What Is Rabbit Punching in Boxing?

Knock-out in boxing ring

The rabbit punch is one of the most dangerous blows in boxing. This term originates from a method used to kill trapped or injured rabbits. Rabbit punching has similar effects on humans, potentially resulting in unconsciousness, severe injuries and death. Penalties for rabbit punching depend on the offending boxer's intent and whether the blow leads to injury.


In boxing, a rabbit punch typically refers to a punch to the back of an opponent's head, the base of the skull or the back of the neck. This term is sometimes used to refer to other illegal punches, including blows to the kidneys and back. Because of this and the risk of penalization, boxers rarely intend to land such blows. However, unintentional rabbit punches commonly occur as boxers move quickly or lose their balance during a fight.


The term originates from a method used by rabbit gamekeepers or trappers to kill a rabbit without spoiling its pelt. Delivering a strong, sharp blow to the back of a rabbit's neck at a 45-degree angle dislocates its neck and severs its spinal cord. This is typically performed with a small, blunt object or by using a chopping motion with your hand. If performed correctly, it is thought to be one of the quickest and most humane ways to kill a trapped or injured rabbit.


Rabbit punching can have the same effect on boxers as it does on rabbits. A boxer can easily render an opponent unconscious with an accurate rabbit punch. This can result in serious injuries to the brain, neck and spine, with additional damage potentially resulting from falling unconscious. Similar to its use by rabbit gamekeepers and trappers, a rabbit punch in boxing is potentially lethal.


If a rabbit punch is deemed unintentional, the referee will take no action. However, the referee will warn and deduct points from the offending boxer if it occurs repeatedly, or if the rabbit punch is deemed intentional. If a boxer is injured by an intentional rabbit punch and cannot continue, the offending boxer will lose by disqualification.

Stoppage due to injury caused by an unintentional rabbit punch can result in two outcomes. If the stoppage occurs before the end of the fourth round, the bout will be ruled a technical draw. If it occurs after this, the bout will be ruled a technical decision and the outcome determined by the judges' scorecards.