Rabbit Punch

What is Rabbit Punch in Boxing and MMA (Explained)

What is rabbit punch in boxing and MMA?

A rabbit punch is a hit to the back of the head or back of the neck. Rabbit punching is illegal in boxing, MMA, and other striking sports.

Punches to the back of the head can cause serious damage to the cervical vertebrae and spinal cord, which may lead to spinal cord injury, and in the worst cases, it can be lethal.

In this post, we go through everything you need to know about rabbit punch.

What is a rabbit punch in boxing?

A rabbit punch in boxing is a hit to the back of the head or back of the neck. It is illegal in boxing, MMA, and other combat sports.

Rabbit punches in boxing can cause permanent damage to the spinal cord and in the worst cases, it can be lethal.

Where does the name “Rabbit punch” come from?

The name for rabbit punch originally comes from hunting. It is a way of humanly putting down a rabbit via a rapid hit to the back of the head.

So, like with rabbits, the name comes from hitting your opponent to the back of your head. There is no source where the term first came to be used, but it is a commonly known term in boxing and MMA nowadays.

Is rabbit punch illegal?

Rabbit punch is illegal in boxing, MMA, and other striking sports due to the amount of permanent damage it may cause.

Even though rabbit punching is illegal, it occurs from time to time, mostly unintended, due to fast head movements of the receiving end, lack of good vision, or other causes.

boxing gloves

Penalties from the rabbit punch

Whether you will get a penalty for performing a rabbit punch depends on several things. First of all, was the punch intended or unintended? Second, how much damage did it cause to your opponent?

On top of those, things that matter are how hard was the punch and can the opponent continue. If the rabbit punch was clearly unintended. Or it was not powerful and didn’t hurt the opposite side; the referees might not call it at all.

Serious damage was done by a rabbit punch

There is at least once a famous incident of rabbit punch, where the receiving end suffered a lot of damage. On October 17, 2015, Prichard Colón, a famous boxer, was hit to the back of his head with a so-called rabbit punch multiple times by his opponent, Terrel Williams.

During the match, Colón had dizziness and after the match, he started to vomit, and his legs began to shake. The man was rushed to the hospital and was diagnosed with brain bleeding. He was in a coma for over 7 months.

Because of the injuries, he could no longer move or talk. Since then, he has been doing much better, making progress, and getting treatment for his condition.

As you can see, rabbit punches can do some serious damage and should not be done intentionally under any circumstances. Even if done by accident, it can cause serious damage to your opponent.

Rabbit punches should be taken more seriously

Due to the damage rabbit punches may cause, they should, in my opinion, be taken more seriously. Even if the punch was an accident, or unintended, it could be called.

Boxing and other striking sports are dangerous enough, even without extra risk due to rabbit punches or liver punches and such.

Rabbit punch examples

Final thoughts

I hope you learned, that punching to the back of the head, also known as rabbit punching, can be extremely dangerous. Not only to keep you from rabbit-punching your opponent but only to make sure you won’t get hit by one.

Even one rabbit punch can be lethal if it’s hard enough. In 2014, a soccer referee was hit by a rabbit punch to the back of the head by an upset player and died two days later. These things can happen even outside the boxing ring.

One of the reasons it is good to educate yourself on these things is to know better, that parts of your body are the most vulnerable. It might hurt like no other to take punches to your face. It’s still way better than taking them to the back of your head.

More about how dangerous martial arts are and how to practice them safer in this post.

Other MMA-related posts can be found here.

Have a nice day.


What is MMA?

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a full-contact combat sport that combines all the aspects of fighting, such as striking, grappling and ground fighting. The MMA fighters usually have a background in several different martial arts.

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