All people who watch boxing wait in anticipation hoping for one moment: the knockout punch. A knockout in the sport of boxing can be compelling, thrilling, vicious and heroic. Professional boxing has produced some of the most dramatic moments in sports history, and more often than not, a knockout is at the center of the drama.
There have been many great boxers throughout the course of history, but most people remember those that were able to achieve glory in the ring by consistently knocking out their opponents. This list analyzes the history of boxing in search of the single best knockout puncher of all time.
Record (W-L-D): 62-3-2
Marvin Hagler was a tough punching middleweight with good power in both hands. He was a brawler that liked to turn his boxing matches into street fights. He would probably be higher on this list if he knocked out a mass of higher caliber opponents. Looking at his record, he only fought a few big name fighters and only knocked out one, Tommy Hearns.
The first round of the Hagler/Hearns fight is one of the most brutal rounds in boxing history. Both men came out swinging and Hagler had a lot of damage done to his face. He absorbed Tommy's punishing blows and attacked Hearns' body and head. Hagler proved to have the better chin and harder punch that night. He sent Hearns to the canvas one time and that was all he needed.
Hagler lacked skill as a boxer, but he was incredibly powerful and had an excellent chin. Ultimately, it was Hagler's knockout power that defined his career and his status as a boxing icon.
Record (W-L-D): 55-3
Out of all the boxers on this list, Wladimir Klitschko is probably the least revered. Klitschko has a glass jaw and he lacks notable opponents, but he has a lot of punching power.
Klitschko is a giant of a man, standing at 6'6”, and weighs around 250 lbs. With the guidance of Emanuel Steward, Klitschko has learned how to put all his weight behind his punch while not exposing himself in the process. When Klitschko hits an opponent squarely, he is guaranteed to hurt them. Klitschko is low on this list because he hasn't faced a high level of competition, but this isn't all his fault. He is fighting in an era where great heavyweight fighters have gone extinct.
Division: Light Welterweight
Record (W-L-D): 107-6-2
Julio Cesar Chavez is arguably the best Mexican fighter of all time. Chavez dominated the sport of boxing for thirteen years and did it by knocking out the vast majority of his opponents. Chavez was so impressive because he was an intelligent fighter that could box and brawl. He had a fierce combination of power and speed.
Julio Cesar Chavez had two dominant punches, his right cross and left hook. In his first fight with Roger Mayweather, Mayweather was first put on his back with the right and had his night ended with the left. Chavez had great power in both hands.
When Chavez looked like he was going to receive his first loss against Meldrick Taylor in their first fight, Chavez nailed Taylor in the 12th with his right cross and won the fight via TKO. Richard Steele's call was highly controversial, but Meldrick Taylor was in no condition to continue fighting, even for only a few more seconds.
Record (W-L-D): 173-19-6
“Sugar” Ray Robinson was a slick fighter with serious punching power. He had fast feet with quick hands to match. While Robinson had power in both hands, his right hook was devastating.
Robinson had 108 knockouts, but his two most impressive came against Jake LaMotta and Rocky Graziano. Robinson never put LaMotta on his back, but offered him a serious beating in their sixth and final bout. Robinson rearranged LaMotta's face in this match, and the referee stopped the bout to prevent serious damage to LaMotta.
Rocky Graziano was a great fighter, but fell in three to Robinson. In this fight, Robinson threw a number of fast and powerful looping hooks, and eventually caught Graziano with a right that floored him for good. When Robinson solidly connected with a right hand, his opponent's night was usually over.
Record (W-L-D): 103-16
Roberto Duran's nickname was “manos de piedra,” which translates to “hands of stone.” With a nickname like that, you know that Duran had serious knockout power. He actually reminds me of a lightweight/middleweight version of Jack Dempsey. He is another stalking brawler that built his reputation on his knockout power.
Duran first knocked out an opponent in 1968. His final KO of an opponent came in 1996. That's 27 years of knocking guys out, very impressive.
Record (W-L-D): 61-6-9
Jack Dempsey was more of a brawler than a schooled boxer. He was an undersized heavyweight, even by early 1900s standards, but he possessed immense punching power. While Dempsey lacked classical boxing skill, he had a magical combination of heart, toughness and power that made him one of the best heavyweight boxers of all time.
