Sucker punch

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A sucker punch (American English), also known as a coward punch, or cold-cock (American English), is a punch made from behind without warning, allowing no time for preparation or defense on the part of the recipient. The term is generally used in situations where the way in which the punch has been delivered is considered unfair or unethical. In practice, this often includes punches delivered from behind. While the one hit punch or king hit (Australian English) is a different style of one-on-one fighting where the recipient is knocked out in one punch - that is, pitting one individual against another. It can be considered as a sucker punch when the recipient is not expecting it, or if they are unevenly matched by weight, which some people use to help strengthen the amount of force used.

In boxing, a sucker punch thrown outside of the rules is illegal. For example, when James Butler knocked Richard Grant unconscious after losing a fight to him on points, his license was suspended.[1] Because sucker punches come unexpectedly, people at risk of such blows must be alert to the proximity of potential opponents.[2]

During 2013 and 2014, significant media attention was paid to two violent killings involving one-hit punches in Australia.[3][4] Noting that 91 people had died in Australia in the previous four years from brain trauma as a result of being king 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]

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.[8] 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.[9][10]

As of 2017, the "one hit punch" and "king hit" is still a controversial subject among various minorities within Australia. Each share different views on the actual punch, the circumstances around it or what led to it, the people involved and the outcome of it. Decades prior to the media campaign,[11] some fathers, male role models, and protectors used to teach their daughters and female family members to defend themselves with only a "king hit".[citation needed]

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.

In the Pokémon game series, a move has the English name of Sucker Punch. It is a Dark-type move that allows the user to attack before the other Pokémon has a chance to, provided that the targeted Pokémon is going to attack in that same turn.

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


  1. ^ Mitch Abramson (4 December 2001). "The Anatomy of a Sucker Punch". Village Voice. 
  2. ^ Lawrence A. Kane, Kris Wilder (2005). "Physics, physiology and other considerations". The Way of Kata. p. 165. ISBN 978-1-59439-058-6. 
  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. ^ 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."
  9. ^ Kilkelly, Daniel (26 September 2014). "Neighbours' James Mason on Chris's future: 'Challenging stories ahead'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 15 May 2016. 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ Pearlman, Jonathan. "Australia leading the way in crackdown on one-punch killers". The Telegraph. Retrieved 1 March 2014.