide a ton of protection for the body and face while still allowing you the ability to deliver powerful blows to your opponent. Boxers typically do not remain in a crouching stance through the entirety of a match, but switch in and out of this stance to create unconventional angles during a fight.

Notable boxers who incorporate crouching stance: Joe Louis, Mike Tyson, George The Saint Groves, Andre Ward

Wide Stance

Who Should Use Wide Stance?

  • Right and left-handed boxers
  • Boxers looking for power strikes
  • Advanced boxers

The “normal” stances tend to keep the body low with the feet planted shoulder-width apart, while the wide stance, with feet slightly farther apart allows the fighter to deliver harder punches. This comes at a cost, as mobility and balance are compromised in this stance. You often see fighters who have studied martial arts incorporate a wide stance into their technique.

Like the crouching stance, boxers typically do not take this stance throughout the whole fight but switch into this position to act on punches like hooks, or the less common bolo punch.

Notable boxers who incorporate wide stance: Erislandy Lara, David Haye, Ken Norton

How To Practice Boxing Stances

Practicing your stance is key. Having a mirror or filming your stance is a great way to see how you are moving and compare yourself to the pros.

Remember, you do not have to stick to one stance. It’s common to try out several to see what is comfortable and powerful for you. Also, you don’t have to choose a stance because it seems “traditionally” suited to you. For example, boxer Oscar De La Hoya was a trained South Paw boxer but fought in Orthodox stance throughout his entire professional career.

What Boxing Stance Should I Use?

There is no right or wrong boxing stance. The best boxing stance is the one that works for you. Your boxing stance is unique to you. Whether you choose to go Orthodox with some variety mixed in or give South Paw or Crouching stance a go, it’s up to you! Schedule time in your routine to practice techniques and stances. As you train, your muscle memory will begin to take over, making holding your stance easier and more solid.

The Author: Tommy Duquette is the Co-Founder and Head of Content  at FightCamp. He is a former US Boxing Team member with 136 fights under his belt and qualified for the 2012 Olympic trials as the #2 seed. He has 18 years experience training clients in boxing and fitness.