What Is Rabbit Punch? (All You Need To Know About It!)

Last Updated on October 2, 2021 by

A rabbit punch is referred to as a blow that lands on top of the neck or back of the head of a fighter during a match. It is a dangerous and lethal punch that is considered illegal because it targets the brainstem. The name “rabbit punch” comes from the traditional way of killing rabbits with a quick hit to the back of the head. A single rabbit punch could cause serious brain and spinal injury with further complications. The infamous rabbit punch is a very common term that you’ll hear from fighters or referees during a boxing event. If you’re new to combat sports, you might be wondering what a rabbit punch means in boxing and MMA. In this blog post, I’ll explain everything you need to know about rabbit punch in boxing. 

What Is Considered A Rabbit Punch?

What Is Considered A Rabbit Punch

The term “rabbit punch” was originated from the traditional method invented by rabbit gamekeepers to kill rabbits without spoiling their pelt. Rabbits are sent unconscious when the head snaps back and the thumb is placed on the base of its skull while the fingers wrap around the chin. In the world of boxing, a rabbit punch targets the back of the head which is sometimes known as the mohawk, an area behind the ears, where the shoulders and neck connect. Boxing is a combat sport that has to do with a lot of head movement, and that’s why rabbit punches are common in the game. Rabbit punches, sometimes, happens when a fighter tries to dodge a punch and then gets hit by a punch to the back of his head while leaning down. Due to the subtle occurrences of head movements, rabbit punches are less common in other combat sports like kickboxing and MMA because of the danger of getting caught by knees and kicks. But that’s not to say that it doesn’t happen at all. In a fighting situation that a fighter is on top of his opponent from the mount, accidental rabbit punches might happen. 

Why Are Rabbit Punches Dangerous?

The rabbit punch is quite a dangerous blow that increases the risk of developing life-threatening injuries. It targets the back of the head which is considered a very sensitive area. The area that is targeted is really close to the spinal cord which is a substantial part of the central nervous system of the body. Fighters can get life-threatening injuries like paralysis and other spiral injuries if the spinal cord is damaged by a severe hit from a rabbit punch. The amount of damage and injury that this blow can cause to the brainstem is why it is considered dangerous in combat sports. Don’t forget that the most sensitive parts of the brainstem include the midbrain, pons, and medulla, and they are all located at the base of the skull. A severe hit from a rabbit punch on any of these sensitive parts will lead to life-changing injuries.  

What Are The Penalties Of A Rabbit Punch? 

Penalties Of A Rabbit Punch

If a rabbit punch is made intentionally by a fighter, the referee will take serious action against him. The referee will give a serious warning to the offending fighter and if he repeats the same mistake, his points will be deducted. An offending fighter might lose a fight by disqualification if he injures an opponent with an intentional rabbit punch and the injured fighter is deemed unfit to continue with the fight. There are normally two outcomes that happen when a fight is stopped because of the occurrence of an unintentional rabbit punch. If the fight is stopped before the fourth round finishes, it will be ruled as a technical draw. However, if the stoppage due to injury caused by an unintended rabbit punch happens after the fourth round, then the bout will be considered as a technical decision which is normally left to the judges. 


Is A Punch Behind The Ear illegal In Boxing?

Yes! You’ll be penalized for making an intentional hit behind the ear in boxing and MMA. The referee will give the first warning when he notices a fighter makes a punch behind the ear. There might be a point deduction or a complete disqualification if the fighter repeats the illegal strike. 

Are All Rabbit Punches Completely illegal?

No! There are some notable instances in boxing and MMA where you won’t get penalized or disqualified for making rabbit punches. Let’s show you a perfect scenario where a rabbit punch might not be considered illegal during a fight. If a fighter gets a strike at the back of the head as he turns his back to the attack from his opponents who unknowingly is throwing a barrage of punches to achieve a knockout, then he can’t be penalized for making a rabbit punch as it wasn’t intentional. Such a fighter would be pardoned because he was only trying to aim for the face and the opponent turned his back to receive the hit at the back of the back. 

What Are The Risks Of Rabbit Punch? 

The same deadly effect that rabbit punching has on rabbits can be replicated on fighters. A well-targeted rabbit punch can be used to render an opponent unconscious which exposes him to serious injuries to the brain, neck, and spine. It is one of the punching techniques in boxing that have received backlashes from sport associations for its deadly effect on fighters.  


A rabbit punch is illegal in boxing and it is considered dangerous as it targets the back of the head leading to severe injuries. Not just in boxing alone, rabbit punches are illegal in almost all combat sports. Its danger to the brainstem which can cause motor impairment makes it unacceptable in all combat sports. As a boxer, you can get penalized or even disqualified for making an intentional rabbit punch. We’ve come to the closing chapter of this informative article. We hope you were able to find good and reliable resources in your quest to know what rabbit punch means in boxing. If you have any questions or comments about the article topic, don’t hesitate to contact us. Thanks!

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