When Dempsey challenged Jess Willard for his title in 1919, Dempsey weighed 187 lbs. and Willard weighed in at a massive 245 lbs. This was seen as a “David vs. Goliath” match. Dempsey was a huge underdog, but he ended up producing one of the most brutal first-round beatings in boxing history. Jess Willard was knocked down a total of seven times in the first round, and Dempsey won via third-round TKO.
Dempsey showed no mercy and would let his hands fly. His knockouts were always vicious and brutal. Dempsey's knockout power made him a boxing legend.
Record (W-L-D): 76-5
Foreman was a pure power puncher. During his early career, he was the strongest and most physically imposing heavyweight around. Foreman was a boxer that lacked grace and traditional boxing technique, but his power was awesome. He relied on his power for the great majority of his wins.
Foreman shocked the world when he easily disposed of Joe Frazier in 1973 by way of knockout in two rounds. What people often forget is that he again defeated Frazier by TKO in 1975. Destroying Frazier twice is enough to warrant his place as one of the top five best knockout punchers of all time.
George Foreman outdid himself when he knocked out Michael Moorer at the age of 45. Through this accomplishment, Foreman proved that the last thing a boxer loses is their power. If you put him in the ring today against a top rated heavyweight, he would probably still have a punchers chance.
Division: Light Heavyweight
Record (W-L-D): 185-23-10
Archie Moore was an old school fighter that took on all comers. He never turned down a fight, and he always trusted his punching power. He makes this list purely because of his longevity as a knockout artist.
Moore started his boxing career in 1935 and ended it for good in 1963. In that time, he recorded 131 knockouts. He didn't knockout a lot of top tier competition, but he proved that he had a powerful punch over the span of his 28-year boxing career. His most notable knockout victim was Bobo Olsen, who he put away in round three in 1955. That same year, he knocked down Rocky Marciano, but he was unable to take him out, and he became the victim of a Marciano knockout. Despite this loss, Moore proved to have strength in both fists and left a long path of knockout casualties.
Record (W-L-D): 50-6
“Iron” Mike Tyson provided boxing fans with the most dynamic knockouts in boxing history. His knockouts were legendary because of the mix of power, speed and viciousness that he delivered in his punches. During the mid to late 1980s, Tyson was the best knockout puncher the world had ever seen. The reason he doesn't take the number one spot is due to the fact that he couldn't maintain his boxing brilliance. He knocked out strong opponents in his prime, but padded his KO record during the '90s with weak opposition.
The end of Tyson's career was a debacle, but the beginning was radiant. He won the title from Trevor Berbick via TKO in round two, but what most people remember about that fight is how punch drunk Berbick was while trying to get off the canvas. In 1988, Tyson knocked out Larry Holmes and Michael Spinks. These were two very good fighters, and Tyson made them look like amateurs. Spinks was 31-0 when he met Tyson, and he retired after being embarrassed in round one. Tyson is in the Hall of Fame because of his knockout talent.
Record (W-L-D): 49-0
Rocky Marciano is the best knockout puncher in boxing history. Many boxing experts try to discredit him and his record because he was a heavyweight during the 1950s, which is considered a weak era in heavyweight boxing. Despite the lack of competition, Marciano still knocked out some legendary boxers.
Some of Marciano’s knockout victims include Joe Louis, Jersey Joe Walcott, Ezzard Charles and Archie Moore. This is actually probably one of the more impressive knockout resumes on this list. Marciano was an undersized heavyweight at 5’11’’ and under 200 lbs. He lacked size, but in my opinion, he was the hardest punching boxer of all time. One questionable story that still lingers in boxing lore is that Marciano’s punching power was tested by the U.S. Army, and the force produced by one of his punches was equal to that of an armor piercing bullet. I’m skeptical of this story, but it makes for a great myth and adds to his legend.
Marciano lacked boxing skill and had mediocre footwork, but his punching power made up for his deficiencies. He didn’t care if he made contact with his opponent’s head or body. His blows would land on their shoulders and forearms, which would result in some serious bruising and actually helped to break them down. Nobody could punch like Marciano, and most likely, no one ever will.