Some iconic names come to mind when thinking of fast fists. There’s the phenomenal Muhammad Ali, who famously boasted, “I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and got into bed before the room was dark,” and who even more famously backed up his brags in the boxing ring. Bruce Lee’s stunning one-inch punch was said to pack more force than “a car” coming at you at 48 kilometers (29.8 miles) an hour, according to Vice. And no discussion about punching can be complete without Little Mac from the Punch-Out!! games. Amazingly, none of them hold the title of world’s fastest puncher. Who does? The answer’s about as straightforward as a right hook.
The 45 MPH fist
Let’s start with the most obvious-sounding measure of fastness — distance over time. Guinness World Records reports that in 2013, Keith Liddell — described by the Chicago Tribune as a boxer, author, mathematician, and almost-Olympian — set the record for fastest martial arts punch with a blow that reached 45 miles per hour. Are there faster punchers? Maybe. But they might not care about setting the record straight.
Even Liddell only pursued this title after suffering an injury that prevented him from competing in the Olympics. He also claimed the RecordSetter records for the world’s “longest punch” (10 feet and 10 inches) and the most speed bag punches in 60 seconds (581). Presumably, taller boxers with a longer reach could take the longest punch record if they wanted. That speed bag record was supposedly broken by someone who completed 2,000 punches in a minute, and the footage looks as ludicrous as it sounds.
A flurry of fists or a blizzard of nonsense?
Of course, one might think of the world’s fastest puncher as whoever can land the most blows within a set window of time. Guinness says that in 2017, Norman Breese set the record for “most full contact punch strikes in one minute,” landing a total of 901 after four months of training. In 2018, Muhammad Rashid set a new Guinness world record for “most punches with one hand in one minute.” He completed 428 punches, eclipsing his own previous record of 333 punches. That sounds blindingly fast, to which we say, “Not so fast — do these numbers say anything about the quality of the punches?”
If you watch the above clip of Rashid setting his 333-punch record, you’ll see that what counts as a legitimate hit is in the eyes of the record-holder. No offense, but that’s a legit punch in the same way that a caramel apple pie is a healthy serving of fruit. So maybe these records should be taken with a grain of salt, a pint of Guinness, and a keg of skepticism.
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