Why is it Called a Rabbit Punch? Boxing Skill Explained.

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Boxing is a combat sport that requires skill, strategy, and precision. One of the most controversial moves in boxing is the rabbit punch. But why is it called that?

The term “rabbit punch” has nothing to do with rabbits. In fact, it refers to a punch to the back of the head or the base of the skull. The name “rabbit punch” is said to come from the way that hunters kill rabbits with a quick sharp blow to the back of the head.

The rabbit punch is an illegal move in boxing as it can cause serious damage to the opponent’s brainstem and neck. However, it’s still used by some boxers in the heat of the moment, and referees are often quick to overlook it.

In the next section, we’ll delve deeper into what exactly a rabbit punch is and its history in the sport of boxing.

What is a Rabbit Punch in Boxing?

A rabbit punch is a controversial move in boxing that involves hitting the back of the head or the base of the skull of an opponent with a quick, forceful blow. The term “rabbit punch” originates from the hunting technique used to kill rabbits by striking them on the back of the head, thereby breaking their necks.

The rabbit punch is an illegal move in most forms of boxing and can result in disqualification or point deductions if used in a fight. Despite this, the move has been known to be used in both amateur and professional boxing matches, often resulting in injuries and controversy.


The rabbit punch is also known as a “caudal blow” or “whiplash punch,” and is often used as a surprise attack when an opponent is not expecting to be hit from behind. It is often used when an opponent is in a clinch or has their back turned.

The move is typically executed by striking the opponent with a short, downward chop using the knuckles or the lower part of the closed fist.

History of the Rabbit Punch

The rabbit punch has been a part of boxing for a long time, but its origins are somewhat unclear. The term “rabbit punch” is thought to have originated in the early 20th century, and it derives from the way in which the punch is delivered.

The punch is named after the way a rabbit is dispatched by a hunter. A sharp blow to the back of the head can break the rabbit’s neck and kill it instantly. The rabbit punch, too, is delivered to the back of the head—usually the base of the skull—using a quick, chopping motion.

It’s difficult to say exactly when the rabbit punch was first used in boxing, but it’s likely that it was a part of the sport from its earliest days. Historically, the punch was used to incapacitate opponents and was considered a legitimate tactic.

However, as the dangers of the rabbit punch became more apparent, it has come under increasing scrutiny from boxing authorities and medical professionals.

The First Known Use of the Term

The first known use of the term “rabbit punch” in print occurred in a 1921 edition of the Liverpool Echo. In an article about a boxing match, the writer described a fighter delivering “rabbit punches” to his opponent.

Year Event Description
1897 Boxing rules adopted by National Sporting Club in London The rules contained no specific mention of the rabbit punch, but some reports suggest that the punch was already in use at this time.
1920s Increased concern over rabbit punch Doctors and boxing authorities began to express concern over the use of the rabbit punch, with some calling for it to be banned.
1983 Death of boxer Davey Moore Moore died after being knocked out by a series of punches, one of which was believed to have been a rabbit punch. This prompted renewed calls for the punch to be banned.

The use of the rabbit punch has ebbed and flowed over the years, with some periods seeing an increase in its use, and others seeing it fall out of favor. Today, the punch is still technically legal in many boxing jurisdictions, but it is highly discouraged and can result in penalties or disqualifications if used excessively or recklessly.

The Controversy Surrounding the Rabbit Punch

Despite being a popular move in boxing, the rabbit punch is surrounded by controversy. Many boxing experts and medical professionals argue that the move is dangerous and should be banned from the sport.

So, what’s the issue with the rabbit punch? Well, for starters, it’s a blow to the back of the head or neck, which can cause serious injury to the brain and spinal cord. The risk of injury is especially high if the punch is thrown with significant force.

Another issue is that the rabbit punch is often used in clinches, where the opponent may not be able to defend themselves effectively. This makes it an unfair advantage and could lead to serious harm.

Is the Rabbit Punch Legal?

The legality of the rabbit punch varies depending on the jurisdiction. In some places, it’s considered a foul and can lead to disqualification. In other places, it’s allowed as long as it’s not excessive or aimed at the back of the head.

Boxing organizations have also taken different stances on the rabbit punch. The Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) prohibits the move, while the International Boxing Federation (IBF) allows it.

Despite these varying rules, many experts and boxing fans believe that the rabbit punch should be banned altogether to ensure the safety of boxers.

How to Perform a Rabbit Punch

If you’re looking to add the rabbit punch to your boxing arsenal, it’s important to learn the proper technique and form. Here’s a step-by-step guide to performing a rabbit punch:

  1. Position yourself correctly: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Make sure your dominant hand is in the back and your weaker hand is in the front.
  2. Identify your target: The rabbit punch is performed by striking the base of the opponent’s skull, just above the neck.
  3. Use your weaker hand to grip: Reach around your opponent’s head with your weaker hand and firmly grip their chin. This will keep their head in place, allowing you to strike with your dominant hand.
  4. Strike with your dominant hand: Using a quick, snapping motion, strike the base of your opponent’s skull with the knuckles of your dominant hand.
  5. Step back: After delivering the punch, step back and be prepared to defend yourself in case your opponent retaliates. It’s important to note that the rabbit punch is an illegal move in most boxing matches.

Remember to practice the rabbit punch under the supervision of a trained coach or professional boxer. Improper technique can lead to serious injury, both for you and your opponent.

The Effects of a Rabbit Punch

A rabbit punch can have serious physical effects on a boxer, both in the short-term and long-term. The move involves striking the back of the head or neck, which can cause damage to the brainstem and spinal cord. This can result in immediate disorientation, dizziness, and loss of consciousness.

