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Murthel Groenhart and the Supposed Sucker Punch

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Murthel Groenhart celebrated his victory on the top rope in Paris. Photo: The Sun

The other night there was an interesting incident in a kickboxing match between Murthel Groenhart and Harut Grigorian. Murthel stunned his opponent with a kick to the head at which point Grigorian turned his back to Groenhart and put his arms at his side. Groenhart then crushed Grigorian with a single punch that ended the fight.

Fans of Grigorian jumped into the ring and physically attacked Greonhart after the fight, and many sportswriters and commenters are carrying on the assault with words. I won’t keep you in suspense as to my opinion on all of this. Groenhart did exactly what he should have done. It was not a sucker punch, as it is being called, nor was it unsporting.

The rules of kickboxing are that if your opponent is knocked down, then you stop fighting. If the referee intervenes and tells you to stop, then you stop fighting. If the bell sounds, then you stop fighting. Other than this both combatants are to continue fighting.

Many people think Groenhart should have realized Grigorian was badly stunned from the kick and halted his next punch. I’m not sure how Groenhart is supposed to come to this conclusion. His opponent could merely have been grabbing a breath of air or preparing a back kick, these are not far-fetched hypotheticals but real possibilities. It’s not Groenhart’s duty to assess the condition of his opponent after every strike and determine if it was enough to do the job. He must continue on.

People are mainly citing the sports of football, or soccer, and bicycling where when something happens to an opponent there can be moments of sportsmanship. If a player is injured, if the other team is in possession of the ball they will often kick it out of bounds to allow the injured player to receive treatment. In a bicycle race, if a leader crashes, the other racers might slow down until a new bike is acquired.

Neither applies here. If Grigorian had fallen down from the strike, then his opponent goes to a neutral corner and awaits the referee’s order to return. That did not happen. Would the attacking team kick the ball out of bounds if a defender simply turned his back to play? Would a bicycling team slow down if an opponent slowed their pace or began riding backwards? Of course not.

Does a tennis player ease off if an opponent is suffering from cramps? Does a basketball player take it easy on an opponent who decides to guard the wrong man? Hitting and kicking one another is a part of an admittedly brutal sport. It’s essentially the point of the whole thing.

Perhaps the referee could have intervened more quickly, but I certainly see no problem with Groenhart. He did exactly what he was trained to do and it is the effectiveness of how he did it that has people upset. It’s not pleasant to watch, but reality is the punch was clean. Just as legal if Grigorian was defending himself and facing Groenhart.

By Tom Liberman

Tom Liberman is a regular fellow from St. Louis, Mo., who enjoys spending time with his wonderful family and great friends. He writes Sword and Sorcery fantasy novels in his spare time. 

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