What is a rabbit punch?

Whilst boxing and MMA are completely different fighting sports some rules are the same. One similarity is that a rabbit punch is an illegal punch in both. Fighters and referees grumble about them often at boxing, kickboxing, and MMA events. But if you’re not sure what a rabbit punch is, stick with us because we’ll explain it to you in a nutshell.

A rabbit punch is a punch to the back of the head or the top of the neck. It is unlawful since our major motor and cognitive functions are located in the back of the skull. One punch to this area can result in severe spinal cord and brain injuries, which can be deadly.

The History of the Term “Rabbit Punch”

The term “rabbit punch” refers to a rapid, sharp hit to the back of the head which was used by hunters to dispatch trapped rabbits. The technique is frequently executed with a tiny, hard item or simply by doing a karate chop with a fighter’s hand. This is the fastest and, believe it or not, most humane way to kill the rabbit. This is how this type of punch came about.

What are the risks of using the rabbit punch?

With a well-placed rabbit punch, a boxer may quickly knock an opponent out. This can result in significant head, neck, and spinal injuries. It can also knock a fighter unconscious and then the crash on the floor could also cause added injury.

A rabbit punch in boxing, like those used by rabbit gamekeepers and trappers, has the potential to be devastating to fighters. This is the exact reason why they’re not allowed in both boxing and MMA. You’ll even see MMA fighters protecting the back of their head when on the ground to protect from this.

Penalties for using the rabbit punch in a match.

The punishment for an unlawful punch is at the discretion of the referee and is determined by: 

  • The apparent purpose of the rabbit punches
  • The degree of the rabbit punch
  • Repeat offenses after multiple warnings

Before subtracting a point, a referee may issue one or two warnings to a competitor. But, if the punch strikes hard enough and/or was delivered with obvious malice, referees may punish the offending fighter without a warning.

If the strike is deemed on purpose and the violating fighter is unable to continue, the guilty fighter would be disqualified. In most cases, a fighter will be cautioned once or twice before a point is deducted, and the referee has complete discretion in this regard.

If a boxer is hurt by an accidental rabbit punch and can’t continue, the issue should be handled in the same way as a stoppage for an accidental headbutt.

In boxing, if the referee stops the fight before the completion of the fourth round, it is deemed a technical draw. But, if the stoppage happens between rounds 5 and 12, the fight is deemed a technical decision, and the winner is determined by the judges’ scorecards.

Are all head punches illegal?

No. If a fighter gets hit behind the head because he or she turned their back on the competitor, it is not ruled as a foul since the strike was intended for the face.

This is just one reason why a fighter should never turn their back when their opponent is landing strikes. A strike to the back of the head might be more damaging than the face punches the fighter is striving to avoid.

In MMA, if a fighter is being pummelled and cannot escape, they should cover up and bend a knee. At such point, the floored combatant should be given a standing 8 count, granting them valuable time.

What punches are prohibited in boxing?

In boxing, as well as rabbit punches being banned, punches below the waist aren’t allowed wither. It might sound obvious but you also can’t hold, trip, kick, headbutt, bite, spit on, or shove.

They are not permitted to hit with your head, shoulder, arm, or elbow which is different from Muay Thai. They are not permitted to hit with an open glove, the wrist, the back of your hand, or the side of your hand.

Have fighters died from rabbit punches?

The deaths of Leal and Hague are similar in one important way, the hits that appeared to have the biggest impact on them were from rabbit punches. The shot that knocked Leal out was to the base of his skull. In Hague’s bout, it happened frequently before he eventually passed out.

It’s worth noting that the seeming regularity of low strikes in the Andre Vs Kovalev rematch scared fans. Similarly, Abner Mares struck Joseph Agbeko low more than 60 times without receiving a single penalty from the referee.

How do we deal with this issue?

We need to rethink how referees interpret fouls. Low strikes are considered the most heinous in-ring violations since all men can relate to the anguish they produce. Why aren’t they as concerned about blows that can take someone’s life? Perhaps some fighters are unsure what to do when their opponent drops his head. As a result, training on how to avoid this should be required.

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