The Cheapest Sucker Punches in Sports
One second you're standing tall on the playing field, thinking about your next move, and then pop!
The lights blot out, the world swims and all of a sudden, you're horizontal, holding onto the ground for dear life.
What just happened? Well, friend, you just got sucker punched. Pretty damn hard, actually.
It's alright, just keep cool. You'll come around in a bit (probably), and the moron who just jacked you up is getting pulled off into the locker room and will be looking at punishment from the league (maybe).
This kind of scenario plays rather regularly in the world of sports—play gets chippy, athletes get pissed and the next thing you know, someone's swinging at an unsuspecting victim.
The following are some of the cheapest sucker punches out there, where the punches were thrown at individuals who were in no way a danger to those throwing the blows.
Nebraska Football Player Coldcocks Fan
After beating Nebraska in 2003, University of Missouri fans rushed the field to celebrate their victory with the team.
One field-stormer was feeling particularly saucy, and he taunted Nebraska cornerback Kellen Huston, who responded by haymaker-ing the 21-year-old into total darkness right in front of everyone.
That's some cold stuff, Huston.
Arizona State Player's Textbook Sucker Punch
After receiving a forearm shiver to the chin from Southern Miss’ Torye Pelham, Arizona State’s Ruslan Pateev caught up to him down the court and rapped him nice and hard on the back of the dome.
It was a pure tit-for-tat move in terms of execution—Torye hit Pateev once, and he’d be damned if he didn’t tag him back. There never seemed to be any threat of a bench-clearing brawl, but both players were ejected from the game.
Todd Bertuzzi Suckers Steve Moore
One of the more frightening punches ever recorded in sports, Vancouver Canucks winger Todd Bertuzzi dropped Colorado Avalanche center Steve Moore to the ice in 2004 during an intensely physical game.
Down 8-2 in the third, Bertuzzi was sent onto the ice to instigate a fight with Moore. After failing to provoke him, he grabbed the Avalanche center from behind and punched him in the side of the head.
Moore was immediately knocked unconscious and fell. Between the punch, his head hitting the ice and the ensuing dog pile of fighting players, he suffered a concussion and three fractured neck vertebrae.
The injuries would eventually end his hockey career.
Jermaine O'Neal Falcon Punches Fan
There were no shortage of cheap shots, sucker punches and good ole fashioned assaults during the infamous Malice at the Palace fight, but Jermaine O’Neal’s sliding jaw-cruncher stands tall above the rest.
O’Neal slides like a baseball player into the punch, his fist delivering seven different flavors of hell into the face of this squat little Detroit fan who had stormed onto the court.
I’m not one to celebrate violence (lies), but if any fan in this entire stadium deserved a taste of martial justice during this whole breakdown, it was this guy.
Unfortunately for him, he received more of a three-course meal of pain than a mere taste.
Serge Ibaka Blasts Blake Griffin
The nut shot heard 'round the league.
Serge Ibaka’s sacktacular crotch chop on Blake Griffin dropped the big man to the floor and drew groans from every standing witness in Staples Center earlier this week.
Ibaka’s wicked satchel slap earned him an immediate flagrant foul 1.
Yes, Ibaka stayed in the the game and the Thunder went on to beat the Clippers 108-104. Ibaka eventually received a $25,000 fine from the league for his actions—a rare event for what was called a non-ejectable offense.
Celtic Manager Attacked by Fanatic
Celtic soccer manager Neil Lennon had received death threats in the mail for months, all of it culminating in a (completely uncoordinated) physical attack by an Edinburgh Hearts fan on the sidelines of a 2011 match.
Lennon claimed the attack was religiously charged, stating the majority of personal threats he received mentioned his faith in Catholicism.
Stadium security—initially nonexistent—managed to handle the incident and haul the attacker out by the scruff of his neck.
Carmelo Anthony Cheap-Shots Mardy Collins
It was one big mess (kind of like the surviving footage of it).
Carmelo Anthony, then of the Denver Nuggets, smoked New York Knicks guard Mardy Collins in the side of the head after Collins committed a hard foul on J.R. Smith.
The fight involved airborne tackles, shoving aplenty and Anthony’s blindside house-wrecker, which earned him a fat 15-game suspension from the league.
Dino Ciccarelli Catches Enrico Ciccone Sleeping
Sweet Mary. This isn’t a clock-cleaning. It’s a delousing.
The Detroit Red Wings' Dino Ciccarelli was wrapped up in the middle of a scrum with several Chicago Blackhawks players during a 1996 regular season game.
And just when the fighting appears to be dropping to a slow boil, Ciccarelli surprises the Blackhawks’ Enrico Ciccone with a world-rocker that sends the 6’4” defender and another ‘Hawk crashing to the ice like tall timber.
And the announcers love every second of it.
Woody Hayes Is a Gentleman and a Brawler
When you’re down a few points and the game is slipping out of reach, it’s easy for coaches to get heated, cuss and stomp the ground like toddlers.
