Ranking the Hardest-Punching Heavyweight Champions of All Time
The sport of boxing peaks when there is a great heavyweight champion who can capture the public with his ferocious talent.
Wladimir Klitschko is a very talented boxer who rules the heavyweight division. But he has almost none of the aura of past champions who could pummel opponents with both fists and leave them flat on their back on a regular basis.
Muhammad Ali is one of the rare exceptions of a heavyweight champion who commanded center stage because of his all-around ability and athleticism rather than his punching power. Ali hit hard, but it was his speed, quickness, agility and charisma that made him one of the top athletes of the 20th century.
Boxing fans want to see hard-punching heavyweights. They want champions who use devastating power to obliterate their opponents.
Here are the seven hardest-punching champions of all time.
Earnie Shavers was not included because he never held the heavyweight title. He was a devastating puncher, but he needed to hold a championship to qualify for this ranking.
7. Jack Dempsey
Some analysts would never include Dempsey on this list because he never weighed more than 197 pounds for any of his bouts. But when he fought between 1915 and 1927, nobody hit harder.
Dempsey is best known for his explosive seven-knockdown performance against 245-pound Jess Willard in 1919. He shattered Willard's jaw with a first-round punch and also broke his ribs.
Dempsey's speed in the ring gave him the opportunity to find wide-open angles and deliver some of the most devastating punches in heavyweight history.
6. Sonny Liston
Sonny Liston is probably best known for losing the heavyweight championship to Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) and the controversial rematch.
Liston was a devastating puncher who took out heavyweights like Cleveland Williams and Zora Folley before knocking out Floyd Patterson to win the heavyweight championship in 1962.
Liston was perhaps the most intimidating heavyweight puncher until Mike Tyson came along.
5. Rocky Marciano
Marciano finished his legendary boxing career with a 49-0 record, and 43 of his victories were knockouts.
While Marciano was not the most skilled boxer and seemed somewhat awkward in his early fights, he developed an explosive punching rhythm and became one of the great knockout artists in the history of the heavyweight division.
One of his most memorable performances came in his heavyweight title fight against Jersey Joe Walcott in 1952. Marciano had been getting hammered by Walcott throughout much of the fight, but Marciano's devastating right in the 13th round crushed Walcott, although a following left hook finished the job.
When Marciano let loose with any of his combinations, a knockout was almost always the result.
4. Joe Frazier
Joe Frazier's series of three classic bouts with Muhammad Ali are often thought of as the best series in heavyweight boxing history.
Frazier was one of the most powerful punchers in the division's history. His powerful left hook was his signature punch.
It was that blow that knocked Ali down in the 15th round of their first fight and it also finished Jimmy Ellis and Buster Mathis.
Ali once said that Frazier's punches were so devastating that they could have "brought down the walls of a city."
3. Joe Louis
Joe Louis is often recognized as the greatest champion in the history of the heavyweight division.
If he was not the greatest of all time, he is clearly in the top three.
Louis did not attack with speed and quickness, but he was able to bear in on his opponents and deliver a relentless attack.
Louis excelled at cutting off the ring and knocking out boxers like Max Schmeling and Billy Conn.
His first-round knockout over Schmeling in 1938 is considered one of the most significant heavyweight fights in the 20th century.
2. Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson was the perfect combination of strength, explosive power, speed and viciousness in the ring.
When he was on his way up the ladder, Tyson registered a series of devastating knockouts that made him one of the most dominant fighters of his time.
When Tyson got into the ring, it was a must-see event. It wasn't a matter of how the match would end, but which round and what punch would do it.
Tyson pounded out opponents like Trevor Berbick, Pinklon Thomas, Michael Spinks, Larry Holmes, Tony Tubbs and Marvis Frazier with devastating combinations.
1. George Foreman
George Foreman may not have attacked with quite the speed of Jack Dempsey or Mike Tyson, but he had the ability to bludgeon opponents with both hands.
Foreman would eventually become well-known for his likable personality. But during the early years of his career, he was perhaps the most menacing and intimidating punchers in the history of the sport.
His 1973 knockout over Joe Frazier was one of the most stunning performances ever. Frazier was considered indestructible and Foreman blasted him all over the ring and devastated the icon.
Foreman stayed out of the ring for 10 years from 1977 until 1987, and his comeback was considered ill-advised because he was 38 when he attempted his return.
Five years later, he regained the heavyweight championship with a 10th-round knockout of champion Michael Moorer. Foreman was behind at the time, but one good 1-2 combination obliterated the champion.
Foreman finally retired in 1997 and will always be remembered for his sensational power.