25 Most Iconic Punches in Boxing History

Justin Tate@justindavidtateCorrespondent IOctober 25, 2011

25 Most Iconic Punches in Boxing History

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    From Sugar Ray Robinson's perfect left hook to Gene Fullmer to Manny Pacquiao's perfect left to Ricky Hatton, there have been many iconic punches that have elevated the game of boxing to a whole other level.

    Every fighter who steps into the ring in boxing is only one punch away from changing history. Every punch can make a difference in a fight. The punches that do change history become iconic and instantly memorable.

    Here are the 25 most iconic punches of all time.

25. Floyd Mayweather Knocks Ricky Hatton into the Ring Post

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    Mayweather and Hatton were both undefeated and in their primes. Hatton was a rough and tough brawler who loved to fight on the inside and made Mayweather uncomfortable.

    Mayweather rose to the occasion and outfought Hatton, causing the young Briton to become frustrated.

    Hatton's frustration allowed him to run right into the left hook Mayweather had been saving for a while.

    Hatton kept moving forward as Mayweather stepped out of the way and Hatton fell and hit his head against the ring post on his way down.

    Though he would get up and get knocked down and out later. This punch became iconic for its brilliance from one of the modern greats in boxing, Floyd Mayweather.

24. Roy Jones Clowns with a Behind the Back Knockout

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    Roy Jones has beaten better opponents and humiliated plenty, but his best moment of humiliation to an opponent came against Aussie fighter Glen Kelly.

    In 2002, only a year away from winning the heavyweight world championship and two years from suffering his first knockout loss, Jones was still at the top of his game.

    Kelly unfortunately met Jones at the wrong time. Jones clowned him for seven straight rounds and then delivered the cherry on the cake. He placed his hands behind his back and waited for Kelly to come.

    Then he leaped into a right that knocked Kelly down and out. Thanks for the memories Mr. Jones.

23. Sugar Ray Leonard Lands "The Hardest Punch" of His Career Against Dave Green

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    In the fourth round, Leonard delivered a one two that laid Dave Boy Green out in a similar manner to what Pacquiao would do to Hatton nearly thirty years later.

    Leonard called his left knockout punch to Green "...the hardest single blow I ever threw."

    And boy does it look like it.

22. Roberto Duran Hurts Sugar Ray Leonard in Round 2

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    "The Brawl in Montreal" as their fight was billed was supposed to be just another feather in the cap of the undefeated Sugar Ray Leonard.

    Roberto Duran, former lightweight legend, had moved up to welterweight with intentions of changing that.

    They went toe-to-toe with Leonard fighting more flat-footed than usual. Leonard seemed to handle himself okay until Duran landed a left hook that hurt him.

    Leonard held on for dear life and continued to hold for nearly the entire rest of the round. Though Leonard recovered, Duran dominated from then on, giving Leonard his first loss by decision.

21. Sergio Martinez Chops Down Paul Williams in 1 Punch

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    Two middleweight titans, who had faced one another in a fight of the year candidate the year before, squared off again in November of 2010.

    Sergio Martinez was looking for revenge against Paul Williams for the majority decision loss he suffered at his hands.

    Williams was looking to recapture a similar victory. The first round started off action-packed and great for both fighters. Then in Round 2, Paul Williams suffered a huge left that he didn't see coming.

    Martinez had put the tall warrior to sleep for the first time in his career. Williams had a great chin and had hardly ever been wobbled, let alone dropped.

    Martinez ascended the pound-for-pound ranks of the basis of such a significant victory.

20. Mickey Ward's Right Knocks Arturo Gatti Down To Spark a Great Round

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    In 2002, Gatti and Ward engaged in what became one of the greatest fights of all time in what would become one of the greatest trilogies of all time.

    Round 9 of their first fight in particular became one of the greatest rounds in modern boxing history. Ward knocked Gatti down with a right to begin Round 9.

    Gatti got to his feet but looked like he was a goner. His hands were too tired to protect him and it was open season for Ward.

    Then somewhere Gatti dug deep and delivered a combination that hurt Ward. The moment created a back and forth that formed one of the greatest rounds ever in boxing.

    Without Ward's right that put Gatti down, we the boxing public would've never been witnesses to the heart and will of Gatti.

19. Manny Pacquiao Knocks Out Ricky Hatton with 1 Powerful Left

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    On May 2nd 2011, Pacquiao faced Hatton in what turned out to be a blowout.

    Pacquiao dropped Hatton twice in the first round and then delivered a left-hand, one-punch knockout that may be the best surprise knockout of the past 20 years.

    Hatton laid motionless in a shape that suggested an invisible casket was placed around the young Briton. Though Hatton was young, this fight clearly signaled an end to his career.

    Pacquiao presided over the death and burial of Hatton's career during that night.

18. Max Schmeling Beats Louis for Germany

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    In 1936, Max Schmeling received the chance of a lifetime to face a young undefeated Joe Louis. He came in knowing this would be his last shot at something great and delivered.