In the long-term, repeated rabbit punches can cause permanent damage to the brain and spine, leading to neurological problems such as dementia and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This has led to concerns about the safety of the move and its potential impact on the health of boxers.

Boxers who have suffered from the effects of rabbit punches include former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, who has spoken openly about the impact of the move on his health. Other boxers have also reported experiencing long-term effects from repeated rabbit punches.

It’s important for boxers to be aware of the potential risks associated with the rabbit punch and to take steps to protect themselves during fights. This includes wearing protective gear such as headgear and mouthguards, as well as avoiding situations where the move is likely to be used.

Alternatives to the Rabbit Punch

While the rabbit punch can be an effective move in boxing, it is also controversial and potentially dangerous. As such, there are several legal alternatives to consider utilizing during a match.

1. Body Shots

A well-placed body shot can be just as devastating as a rabbit punch, without the same level of controversy surrounding it. Body shots can take some time to set up, but they can be an effective way to wear down your opponent and set up more powerful punches later in the fight.

2. Uppercut

The uppercut is a classic boxing move that can be just as effective as a rabbit punch, particularly when delivered to the midsection. This move is often used as a counterpunch, allowing you to catch your opponent off guard and deliver a powerful blow.

3. Hook

The hook is another classic boxing move that can be an effective alternative to the rabbit punch. This move can be used to target the head or body, and it can be delivered from a variety of angles.

When using any of these alternatives, it is important to remember to stay within the rules of the sport. Illegal moves can result in point deductions or disqualification, and can also be dangerous for both you and your opponent.

Should the Rabbit Punch be Banned from Boxing?

There has been ongoing controversy regarding the use of the rabbit punch in boxing and whether it should be banned from the sport altogether. Advocates for the ban argue that the move is dangerous and can cause serious injuries, while others believe it is an effective and legal technique.

However, it’s important to note that the rabbit punch is indeed legal in boxing, as long as it’s executed properly and within the rules of the sport. This means that the punch must be aimed at the base of the skull or the back of the neck, and not to the back of the head, which is deemed an illegal move.

While the rabbit punch can be a devastating move, it’s important to recognize that any punch delivered to the head can cause serious harm. Therefore, it’s crucial that boxers take the necessary safety precautions and follow proper technique guidelines when executing any move.

The Arguments For and Against a Rabbit Punch Ban

Those in favor of a ban argue that the rabbit punch can cause serious damage to the brain, spinal cord, and other vital organs. They cite that the move has resulted in countless injuries and even fatalities, making it a dangerous technique to use in the ring.

However, those against the ban argue that the rabbit punch is an effective technique when used properly and can be a necessary tool for boxers to defend themselves in the ring. They also note that banning the rabbit punch could lead to other dangerous moves being used, as boxers try to find new ways to gain an advantage over their opponents.

Ultimately, the decision to ban the rabbit punch falls on the governing bodies of boxing, who must weigh the risks and benefits of the technique and make a decision that ensures the safety and fairness of the sport.

Famous Rabbit Punches in Boxing History

The rabbit punch has been used in many memorable fights throughout boxing history, often resulting in knockout victories for the fighter who lands the blow. Here are some of the most famous rabbit punches in the sport:

Fight Year Rabbit Puncher Outcome
Rocky Marciano vs. Jersey Joe Walcott 1952 Rocky Marciano Marciano knocked out Walcott in the 13th round with a series of rabbit punches.
Mike Tyson vs. Lou Savarese 2000 Mike Tyson Tyson knocked out Savarese in the first round with a brutal rabbit punch to the back of the head.
Jack Dempsey vs. Luis Angel Firpo 1923 Jack Dempsey In what became known as the “Battle of the Century,” Dempsey knocked Firpo out of the ring with a rabbit punch before going on to win the fight.

While these punches are certainly noteworthy, it’s important to remember that the rabbit punch is a controversial and potentially dangerous move that should be used with caution, if at all.


Here are some frequently asked questions about the rabbit punch:

What is a rabbit punch?

A rabbit punch is a blow to the back of the head or neck, typically delivered with a swinging motion from behind the target.

Is the rabbit punch legal in boxing?

The legality of the rabbit punch in boxing varies depending on the rules and regulations of the particular organization or jurisdiction in which the bout is taking place.

Why is the rabbit punch controversial?

Many people believe that the rabbit punch should be banned from boxing due to the potential for serious injury or even death. The move is also controversial because it can be difficult for referees to detect and penalize during a bout.

What are the potential physical effects of a rabbit punch?

Rabbit punches can cause a variety of injuries, including head trauma, neck injuries, concussions, and spinal damage. In some cases, repeated rabbit punches can lead to long-term neurological damage.

Are there any legal alternatives to the rabbit punch?

Yes, there are many legal boxing moves that can be used as alternatives to the rabbit punch, such as hooks, jabs, and uppercuts. These moves are generally safer and less controversial than the rabbit punch.

Should the rabbit punch be banned from boxing?

Opinions are divided on whether the rabbit punch should be banned from boxing. While some experts argue that the move is too dangerous and unnecessary, others believe that it is an important technique that adds to the sport’s strategy and complexity.

What are some famous rabbit punches in boxing history?

One of the most famous rabbit punches in boxing history was delivered by Rocky Marciano in his 1952 fight against Jersey Joe Walcott. Marciano knocked out Walcott with a powerful rabbit punch to the neck, earning himself the world heavyweight title.