Are Kidney Shots Legal in Boxing?

are kidney shots legal in boxing

In this article we shall aim to discuss common queries about kidney shots. Is this kind of punch illegal in boxing? If so, why, and what makes it different from other types of punches to the body that are allowed? Read on.

Headhunters vs. Body Snatchers

Headhunters perform the most exciting knockouts compiled in boxing reels throughout the years.

Spectators love the manifestation of sheer power when applied squarely on the noggin that result to spectacular endings.

If you’ve watched Mike Tyson fight in his prime you know you would not want to stay away too long from the television.

If you have to go and grab a can in the fridge make sure to do it as quickly as you can!

There are one-punch knockouts executed to perfection, catching a pug just at the right time from out of nowhere, and the fight is stopped. It’s lights out. The crowd grows ecstatic.

Other knockouts of this type are an accumulation of punches to the head that eventually take its toll toward the late rounds.

These are usually decided by stoppage by the referee when it is unlikely that a fighter will be able to sustain more damage; physically and morally decimated.

Perhaps wicked body snatching, of which kidney shots are topically classified in, employ the less flashy knockouts, albeit they are the MOST PAINFUL ones to endure.

More on this later.

The Efficacy of Body Punching

Not too many boxers out there prefer to go for the opponent’s body for a sustained game plan.

Most don’t hide their intentions of going for the head as the prime target and go for the kill in the early rounds.

Targeting the body is much harder to do versus sniping the head from a relatively safe distance. Going for the head mostly means the body attacks become neglected. The fight plan becomes predictable.

One needs to be aggressive to cut the distance, hunker and aim low. To be able to attack the mid-section of a boxer you need to anticipate and evade his defenses moving in, to sneak in and plant a time bomb on the inside.

Since the aim of the sweet science is to hit and not get hit, you must have an escape route planned out before going in for the body.

It is riskier and requires a lot of energy to execute. The results are not expected to take effect immediately too. Remember that timing is everything in boxing.

Without the proper pacing you are practically putting yourself out of sync. The chances of landing the right shot at the right opportunity decreases.

Body punching is riskier to take. It makes you prone to counterpunches yourself. But the smart ones believe it is all worth investing in in order to reap its benefits late in the match and towards the end.

It’s all about a gradual but effective take over.

Body punching is an effective tactic against opponents that like to move around and take advantage of ring generalship.

This makes them winded, therefore slower, more hittable, easier to corner.

Highly energetic ring warriors become tamer after dealing them effective body blows for a good number of rounds.

Kidney Shots Explained

A lot of things happen simultaneously in a fight that pugilists themselves are not completely aware of, at least not all the time.

This is why we have referees to regulate matches, ringside officials, cameras installed around corners, watchers, medics, and strict contract stipulations against unnecessary harm.

Energy runs high inside the venue. It is, therefore, not unusual to witness pugilists punch their counterpart in spots considered illegal, including the kidney area. Do referees need to penalize them each time this happens?

First, we need to know why kidney shots are deemed illegal.

For months, weeks, and days leading to a prizefight expect the hype to heighten. This is all part of the marketing ploy between promoters to improve ticket sales where fighters talk about their nefarious intentions.

At times, they claim no less than to kill each other in the ring.

That’s just talk. Hyperbole and psychological warfare are both part of the plan to get into a fighter’s skin.

The more impatient one becomes before and by the time the fight starts, the better chances a sound strategic plan is abandoned in wild fury, which favors the cooler headed.

Boxing is a veritable sport and we are not in the era of gladiators.

But death can indeed result if the kidney sustains enough damage from a punch. A hard hit to the vital organ is extremely painful. This could result to kidney failure, a rupture and, God forbid, a tragic demise.

Key Functions of the Kidney in Our Body

Kidneys act as a major filter for our body and more. If at a certain point it stops to function properly toxins and wastes from the food we partake start to pollute our system.

This may result to unhealthy blood streams flowing through our other vital organs, causing them to malfunction one after the other. Without drastic treatments expect a total disruption in the end.

Major roles of a kidney are:

  • Filter out body waste and toxins.
  • Body fluid regulation. Notice how we become puffy and bloated if we take in foods that are salty? Urinating suspiciously too often?

That is evidence of the kidney trying to cope with this particular excess by attempting to dilute it. This complex process is manifested with consequent weight gain due to body water retention.

  • Regulate blood pressure through releasing of hormones.
  • Regulate red blood cell production.
  • Helps produce vitamin D for healthy bone structure.

A strong enough punch to the kidney can take away all these benefits it gives to our body.

To retrace the main topic of this article…

Is a Kidney Shot Illegal?

Yes it is and rightfully so given its vital role. But its strategic placement, at both sides of the lower back, partly exposed on the sides and below our elbows, makes it vulnerable to being punched.

Does it follow too that all punches to the flanks of a boxer should be illegal?

Of course not as that comes with the territory when boxing. The same goes for a liver punch, just below the right rib cage.

A kidney punch becomes illegal when intentionally thrown at the lower back area. To do this takes a looping hook, as it goes past the side and lands in the rear.

