A few of us got talking about boxing‘s greatest knockouts recently.
The usual suspects were reeled off, with the likes of Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Rocky Marciano, and Roy Jones Jr. popping up. But the conversation quickly turned to the best one-punch KOs in boxing. And while there are myriad candidates that deserve mentioning, our intention was to land on the five greatest one-punch knockouts of them all.
Here’s what we settled on.
Michael Nunn vs. Sumbu Kalambay
- March 25, 1989
- Nunn – KO
In 1989, The Ring magazine introduced a new concept — The Ring Knockout of the Year.
As it happens, the inaugural winner of this award is now remembered decades later for his role in one of the best one-punch knockouts in the history of the sport. Even more impressive was that it took less than one round for Nunn to pull it off, adding a little extra glaze to the cherry on top of the cake.
At the time, the IBF middleweight champion, Nunn, had compiled a superb record of 32-0. Italy’s Kalambay, however, was seen as a very tough test. In the run-up to the fight, he had beaten Doug DeWitt, Mike McCallum, Iran Barkley, and Herol Graham. He had also never lost by way of stoppage.
One spectacular strike of a glove changed all of that, earning Nunn one of the top one-punch knockouts in the history of boxing.
Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Manny Pacquiao
- December 8, 2012
- Marquez – KO
The fourth installment of Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez was eagerly anticipated by boxing fans.
Having already feasted on three previous servings, the sport was far from done with this great rivalry. So much so that the hype surrounding this bout was arguably bigger than any of its predecessors. If you didn’t know better, you could put that down to the intense rivalry between what were two of the finest boxers on earth. Even if Marquez was grossly underrated by some.
Promoted as the “Fight of the Decade,” this one would determine the WBC’s unofficial, gimmicky “Champion of the Decade” title. But beyond the glittering labels, bright lights, and packed house at the MGM Grand was a desire for revenge so great that it would be marked by one of the greatest one-punch knockouts in boxing history.
Although the series was officially set at two wins to Pacquiao with one draw, Marquez believed he was cheated out of victories by judges. Therefore, his intention was to leave no doubt about his supremacy this time around.
To say this is one of the great KOs in boxing history is an understatement. It had all the ingredients of a great knockout — such as timing, poise, execution, and technique — but was also as ethereal as it was brutal. When Pacquiao landed face down on the canvas at the exact second of the final bell, it was as though the boxing Gods had intervened in favor of “Dinamita.”
Julian Jackson vs. Herol Graham
- November 24, 1990
- Jackson – KO
Pound-for-pound, few punchers have ever come close to matching the power of Jackson.
Jackson is regarded as one of the greatest knockout artists in history. A native of Saint Thomas in the Caribbean, “The Eagle” retired in May 1998 with a record of 55-6 and with 49 KOs. But his signature stoppage will forever be one of the greatest one-punch knockouts in boxing history. It was as though Apollo himself had taken over Jackson’s body to deliver a brutal message to Graham, who was never the same after the bout.
Graham was no bum. On the contrary, he was an exceptionally talented technician that had all the gifts to carve out a legendary career of his own. He had only lost to Kalumbay and Mike McCallum before the fight but had earned some very impressive wins in his career. But on the night of November 24 in Benalmadena, Spain, he made an error that would immortalize him, for all the wrong reasons.
An iconic one-punch knockout that is as terrifying as it is spectacular.
Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Gene Fullmer II
- May 1, 1957
- Robinson – KO
Sugar Ray Robinson, the greatest boxer of all time, had some highly impressive knockouts under his belt by the time he met Fullmer in a rematch.
Although this punch was brutal in its own right, Robinson somehow managed to make it look like art. It was beautifully tailored for that specific moment and executed with the delicacy and poise of a master surgeon. Everything from the technique and timing to the power and positioning was truly stunning. For those who appreciate the beauty behind a carefully crafted left hook, this is sure to rank among their greatest one-punch knockouts of all time.
They say it’s the punches you don’t see coming that are the ones that will ruin you. And Fullmer certainly had no idea what hit him on the night.
Thomas Hearns vs. Roberto Duran
- June 15, 1984
- Hearns – KO
Perhaps the most brutal one-punch knockout of all time, Hearns’ vicious straight right was also strangely beautiful.
Detroit’s legendary “Hit Man” already had a hand in some of the greatest boxing matches of all time before he took on Duran, another one of the “Four Kings,” in the summer of 1984. Both men had graduated from welterweight with elite honors and would battle it out for the WBC, The Ring, as well as the vacant lineal super welterweight titles.
Immediately, the lanky Hearns would prove to be all kinds of wrong for “Manos de Piedra.” Alongside his 5.5″ height advantage over the Panamanian, he would also have the benefit of a ridiculous 11 inches in reach. It didn’t take long for these perks to show themselves, with Hearns working well from the outside and relegating Duran to the wilderness beyond his range.
Eventually, Hearns would put the all-time great out of his misery with one of boxing’s greatest one-punch KOs. And full credit to Duran, who tried his best to get to his feet. But it was never going to happen. Not after that vicious shot.
The Art Of The Knockout
We hope you enjoyed our take on the greatest one-punch KOs in boxing history.
You should now have a better idea of why we chose the five examples above. For instance, the unrivaled technical excellence of Sugar Ray Robinson’s left hook is something that should always be celebrated, especially as he made things look so easy. But understanding the technique behind the knockout will greater appreciation of the art involved.
Of course, not everyone has had the chance to accumulate this knowledge. So, if you’d like to learn more about the mechanics behind the perfect knockout, the following article explains what you need to know!