Ryan Garcia Illustrated Exactly Why a Liver Punch Is the Most Painful Shot in Boxing

There is no shot quite like the mysterious body blow known as the liver punch. Many combat sports fans come for the knockouts, but a growing fan base is captivated by the science of it all. An understanding of how the body works allows for this body blow that incapacitates the opposition. In an effort to shed light on the liver punch, we’ll break down the high-profile example from Ryan Garcia’s boxing match against Luke Campbell.

Ryan Garcia vs. Luke Campbell

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This fight was without a doubt Garcia’s biggest test to date, as CBS Sports details. Many of his critics wondered how he’d respond in the ring. On January 2, 2021, we found out. In the second round, Garcia got caught with a flush straight left hand, dropping him to the ground for the first time in his career. Rising to his feet, he shook off the punch and stuck to the plan, delivering left hands to the body of Campbell throughout the fight.

As the bout wore on, Garcia continued to ravage Campbell’s body, almost ending the contest in the fifth. Surviving the sixth, Campbell’s perseverance would wane in the seventh, with a rib-cracking left hand to the body. This caused him to kneel on the canvas, and Garcia became the newly crowned interim WBC lightweight titleholder.

The body punch was in fact a liver shot that caused insurmountable pain that visibility radiated throughout Campbell’s body as he tried and failed to continue fighting.

What is a liver punch?

Boxer Luke Campbell falls to the ground after losing to Ryan Garcia
Luke Campbell kneels on the canvas after a knock down from Ryan Garcia | Tim Warner/Getty Images

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To understand why the blow had the effect it did, we’ll need to understand the function of the liver, its position within our body, and how it reacts to being hit flush.

According to the Way of Martial Arts, a liver punch refers to a punch, kick, knee, or any other legal blow that successfully hits the liver. This organ is located on the lower part of the right rib cage. The perfect rib shot is placed near the ninth and 10th rib, using a short and quick left-hand hook shot.

The liver is a vital organ. It helps regulate chemical levels in the blood by filtering out toxins secreted into bile, then expelled from the body.

Why do liver punches hurt so badly?

According to Dr. Brian Sutterer, the pain stemming from an effective liver shot is caused by the aggravation of the vagus nerve. This nerve is found in the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion. The vagus nerve sends signals from the digestive tract to the brain. As one of our cranial nerves, it runs from our brain stem along our chest cavity.

When someone throws a strong liver shot, the vagus nerve is activated along with the parasympathetic nervous system. The body goes into a physiological shutdown, prompting blood pressure and heart rate to decrease, lightheadedness, dizziness, and nausea — terrible symptoms to experience during the biggest competition of your boxing career.