Ask anyone why they watch boxing and if they’re honest they’ll tell you the main reason is they’re awaiting that electrifying knockout punch that shocks the world.
Boxing is a sport as dramatic as they come. Two warriors stand toe to toe in battle. It’s psychological, physical, spiritual warfare. And we’ve seen some of the greatest fighting specimens ever in the last half a century surprise, shock and scare the world with the most incredible punches that have sent many of the most powerful men to ever walk the earth flying to the canvas never to be the same again.
Here are 5 of the greatest knockouts in boxing history.
5. Buster Douglas vs. Mike Tyson.
Mike Tyson was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and one of the most feared men in the world for much of the 80s. He was the talk of the town. He was crazy. Nothing could stop him. But someone did stop him — a fringe contender by the name of Buster Douglas changed Tyson’s world overnight.
Tyson entered the Tokyo Dome that night full of confidence. He had 37 victories under his belt, he knew he could destroy any man. His opponent, Douglas, had recently been knocked out by Tony Tucker, and his mother had passed three weeks before. His mental state wasn’t where it needed to be for him to be in his best shape. But these facts wouldn’t change the course of history that night.
Douglas was far from intimidated. He fired quick jab after quick jab, surprising Tyson. Tyson did land one of his famous power punches to knock Douglas down in the eighth round. But Douglas, with nothing to lose, got back up and struck Tyson to the mat two rounds later. Tyson wouldn’t beat the ten count, but laid bare on the mat and took his first defeat as heavyweight champion.
4. George Foreman vs. Michael Moorer.
On the night of 5 November 1994, George Foreman was to cement himself in the history books as the oldest man to win the heavyweight title at 45 years old. The two big men sprawled in the tenth round, trading heavy punches. Back and forth they went. With a little more than a minute to go, Foreman finally connected the devastating right hand to the chin he was looking for. ‘It happened’ the commentator Jim Lampley said — and the rest is history.
3. Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Manny Pacquiao.
Manny Pacquiao is a legend in modern boxing. His record is outstanding, being the only boxer in history to win twelve major world titles in eight different weight divisions. And on the night of 9 December 2012, he was the favourite of many to win against his opponent Juan Manuel Marquez.
But boxing is unpredictable. The two had fought 36 rounds before with no clear winner. On that night, history was to be made.
Towards the end of the middle of the match, in the sixth round, the two circled each other, trading jabs. Pacquiao stepped in and tried to land a heavy right hand. But as he leaned in, Marquez was quick to counter, meeting Pacquiao with his own right hook. Pacquiao was knocked unconscious and went flying face forward onto the canvas. After a total of 42 rounds, Marquez finally quenched his thirst for victory against the elusive Pacquiao.
2. Sugar Ray Robison vs. Gene Fullmer.
The name Sugar Ray Robinson is synonymous with boxing legend. Hailed as one of the greatest fighters of all time, Robinson dominated the sport during the middle portion of the 20th century. But as with almost all great fighters, Robinson went past his prime and lost his heavyweight championship belt to Gene Fullmer in 1957.
The great knockout came in their rematch. Robinson had studied Fullmer. He said after the match he noticed Fullmer opened his mouth each time he threw a right hook. Robinson capitalised on this.
For most of the first five rounds, the rematch played out like the prequel. Robinson’s speed, reflexes and stamina showed how the fighter had aged. But like George Foreman who was to come years later showed, a great fighter never loses his punching power. Robinson found his chance in the fifth round and let fly an immense left hook that took out the open chin of Fullmer. The match was over in seconds and Robinson reclaimed his belt.
1. Rocky Marciano vs. Jersey Walcott.
Rocky Marciano is the stuff of legend. The icon was used by Sylvester Stallone for inspiration for the Rocky character. The only fighter to ever retire undefeated. And one of his most spectacular moments, and one of the greatest knockouts in boxing history, was with a sweeping left hook delivered on Jersey Walcott’s chin during their first meeting in 1952.
It was the thirteenth round. The fighters were tired. Marciano was trailing on the scorecards, with a confident Walcott taking the lead in this heavyweight dance. But as is often the case in the sweet science of boxing, one punch can change the course of a match, and boxing history.
Marciano threw a right hand that hit Walcott like a lightning bolt. As Walcott began to plummet to the canvas, Marciano threw in a second sweeping left to make sure the job was done. But it was unnecessary — Walcott was out cold already and faced the canvas to end the long fight.