The Six Greatest Self-Punches In Boxing History
If football is a game of inches, as my friends who enjoy spending their Sundays being hopelessly bored assure me it is, then boxing is a game of seconds. Each tick of the clock is accompanied by countless subconscious computations which direct a fighter’s body to make the movements most conducive to survival and, ultimately, victory. Sometimes that directive is something simple like “take one step to the left.” Other times it’s a bit more nuanced like “counter over the jab, left hook to the body.” And every now and then, because life is awesome, it’s “punch yourself in your own stupid face in front of all these people.”
Yeah, that’s the good shit.
Commanding someone to ram their own fist as hard they can into their head isn’t just a thing I do to my Sims family when they refuse to play grab-ass at my desired frequency. No, the human brain is capable of going Broken Arrow and turning on itself at any moment and lucky for us there’s usually a video camera close by to preserve it. Most of the storage space on my brain’s hard drive consists of Cannibal Corpse lyrics and revenge fantasies so I’m in no way qualified to determine exactly what causes this synaptic revolt, but to quote a certain mustachioed, Bella Thorne-loving Twitter celebrity, let’s not worry about that right now.
For now, let’s just sit back and watch some extremely dangerous men punch themselves in the goddamn face. This is gonna be awesome.
6. Martin Ward vs. Ruddy Encarnacion – April 16, 2016
Let’s start things off with Englishman Martin Ward taking on the rugged Ruddy Encarnacion. Coming in to the fight at 36-24-4, Encarnacion was far more experienced than Ward, specifically at losing. Ward (19-0-2, 9 KOs) could be forgiven for taking him lightly but just in case he started sleepwalking a bit too much his brain came equipped with a backup plan. Partway through the first round it got a chance to use it. With the fighters engaged in a clinch near the center of the ring, Ward’s right hand is pot-shotting Encarnacion on the inside while his left hand is taking some personal time to reflect on, I don’t know, its stock portfolio? Either way it’s spaced the fuck out. A few seconds later it wakes up and remembers it has a job to do though it can’t precisely remember what that job is.
Did you ever fall asleep in class and wake up to the teacher calling your name? You’re just sitting there wasting your parents’ tax dollars while dreaming about monster trucks and next thing you know you’re jolted awake by a man loudly demanding answers? The fog clears and you blurt out “GETTYSBURG!” even though it’s a chemistry class and everyone laughs but you’re still proud of yourself for at least coming up with something? That’s this punch. His hand was roused awake with the sinking feeling that it had a task to perform.
“I remember….punch something!” it excitedly exclaimed.
That “something” was Ward’s own face. I don’t know whether this is praise for his chin or a knock on his punching power but he took the shot well. After the act of cognitive treason it committed though, Ward’s left hand definitely owed his face a beer. And with him being a white guy from England my guess is that debt was repaid with interest. Repeatedly.
5. Roberto Duran vs Sugar Ray Leonard – June 20, 1980
Of all the entries on this list this is the only one I feel comfortable saying was likely done on purpose. Roberto Duran is one of the greatest fighters to ever walk the planet. Top five all time. How many current, former and future champions did he beat? Without doing the actual legwork to figure it out let’s just ballpark it at “a shitload.” The majority of his prime was spent fighting 15 round fights and no matter how great you are your mind tends to wander a bit while beating the shit out of someone for nearly an hour straight.
In this, his first fight with fellow all-time great Ray Leonard, Duran finds himself pressing Sugar Ray against the ropes. As the two exchange on the inside, Duran’s right hand looks at his brain and says “Are you gonna tell me what the plan is here or do I have to fucking beat it out of you?” His brain opted for the latter and the rest is history.
Duran knew, better than almost anyone, that during the heat of battle you sometimes have to break the rules in order to enforce them. Then again, he was from Panama where the only actual law on the books is “Don’t murder a police horse on Sunday,” so maybe his understanding of civil ordinance is slightly more fluid than the rest of ours. Nonetheless, this tactic of kick-starting your brain with your own god damn fist would be adopted by future fighters for decades to come.
