I read with interest the recent article published on this journal about the left-handedness in boxing and the proclivity to success (1). As Gursoy quotes in his paper, the rate of left-handedness in the general population ranges between 1 and 30% in different studies, but the body of medical sports literature on this topic is very small. If we consider the actual World Boxing Council (WBC) title-holders in the 17 weight categories, for example, we find that 6 boxers (35.3%) fight using a southpaw stance and that rate is identical (12/34) when we take into account all the athletes (both champions and contenders) engaged in the last title matches. This figure is very similar to that reported by Gursoy (36.4%), and it is questionable whether a higher rate of left-handed subjects in respect to general population is typical of boxing or whether southpaw boxers are really more successful than right-handed athletes, as Gursoy stated. However, this paper has some points that need a more careful evaluation:
The sample size (22 boxers) of investigated subjects is very small and, consequently, the power of the statistical analysis is not so high. More questions, moreover, arise when examining this sample and the statistics adopted. A parametric test was used to compare the boxing records of right- and left-handed athletes but inspection of the range of disputed (and won/lost) matches, it is quite unlikely that these variables have a Gaussian distribution.
The competitive level of this group of “semi-professional” boxers seems to be very wide. It is possible that different subgroups of athletes have been investigated in the same group (amateurs and professionals, winners and losers, etc.).
All the boxers were recruited from a single boxing club. Boxing, as other open skill disciplines, is a sport where emulation is very frequent. If, in a boxing club, a southpaw champion is present, or the coach is left-handed, it is more likely that a higher rate of left-handed boxers come out from this gym.
In conclusion, this paper addresses an important topic in boxing and in sport in general. However, the investigated population and the adopted statistical methods have some gaps. In future, greater and more homogenous samples are advisable, possible analyzing subjects from several clubs. A national survey and analysis of boxers’ handedness could be very interesting, trying to full the scientific holes present on this topic.
Gursoy R. Effects of left- or right-hand preference on the success of boxers in Turkey. Br J Sports Med. 2009; 43:142-144.
Dr. Massimiliano Bianco
Sports Medicine Department
Rome – Italy