Sucker punch

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A sucker punch (American English), also known as a cheap shot, coward punch, one-punch attack, or king-hit (Australian and New Zealand English), is a punch thrown at the recipient unprovoked or while they are distracted, allowing no time for preparation or defense on their end. The term is generally used in situations where the way in which the punch has been delivered is considered unfair or unethical, and is done using deception or distraction.

In boxing, a sucker punch—as is done when 'hitting on the break',—is illegal. For example, when James Butler knocked Richard Grant unconscious after losing a fight to him on points, his license was suspended and he served four months in prison.[1] It is often thrown from behind—such as in the 'knockout game'—although striking from behind is not a prerequisite for a sucker punch. In 2021, notable figures in the MMA community, such as UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and City Kickboxing head coach Eugene Bareman, called for legal changes and 'coward punch laws'. In 2014, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria all introduced such laws.[2]

As a crime[edit]


Between 2012 and 2014, significant media attention was paid to two violent killings involving one-hit punches in Australia, one of which being the death of Thomas Kelly.[3][4] Noting that 91 people had died in Australia in the previous fourteen years from brain trauma as a result of being hit, a media campaign was launched to refer to them as coward punches.[5][6] This campaign was supported by the New South Wales Government.[6][7][8]

Following the deaths of two teenagers from "one punch" assaults, New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell announced in January 2014 that the state would introduce new legislation to toughen sentences against drunken violence including "coward punch" assaults. These measures include minimum eight-year sentences for fatal one-punch assaults influenced by drugs or alcohol.[9] The Crimes and Other Legislation Amendment (Assault and Intoxication) Act 2014 amended the Crimes Act 1900 to introduce a new offence: "Assault Causing Death." Under sections 25A and 25B of the Crimes Act, intoxicated offenders convicted of assault causing death can face a minimum jail term of eight years and a maximum jail term of 25 years. In addition, Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 was amended to allow for the testing of offenders charged with assault causing death for intoxication.[10] In December 2017, a Sydney man named Hugh Garth became the first person to be sentenced under the new "one punch" law to ten years for an assault causing death in 2014.[11]

In addition, other one-punch laws were introduced in Victoria and Queensland in 2014.[12][13][14] In August 2014, the Queensland Parliament passed the Safe Night Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 which amends the Criminal Code that introduces a 15-year minimum term for those convicted of fatal one-punch attacks. In September 2014, the Victorian government introduced the Sentencing Amendment (Coward's Punch Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2014 that treats one-punch attacks as manslaughter subject to a ten-year minimum sentence.[13]

In February 2018, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton ordered the deportation of New Zealander Caleb Maraku using a character test provision of the Migration Act 1958. Maraku had been convicted of a one punch attack against another youth in Queensland's Gold Coast in November 2017; receiving a 12-month probationary sentence for assault and being ordered to pay a A$361 fine. He was also discharged without conviction. Maraku's perceived lenient sentence and insensitive post-sentencing behaviour had drawn significant media attention and public criticism. Australian boxer Kerry Foley had challenged Maraku to fight while a petition calling for his deportation attracted 50,000 signatures.[15][16][17] Commenting on Maraku's deportation, Dutton said:

"It's no different to being invited into somebody's home - you don't start assaulting the residents of that house, you don't start assaulting Australian citizens and if you do you are shown the door."[16]

New Zealand[edit]

In September 2018, National Party Member of Parliament Matt King submitted his Crimes (Coward Punch Causing Death) Amendment Bill, which would have created a 20-year prison term for one-punch attacks causing deaths. The bill was debated on 17 June 2020 but was defeated due to opposition from the incumbent Labour-led coalition government, which contended that New Zealand already had legislation dealing with one-punch attacks.[18][19] Following the defeat of the Coward Punch Amendment Bill, King launched a "One Punch Can Kill campaign" to promote "one punch" legislation based on the New South Wales law. This campaign was supported by professional boxer Joseph Parker and his trainer Kevin Barry.[18]

Following a one punch attack on mixed martial artist Fau Vake in May 2021, fellow mixed martial artist Israel Adesanya called for the introduction of legislation dealing with one punch attacks in New Zealand.[14][20] Following Vake's death from his injuries, the conservative justice advocacy group Sensible Sentencing Trust sponsored a petition calling for tougher laws dealing with "one punch" attacks.[21]

United States[edit]

The term "sucker punch" was widely discussed after the New York Jets' starting quarterback, Geno Smith, was sucker punched by a fellow player, IK Enemkpali, on August 11, 2015. The altercation was in the locker room about compensation regarding a $600 airplane ticket.[22]

Culture and media[edit]

The sucker punch has been adapted into many films, video games and other forms of media. It can be used to show the antagonist's vileness, the low morals of an anti-hero, betrayal of someone close to the protagonist, etc. However, it also can be used as a weapon of the protagonist to deal with an unfair situation.[23] A sucker punch is a major dramatic element in the 2004 film Million Dollar Baby.

