Sucker punch

A sucker punch (American English), also known as a dog shot, coward punch, king hit or one-punch attack (Australian English) or cold-cock (American English), is a punch made without warning or while the recipient is distracted, 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, and is done using deception or distraction, hence the term 'sucker' used to refer to the victim.

In boxing, a sucker punch—as is done when 'hitting on the break', for example—is illegal. For example, when James Butler knocked Richard Grant unconscious after losing a fight to him on points, his license was suspended.[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.

As a crimeEdit

During 2013 and 2014, significant media attention was paid to two violent killings involving one-hit punches in Australia.[2][3] Noting that 91 people had died in Australia in the previous fourteen years from brain trauma as a result of being so hit, a media campaign was launched to refer to them as coward punches.[4][5] This campaign was supported by the New South Wales Government.[5][6][7]

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.[8]

Culture and mediaEdit

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.[9] A sucker punch is a major dramatic element in the 2004 film Million Dollar Baby.

There are also several videos depicting sucker punches on video-sharing websites such as YouTube, however YouTube forbids such content as a violation of its Community Guidelines and are thus not supposed to be on there.[citation needed]

Australian soap operas Neighbours and Home and Away have covered the topic in storylines broadcast in September 2014 and October 2015 respectively.[10][11]

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."

The Norwegian singer Sigrid has a song entitled "Sucker Punch" in her debut studio album of the same name.

Prevention techniquesEdit

Sucker punches tend to be done after employing distraction tactics such as pretending to notice something to trick the victim into looking also, having an accomplice to distract the victim, looking away to get the victim's guard down, or pretending to walk away only to turn around and deliver the strike. As sucker punches rely on deception they can often be anticipated using methods such as:

  • holding out the arms in a non-threatening manner, colloquially referred to as 'the fence' in many self-defense circles and communities. Many security personnel—such as those who work as doormen or 'bouncers'—are trained to do this.
  • scanning the hands of the potential aggressor for signs of impending violence - such as clenching of the fists or the holding of a weapon, such as a knife
  • watching the aggressor for sudden movements, or an abrupt deescalation of conflict, which is often used as a distraction technique.

Sucker punches are commonly performed using either a hook-type punch, or a haymaker-type punch, as these are more damaging than straight shots due to the increased distance traveled thus enabling more time for acceleration.

Because sucker punches come unexpectedly, people at risk of such blows must be alert to the proximity of potential opponents.[12]


  1. ^ Abramson, Mitch (4 December 2001). "The Anatomy of a Sucker Punch". Village Voice.
  2. ^ Dale, Amy (12 January 2014). "Police charge builder who allegedly coward-punched Daniel Christie with murder". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  3. ^ Hills, Brenden (16 November 2013). "Thomas Kelly murder case: timeline". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  4. ^ Tarr, Sophie (3 January 2014). "NSW cops, pollies, docs call out 'cowards'". The Courier-Mail. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Needham, Kirsty (11 January 2013). "Sydney teen dies following king-hit punch". The Examiner. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  7. ^ Pearlman, Jonathan. "Australia leading the way in crackdown on one-punch killers". The Telegraph. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  8. ^ Rich Cimini and Adam Schefter (12 August 2015). "Geno Smith out 6-10 weeks; 'sucker punch' over $600 dispute". Archived from the original on 12 August 2015. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
  9. ^ 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."
  10. ^ Kilkelly, Daniel (26 September 2014). "Neighbours' James Mason on Chris's future: 'Challenging stories ahead'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Lawrence A. Kane, Kris Wilder (2005). "Physics, physiology and other considerations". The Way of Kata. p. 165. ISBN 978-1-59439-058-6.