But former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes doesn’t get mad. He gets even. Kind of.
With lean time left on the clock and his Buckeyes on the losing side of the 1978 Gator Bowl, a fatal turnover by OSU quarterback Art Schlichter prompted Hayes to commit a career-ending act of violence.
Schlichter threw a pass that was picked off by Clemson linebacker Charlie Bauman. Bauman ran the interception back and got tackled out of bounds on the Ohio State sideline, where Hayes—who had clearly forgotten to take his tranquilizers—grabbed Bauman by the shoulder pads and sidearmed a fist at his throat.
Hayes ended up getting fired for his actions.
Youth Football Coach Smokes Referee
Youth football referee Andrew Keigans was caught between a rock and a hard fist after calling an end to a Pop Warner game in October 2012.
Keigans ended the game after the coaches of the West Park Saints stormed onto the field to argue a call, awarding the victory to their opponents, the Miramar Patriots.
The decision further enraged West Park coaches, one of which chased Keigans down as he attempted to leave the field and punched him in the head.
That’s right, Karen, get the kids. No one should have to be around this kind of adult irresponsibility. And somebody help Keigan find his hat.
Yancy Gates Rings One Up for Kenny Frease
After a long, disappointing ballgame against crosstown rival Xavier, the Cincinnati Bearcats basketball team decided to play a different kind of game.
Nine seconds were left on the clock when hostilities arose, and the bench-emptying brawl that ensued forced refs to call the game. But not before Cincinnati power forward Yancy Gates turned into a one-man demolition crew and leveled Xavier’s Kenny Frease, who was just trying to separate the two sides.
James Butler Blindsides Richard Grant
All he wanted was a hug.
After defeating James “The Harlem Hammer” Butler, Jr. in a boxing match in 2001, heavyweight boxer Richard Grant approached Butler with an arm outstretched for a brief post-fight embrace.
What happened after that? A pleasant exchange of words? A “good hustle” congrats with a complimentary slap on the rear?
No, Butler took the “you must be freaking high” road and cooked Grant square in the jaw with a gloveless fist, knocking Grant into a semi-unconscious state. It was a very unsportsmanlike reaction considering the fight was a post-9/11 charity fundraiser for the victims of the World Trade Center attacks.
The good news, however, is that Butler was immediately arrested and received a one-year suspension for the attack.
Lady Andrade's Open-Fisted Slap on Abby Wambach
Abby Wambach is a tough lady.
Seriously, she takes skull-splitting hits and just gets up, gets stapled and goes back into the game. Wambach doesn’t complain over a little tough play.
So when she claimed referees had missed Colombian midfielder Lady Andrade punching her in ever-loving face during the 2012 London Olympics, officials reviewed the tape.
As you can see, Wambach wasn’t making it up. And she had the shiner to prove it.
Paul Daley's Just Keeping You on Your Toes
MMA fighter Paul Daley just couldn’t let it lie.
In 2010, the British welterweight uncorked this cheap shot against Josh Koscheck after their fight had been called in the third round.
Daley said Koscheck had been in his ear during the final 30 seconds of the match, and the mocking had sent him over the edge and caused him to sock his defenseless opponent.
Or should I say, seemingly defenseless opponent. Koscheck apparently has eyes in the back of his head, because he appears to feel the impending shot and get a hand up to block Daley’s fist at the last second.
All in all, this entire scenario is best summed up by the referee’s words:
“Are you kidding me?”
French Basketball Player C-Punches Spanish Player
Down six points with time running out in the fourth quarter of an Olympic basketball game against Spain, France’s Nicolas Batum decided to make the best of a bad situation and ring Spain’s Juan Carlos Navarro’s gongs.
It was an ugly and awful cheap shot born out of frustration and entirely against any and all of the goodwill between men the Olympics looks to champion.
Brittney Griner Tunes Up Texas Tech Player
There’s always going to be contact under the basket—that’s basketball.
But the kind of physicality Baylor star Brittney Griner exhibited during this 2010 game against Texas Tech was a problem.
After being whipped around in the paint by Tech’s Jordan Barncastle, Griner responded by teeing off on Barncastle with a haymaker.
Griner was ejected from the game and received a two-game suspension for the slugging.
Kermit Washington Nearly Killed a Guy
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kermit Washington became an NBA villain and sports pariah after this near-fatal slugging of Houston Rockets forward Rudy Tomjanovich during an on-court fight in 1977.
Tomjanovich’s jaw was shattered by the blow, along with several severe facial fractures, and Washington was fined $10,000 and suspended for 60 games.
Tie Domi Creams Ulf Samuelsson
It’s a simple rule—nothing good will ever come of grabbing another man’s stick.
Former NHL agitator Ulf Samuelsson found this out the hard way, tangling with Toronto’s Tie Domi on the glass until Domi became fed up, dropped a glove and gave Samuelsson the old peak-a-boo-how’s-your-father in front of the Rangers goal.
The shot dropped Samuelsson like a sack of codfish, but he eventually skated off the ice.