20 Most Dangerous Punches in Boxing History
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The most dangerous punches in boxing history often create indelible memories.
Who will ever forget Mike Tyson's devastating uppercut, Joe Frazier's lethal left hook or Rocky Marciano's overpowering right hand?
Much like Muhammad Ali's snapping jab, such dangerous punches can sap an opponent's will.
Deciding whose punch is the most devastating in history involves a mostly subjective debate and not a litany of facts. While heavyweights often have the advantage when judging punching power, I included lighter-weight fighters who had reputations for turning out the lights on their opponents.
George Foreman: Short Right
George Foreman was a dominating force in the ring. He set the boxing world on its ear when he overpowered Joe Frazier in their heavyweight championship fight in 1973.
Foreman knocked Frazier down three times in the first and second rounds.
In those days, there was nothing friendly about Foreman. That personality would come much later in his career.
He had a series of devastating punches, but his short right hand could be thrown in an instant and turn the lights out on anyone who was hit squarely by it.
Joe Frazier: Left Hook
Joe Frazier was one of the most devastating punchers in boxing history. He is widely recognized as one of the sport's all-time great heavyweights thanks in large part to his heart, courage and explosive power.
Frazier was best known for his dominating left hook. His strength was born from work on the farm as a youngster. When he threw his left hook, he unleashed all of it in a devastating moment.
When Frazier fought Muhammad Ali in their celebrated 1971 bout at Madison Square Garden, his 15th-round left hook sent Ali to the canvas and was the punch that clinched the fight in Frazier's favor.
That same left hook was responsible for the majority of the 27 knockouts that Frazier recorded in his career.
Earnie Shavers: Overhand Right
Earnie Shavers never won the heavyweight championship of the world.
He lost a unanimous decision to Muhammad Ali in 1977 and was TKO'd by Larry Holmes in 1979 when he had a chance to earn the title belt.
But don't think for a second that the "Acorn" was not one of the sport's most devastating punchers. He recorded 68 of his 74 career victories by knockout, and his overhand right was responsible for many of those stoppages.
Shavers went into his fights confident that he could knock out opponents in devastating fashion. His 1973 first-round knockout of former champion Jimmy Ellis demonstrated the overwhelming power of his right-hand punch.
Joe Louis: Straight Right
Joe Louis is often acknowledged to be the greatest heavyweight champion of all time.
When it comes to spectacular performances, few can top his first-round knockout victory over Max Schmeling.
In that bout, Louis ripped a series of powerful punches—most of them were devastating right hands—and Schmeling could be heard screaming in pain as a result.
Louis had many skills in the ring, and his combination punches probably made him the greatest heavyweight of all time. But his straight right was a dominating factor during his run as heavyweight champion from 1937 through 1949.
Rocky Marciano: Right Hook
Rocky Marciano was a powerful puncher who dominated the heavyweight division in the early and mid-1950s.
Marciano had a 49-0-0 record, with 43 of the victories coming by knockout. Marciano could rip powerful punches with either hand. He had the ability to stop his opponents at any point in a fight.
Nobody knew this better than Jersey Joe Walcott, who Marciano stopped in the 13th and first rounds.
Marciano would launch himself into his opponents, and his right hook would usually turn the lights out when he landed it cleanly on his opponent's chin.
Thomas Hearns: Right Hook
Thomas Hearns was a brilliant fighter who competed in many different weight classes. He fought at weights ranging from 144 to 191 pounds.
Hearns was probably at his best as a welterweight. His most well-known fights were his losses to Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler, but he generated incredible torque and power from his punches. His right hand was particularly vicious.
He registered remarkable second-round victories over Pipino Cuevas and Roberto Duran that cemented his status as one of the hardest non-heavyweight punchers of all time.
Mike Tyson: Right Uppercut
Mike Tyson was among the most intimidating heavyweight fighters of all time.
While Tyson had quickness and skill in the ring, his ability to take an opponent out with one punch or a series of punches left many quaking in their boxing shoes before the bell started for Round 1.
Tyson could do it with any number of punches, including an overhand right and straight right. But when he landed his right uppercut, his opponents would often go down like a redwood in the forest.
Tyson had a 50-6-0 career record, and 44 of his victories came via knockout.
Bob Foster: Left Hook
Bob Foster was a rather thin-looking light heavyweight champion who dominated his division from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s.
Foster won 56 bouts in his career, including 46 by knockout. He generated tremendous power with his left hook by the speed and torque he put on that punch.
He had the ability to string punches together and finish his opponents with the left hook. He first earned his title with a brutal 1968 TKO of champion Dick Tiger in the fourth round.
Sonny Liston: Straight Right Hand
Sonny Liston was one of the most intimidating heavyweight punchers of all time.
He was known for his baleful stare at the pre-fight meeting in the center of the ring that caused many opponents to question their decision to fight him.
He won the heavyweight championship with a terrific first-round knockout of Floyd Patterson in 1962, and he repeated his first-round success vs. Patterson in 1963.
Liston's straight right-hand punch was as vicious a punch as Mike Tyson's uppercut.
Julian Jackson, Right Hook
Julian Jackson was one of the most powerful middleweight punchers in boxing.
Jackson was 55-6-0 while fighting in the 1980s and '90s, knocking out 49 of his opponents.
