Few things in all of sports are as electrifying as the one punch knockout and these are the most consequential of them all. To make the cut, it must not only be a spectacular KO, preferably wiping out a points deficit, but it must also be one that shifted the landscape of boxing in a significant way. And, it must be truly a single, devastating, bolt-from-the-blue punch deciding the outcome, as opposed to the ending of a one-sided beat-down (ie. Hearns vs Duran). So without further ado, here are the greatest one shot knockouts ever. Check ’em out:
12. Mike McCallum KO5 Donald Curry, July 18, 1987: Just two years previous Donald Curry was undefeated and considered by most to be second only to Marvin Hagler in terms of the best boxers on the planet. Now he was working to recover his good name after a huge upset loss to Lloyd Honeyghan, while super-welterweight champ McCallum, one of the most avoided fighters of recent decades, was struggling to gain recognition. Behind on points, “The Body Snatcher” caught Curry with a huge left hook that instantly decided the fight and transformed both boxer’s reputations.
11. Sergio Martinez KO2 Paul Williams, Nov. 20, 2010: The previous December these two southpaws had given fans twelve rounds of exciting action and a Fight of the Year candidate so if anyone had wanted to bet that either would win the rematch by a stunning one-shot KO in just the second round you would have had people lining up to take your money. But in fact you would be the one counting your dough after “Maravilla” caught Williams with a perfectly timed, overhand left that detonated on Williams’ jaw and knocked him out cold, his unseeing eyes wide open as he lay insensate on the canvas. Williams had never been stopped before but he didn’t move a muscle as he was counted out.
10. Jersey Joe Walcott KO 7 Ezzard Charles, July 18, 1951: In this, his record fifth attempt at the heavyweight crown, Walcott was a 9 to 1 underdog, not to mention the oldest challenger ever for the title. Charles’ and Walcott’s two previous bouts both went to the scorecards, but this time Jersey Joe abruptly landed a massive left hook in round seven that put “The Cincinnati Cobra” down for the count and redeemed Walcott’s 15 year quest for the title.
9. Julian Jackson KO4 Herol Graham, Nov. 24, 1990: One of the most brutal and awe-inspiring one-punch knockouts ever witnessed won lead-fisted Jackson his second divisional title and further cemented his reputation as a truly fearsome puncher. The favoured Graham had dominated the first three rounds to such an extent that Jackson’s eyes were swelling shut and after the third round the ringside doctor informed “The Hawk” that he would soon have no choice but to stop the fight. The one-sided boxing lesson continued in round four before Jackson suddenly struck with a vicious right hook that knocked Graham out cold.
8. James J. Jeffries KO23 James Corbett, May 11, 1900: Everyone loves an underdog, especially a former champion who is unexpectedly able to summon up some of his past glory. Corbett had been written off by most after his losses to Bob Fitzsimmons and Tom Sharkey, but for 22 rounds, and to the delight of the assembled spectators, he gave the hulking Jeffries a boxing lesson and appeared on his way to an historic victory. But a single right to the jaw knocked “Gentleman Jim” unconscious in round 23 and silenced the crowd. The punch put an end to Corbett as a legitimate title threat and cemented the status of Jeffries, aka “The Boilermaker,” as the best heavyweight in the world, a standing that remained unquestioned for almost a decade.
7. Antonio Tarver KO2 Roy Jones Jr., May 15, 2004: For years a very cocky Roy Jones Jr. appeared unbeatable. Then, very suddenly, he wasn’t. He had never been seriously hurt, let alone stopped, and his lone defeat up to this point was by disqualification; scores of fans regarded him as a modern day boxing wizard whose name could be uttered in the same breath as that of Willie Pep or Sugar Ray Robinson. So imagine the shock when they saw a single left hook from Tarver end the fight in only the second round. (Note: Unlike the other knockouts on this list, the record book shows this to be a TKO as the referee stopped the bout before finishing the count and with Jones on his feet. However, immediately after the stoppage Roy had to be prevented from toppling again; for all intents and purposes, a clean knockout.)
6. Mike Weaver KO15 John Tate, March 31, 1980: Knockout wins don’t come more dramatic than this one. Tate may have been a paper champion but he was highly regarded by many and was being groomed for a big money match against ex-champion Muhammad Ali. All he had to do was get by Weaver, a journeyman with nine losses on his record. For 14 rounds Tate dominated the challenger, but in the fifteenth a desperate Weaver got home the biggest punch of his career, a left hook that put Tate to sleep. That single hook changed completely the lives of both men. Weaver would remain a force in the heavyweight division for years to come, while Tate quickly faded away.
5. Juan Manuel Marquez KO6 Manny Pacquiao, Dec. 8, 2012: Did the fifth greatest one punch KO of all-time really happen as recently as 2012? Yes, it did. When a single blow completely alters the careers and legacies of two of the best boxers of recent decades and also realigns the dynamic of one of boxing’s most significant rivalries, then it has to rank high on this list. Add in the fact that Pacquiao boasts an excellent chin and that Marquez appeared to be taking the worst of things up to the point when his huge right hand decided matters, and you have a knockout for the ages.
4. Sugar Ray Robinson KO5 Gene Fullmer, May 1, 1957: Gene Fullmer was, without question, one of the toughest boxers of all time. He didn’t make our Top 12 All-Time Best Chins list for the simple reason that, unlike the ones who did, he suffered a knockout, and a clean one at that. Which is maybe being a bit hard on Fullmer. After all, it was the one and only time he took a ten count and it happened only after the great Sugar Ray landed his famous “Perfect Punch.” Robinson had lost to Fullmer a few months before and it looked as if the rematch might yield a similar result until BANG! — Sugar Ray’s deadly left hook ended it.
3. Rocky Marciano KO13 Jersey Joe Walcott, Sept. 23, 1952: “If I lose, take my name out of the record books,” sneered Walcott before his first bout with Marciano, deriding the challenger as a clumsy amateur. Reflecting that lack of respect, throughout the fight he held his left hand dangerously low, daring Rocky to clock him. Far behind on points in a grueling battle, Marciano finally did just that, slugging Walcott with a perfectly timed right which instantly rendered the champion unconscious. One punch destroyed Walcott’s confidence and effectively ended his career, and at the same time ushered in the greatness of “The Brockton Blockbuster.”
2. Robert Fitzsimmons KO14 James Corbett, March 17, 1897: They say a good big man always beats a good small man, but when middleweight champ Fitzsimmons challenged Corbett for the heavyweight crown, the unexpected happened in a very unexpected way. By round 14 Corbett appeared headed to a one-sided points win; he had largely controlled the bout and had even come close to stopping “The Freckled Wonder,” but in round 14 “Ruby” landed a truly historic body blow. The shot put Corbett on the canvas, writhing in agony, where he took the ten count as Wyatt Earp looked on. This was Fitzsimmons second divisional title as he would later go on to win the light-heavyweight crown and become boxing’s first triple-crown champion.
1. George Foreman KO10 Michael Moorer, Nov. 5, 1994: Arguably no single blow in boxing history is as monumental as the right hand that satisfied the 46-year-old Foreman’s Quixotic quest for the heavyweight crown, two full decades after he lost it to Muhammad Ali. Far behind on points and short minutes away from both defeat and the likely end of his career, Big George finally got home with a right cross that connected perfectly with the young champion’s chin. Foreman had scored many knockouts in his career, but never one this consequential via a single shot. While more than just one punch led to Moorer’s downfall that night, at the same time the brutal truth is that a single right hand forever damaged Moorer’s credibility and confidence, threw the heavyweight title picture into disarray, and elevated Foreman from an exceptional heavyweight champion to a true boxing icon.