For many of us–the average academics, writers, business people, investors, and health care professionals of the world–being left or right handed has no implications on our success in our desired work fields. However, for an athlete, unique hand dominance provides an opportunity to stick out among the competition.
Mike Tyson is naturally left handed. He was known as a “Southpaw,” because of the natural boxing stance of a left handed boxer, but his trainer, Cus D’Amato, transformed him into an orthodox boxer.
As the youngest heavyweight champion boxer in sports history, it is no surprise that Tyson had a unique way of training. You can see some of his drills that helped him achieve such high accolades at a young age, using the YouTube link below.
Born to Box: A Natural Southpaw
In boxing, a “southpaw” is hard to come by. These left hand dominant boxers are unique fighters, as their natural stance is to position themselves with their right hand and right foot forward for jabs and cross with their left fist.
These fighters have several advantages when fighting the average boxer. Most notably, when they are fighting someone who has an orthodox stance, everything comes from the opposite direction than the average boxer is used to and has trained with.
Therefore, Mike Tyson’s natural left hand dominance was an advantage when he began boxing. However, his well-known, highly accomplished trainer, Cus D’Amato, did not agree with the trend.
Cus D’Amato, instead, invented the peek a boo style of boxing. This is a defensive stance that focuses on the angles and footworks required for boxers to deliver powerful, compact punches, without being hit in return.
It turns out that, because of D’Amato’s success in training other successful boxers, Mike Tyson did not have much room to argue with theoretical advantages of the southpaw stance. Over the years, D’Amato was well-known in the boxing world as the personal trainer of highly accomplished boxers, including two other world champions besides Mike Tyson: heavyweight Floyd Patterson and light heavyweight Jose Torres.
Tyson adopted the boxing style from his trainer, and this is part of the reason why he was able to be so successful–even if his glorified boxing years were early in his peak as a boxer. After he was discovered by Cus D’Amato at age 12 in the slums of Brooklyn, Tyson was willing to do whatever D’Amato said to become the best boxer that he could be: the world’s youngest heavyweight champion.
You can watch a video of Mike Tyson training, using this peek a boo style, that he recently posted on his Instagram, using the link below.
Bred to Win
Even without the trademark southpaw stance for left handed boxers, Mike Tyson still had the competitive advantage because of his left hand dominance. Left hand boxers are naturally stronger and more powerful in their dominant side, which strategically discombobulates their opponents.
Another lesser known fact is this: the left hand hook is the strongest punch in boxing. Because it requires the shortest distance of travel, it can target either the head or the body and leaves little room for the opponent to retaliate.
Therefore, it can be delivered in a quick, powerful manner, while positioning the boxer in immediate self-protection after the hit.
Furthermore, research suggests that left handed boxers have a competitive edge and are more likely to win than their right handed counterparts. This strategic element dates all the way back to the beginning of human history.
Because they were more biologically adapted to fight–and to win when threatened physically–left handed fighters were able to establish dominance and pass their genes throughout generations. Further, in an analysis of performance of nearly 10,000 boxers and mixed martial arts fighters, left handed fighters were overrepresented and won more fights overall.
Therefore, while Mike Tyson might have a deep desire to win, his biological makeup also could have contributed to the underlying components of his success.