Australian soap operas Neighbours and Home and Away have covered the topic in storylines broadcast in September 2014 and October 2015 respectively.[24][25]

P. J. O'Rourke has referred to a combination of grain alcohol and Gatorade as "sucker punch."[citation needed]

The Pokémon series of video games feature a Dark-type attack called "Sucker Punch." It allows the user to attack first as long as the opponent chooses a move that deals damage.

The Norwegian singer Sigrid has a song entitled "Sucker Punch" on her debut studio album of the same name.[citation needed]

Sucker Punch is the name of a 2011 film by Zack Snyder.

Maggie Lindemann released an album titled Suckerpunch on September 16, 2022.


  1. ^ Abramson, Mitch (4 December 2001). "The Anatomy of a Sucker Punch". Village Voice.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Dale, Amy (12 January 2014). "Police charge builder who allegedly coward-punched Daniel Christie with murder". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  4. ^ Hills, Brenden (16 November 2013). "Thomas Kelly murder case: timeline". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  5. ^ Tarr, Sophie (3 January 2014). "NSW cops, pollies, docs call out 'cowards'". The Courier-Mail. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Push to refer to king hit attacks as 'coward punches' after teen left in coma". ABC online. 3 January 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  7. ^ Needham, Kirsty (11 January 2013). "Sydney teen dies following king-hit punch". The Examiner. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  8. ^ Pearlman, Jonathan. "Australia leading the way in crackdown on one-punch killers". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  9. ^ "Australia 'one-punch' laws announced in New South Wales". BBC News. 1 January 2021. Archived from the original on 1 December 2021. Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  10. ^ Nedim, Ugur (2 July 2019). "One Punch Laws' – The Offence of Assault Causing Death in NSW". Sydney Criminal Lawyers. Archived from the original on 29 November 2021. Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  11. ^ "Australia 'one-punch' attack: First man jailed under new law". BBC News. 8 December 2017. Archived from the original on 18 February 2021. Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  12. ^ "One-punch killers to spend 10 years in jail under new Victorian laws". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 17 August 2014. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  13. ^ a b Charles, Jackie (27 August 2014). "Mash up – 'One Punch' Laws in Australia 2014". Rule of Law Education Centre. Archived from the original on 15 May 2021. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  14. ^ a b Holland, Zoe (18 May 2021). "'I am distraught': Israel Adesanya calls for 'coward punch laws' after fellow MMA fighter attacked". The New Zealand Herald. Archived from the original on 3 June 2021. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  15. ^ Wolfe, Natalie (19 February 2018). "Coward-punch Kiwi Caleb Maraku to be deported back to New Zealand". The New Zealand Herald. Archived from the original on 1 June 2021. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  16. ^ a b Clarke, Harry (19 February 2018). "'F---ing dogs': Inside the arrest of one-punch attacker Caleb Maraku". Nine News. Nine Entertainment. Archived from the original on 8 March 2021. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  17. ^ Kerr, Florence (22 February 2018). "One-punch deportee back to Waikato". Stuff. Archived from the original on 10 November 2020. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  18. ^ a b Ling, Jenny (20 June 2020). "Northland MP Matt King 'hugely disappointed' coward's punch bill voted down". The New Zealand Herald. Archived from the original on 6 October 2020. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  19. ^ Thomas, Jackson (2 July 2020). "Victim 'confused and angry' after government votes down coward punch bill". Stuff. Archived from the original on 2 July 2020. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  20. ^ "Renewed calls for 'coward's punch' law change after pro fighter attacked". Radio New Zealand. 19 May 2021. Archived from the original on 24 May 2021. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  21. ^ "Petition calling for harsher 'coward punch' laws reaches 15,000 signatures in wake of MMA fighter's death". 1 News. TVNZ. 24 May 2021. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  22. ^ Rich Cimini and Adam Schefter (12 August 2015). "Geno Smith out 6-10 weeks; 'sucker punch' over $600 dispute". ESPN. Archived from the original on 12 August 2015. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
  23. ^ In the Lucas Arts 1992 game Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, page 7 of the game manual states, "In most cases, you can 'sucker punch' your opponent and win the fight. Keep in mind that you don't get IQ points for using this option."
  24. ^ Kilkelly, Daniel (26 September 2014). "Neighbours' James Mason on Chris's future: 'Challenging stories ahead'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  25. ^ Dainty, Sophie (12 October 2015). "Home and Away spoilers: Josh Barrett left fighting for his life after coward punch". Digital Spy. Retrieved 15 May 2016.

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