Ranking the 10 Most Shocking Knockouts of the Past 10 Years
Nothing in sports is more exciting than a knockout. The only two things that are even close are the walk-off home run and the Hail Mary touchdown pass.
But both the home run and the touchdown pass at least come at the end of the game, when they can be logically anticipated. The knockout can come at any moment, as a complete surprise.
And some knockouts are bigger surprises than others. Not every knockout on this list is a shocker in retrospect, but they all stunned the audience at the time.
10. Manny Pacquiao over Ricky Hatton
I was somewhat conflicted about including this one. Heading into his showdown with Ricky Hatton in 2009, Manny Pacquiao was the hottest fighter in the sport. In the previous three years, he'd KO'd Erik Morales twice, David Diaz and Oscar De La Hoya.
So a stoppage against Hatton, who had previously been stopped by Floyd Mayweather, certainly seemed like a strong possibility.
Regardless, the manner in which Pac-Man delivered it was sudden and shocking. In the second round, Pacquiao casually flicked out a throwaway jab and then launched an explosive left hand that dropped the tough Brit as if he'd been shot.
There have been few more dramatic knockouts in the sport in the past several decades.
9. Adonis Stevenson over Chad Dawson
In retrospect, maybe this one doesn't seem so shocking. Adonis Stevenson was already known as a power puncher coming into this fight. And for Chad Dawson, this was his return bout after being hammered by Andre Ward.
Dawson's performances since this June 2013 fight have made it clear that he's simply not the fighter he once was. Last year, he dropped a split decision to journeyman Tommy Karpency. For Dawson's sake, I hope he retires.
Regardless, Stevenson's Round 1, one-punch KO to seize Dawson's light heavyweight crown came as a shock at the time. Stevenson was a relatively unknown fighter in his mid-30s, and Dawson had been one of the sport's best all-around boxers for most of a decade. Dawson had given two-division world champion and longtime heavyweight contender Tomasz Adamek his first loss.
But as Stevenson's win demonstrated, in boxing, a monster puncher in the right place at the right time is only ever a split-second away from stardom.
8. Nonito Donaire over Vic Darchinyan, the 1st Time
This is the knockout that started Nonito Donaire's stock surging. When he challenged for Vic Darchinyan's IBF flyweight title in July 2007, he'd barely done enough to suggest he deserved a title shot, let alone to make anybody think he would be a good match for Darchinyan.
Darchinyan was the terror of the 112-pound division. He was 28-0 with 23 stoppages. He was a savvy and extremely physical fighter, in his prime.
Donaire's sudden left hook in Round 5 dropped Darchinyan to the canvas. While the tough Armenian managed to make it back to his feet, his stumbling gait made it clear he was unable to continue, and the ref quickly waved off the action.
The belt had changed hands and a new star had emerged.
7. Orlando Salido over Juan Manuel Lopez, the 1st Time
This is another fight on the list that doesn't seem like such a shock in retrospect, especially since Orlando Salido stopped Juan Manuel Lopez a second time in a rematch a year later. But when they fought for the first time, in 2011, Lopez was one of the most exciting rising stars in the sport.
Lopez came into this fight 30-0, with 27 KOs. He had stopped Rafael Marquez in his previous fight. Salido was clearly a quality fighter, but he'd taken too many hard knocks in his career to have the kind of star power Lopez had at the time.
But the hard-nosed Salido refused to be intimidated by Lopez's power and stayed in range to make him pay for his defensive lapses.
All three judges had the fight scored even when Salido finished Lopez off in Round 8, but I think they were giving the champion far too much credit. I had Salido comfortably ahead.
6. Carl Froch over Jermain Taylor
Carl Froch was the undefeated reigning champion in this bout, but Jermain Taylor was the bigger star at the time. Froch's only really impressive win at this point had come when he won the vacant WBC super middleweight title by beating Jean Pascal, who had himself yet to beat anybody of note.
Taylor, meanwhile, was the man who had ended Bernard Hopkins' historic reign as the undisputed middleweight champion. He'd dropped back-to-back fights to Kelly Pavlik, but had come back to trounce Jeff Lacy.
And for the first 11 rounds of this fight, Taylor cleanly outboxed Froch. But the Cobra went for broke in Round 12, and it paid off in a major way. Froch brutalized Taylor, while the former middleweight champion struggled to hold on.