4. Julian Williams vs. Nathaniel Gallimore – April 7, 2018
J-Rock with a bitchin' self punch here pic.twitter.com/9OvTrgrSeC
— DICK HERCULES (@RatCatcherMpls) April 8, 2018
This might be a bit of recency bias here but more likely it’s an awesomeness bias. Just this past Saturday in Las Vegas, Nathaniel Gallimore (20-2-1 17 KO’s) was willing to publicly spar for 12 rounds with Julian Williams while J-Rock prepared for his upcoming megafight against his own skull. That showdown was scheduled for the beginning of the 12th round and let me tell you, it did not disappoint.
As Gallimore backed into a corner Williams measured distance with his left hand while loading up with his right hand. With his target in sight he unloaded with an absolute gravedigger of an uppercut that landed right on the button. In this particular scenario the “button” refers to his own comically oversized forehead.
I’d like to take a second to point out that there’s no way this punch could have been thrown with the intention of landing on his opponent. Gallimore is practically in a different zip code when J-Rock winds up to throw it and by the time it lands he’s secured a work visa in the haunted salt mines of Narnia. My working theory here is that after what Jermall Charlo did to him, Williams was out to prove that he could, in fact, eat an uppercut without breaking into his world famous impression of Bambi walking across a frozen pond. By the time the last frame rolled around he figured if Gallimore wasn’t gonna throw one then god dammit, he’ll just do it himself.
Sometimes you just gotta show yourself who’s boss in there.
3. Ivan Redkach vs. Sergey Gulyakevich – June 27, 2014
My favorite thing about this is everything. Seriously, one of the only reasons I don’t want to die is because I wouldn’t be able to watch this god damn calamity of a punch ever again. It’s number one on the list of Top One Things That Happened in Boxing in 2014. I’m not even sure where to start. Wait, I know! With the guy who looks like he runs a black market human organ trafficking ring in his spare time punching himself in square in the face.
Coming into the fight Gulyakevich was a respectable 41-2 with 17 KOs, but was the B-side here against the undefeated Redkach who, predictably, had his way all night en route to a shutout unanimous decision. What makes this entry on our list so damn spectacular is that the punch in question lands literally at the last second of the fight. You can hear the final bell ringing as his psychotic Belarussian face is being flattened by his own hand. His wind up is so hilariously exaggerated that I’m surprised some asshole hasn’t photoshopped a bowling ball into his hand. (Note to self: Photoshop a bowling ball into his hand. Be that asshole.)
What really pushes this self-punch into the humiliation hall of fame, though, is that mere milliseconds after Gulyakevich’s own punch connects with his forehead, Redkach lands one of his own a few inches lower on his nose. It’s maybe the only two man one-two punch in boxing history. Like some discarded Vaudeville act where both the ventriloquist and the dummy are on the same team against the ventriloquist.
Side note: It’s impossible for me to talk about Ivan Redkach without mentioning his tattoos. If you didn’t notice, the bullshit on his right shoulder, arm and torso is the same as Miguel Cotto’s. I don’t mean like in tribute to or inspired by either. I mean like the exact fucking same. Why someone would do this, I have no earthly idea. Hell, I don’t even know why Cotto did it. I mean, you’re allowed to do whatever you want to your own body but in boxing business is conducted shirtless and my god, won’t someone please think of the children?!
After losing this fight, Gulyakevich went on to lose six of his next eight fights, four of them by knockout. It’s not a stretch to say that he literally beat his career out of himself. For his part, Redkach went on to lose four of his next eight with one draw thrown in. It’s hard for any man to recover from an atrocity such as this. War is hell.
2. Wladimir Klitschko vs. Bryant Jennings – April 25, 2015
The strange thing about this list is that almost every punch on it was thrown by the fighter who was winning the fight. It’s as if there’s something about being in control of a combat situation that forces the brain and hands to look inward for new challenges. We often refer to minor, momentary lapses in judgment or cognitive functions as a “brain fart.” Working off that same logic, this beauty from Wlad Klitschko is a “brain shit your white tuxedo pants on prom night.”
