Rabbit punch

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A rabbit punch is a blow to the back of the head or to the base of the skull.[1] It is considered especially dangerous because it can damage the cervical vertebrae and subsequently the spinal cord, which may lead to serious and irreparable spinal cord injury. A rabbit punch can also detach the victim's brain from the brain stem,[citation needed] which can kill instantly.

The punch's name is derived from the use of the technique by hunters to kill rabbits with a quick, sharp strike to the back of the head.[2]

Combat sports[edit]

The rabbit punch is illegal in boxing,[3] MMA,[4] and other combat sports[5] that involve striking. The only exceptions are no-holds-barred events such as the International Vale Tudo Championship (prior to rule changes in mid-2012).[6]

Amateur sports[edit]

On June 29, 2014, soccer referee John Bieniewicz was punched in the neck by Baseel Abdul Amir Saad, an upset player in an amateur match he was officiating in Livonia, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. Bieniewicz died two days later of his injuries, and Saad was charged with second-degree murder.[7] Bieniewicz’s autopsy showed that the force of the impact on the left side of his neck just below the base of his skull had resulted in a rare injury with twisted and torn arteries around the base of his skull, knocking him out before he hit the ground. [8] In 2015, Mr. Saad pled guilty to manslaughter and received a sentence of 8 to 15 years in prison.[9]


  1. ^ Lee, Matthew. "What Is Rabbit Punching in Boxing?". AZCentral.
  2. ^ Langer, Richard. "Extract from "Grow it!"". www.motherearthnews.com. Archived from the original on 2004-05-01.
  3. ^ Brown, Clifton (November 15, 2004). "Lots of Fighting, but Little Resolution for Boxing's Heavyweights". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "NJ State Athletic Control Board – Proposed Rules – Rules Governing Boxing, Extreme Wrestling and Sparring Exhibitions and Performance Bond Procedure". Nj.gov. Retrieved 2013-07-21.
  5. ^ "USMTA Briefing on Muay Thai Rules for Competitive Fighters, 2006 – 2010 Edition" (pdf).
  6. ^ "Sergio Batarelli's IVC to return – Mixed Martial Arts News". Mixedmartialarts.com. Retrieved 2013-07-21.
  7. ^ "Man accused of fatally punching Mich. referee due in court". Associated Press. July 30, 2014. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  8. ^ "Judge: Man should've known punch could kill soccer ref". Detroit Free Press. July 31, 2014. Retrieved November 17, 2014.
  9. ^ "Bassel Saad, Soccer Player, Sentenced in Killing of Referee". NBC Nightly News. NBC News. March 13, 2015. Retrieved 24 December 2018.