The "Hawk" was known for his quick, clean and brutal punching. This fourth-round knockout (at 2:05) of Wayne Powell in 1990 demonstrated his overwhelming and often shocking power. Jackson appeared to be off-balance as he threw the quick right, but Powell went down as if he had been shot.
Sugar Ray Robinson: Left Jab
Ray Robinson is often considered the best pound-for-pound boxer in the history of the sport.
He may have looked dapper and gentlemanly outside the ring, but inside, he had nearly perfect punching technique that would occasionally result in impressive knockouts.
He would pivot perfectly on the balls of his feet and deliver precise power punches. His fifth-round knockout of Gene Fullmer in 1957 was one of the most skillful punches ever delivered in the ring.
Fullmer said he never saw the punch coming. One moment he was fighting, and the next, he was being helped to his corner (source: trueslant.com).
Roberto Duran: Short Right Hand
Few fighters ever had Roberto Duran's finishing ability.
His "Hands of Stone" meant he could knock out an opponent from any angle, but his short right seemed to do the most damage.
Duran was a mean, angry man in the ring. When he sensed he had hurt a challenger, he piled on the punches. More often than not, it was the short right that provided the finishing touch.
Manny Pacquiao: Straight Left Hand
Manny Pacquiao's last fight resulted in a devastating knockout at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez.
However, throughout his career, "Pac-Man" has delivered his share of impressive knockouts. While he does not appear to have overwhelming strength, his balance, quickness and speed have allowed him to throw devastating combinations that result in knockouts.
Pacquiao's power left hand (4:01 of above video is one of his best) has made him one of the most impressive fighters of the last 20 years.
Archie Moore: Straight Right Hand
Few fighters have ever been able to match Archie Moore's longevity or skill in the ring.
Moore had all the punches a fighter could throw, but his ability to keep his opponent off balance and then throw a hard right-hand punch made him a knockout threat every time he stepped in the ring.
Moore knocked down Rocky Marciano before getting knocked out himself, but the fact that he could topple the Brockton Blockbuster demonstrated how dangerous he was.
Moore finished his long career with a record of 185-23-10, and 131 of his victories came by knockout.
Lennox Lewis, Left Jab
Lennox Lewis retired with his heavyweight championship intact after stopping Vitali Klitschko in the sixth round.
Lewis concluded his career with a 41-2-1 record, and 32 of his fights ended via knockout.
Lewis had a hard and powerful straight right hand, but it was his ability to throw a devastating left jab that set up his finishing punches. He was able to destroy the will of opponents like Frank Bruno, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Michael Grant by using his jab to set up his power punches.
David Tua, Overhand Right
David Tua was a wrecking machine in the ring.
The 5'10", 244-pound Tua was capable of delivering a thunderous right hand that could put any recipient on his back. Tua finished his career in 2011 with a 52-4-2 record, and 43 of his victories came by knockouts.
Tua was not speedy or graceful in the ring, but when he delivered his bombs, he was dangerous and effective.
Jack Dempsey, Right Hook
Jack Dempsey was one of America's greatest sports heroes in the early part of the 20th century.
His powerful punches allowed him to devastate opponents and draw huge crowds every time he got into the ring.
His famed knockout over the massive Jess Willard in 1919 (see video above) is one of boxing's most devastating fights. Dempsey ripped rights and lefts to overpower an opponent who outweighed him by 58 pounds.
Dempsey had power in all his punches, but his ripping right hook was overwhelming.
Muhammad Ali, Left Jab
Power is not the first thing you think of when you are considering Muhammad Ali's career.
He was perhaps the best athlete of all the heavyweight champions. When he was at his peak, he had overwhelming speed and quickness, punching accuracy, punching power, brilliant strategy and legendary heart.
However, if there was one punch that defined his legendary career, it was his scintillating left jab.
Ali used it like a metronome to keep opponents at bay. That jab set up his other punches and kept opponents off balance throughout the fight.
Few fighters could compete with Ali over a 15-round fight, and his jab was one of the primary reasons why.
Wladimir Klitschko, Straight Right
The Klitschko brothers are generally downgraded when compared with boxing's all-time great fighters.
However, as the years go by, they are receiving greater recognition for their talent and power to dominate in the ring.
While Vitali Klitschko has his supporters, it is our contention that Wladimir Klitschko is the better fighter. There is little doubt about his punching power.
Wladimir has a 59-3-0 record, and 50 of his victories have come by knockout. Based on his size alone—6'6" and 247 pounds—Klitschko can overpower most of his opponents in the ring.
However, it's his ability to stun and pulverize opponents with his punch that have helped him become a great champion.
Before he died in 2012, legendary trainer Emanuel Steward was thoroughly impressed with Wladimir Klitschko's punching power.
"He's the most accurate, single-punch knockout guy I have ever seen," Steward told SportsIllustrated.com. "A guy can be completely fine, not hurt, and Wladimir can put his lights out with one shot."
Marvin Hagler, Right Hook
Marvelous Marvin Hagler was one of the great punching middleweights of all time.
Like many of those who are not heavyweights, Hagler depended on speed, timing, balance and footwork to generate his sensational punching power.
While Hagler was right-handed, he regularly fought out of a left-handed stance (source: myboxingcoach.com). That gave him extraordinary power with his right hook. When he hit an opponent on the button, the fight was usually over.
Hagler (62-3-0, 52 knockouts) performed like a brilliant athlete, but it was hard work in the gym that allowed him to develop his fighting ability in general and his punching power in particular.