Haymaker Punch [Boxing’s most powerful strike?]

What is a Haymaker Punch?

The haymaker punch is a wide looping strike thrown with a nearly straight arm that rotates around the shoulder joint in a horizontal arc typically towards the opponent’s head.

The punch has to be wound up, in the sense that it starts behind the fighter’s body before being swung.  

In exaggerated form, it looks something like a Olympic Discus thrower coiling their body to power up before unwinding and swinging their arm out.  

The wide arc means the fist travels quite a distance from its starting point to when it makes impact.  In fact, it’s the longest distance of any of the upper body strikes available to a fighter.

This distance allows the punch to accelerate rapidly and by the point of contact, it’s built up tremendous speed.  This speed makes it one of the most powerful strikes in boxing.  

Haymaker Punch


Who invented the Haymaker Punch?

No one ‘invented’ the haymaker as such, just a no-one invented any form of punch.

It looks like a wild swing and is a very natural punch for an individual to throw and is typically used by those who have little fighting experience. 

Why is it called a Haymaker Punch?

There are a number of possible reasons why this punch is named as it is.

According to “Listening to American” by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982): the phrase ‘haymaker’ first appeared in 1912, perhaps from phrase “hit the hay” which means to go to bed or sleep.

The alternative is that the action of performing a haymaker punch with the rotating straight arm, resembles cutting hay with a scythe.


Is a Haymaker Punch effective?

Yes. The haymaker is one of the most powerful punches in boxing.  The wind up and large arc that the fist travels in means that tremendous speed is built up.  On impact, this speed is translated into power.  If it lands successfully then it has the ability to knock an opponent out cold.

One fighter who makes extensive use of the haymaker is Dmitry Menshikov, a Russian Kickboxer ranked number 5 in the welterweight division.

His professional fighting record is exceptionally impressive:  24 Wins, 2 Losses, 0 Draw.  

It made even more impressive when you consider that out of his 24 Wins, 18 were by total knockout.

Dmitry is a powerful fighter and often  incorporates the haymaker into his punching repertoire.  Here he is fighting Samuel Dbili.  Notice the powerful swinging haymakers in action.


Another impressive fighter, Chris Eubank Jr – a top ranking British middleweight boxer – also utilises the haymaker into his fighting style.

Chris has held the WBA interim middleweight title, the IBO super-middleweight title twice, and the British middleweight title.


How to throw a Haymaker Punch

The haymaker itself is a very easy punch to throw.  It involves swinging a relatively straight arm in a horizontal arc towards your opponent’s head or body.  It’s a very powerful punch if it connects.

One of the issues with this punch is that it can be telegraphed to your opponent.  Because of the big wind up involved, and long arc the fist travels in means your opponent can often see it coming.  This gives them time to either prepare to block the punch, move out the way or to launch a counter of their own.

Because of this the haymaker should not be thrown in isolation.

There are a number of scenarios where this punch can be best used:

After a jab

By launching the jab, it forces the opponent to react in some way, either by raising the hands to block the punch or to lean away.

If their raised block covers their face, it temporarily obscures their vision allowing a haymaker to be launched undetected with the other hand.   

Often a boxer will probe how their opponent reacts when a jab is thrown.  If the opponent  consistently covers up then it’s likely a jab, haymaker combination will be effective.

When the opponent is off balance

If the opponent stumbles or has been driven back into the corner, then it’s an opportune moment to launch an onslaught of haymakers.  

If they’re trying to recover their balance then they will be unable to put up an effective defense.

When the opponent’s guard has been pulled down

Daytona Wilder is particularly good at this type of set up.  With his forwardmost arm he’ll pull his opponent guard down and once exposed, he’ll then launch a swinging punch with his rear arm.  This is timed so well that this technique is surprisingly effective for Daytona.


How to block a Haymaker Punch?

Given the haymaker is such a common punch, it’s good to know some defenses or counters to this particular strike.  

The first two that I’m about to describe can be carried in a self defense type scenario if you’re attacked in the street.  The third, can also be used in the street but can also be seen in regulated boxing matches. 

Duck and Clinch

In this counter, you see the haymaker coming and duck under the arcing swing.  You then move in and grab the opponent around the waist.  From there you can sweep or throw the opponent to the ground.

Front Kick

This defense is about keeping the aggressor at distance.  As the haymaker is launched, the defender counters with a front kick to the stomach.  This pushes the attacker off balance and destroys the advancing attack.

Lean Back

This defense is perhaps the simplest.  As the attack throws the punch, the defender simply leans back out of range of the punch.  It’s important that as you lean back you raise your shoulder to protect your chin, just in case the punch makes contact.  

Once the punch has passed by the face and is no longer a threat, a counter punch – typically a rear hand straight punch