Boxing’s Knockout Targets

In terms of pure spectacle, there is nothing more encapsulating or memorable than a knockout in boxing. Over the years, we have witnessed premier knockout artists such as George Foreman, Mike Tyson, Julian Jackson, Manny Pacquiao, and Gennady Golovkin inflict some brutal yet beautiful night-enders on their opponents.

Ask any boxing aficionado to name their favorite knockout of all-time and you will generally receive a positive answer. Trawl through YouTube’s vast catalog of boxing knockout compilations, and you can typically find decades of great moments bundled together in a 5-minute highlight reel. What makes a KO inside the ropes so appealing to fans is the combination of deftly executed skill, raw brutality, and absolute glory which all combine in the short time it takes to land that shot. The immediate aftermath feels almost like a cyclone has torn through the arena or our living rooms.

Many will often categorize a knockout shot as either a moment of ingeniously executed skill or simply the result of pure luck. Quite often, it can be a little bit of both. In breaking down the former, however, what can we learn from the greats who seemed to have a habit of hitting the right spot, frequently? Or, on the contrary, from boxers on the biggest stage often branded as having a “glass jaw”?

As a fighter looking to end a bout as quickly as possible, the knockout is the perfect ticket to an early shower. In order to get there, however, a fighter will typically be aiming to penetrate his opponent’s defense and land a shot in the following spots:

The Head

Jaw, chin, and temple: You are effectively looking to connect with the jaw, in order to make your opponent’s head shake. When you connect with a strong punch to your opponent’s jaw, you can render your opponent unconscious. In order for this to happen, you typically need to hit the chin or the jaw with precision. A solid shot to the temple is also often ample enough to end the fight.

As the “twist” you are looking for is more likely to happen if you connect with the chin or jaw, it is best to aim here with crosses or hooks. This will be much easier said than done, granted. The best way to imagine the dynamics of a knockout punch is to think of spinning a wheel: it is much easier to do so when you aim for the outer edge of the wheel. When connecting with the chin or jaw, you are landing on the parts located furthest away from the skull. The impact can be absolutely devastating.

As the neck is the shock absorber, you want it as loose and vulnerable as possible. When an opponent is well protected – behind a good guard and with their chin tucked in – it is naturally harder to land this shot. Many knockouts occur when boxers get careless and don’t protect themselves adequately, or are simply tricked into defending their body before the big shot is thrown.

A high number of knockouts also occur when an attacker is open, and a counter-strike successfully lands.

In the example above, watch how Manny Pacquiao takes advantage of Ricky Hatton’s lack of balance, while also capitalizing on Hatton’s momentum. The Filipino legend delivers a slightly lingering jab to Hatton’s face, before throwing an incredible left hook which shakes the Brit’s head, making for a spectacular end to the fight.

Among the greatest knockout artists of all time is Julian Jackson. Against Herol Graham, Jackson lured his opponent in and waited for an opening. Graham tended to lift his lead leg up slightly when throwing his left hand, which was spotted by Jackson, who delivered a thunderous right hand to spectacularly end his opponent’s night.


The Body

OK, while a knockout shot delivered to the body won’t send a fighter to sleep, it can be spectacular and, more importantly, highly effective. There are, much like the skull, parts of the body which should be prime targets when looking to knock an opponent out. The main area boxers aim for is, of course, the liver. While body shot knockouts are much rarer than those which come from contact with the head, there are still many to be found on highlight reels in the dusty archives of yesteryear.

The liver shot is a technique which has been a large part of many fighters’ arsenals, most notably “Irish” Mickey Ward. Ward could look completely out of the fight for round after round before he landed the most brutal knockout blow to the body to end the contest. Aside from Ward, however, there have been other notable examples over the years of just how to land this shot.

All-time great Roy Jones Jr. bagged the Ring Magazine Knockout of the Year in 1998 for this legendary shot. Jones Jr. managed to trick Hill into bringing his hands up by throwing a feint jab which led Hill to counter, only to leave his body exposed and susceptible to the dreaded liver shot. Hill’s face says more than any words ever could.

Who can forget the night Bernard Hopkins showed the world the awesome brutality of a perfectly executed body shot? Watch how Hopkins twists his fist in a snapping hook into De La Hoya’s side. “The Golden Boy” collapses into a painful heap on the canvas as a result of this epic punch.

As anyone who has taken a shot to the solar plexus will know, this is also a spot which – when hit – is enough to see a fighter take a knee. In boxing, we must often manipulate the fighter into dropping their guard in order to land clean, so a shot to the solar plexus presents its own work. If you can hit this spot at any point, you will effectively connect with the fighter’s diaphragm, which can incapacitate his breathing. It is one of the “sweet spots” to aim for when attacking the body.


More in Boxing

Also On Evolve

Targeting The Body In MMA

Targeting The Body In MMA

Long a point of derision for MMA coaches and analysts out there, mixed martial artists just do not pay enough attention to bodywork. In an age where the spectacular is sought after by headhunters and…