While it’s easy to appreciate the old-school artistry of a Muhammad Ali and the modern-day defensive wizardry of Floyd Mayweather Jr., most boxing fans would concede to getting a tangible adrenaline uptick when settling in to watch a no-frills KO artist go about his business.
Go ahead, admit it … we won’t judge you.
And whether it’s a heavyweight bomber with one-shot pop or the sort of grinding aggressor that ultimately triumphs via mid-round surrender, few scenarios in sports rival the drama provided by a predator vs. prey matchup within a roped 20’ x 20’ square.
Here, we listed 10 active fighters whose fight-ending street cred speaks for itself—both in terms of actual KO percentage and what they’ve accomplished against high-end foes on the biggest stages.
The Record: 27-0, 22 KO
The KO Rate: 81.5 percent
Though he’s not instantly included among the big punchers, the “Problem” has pounded opponents with precision and volume for the majority of his 27 pro fights. He’d stopped 10 straight foes before being stretched to 10 rounds by veteran Daniel Ponce De Leon in 2011, then had six more early work nights—including five in title fights—before downing Paulie Malignaggi over 12 in a June welterweight debut.
The Record: 35-0, 29 KO
The KO Rate: 82.9 percent
“El Chocolatito” hasn’t actually been around forever, it just seems like it. The 5’3” dynamo turned pro at age 18 and immediately stopped his first 16 opponents, and he’s maintained an only slightly less consistent pace while advancing to age 26—going to the scorecards in consecutive fights only two times in 35 total bouts. Six of his last seven outings have ended early, none past the seventh round.
The Record: 32-0, 27 KO
The KO Rate: 84.3 percent
Yet more evidence that KO artists don’t have to come in burly, face-first packages, the angular and technically sound Garcia is a fearsome counterpuncher who specializes in taking advantage of overly aggressive foes. Nine of his last 10 wins have come via stoppage, with the only exception being an injury-induced technical decision that came after he’d floored his foe three times in eight rounds.
The Record: 20-0-1, 17 KO
The KO Rate: 85.0 percent
If you’re going to go walking around with the nickname “KO Dynamite,” you’d better be able to back it up with some inside-the-distance prowess. Fortunately, the Japanese 130-pound champ has done just that, scoring 10 straight wins by stoppage since 2008—with the only blemish coming on a technical draw against Michael Farenas. No worries, though, as the two fights since have lasted a combined 13 rounds.
The Record: 60-3, 51 KO
The KO Rate: 85.0 percent
If you base the validity of a knockout artist on his performances against championship-level opposition, then the multi-belted heavyweight kingpin is your man. The IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO title claimant began his existing reigns with a stop of Chris Byrd in 2006 and has since halted 11 of 14 challengers before the final bell—a KO rate of 78.6 percent against foes ranging between 209.5 and 253.5 pounds.
The Record: 21-1, 18 KO
The KO Rate: 85.7 percent
That thudding sound you heard in early June wasn’t another economic crash, it was the noise created by a 35-year-old Haitian-turned-Canadian tipping the light heavyweight division on its ear. Via one left hand to the head of longtime incumbent Chad Dawson, a new series of potential big fights was created that could involve super middleweight Andre Ward or even age-defying wonder Bernard Hopkins.
The Record: 27-0, 24 KO
The KO Rate: 88.9 percent
Not all that long ago, he was just an anonymous ex-Soviet bloc Olympian with a gaudy amateur record and an IBO championship belt. But these days, the Kazakhstan-born slugger is the sport’s ferocious flavor of the month thanks to a 14-fight stoppage streak—the most recent of which came on June 29 at the expense of the bloody eye and caved-in torso of gutty Englishman Matthew Macklin.
The Record: 34-3, 31 KO
The KO Rate: 91.1 percent
Chances are good that he wouldn’t provide it without a wince, but you’d not need to go much further than Victor Ortiz for testimony on the rough customer from Argentina who forced the then-Golden Boy prodigy to surrender rather than continue to get hit in their memorable 2009 brawl. It’s been six KOs in eight wins since as “El Chino” has climbed from 140-pound also-ran to legitimate 147-pound title-level power player.
The Record: 45-2, 41 KO
The KO Rate: 91.1 percent
It’s hard to fathom that a guy with an above 90 percent KO proficiency is considered the “other” heavyweight champion, but that’s indeed the case with the older—by nearly five years—of the Klitschko brothers, who holds one belt to Wladimir’s four. Nonetheless, of the 15 title-fight wins on either side of a gruesome loss to Lennox Lewis a decade ago, no fewer than 12 have come by early exit.
The Record: 34-2, 32 KO
The KO Rate: 94.1 percent
The first time cameras panned past Danny Garcia on May 18, the 140-pound champ appeared brash and confident. A few minutes later, after Lamont Peterson had been splattered across the ring, let’s just say he looked a trifle unsettled. Such is the impact made by an Argentine wrecking ball that’s stopped 11 straight opponents since 2008 and scored knockdowns in each of two career losses, on split decisions.