More often than not, with a knockout punch to the head, pain is an afterthought, your body still processing what happened to its brain. With a perfectly placed punch to the liver, pain is very much at the forefront of any and every thought, your body fully conscious, relaying just how debilitating this strike is. Watching a fight, it may be difficult to understand the effectiveness of a liver shot, especially with a particularly hardy, unflinching opponent. To the untrained eye, a punch to the liver is confounded with the litany of other body shots given and taken. But to those who know from experience what a punch to the liver reaps, a wince sneaks up when you see someone take that hit. Considering the amount of pain inflicted with force, this guttural reaction is warranted. Take it from the all-knowing source of knowledge—Wikipedia: “a short stiff uppercut [to the liver] will likely leave the average man incapacitated”.
in a fight, your liver is a speed bag of blood and bile, and with enough blunt force trauma this bag can tear open
The average man or average reader can appreciate the pain of a liver shot, when put into perspective. The liver is the largest and heaviest organ inside your body, weighing in at around 3 pounds, and comparable in size to an American football or, in boxing terms, a speed bag. Precariously placed at the right side of your bottommost ribs, the liver is highly vascular, and relatively unprotected compared to the other organs in your abdominal. In a fight, your liver is a speed bag of blood and bile, and with enough blunt force trauma this bag can tear open.
But even punches that do not tear your liver open can leave you incapacitated. As the liver is jarred, signals are sent to your brain through your parasympathetic nervous system, the system that regulates unconscious body functions like your heart rate and blood pressure. A liver shot causes a series of involuntary reactions through this system, all ultimately resulting in less blood flowing to your most important organ—your brain. When there is an issue of getting blood to your brain, your body starts to shut down, every nerve telling the knees to buckle. The few fighters who can remain standing will start to lose mental awareness, become lethargic in their movements, and have an overall more difficult time defending themselves.
Though unassuming, the liver shot is undoubtedly the most painful punch a boxer can experience…
A well-placed, forceful blow to the liver can be deathly—very literally causing death if ruptured and untreated. The immense pain in combination with the mental fatigue from processing the physiological red alerts put you in a position that even the toughest of fighters have a hard time recovering from. Though unassuming, the liver shot is undoubtedly the most painful punch a boxer can experience, and the most deadly body shot in a fighters arsenal.
Of course, words can only do so much in explaining a pain that few outside of the combat sports arena have experienced. For an illustration of the gravity of this level of pain, watch Oscar de la Hoya fight Bernard Hopkins in September of 2004. The fight ends with a liver shot, and the grimace on the Golden Boy’s face explains why. In an interview over a decade later, Oscar says with a laugh: “I’m still feeling that body shot.”