Return Of The Body Snatchers

“That’s where he needs to go! To the BODY!”

Of Manny Steward’s many great moments in the corner and on the HBO announce team, that is the one that stands out the most to me. Throughout round 9, he implored Micky Ward to return the punch that had gotten him there, the punch that had crumpled Arturo Gatti at the beginning of one of the most iconic rounds in modern boxing.

The left hook to the liver.

In June 2004, I was four months into my deployment in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. I was also two months into a brief, if very instructive, career as a boxer. Our Company First Sergeant had somehow procured a regulation size boxing ring after finding a bunch of us sparring without any protective gear except gloves on the pavement outside the buildings we lived in when on base.

We had relocated the ring, and quite a bit of donated/purchased training gear to an airplane hangar about a half mile from our compound. I had the good fortune of being on a stand down after a four-day trip providing security for supply convoys from the Jordanian border into Fallujah and back to Al Asad. I spent the bulk of my free time boxing, reading and watching movies.

On this particular evening, I was in the ring, ducking, slipping, and otherwise reveling in my new found defensive abilities as First Sgt. Perry put me through a series of defensive drills in which he kicked my ass while I attempted to avoid said ass kicking whilst not punching back. I had four inches of height and at least eight inches of reach on him. Though I knew he was vastly skilled, the man had the appearance of a steroidal badger with male pattern baldness. He was short and incredibly powerful, but there was no way he could catch me.

“Keep your fucking elbows in tight!” First Sgt. Perry barked.

I didn’t. I was confident enough in my legs that I knew I could slide away at the last moment. It worked well the first few times. Then he feinted a jab and I bit. I attempted to slide back and out of range, but I was on the ropes.

I don’t remember the punch exactly, but I remember the pain. He dug a left hook just under my ribs. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to have a hot soldering iron stabbed into your diaphragm, it’s like that.

I collapsed helplessly into the fetal position. I’m sure I would have yelled in pain, but my lungs were completely devoid of air, and I was too busy writhing in agony to do anything else. For what seemed like three hours (it was 20 seconds), I laid on the mat squirming. I had just been introduced to the liver shot.

It was the first time that I had ever tasted the canvas, and it began a long term love of and appreciation for body punches.

Body punches are not without risk. They’re expensive to throw and they’re hard to score. By expensive, I mean that they leave you open for counters. However, a determined and accurate body attack can slow down even the most fleet-footed opponent, and break a seemingly iron will.

It takes a brass set to commit to the body.

Some of the greatest fighters of all time have had brutal body attacks, my personal favorites including Roberto Duran, Julio Cesar Chavez, and the name sake of this article Mike McCallum.

What I originally conceived as a ranking of the five best body punchers in the sport has now become an unranked list of five of the best body punchers in the sport, with honorable mentions included, because quite frankly, it’s totally subjective.

With all of that said and with no more ‘ado. Here they are, in no particular order:

Giovanni Segura & Hernan “Tysoncito” Marquez

Segura and Marquez were both on the short list for this article, but I couldn’t decide between them, and after watching their fight, why bother? Both make full use of that iconic Mexican punch, the hook to the body. If you haven’t seen this fight yet: You’re welcome.

Pay particular attention to the second half of round 5.  Segura uses his hooks to close the distance, and at several points, Marquez uses his to stop Segura’s forward march. My ribs got bruised just watching that round, but after finding some Icy-Hot and a fresh beer I noticed how differently they throw their body punches. Segura’s loopier shots are not as accurate but they have his weight behind them, whereas Marquez snaps his hooks tighter and more accurately. In either case, very few fighters in or around flyweight could have taken the abuse they gave each other.

Gennady Golovkin

Everyone’s  favorite knockout puncher/gif machine/English Language Mangler also happens to be a meticulous body puncher. Most of us were introduced to this facet of Golovkin’s arsenal in the Gregorsz Proksa fight. As the HBO team noted, each one of the knock downs he scored against Proksa was precipitated by a body shot. The interesting thing about his body attack is how versatile it is. I, and others, have noted that he often seems to change the angle, speed, and target of the shots mid-punch.

The effects of his laser guided left hooks are explained completely by the following two pictures.

Leo Santa Cruz

Junior featherweight thresher Santa Cruz throws an amazing amount of punches, all of them heavy. He is particularly adept at working in left hooks and sideways over-hand rights (h/t @efronb) mid combination, opening up opponents to his vicious uppercuts and thudding hooks.

Ruslan Provodnikov

During the early rounds of Mike Alvarado-Provodnikov, Twitter savant @RatCatcherMpls noted “They’re gonna be able to open blood banks in both these guys’ toilets after this fight. #bodywork‬‬‬

I was unable to confirm if that actually happened, but it’s safe to say that Provodnikov is a brutal body puncher.

I’m sure Timothy Bradley would tell you the same thing.

Honorable Mention

Miguel Cotto

At 140, and in his early days at 147, Cotto’s best punch was the left hook to the body. Though he had not thrown it as much in the last several years, his demolition of Delvin Rodriguez showed that it is certainly still in his arsenal.

Abner Mares

Mares takes a great deal of heat for his inability to tell the difference between the liver and the testicles. Anatomical ignorance aside, very few fighters have as concentrated a body attack as his. He mixes lefts and rights together beautifully during combinations that help soften his opponents as he gradually wears them down.

Lucian Bute

He hasn’t been on many radars since Carl Froch demolished him, but Bute certainly belongs here. His one punch KO of Librado Andrade in their rematch was one of the most perfect body shot KOs in recent years.

Carl Froch

Froch is an awkward fighter that is basically impossible to classify, but when he goes to the body, he does so with gusto.

Wladimir Klitschko

The Ukrainian is one of the rare all aggression fighters who is never discouraged in the ring. Boring in with hard shots to the body, setting up his lethal left hook to the head. Wait… I was just watching old videos of Joe Frazier. My bad. I get them confused sometimes.


If I missed someone, please let me know.