Froch dropped Taylor in a corner and saved his new belt with just 14 seconds left on the clock. It was only Froch's second fight in America, and his first since his prospect days. He proved to the U.S. fans that there was a new name they needed to learn.
5. Sergio Martinez over Paul Williams
In December 2009, Sergio Martinez had dropped a majority decision to Paul Williams. But the Argentine star rebounded in a huge way from that loss, hustling out a unanimous-decision victory over Kelly Pavlik in April 2010, to earn the WBC and lineal world title at middleweight.
The stage was set for a rematch in November 2010 between Martinez and Williams. This time, the newly crowned champion didn't let the decision reach the judges.
After an active first round, the two southpaws both looked to land left hands 1:10 into Round 2. Martinez's shot connected a split-second quicker, and Williams dropped like a tree in a wood lot. It took several minutes for him to wake up.
The knockout launched Martinez up the pound-for-pound rankings. Along with Manny Pacquiao's one-punch KO of Ricky Hatton, this one is among the most dramatic southpaw knockouts in the sport's history.
4. Jhonny Gonzalez over Abner Mares
Jhonny Gonzalez was a tough veteran and former champion. He also had a reputation as a big-time puncher. But by the time he faced Abner Mares in August 2013, Mares was one of the fastest rising stars in the sport.
Mares was an undefeated, three-division champion. In the week before this fight, his promoter, Richard Schaefer, had given interviews contending that Mares should be ranked No. 2 pound-for-pound, behind only Floyd Mayweather.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, was being treated as just another name to put on the rising star's resume. Maybe it insulted his pride.
The veteran jumped all over the undefeated champion in the very first round, landing brutal lead hooks. Mares was knocked down twice before the referee waved off the action.
3. Nobuhiro Ishida over James Kirkland
James Kirkland was one of the most exciting rising contenders in the sport in April 2011. The menacing light middleweight took an undefeated 27-0 record with 24 KOs into his confrontation with obscure Japanese journeyman Nobuhiro Ishida, who was 22-6-2 at the time.
Kirkland had recently come back from serving jail time on a weapons charge and was temporarily fighting without the benefit of his normal trainer, Ann Wolfe. So maybe it should have been obvious that he was ripe for the taking.
But it couldn't have been possible to imagine what ended up happening. Ishida had just seven KOs in his 29 fights.
Ishida dropped Kirkland hard with a counter lead hook just 30 seconds into the fight. The Japanese veteran went to work patiently, picking at Kirkland and dropping him a second time 45 seconds later.
After Kirkland rose a second time, Ishida poured on the heat and battered him. When Kirkland went down a third time, just eight seconds later, referee Joe Cortez waved off the action.
2. Breidis Prescott over Amir Khan
Both Amir Khan and Breidis Prescott were undefeated when they faced off in September 2008. Prescott had actually knocked out 17 of the 19 opponents he had faced.
But Khan was the golden boy of British boxing. He had won an Olympic silver medal in 2004, at just 17. He was viewed on both sides of the Atlantic as a future world champion.
In the opening seconds of the fight, Khan looked extremely comfortable, and his speed advantage over Prescott was obvious. Then again, he might have been too comfortable. Because just over 30 seconds into the round, Prescott floored him with a brutal left hook.
Khan made it to his feet, but his legs were pure rubber. If not for Khan's blue-chip reputation, I doubt the referee would even have let the fight continue.
Prescott quickly dropped Khan again, this time for good.
1. Juan Manuel Marquez over Manny Pacquiao
Even for somebody like me, who thought Juan Manuel Marquez deserved the win against Manny Pacquiao in their second and third fights, and was picking him to win the fourth, the sudden ending to their December 2012 was a shock. I expected Marquez to win but never in such a sudden and dramatic manner.
Marquez dropped Pacquiao in the third and carried the fourth on all three judges' cards. Pacquiao came back strong in a thrilling Round 5, evening the score when he dropped Marquez. It looked like the two were settling in for another, classic, back-and-forth war.
The sixth was all Pacquiao, for the first 2:59. Fighting with a busted nose, Marquez was very much on the defensive. Then, in the round's last second, Pacquiao made the strategic blunder of moving forward aggressively.
Marquez was waiting for him and countered with a perfect right hand that put Pacquiao to sleep for several minutes. The shocking sight of Pacquiao facedown on the canvas has quickly become one of the most iconic boxing images of recent years.