    Schmeling had watched tapes of Louis and though it wasn't an easy fight, Schmeling sent Louis crashing to the canvas in Round 12 like a hurt lion licking his wounds with a right that changed boxing forever.

17. Ike Ibeabuchi Destroys Chris Byrd with a Left Hook

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    This is probably the most successful bolo punch ever performed.

    Ike Ibeabuchi AKA "The President," was up against an undefeated Chris Byrd in 1999 in what would become his last fight before going to prison for rape.

    In the fifth round, Ibeabuchi had Byrd up against the ropes. He moved his right arm to distract Byrd and then launched a left hook bolo punch out of nowhere that popped Byrd and instantly made him forget his name.

    Though Byrd would rise from this knockdown after crashing face first, he wouldn't make it out of the round before being stopped by the referee. This knockout truly shows the lost potential of Ibeabuchi.

16. Lennox Lewis Extracts Revenge from Hasim Rahman

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    In 2001, Lewis suffered a big fifth-round knockout loss to Hasim Rahman. A few months later, Lewis came for vengeance and got it with a big left followed by a devastating right that sent Rahman to the canvas for the 10 count in Round 4.

    The sound popping from the left and right was loud enough to fill the arena and inspire a crowd to gasp in awe. Lewis had just got his groove back.

    Lewis officially avenged his only unavenged loss. He would never lose again in his whole career until he finally retired at age 37 in 2003.

15. Tommy Hearns Tucks Roberto Duran in with a Right

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    Tommy Hearns and Roberto Duran met in 1984 in what was supposed to be a classic. Instead, it turned into a tragedy of a match.

    Duran was dropped in the second round via a right to the jaw. Duran laid on his face and sluggishly attempted to climb to his feet.

    He wasn't able to make it and his corner had to come help him to his feet. Hearns asserted himself as still one of the greatest in the game of boxing post-Leonard lost.

14. Floyd Patterson Knocks Ingo Bingo Out To Win Back the Heavyweight Title

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    In 1960, Patterson sought revenge from Ingemar Johansson, the man who beat him for his heavyweight title the previous year.

    In Round 5, Patterson delivered one of the most thrilling left-handed knockout shots in boxing history. Johansson went straight to the ground where he would laid unconscious for nearly five minutes.

    With that left hand to Johnasson's jaw, Patterson became the first boxer to regain the undisputed heavyweight world championship.

13. Sugar Ray Leonard Humiliates Roberto Duran with the Left

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    Leonard wanted revenge for his first loss to Duran. So he challenges Duran five months later.

    This time, Leonard doesn't fight flat-footed but fleet-footed and more evasive.

    Duran chased him but couldn't catch him. Then Round 7 happened and a beautiful performance was born.

    Leonard threw all kinds of punches as well as tossed in some foot shuffles, goofy faces and all kinds of mockery.

    But his greatest moment came shortly after the mid-point of the round. Leonard winded up his right arm and threw his left instead while Duran was distracted, creating possibly the most famous bolo punch of all time.

    Duran would become so embarrassed by his inability to hit the evasive Leonard that he simply quit in the following round, a first in Duran's storied career.

12. Riddick Bowe Finishes His Trilogy with Evander Holyfield

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    In 1995, the best heavyweight trilogy of the last 30 years come to a thrilling close as Evander Holyfield gives Riddick Bowe everything he's got only to get caught by an unexpected sharp right that sends him down in Round 8.

    Though Holyfield would get up, he was a goner. Bowe blasted him and referee Joe Cortez did the right thing in stopping the fight.

11. Mike Tyson Takes Michael Spinks Out in Round 1

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    In 1988, Mike Tyson was set to shock the world in a battle of two undefeated heavyweight legends in their primes.

    Michael Spinks was the elite boxer who gave Larry Holmes his first two losses. Mike Tyson was the aggressive killing machine that had captured the world's attention.

    To the shock of many, Tyson dropped Spinks twice in route to a first-round knockout.

    The second time he fell Spinks was with a right that sprawled the undefeated champion out as Tyson stood over him in what has become one of the most iconic photos in sports history.

10. Sugar Ray Robinson Throws the Perfect Left Hook to Gene Fullmer

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    Gene Fullmer had one win by unanimous decision over Sugar Ray Robinson going into their rematch in 1957.

    Robinson decided to let Fullmer chase him a little and in the fifth round, Robinson caught him with the most beautiful left hook ever thrown.

    Many boxing aficionados call it the perfect punch and indeed it was. Fullmer never saw it coming and walked right into it. Fullmer had never been down, let alone knocked out before in his entire career.

9. Rocky Marciano Sends Joe Louis into Retirement

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    In 1959, Joe Louis was 37 and in need of a paycheck. Current heavyweight world champion Rocky Marciano helped him out, but also knocked him out in the eighth round, sending him through the ropes and into retirement.

    The right that dropped Louis is the punch that ended an era and put a tragic period to Louis's career.

8. Sonny Liston Knocks Out Floyd Patterson in Record Time

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    Floyd Patterson was considered a great heavyweight world champion after having defeated Johansson twice to retrieve his belt, the first heavyweight to do so.

