Why do liver shots hurt so bad ?

Why do liver shots hurt so bad ? (In combat sports)

Whether it is Boxing, MMA, or any other combat sport, one of the most famous and most painful shots is the liver shot. Liver shots are notorious for how bad they hurt and how they can end a fight just like that, we have seen many tough fighters take a knee after being hit by a good liver shot.

So, let’s take a deep dive into it and try to figure out why exactly these body shots hurt so bad.

Among all the different shots that a fighter can absorb, liver shots are the toughest to stomach. At a certain point, it doesn’t matter how tough and durable a fighter is, a well-placed liver shot can shut down your entire body. For example, remember the iconic fight between Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins back in 2004, in which De La Hoya dropped like a stone in the ninth round of his middleweight title challenge after a hard body shot. In recent history, the Lomachenko vs Linares fight also comes to mind, in which Loma sat down Linares with a brutal body shot or the MMA fight between Jose Aldo and Jeremy Stephens

Now, there is no doubt in the toughness of these fighters, we all know that they can take a shot, but there is just something about a shot to the liver that devastates you.

The reason can be found in the physiology of the liver and its function in the human body. The Liver is the largest organ in our body. It is situated on the right side, just below the diaphragm, and helps the body break down proteins and get rid of toxins.

why do liver shots hurt so bad

Despite being one of the largest organs in your body, the liver can be quite sensitive. A punch with a force of 5 m/s is enough to rupture the liver if it hits directly. An average adult can deliver 6 m/s of forcer, whereas professional boxers can get up to 12 m/s.

Even if a body shop doesn’t lead to an injury, it can send your body into shock and cause your knees to buckle. A liver shot can even cause you to pass out. Apart from causing you overwhelming pain, a liver shot also results in nerve-induced symptoms like reduced heart rate, disrupted breathing, and high blood pressure.

However, the liver is protected by the rib cage, which combined with the cushioning effect of boxing or MMA gloves, decreases the damage to the liver. Still, the Liver is the largest organ in the body, and it protrudes ever so slightly below the rib cage meaning if it’s hit it has no protection against the blow.

What does a liver shot feel like?

Well, in a single world, it feels like “hell”, getting hit by a liver shot is easily one of the worst feelings imaginable. Though taking other shots isn’t a walk in the park either, the body responds to them differently. With a normal punch, even to the head, you don’t feel the pain immediately.

why do liver shots hurt so bad

However, when you get hit in the liver, the Adrenaline in your body doesn’t numb the pain, and you feel all of it instantly. Your body goes into shock, your legs stop working, it becomes difficult to breathe, and all you can do at that moment is fold up and crumble. This is a defensive mechanism of the body.

Taking a body shot doesn’t have much to do with physical strength, it is more about mental conditioning. At a certain point, a liver shot will shut down anyone’s body, but why is it then that even bodybuilders aren’t able to take body shots, whereas Muay Thai fighters are able to absorb roundhouse kicks to the body like they are nothing.

Now, obviously, even Muay Thai fighters can only take a limited amount of these shots before crumbling, but they can take more than a bodybuilder who doesn’t have any fighting experience. Therefore, we can say that mental conditioning plays an essential role in taking a liver shot.

This doesn’t make a body shot hurt any less, but it allows fighters to deal with the pain without shutting down completely. However, even that works only to a certain level.

Are liver shots legal in boxing?

As far as the rules are concerned, Liver shots are completely legal in boxing. There aren’t any rules against them and they are an integral part of the sport. The idea of combat sports is to keep them as close to real combat as possible while taking away the things that can be extremely damaging.

This is why shots to the back of the head, and below the belt are illegal. Now, we obviously aren’t saying that Liver shots aren’t dangerous, but they aren’t as likely to cause permanent damage as a punch to the back of the head, the groin, or the kidneys.

The risk factor is about the same as getting hit to the head, and above that, the liver is a part of the body the boxers can protect with their guard. For instance, consider the Canelo vs GGG fight. Canelo is a master at throwing accurate body shots, but GGG did a good job of blocking some of the body shots with his elbow.

Illegal Punches in boxing

  • Punches below the belt (Groin area)
  • Punches to opponent’s back & spine
  • Punches to opponent’s neck and back of head (Rabbit punches)
  • Punches to opponent’s kidneys

How to recover from liver shots?

Liver shots can be quite devastating, and every fighter needs to know how to recover from them. To put it in simple words, the most important thing is rest. You need to let your body relax when you are recovering from a fight-ending liver shot. This means that you shouldn’t do any physical activities, and you should especially avoid getting back into training, at least until the doctor has suggested.

Moreover, try not to put an unnecessary load on your liver, this means no drinking, and trying to eat healthier food so that your liver has fewer toxins to cleanse. Lastly, consult your doctor about pain killers, because your liver is responsible for breaking down many medications, including acetaminophen (Tylenol).


Not how you can recover from a hard body shot in the long term. However, consider you’ve been hit in the liver during a fight. How can you make it through the round and use that precious one minute to recover.

Well, firstly, if you are hit with a hard shot to the liver, you need to regain your breath and composure, without taking extra damage. This means that you should either create distance or force a clinch. Now that is easier said than done, but it is imperative if you want to avoid further damage.

Once you are on the stool, try to regain your breath, and place your hand on your liver and apply pressure. This can give you temporary relief and allow you to continue fighting.

Final Thoughts

So, in conclusion, liver shots can hurt really bad, to the point that your body will shut down completely. However, using the right defensive techniques these severe punches can be avoided, and you can train your mind and condition your body to deal with body shots.


  1. This article is very informative. I have known today that the lung is the largest organ in the body and it is the most delicate organ. I am happy to learn that sticking to a certain diet and eating plenty of fruits may help heal lung diseases faster. Thanks for this great piece.

  2. Wow!!! I felt the blow in the first sentence. The word liver shots got me. I liked that. I’m not into contact sports because I believe I feel their pain before they do. But I liked your article. I like the way you explain everything about the liver. I did not know it was one of the largest organs. The closest I knew about the liver is when they say people drink alcohol could damage their liver. You put a new interest on it. Thank you that was really a good read. I am interested to knowing more.

  3. This is the first time that I have heard of liver shots and how painful they can be. Interesting read and I had no idea this sort of practice was taking place in boxing rings. But I suppose as you say there is no long-term damage involved, which is why they are probably allowed. Also, it would probably be difficult for boxers to try and avoid this area, especially as they are only allowed to fight in that range of the body.

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