A referee will advise fighters to take caution the first time it happens. This gives them the benefit of the doubt and a chance to avoid it from happening again.

A second shot to the kidney will result to a warning call, a possible two-point deduction if the judges agree with the referee’s decision.

A succeeding violation shall end up in an immediate disqualification.

Bad Intentions

Not all kidney punches are illegal (if a punch lands on the side it is valid), and even if it lands right on the restricted area the referee is allowed some discretion to determine if the punch is intentionally thrown to inflict unnecessary hurt.

If a boxer originally intends to hit the frontal area of his opponent’s body but the latter turns around, causing his kidney to be hit, the puncher cannot be allowed to shoulder responsibility for it.

An intentional ploy to have one’s kidneys hit may result to a two-point deduction to the puncher’s favor.

Difficult as it may be, determining one’s intentions are vital to a kidney shot being decided upon as a legal or illegal punch.

After a fight, it is routine practice to have both pugilists undergo medical checkups. A punch to the kidney usually manifests itself through the presence of blood in the urine, which can last for days.

Helpful Techniques on How to Avoid a Kidney Shot

A sufficient punch to the gut or, worse, to the kidney will weaken a boxer’s vitality (if it does not knock him out cold!).

This is why some fighters apply dirty tactics to gain an advantage over their foe and are willing to take the risk of getting caught and warned.

Other common illegal punches in boxing are:

  • Low blow– defined as punching an opponent below the waist.
  • Rabbit Punch– hitting a boxer behind his head, or back of the neck.
  • Hitting on the break

Just to emphasize on its importance, despite the detailed instructions and proper guidance by boxing officials, still anything can happen in a fight.

How many times have we witnessed a punch being thrown just as the ringside bell is struck to mark the end of the round?

The moment you enroll in your neighborhood boxing gym and start a formal session, a well-trained and experienced coach won’t begin with an instructional discourse about how to throw a perfect punch.

It shall always begin with the preambular golden rule to “always protect yourself at all times.”

To nullify the force of a body shot, which could land as a kidney punch, is to sway along with the direction of the punch. This move is effectively aided with proper footwork and timing as you pivot away from it without losing your balance.

Since some punches are quicker and harder to anticipate, a boxer may be too late to steer away from them with lateral movements.

If this happens, do not panic. By tilting your body a bit, leaning toward the targeted flank, use your arm or elbow for cover and blocking.

You will be surprised at how an inch or two of adjustments could mean a whole lot of help in boxing.

Do not lower your guard as this could uncover your jaws. To perfect this option, proper head movement is necessary.

Another option would be to practice ring generalship ala Muhammad Ali.

This entails tremendous amounts of energy to fuel a constant movement, especially if you are in a twelve-rounder: in and out, from side to side, and around the ring.

Also, it is noteworthy to not fall into the trap of regular clinching. By being too close against an opponent, you are most vulnerable to hind punches. So this includes not only kidney shots but rabbit punches as well.

Kidney Shots Versus a Liver Punch

There’s no need to be pedantic about these two punches’ comparison, except that we know that both are extremely painful and they should be avoided at all cost.

The liver punch is lethal yet legal. It is situated at the right side, below the rib cage, and the best bop to the liver is the left uppercut (from an orthodox stance).

A knifing punch to the liver will send nerve signals to a part of our brain that controls involuntary actions: breathing, heartbeat, and blood vessel dilation.

While some fighters are brick jawed, the chances of knocking them out with a punch to the chin is a herculean task, a quick dent around the liver area can definitely send them crumbling.

Despite the multitude of punches world champion Manny Pacquiao landed against Oscar De La Hoya in 2008, the latter was able to withstand the onslaught up until De La Hoya’s corner threw in the towel.

Throughout Oscar De La Hoya’s seventeen-year boxing career, he was only knocked out once.

This was in the ninth round in 2004 when Bernard Hopkins crushed him with a liver shot.

As a testament to the punch’s efficacy in keeping him down De La Hoya said he simply could not get up. The liver punch was so well placed that the pain he experienced was UNBEARABLE.

Immediate Effects of a Liver Punch

A well-timed, well-placed punch to the liver has an electric, shocking feel to it. The moment that signals are sent to our nervous system from the organ’s sensory fibers, our bodies respond in a survival mode, per se.

The heart rate slows down. Simultaneously the blood pressure drops.

Even the toughest boxers with a warrior mentality will succumb to the pain of a powerful kidney punch.

Dropping on the canvas is the body’s way of coping with the pain, curling, supine, and to even out the low blood pressure.

It has nothing to do with one’s toughness or the lack thereof.


Now that we have covered the main points concerning the kidney punch and other dangerous and illegal blows, there is no better action to take if you are a boxer, or if you plan to be one in the near future.

Always be prepared.

By being always prepared, we mean to never let your guard down. Even with a referee around or in the middle, crazy things have happened to prizefighters.

Have you watched the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. versus Victor Ortiz in 2011?

With both arms up in fisticuffs, at least you can be sure that the liver will be easier to guard.

And never expose your backside to your opponent at any time during the fight. Don’t duck too low. Whatever you do, never take your eyes off your opponent!

Can you knock someone out with a bodyshot? You bet you can!!