Wladimir Klitschko is a first ballot Hall of Famer and I believe history will be much kinder to him than the past was. That being said, there was a period of time where him doing something mortifying in a boxing ring was simply business as usual. There was about a four year stretch where a Wlad Klitschko fight went something like this:
Step 1: The opening bell rings
Step 2: Total fucking chaos
If Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice are necessary to achieve greatness in your chosen craft is true, then Klitschko was a full-fledged sensei in the field of public mortification. He was many years removed from this phase when he took on Bryant Jennings (22-2 13 KOs) at Madison Square Garden back in 2015 but the heart of a champion never dies and the clown car that lives in his brain wanted one last moment in the spotlight.
Midway through the fight the two fighters backed towards the ropes with Klitschko wrapping Jennings up in a clinch. Shocking, I know. With his left hand wrapped around Jennings’ neck and his right hand as free as O.J., Klitschko wound up for an uppercut… or something. I’ve watched this exchange infinity billion times and I would love to tell you that his glove slid off Jennings’ shoulder or that Bryant pulled his head away at the last second but I’m afraid I can’t do that. Because that would be lying. And liars go to hell. Or the White House.
Nope. Klitschko’s glove goes unobstructed from his hip to his face. Swish. Nothing but net. In this situation an uppercut would normally be thrown inside, ideally between your opponent’s guard to either create distance or to pop his head up and expose it for a left hook. When the circus music in your head takes over though, strategy goes out the window. Put up the tent, the carnival is in town.
With a notoriously shaky chin matched only by equally heavy hands, Klitschko stood as good a chance as anyone at becoming the first heavyweight to ever knock himself out. But just like Hayden Panettiere’s uterus, he fucked that up, too.
1. Tyson Fury vs Lee Swaby – March 14, 2009
This is the Holy Grail. The Honus Wagner rookie card of public self-flagellation.
Tyson Fury is never more than a couple days removed from some type of public relations calamity. Inviting him to a party is good way to test the response time of your local police department. The booze, the drugs, the girth, the Jesus shit, the GODDAMN SINGING. These are all part and parcel with the Gypsy King experience so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that he would find himself at the top of this list of pugilistic indignities.
Back in 2009, Fury fought a six-rounder in Birmingham against Englishman Lee Swaby. Fury, not exactly Pernell Whitaker to begin with, was fighting in only his fourth professional bout while Swaby sported a sub .500 record of 23-22-2, so we’re not exactly talking a boxing Mensa meeting here. With just over a minute to go in the fourth round Fury has Swaby backed against the ropes and crouched into a shell. Fury winds up for an uppercut that nicks Swaby’s left glove and I don’t know how else to put this other than MOTHERFUCKING BOOM. He lands flush on his own cheek which kicks his head back and to the left. It’s like JFK’s head in Dallas except twice the size and, you know, less exploded.
The most remarkable thing about the punch is the velocity of it. It’s almost for sure the best punch Tyson Fury has ever thrown and the look of shock on his face when it lands confirms that. If his gigantic, cinder block of a head hadn’t gotten in the way, this punch would have broken the sound barrier and would probably still be careening through outer space, taking out entire planets one by one. Tyson Fury would go on to defeat Wladimir Klitschko to become the lineal heavyweight champion of the world and to this day remains, I SHIT YOU NOT, undefeated.
None of the punches he landed along the way though were nearly as sweet or will be remembered for nearly as long as this one. A King was born that night and in our memes he will rule for eternity.
- I’m sure there’s some good ones that I forgot to include on this list so feel free to hit me up on twitter @RatCatchermpls and tell me what a big dumb piece of shit I am. Like my mom does every Sunday morning.
- I’ll be skipping lunch today as I filled up on the delicious irony of human punchline Rod Salka coming to the ring in brick wall patterned trunks with “America First” across the beltline and having his dick kicked up his own ass by beautiful Mexican slugger Francisco Vargas. Sometimes life will write the jokes for you.
- When Zolani Tete steps into the ring against Omar Narvaez next Saturday it’ll be almost a year to the day since he won some bullshit title or another in his fight with Arthur Villanueva. In the 364 days in between, his only fight was his first-punch-of-the-fight knockout against Siboniso Gonya last November. Meaning that in the last calendar year he’s had SEVEN SECONDS of ring time. That, uh… that rules.