The knockout is boxing's most thrilling possible resolution. There is no more decisive outcome to a fighting contest than one man being unable to rise and continue. Knockouts eliminate the Eugenia Williams' of the world. The history of the sport has provided all types of thunderous conclusions, from the standard one-punch out cold (Sergio Martinez over Paul Williams) to the barrage of unanswered blows (Diego Corrales/Jose Luis Castillo). This list strays toward the former. Corrales/Castillo had one of, if not the, greatest endings of all time. But there's something particularly satisfying about seeing a man fall, and one man left standing as the clear victor. Here are ten of the most famous and dramatic knockouts from the history of the sport.
Bob Foster carried dynamite in his fists. He was arguably the most powerful puncher to ever occupy the light heavyweight division for a substantial amount of time. His only losses over his decade reign of terror were to heavyweights who carried over twenty pounds on him in the ring. In his signature moment, with his signature left hook, he cracked Dick Tiger across the bow and nearly sent his head off. A violent, violent knockout from one of boxing's most devastating punchers.
Sonny Liston's legacy may be a bit tainted because of the "phantom punch" controversy and the two losses to Muhammad Ali. Regardless, Liston in his prime was one of the most feared, intimidating heavyweights of all time. He packed a wallop with both hands, a bruising left hook being a particular specialty. Here he was finally challenging for the heavyweight crown, and he wasted no time going after Floyd Patterson, who crumbled under a series of huge lefts.
The diminutive Billy Conn, giving up twenty-five pounds (and quite probably a lot more) to the great Joe Louis, was on the verge of capturing the heavyweight crown. He had outfought and outboxed Louis for twelve rounds. In the fateful thirteenth, Conn went in for the kill, right in the danger area against the bigger, stronger man. Instead of boxing his way to victory on the outside, Conn was in a slug fest with one of the most efficient and powerful punchers the heavyweight division has ever seen. When Louis connected with a few of his patented combinations, Conn was hurt, and no one finished a job like Joe Louis did.
Sergio Martinez' thunderous blow that put Paul Williams to sleep is so recent in memory, it's tough to put it in proper perspective. However, scouring the archives, you would be hard-pressed to find a finishing punch so precise and impeccable in timing and location, nor a victim's fall as dramatic and eerie as Williams' eyes-open, vacant stare as he smacked into the canvas. This one is going down in the history books, one of the best single-punch knockouts of all time against a guy who had been in multiple wars with big punchers and never been stopped.
Jack Johnson and Stanley Ketchel were going back and forth in a ho-hum fight until Ketchel caught Johnson with a good right hand and planted the champion on his butt. Johnson responded with one of the single biggest one-punch knockouts ever recorded, a leaping right hand, his fist seemingly traveling through Ketchel's skull. Johnson fell forward from the force of his own punch and arose to find his opponent stretched out on the canvas. Reportedly, Johnson picked a few of Ketchel's teeth out of his glove. Nuff said.
This fight was huge for Joe Louis, on many levels. As a competitor, he wanted desperately to avenge the only blemish on his record, a knockout loss to Max Schmelling two years earlier. As an American, he was thrust into fighting for his country with Schmelling from Germany representing the growing rivals and future enemies of the U.S., the Nazis. Of course, Schmelling was not actually a member of the Nazi party and vehemently disagreed with their ideology, though not publicly at that point.
The fight had major implications for Louis' career as a symbolic battle for global superiority between two superpowers. Louis did not disappoint. He pounced on Schmelling from the opening bell and pounded him into submission, the corner throwing in the towel before the referee could finish the count. Joe Louis became a hero to all of America, an amazing thing in a time when racism and segregation were still a major part of society.
Sugar Ray Robinson is the greatest fighter that has ever lived. But by 1957, his prime was several years past. He lost his middleweight crown to a very good fighter, Gene Fullmer, and heading into the rematch, it was obvious that Robinson's reflexes, speed, and stamina had begun to fade. In the fifth round of the rematch, one thing that hadn't faded became clear: His power. The first four rounds had played out like the prequel, Fullmer outboxing Robinson and beating him to the punch. In the fifth..an opening...and one of the most beautiful left hooks to the chin from the greatest two-handed puncher in the sport.
Floyd Patterson became the first fighter to ever reclaim the heavyweight championship with this vicious knockout of his rival, and later friend, Ingemar Johansson. Johansson had beaten Patterson badly and stopped him in their first contest to claim the title. Patterson snatched it right back with one of the most talked-about knockouts of all time, Johannson's famous leg-twitch the chilling result.
In perhaps the most famous boxing event ever, Muhammad Ali secured his legacy as the greatest heavyweight of all time with this classic performance and knockout sequence. Foreman was an absolute beast, one of the sport's most savage knockout punchers in his own right. There was nothing savage about Ali's knockout in Kinshasha. It was beautifully timed, artful, a series of perfect steps and perfectly placed daggers that put the big man on the ground. Foreman wasn't knocked cold or beaten to a pulp. He was wounded just enough, for just the right amount of time, that he couldn't get up and continue to fight. Because of the odds against him here, this was the crowning moment of Ali's unparralleled career.
What more can you say about this one? Marciano, trailing on the scorecards taking a boxing lesson for twelve rounds from the crafty Wolcott, was in need of something bit. The right hand that caught Jersey Joe hit him like a brick, and Rocky threw in a left hook swiping his chin for good measure. The second punch didn't matter. Wolcott was out cold, slumping forward helplessly until finally coming to rest face down on the canvas. This punch was so big and devastating it won two fights. In the rematch, the first right hand that connected thirty seconds into the fight sent Wolcott reeling to the canvas, not so much from the impact, but the memory it generated.