The 20 Most Brutal Knockouts in Boxing History (With Video)
A list of boxing's most brutal knockouts is a hopelessly slippery list to try and grasp.
Coming at it purely subjectively, my list would have a far more generous serving of Chris Byrd and Evander Holyfield being subjected to harm. I would deprive you of witnessing any harm coming to Roberto Duran or Tyson.
That's the thing with brutal knockouts making an impact—you have to care about who's dishing out the punishment or receiving in order to really take it in. Brutal knockouts in boxing have very little to do with staring at a car wreck. An extraordinary knockout comes in all kinds of varieties, but when one of our favorite fighters offers or suffers one, it inevitably becomes a defining characteristic in his legacy.
In 1990, Douglas took something from Tyson that Tyson never got back.
In 1984, Hearns crushed not just Duran, but my big brother who could never care about boxing the same way after that.
In October of 2011, Brin-Jonathan Butler relived the joy of Chris Byrd's misfortune on Youtube and lost his mind to the degree of even trying to get his wife to take part in beholding the majesty (she refused, adamantly).
We're all drawn to the drama of the big finish for different reasons.
Usually, I watch them when insomnia gets a nasty hold of me. I can't witness the gravity of these kinds of defeats without feeling exhausted (unless it's Chris Byrd).
Of all the knockouts on display in this series of clips, I'm pretty sure only Joey Gamache discontinued his career after the punishment Gatti inflicted. Of course, Gamache also suffered permanent brain damage to go along with the beating.
Not all the damage of boxing comes long after the final bell on a career. Some of it happens right before your eyes.
Fernando Vargas vs. Felix Trinidad
There are some fighters you just have the necessary detachment to entirely root for, yet not really give a damn if they get pummeled.
Most of the time, my number candidate for this category of fighter would be Fernando Vargas. Huge heart, always aggressive, took on any challenge, brave until the end.
Yet all these attributes made him an especially fascinating subject to watch in defeat.
Plus, he was all juiced against Oscar, so you get the whole sanctimonious thing behind you when you root for the other guy against him.
I was never capable of cheering against Vargas. How could you? Just look what he brought out in Tito.
TITO! TITO! TITO! is still ringing in my ears.
Mike Tyson vs. Lennox Lewis
This fight should have happened long, long before. It was a crime to wait this long. It was a crime to have the fight in Memphis. It was crime nobody had seen Gladiator and taken some measures to handicap Lewis, given what we all knew he was about to do to the glory that was Rome...err... I mean Tyson.
Of course, at this moment, I'm unable to pinpoint the exact time this fight should have taken place, but, rest assured, once I do it will undoubtedly be the time when Tyson would have destroyed Lewis.
And yes, it may be true I've spent the better part of the last several years unsuccessfully hunting down this specific time, but if O.J. can't search for justice, then so can I.
This fight crushed me. I marched out in the rain in Madrid trying to hunt down a bar showing anything other than soccer reruns. Just before giving up, poof—fight poster. No mirage.
The goods were inside, so I shoehorned in there and was subjected to my childhood hero sustaining a crippling beating at the hands of a titanic Lewis at his peak.
Manny Pacquiao vs. Ricky Hatton
Poor Ricky Hatton.
Pacquiao plays a little anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better with Floyd, and everyone in the world is the beneficiary of the magnificence––except Hatton.
What a shot.
Fernando Vargas vs. Oscar De La Hoya
Even juiced to the gills, Vargas takes a savage beating here.
Right from the get-go with this contest, something was highly fishy about Vargas' physique. He's "changed his diet" and "started a new fitness regime" etc, etc.
For the first time in his career he wasn't just not soft, he was shredded. And it looked all wrong.
Vargas was never blessed with much of a body or great physical assets, but even artificially trying to gain some didn't help much against De La Hoya's onslaught.
Roy Jones Jr. vs. Vinny Pazienza
Make no mistake, this is Roy Jones Jr. just about reaching cruising altitude with his greatness. His skills never looked sharper. He's so dominant against a game fighter like Paz that even Roy feels guilty enough about the damage he's inflicting, so he petitions the referee to have a closer look and stop the fight.
This fight has a lot of echos to Mayweather's dismantling of Gatti (oh, whoops, I didn't include that––what an oversight).
Unlike a Gatti defeat, Pazienza getting steamrolled is something most of us can take pleasure in.
Floyd Mayweather vs. Angel Manfredy
For those that say Floyd lacks aggression or punching power, I offer you this demonstration of what Floyd's capable of.
Mayweather loads up on the final series as he rarely ever has, and the results are on display in how helpless Manfredy is to do anything but crumble.
Mike Tyson vs. Marvis Frazier
One of the first great performances of Tyson's career in ending poor Marvis Frazier's career.
It's hard not to shake the feeling that Tyson fighting that other Frazier, you know, that Smokin' guy, might've been a fight for the ages.
Marvis had the name but nowhere near the skills.
Tyson fights as he always did in his peak, as if Marvis was personally responsible for every misdeed Tyson ever suffered in his life.
Ike Ibeabuchi vs. Chris Byrd
Ike "The President" Ibeabuchi, when not forcing women into closets to assault them, happened to be the great heavyweight prizefighter that never was.