    Patterson and Sonny Liston were considered equals when they first met in 1962, but Liston made sure no one would ever make that mistake again.

    Liston put him down and out in the first round with a vicious left hook, becoming the first heavyweight to win the world title in the first round.

    This also became the quickest knockout in the heavyweight world championship fight. 

7. George Foreman Hands Joe Frazier His First Loss

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    Foreman and Frazier were both undefeated, but Foreman was the bigger knockout machine. Still, many felt Frazier was the favorite to win. Boy did they lose some money on this fight.

    Foreman knocked Frazier down six times over the course of two rounds, three times in each round before giving Frazier his first loss by second-round stoppage.

    Foreman's first knockdown became the most memorable because of its suddenness, and the cloak of invincibility Frazier had previously following his victory over Muhammad Ali had been lifted.

    Howard Cossell's dramatic call of "Down Goes Frazier!" for HBO Boxing's first broadcast gave the moment an even greater sense of gravity and weight no knockdown has had since.

6. George Foremen Reclaims Heavyweight Championship 20 Years Later

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    Michael Moore only had to keep away for less than three rounds to retain his world heavyweight championship against George Foreman in 1994.

    Foreman was clearly slower and being outboxed and outmaneuvered. Foreman remained persistent and kept swinging for the fences. Moore decided to continue to fight Foreman instead of box from afar.

    Moore got caught during the process of going toe-to-toe with Foreman and eventually dropped by a right in Round 10.

    That right to Moore's jaw made Foreman, at age 45, the oldest heavyweight world champion in history.

5. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr Scrapes Out a Knockout Victory Against Meldrick Taylor

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    In 1990, this was the fight of the year. The fight created much drama and intrigue between the vastly different undefeated fighters.

    Julio Cesar Chavez was the tough, Hispanic hero. Taylor was the brash, slick American.

    When they clashed, Taylor was set to dethrone Chavez of his undefeated record going into the 12th and final round.

    Chavez landed a combo followed by a massive right that put a wobbly Taylor down.

    Taylor got to his feet, but referee Richard Steele waived the fight with two seconds to go.

    Steele's reason, Taylor had not verbally responded to his question, "Are you alright?"

    Chavez and Taylor created a classic, but it's the dramatic ending created by Chavez's right punch that punctuates their clash's place in history.

4. Michael Carbajal Steals the Victory from Humberto Gonzalez

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    On March 17, 1993, there was no greater hyped junior flyweight bout in the history of boxing.

    Carbajal was undefeated and the favorite, but Gonzalez was smartly outboxing and outbrawling Carbajal.

    In Round 5, Gonzalez almost knocked Carbajal out, but the ropes kept him up and  Carbajal barely recovered.

    Then in Round 7, Carbajal landed a left that stumbled Gonzalez into the ropes. The stumble should have been ruled a knockdown thanks to the ropes being the only thing holding Gonzalez up, but it wasn't.

    Gonzalez got off the ropes and the fight continued, but was ended shortly thereafter by a big left that slumped Gonzalez's body onto Carbajal's right shoulder.

    Carbajal shook him and allowed his limp body to fall over and be counted out, scoring one of the best comeback knockouts in the history of the sport.

3. Muhammad Ali's Phantom Punch Knockout of Sonny Liston

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    Muhammad Ali came into his 1965 rematch with Sonny Liston, a young ambitious kid seeking to prove his first victory over the "Bear" was not a fluke.

    Liston was supposed to give Ali another tough fight. Instead Liston gave him an easy fight by not cutting off the ring and then falling down to the canvas for the 10 count after one punch that many didn't even know landed.

    The punch that sealed Liston's fate in the first round was one many observers didn't even see connect. Because of the important victory that the punch gave Ali and the mystery it continues to spark today, the Phantom Punch is one of the most iconic punches of all time.

2. Mike Tyson Loses to Buster Douglas

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    In 1990, a left hook seals Tyson's fate and snatches his "0" and his aura of invincibility by the biggest underdog in boxing history, Buster Douglas.

    Douglas was meant to be a stepping stone to a future showdown with an undefeated Evander Holyfield. That did not happen. Instead the most shocking moment in sports (let alone boxing) history occurred.

    Douglas' left hook that ended his furious flurry changed history and became an immediately iconic moment in the sport.

1. Muhammad Ali Finishes George Foreman with a Right Against the Ropes

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    Muhammad Ali was supposed to be too old and too slow at age 32 to face the 25-year-old undefeated knockout phenom that was George Foreman in 1974.

    Ali laid on the ropes and let Foreman punch himself out and then the fun began. In Round 8, Ali noticed Foreman was too tired and came off the ropes to deliver a flurry that would send him to the canvas.

    But what was the best punch in the match, according to George Foreman, was one that Ali didn't throw. Ali saw Foreman stumbling and looked as if he might throw another, but he could see in Foreman's eyes he didn't need to.

    Foreman took a long slow tumble to the canvas and Ali would become world heavyweight champion once again.

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