Ranking the 10 Most Impressive Knockout Streaks in Boxing History
Boxing fans love nothing more than a knockout puncher. Want an example? Deontay Wilder has generated more buzz than any American heavyweight in at least a decade thanks almost entirely to his eye-popping 30 straight wins by stoppage.
His development over nearly five full years and 30 professional fights has been almost scandalously slow and cautious. But he has also dispatched a number of tough journeymen in unprecedented fashion.
His streak doesn't quite make the list here, although it was close. Very few professional fighters in boxing history have managed to knock out 30 straight to launch their careers, let alone all of them inside of four rounds.
Two more double-digit KO streaks will be on the line this weekend in Madison Square Garden. WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin enters his defense against Curtis Stevens on a 14-fight knockout streak. On the undercard, heavyweight Magomed Abdusalamov meets fellow unbeaten contender Mike Perez after knocking out all 18 of his previous opponents.
Here are the 10 most impressive knockout streaks in boxing history.
10. Earnie Shavers
Earnie Shavers fought in the 1970s, which was the golden age of heavyweights. Muhammad Ali and Ron Lyle have both gone on the record, calling him the hardest puncher they ever faced.
Between August 1970 and May 1972, Shavers knocked out 27 straight opponents. The quality of opposition ranged only from lousy to mediocre, but his work rate was astonishing nonetheless.
Nobody was carefully stage-managing his career to pad his KO record. He was simply fighting as often as he could and knocking out anybody foolish enough to get in the ring with him, at an average of over one KO a month.
9. John 'The Beast' Mugabi
One of the great knockout punchers of the 1980s, Uganda's John Mugabi earned his nickname. "The Beast" was a ferocious, two-fisted demon who annihilated everybody in his path prior to his Round 11 KO loss to Marvin Hagler in 1986.
Mugabi was a wide-open fighter and usually lost by knockout, too. Following his first defeat to Hagler, he lost his next bout by Round 3 TKO to Duane Thomas. He then rebounded to win 11 straight by stoppage before getting knocked out in Round 1 by Terry Norris in 1990.
8. Vitali Klitschko
You can make a strong statistical argument that Vitali Klitschko is the greatest knockout puncher in the history of the heavyweight division. He has finished 41 of 47 professional opponents for a KO percentage of just over 87 percent.
The oldest Klitschko brother started his professional career with a knockout streak of 27 straight. In his 25th fight, he captured the WBO title with a Round 2 KO of Herbie Hide.
Klitschko's streak ended when he lost by TKO to Chris Byrd after injuring his shoulder.
7. Edwin Valero
Edwin Valero's sky-rocketing career came to a shocking halt in 2010 when the native of Venezuela was arrested for the murder of his wife. Shortly afterward, he committed suicide in police custody.
Up to that point, he had emerged as the sport's most exciting puncher. He knocked out all 27 of his professional opponents, with 19 of them going down in the opening round.
Valero collected world titles at super featherweight and lightweight.
6. Alfonso Zamora
Alfonso Zamora is one of two fighters on this list who was knocked out by another fighter on the list. In the 1970s, a bunch of heavy-handed sluggers were fighting from bantamweight to featherweight.
Zamora started his career with 29 straight KOs. He knocked out his first 19 opponents and then knocked out Soo-Hwan Hong in four rounds to capture the WBA bantamweight title in 1975.
He knocked out nine more opponents before losing to knockout machine Carlos Zarate by Round 4 TKO in his 30th fight.
5. Acelino Freitas
Acelino Freitas emerged in the 1990s as the greatest boxer from Brazil since Eder Jofre. The explosive super featherweight knocked out his first 29 professional opponents.
He won the WBO super featherweight title in August 1998 in his 21st fight and knocked out his first eight challengers before Alfred Kotey finally took him the distance. Freitas still won by unanimous decision.
He followed that fight with a unanimous-decision victory over Joel Casamayor to add the WBA 130-pound belt to his collection.
4. Henry Armstrong
Henry Armstrong needs to be on any short list of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of all time. He's the only man to hold world titles in three divisions at the same time. And he did it during an era with only eight divisions and a single world champion in each one.
Known by the nicknames of "Homicide" and "Hurricane Hank," Armstrong was an explosively dangerous offensive fighter. He is one of the few men in boxing history with more than 100 verified professional knockouts.
Between April 1937 and March 1938, he went on a knockout rampage, stopping 27 straight. Not everybody he beat during the streak was a contender or even a respectable journeyman.
But it was still a remarkable ledger of carnage to compile in less than a full calender year, and it included capturing the world featherweight title from Petey Sarron in October 1937.
3. George Foreman
George Foreman's knockout streak is the shortest on this list. Between his Round 10 unanimous-decision victory over Gregorio Peralta in 1970 and his Round 8 KO loss to Muhammad Ali in October 1974, Big George mowed down 24 straight opponents inside of the distance.
But during that streak, he forged an aura as imposing as any heavyweight puncher in the sport's history. Heading into his defense against Ali, few gave the former champion a shot. Foreman looked invincible.
Foreman's streak is ultimately remarkable primarily for two performances. In January 1973, he blitzed Joe Frazier to win the heavyweight title, battering "Smoking Joe" all over the ring and knocking him down six times en route to a Round 2 TKO.
In March 1974, he knocked down Ken Norton three times and stopped him by Round 2 TKO in his last fight before facing Ali.
2. Carlos Zarate
Carlos Zarate started his career with 23 straight knockouts. But that streak is not the one that earned him inclusion on this list.
After winning by unanimous decision in his 24th fight, Zarate won his next 28 by stoppage, collecting the WBC bantamweight title along the way. Among his victims was Alfonso Zamora, who had his own 29-fight knockout streak ended by Zarate via Round 4 TKO.
In all, Zarate ran his record to 52-0 with 51 knockouts before losing for the first time to Wilfredo Gomez by Round 5 TKO. Speaking of whom...
1. Wilfredo Gomez
While there have been longer knockout streaks than Wilfredo Gomez's 32, none of those fighters come close to matching Gomez in terms of quality. Half the fights in his streak were world title fights.
After drawing in his professional debut, he won his next 32 fights by way of knockout. He captured the WBC super bantamweight title by Round 12 KO against Dong-Kyun Yum in 1977. He defended the belt 16 times, knocking out every challenger.
Gomez finally lost to the great Salvador Sanchez by Round 8 TKO when he moved up to featherweight. He won his next eight fights by stoppage before winning a unanimous decision over Juan LaPorte and then getting knocked out in Round 11 by Azumah Nelson.