His size, power, speed, and punch output (have a gander at his fight against Tua) are beyond horrifying.
This fight is Ibeabuchi on the way up, facing an undefeated prospect in one Chris Byrd.
The shot Ike floors with Byrd with is the nicest cross between an uppercut and a hook I think I've ever seen (apologies to that goofy punch Razor Ruddock had that was advertised as something similar).
Ike was very, very special and very criminally insane.
Chris Byrd vs. Shaun George
What do you know? More face time with Chris Byrd.
I'm taking for granted that as a true boxing fan, there's no possible way you can get enough of watching Chris Byrd and all his goofy, whiny facial expressions throughout fights in tow, getting whaled on.
In this installment of Chris Byrd being knocked stupid, he's gotten on a running kick and dropped down to light heavyweight. He was a different fighter, Byrd assured. He'd melted all that weight because maybe he didn't belong in the heavyweight division.
Well, I was praying to whatever God I had an active spiritual account with that he was wrong and tuned in to his fight against Shaun George.
Turns out Byrd is just as satisfying to watch lose as a light heavy as a heavy. Maybe even more so.
Michael Moorer vs. Bert Cooper
It's one of the best slug-fests of all time. It's better than Lyle versus. Foreman. Just watch the damn thing.
David Tua vs. Michael Moorer
Freddie Roach told me the only regret he ever had in boxing is when he worked the corner of a fighter he wasn't convinced was ready for the fight. He swore he'd never make the same mistake again.
This is that fight.
Corrie Sanders vs. Bobby Czyz
Somehow, Bobby Czyz and his awe-inspiring Mensa IQ (oh, he didn't get around to telling you 400 times already? I'm sure there's a newsletter you could sign up for with weekly reminders) failed to find a solution to Corrie Sanders.
Fortunately, those at the Mensa institute offered Czyz a consolation prize for his defeat with a luxurious third-hand edition of original Latin Boggle for when Czyz isn't using his IQ to decide to drink and drive for the 100th time.
Corrie Sanders vs. Wladimir Klitschko
It's true, Corrie Sanders just has a special way of throwing punches that I find especially enjoyable to watch. And, even better, Sanders can't do much else but punch and doesn't bother trying to find any other means of winning fights.
Enter Wladimir Klitschko to this equation. The results are ridiculously satisfying.
Roy Jones Jr. vs. Virgil Hill
Brutality comes in many different manifestations. One of them is the shot-of-excellence in boxing—the body shot.
Jones Jr. unleashed maybe the best solitary body shot in the history of the sport. I can still hear Hill's rib reacting to it.
George Foreman vs. Gerry Cooney
George Foreman's uppercut finish of Gerry Cooney is the most satisfying old-man KO in the history of boxing.
There's something about Big George's demeanor in delivering the punch that's a bit like some guy on the street calling your mother a name and before you can figure out why, your dad turns around and socks him with the most suave uppercut and just turns back around and joins your family without mentioning it ever again.
Classic Foreman KO.
Tommy Morrison vs. Ray Mercer
Personally, this is the hardest knockout of any in boxing for me to watch. I dislike Morrison rather intensely, yet any of the last series of blows that struck him to end the fight also seem capable of ending his life.
It's an arresting display of power on the part of Ray Mercer, ordinarily known for his iron chin. The man could punch.
Arturo Gatti vs. Joey Gamache
The size disparity in this fight rightly gets most of the attention. Gatti put on something like 20 pounds over the course of 36 hours. Frightening to even consider that kind of ordeal.
Something even more frightening is how Gatti put it to use.
Gamache's career was ending by this fight. More importantly, life as he knew it ended also. He suffered permanent damage.
The final finish of this fight is the highest order of brutality. Gatti lands three bombs which, broken up individually, easily could've put Gamache to sleep before he hit the canvas.
Roberto Duran vs. Thomas Hearns
Duran fought this fight the way he fought every fight—like a beast.
Nobody made him pay for it the way Hearns did.
The final shot that puts the lights out on Duran kills me to even mention.
Gerry Cooney vs. Ken Norton
Redemption for Gerry Cooney after (actually, well before) Big George left him a helpless heap of great white hope.
Cooney was a huge man who put all his weight to fine use winging away at a dangerously prone Ken Norton, held up against the ropes.
Cooney does a number on Norton on this fight to finish him, which is the very definition of what dangers lurk in the heavyweight division if an unlucky punch you don't see finds your chin.
Roy Jones Jr. vs. Denis Lebedev
Jones Jr.'s knockout loss at the hands Lebedev is here as the most recent example of a dangerously brutal knockout.
Jones Jr. has suffered far too many knockouts for a fighter of his class and distinction in the history of the sport, and nearly all his knockouts have left him punched out cold.
The implications on his life from taking these beatings could be dire, yet he continues to express an interest in fighting. Money problems have exacerbated his ability to navigate his career with any care for his well being.
A knockout like the one Jones Jr. suffers against Lebedev is the kind you retire from immediately.
Jones Jr. always promised us he'd learned enough from the other great fighters of the past not to end up like them.
Well he has. And, if he continues to fight, it's going to get worse.