“It’s not about how hard you can hit,” the fictional but legendary Rocky Balboa once told his son in one of his many inspirational moments.
Granted, he was trying to teach young Robert a life lesson because actually, as a top boxer, it’s very helpful if you can hit hard.
Boxing is littered with plenty of big hitters – it’s the reason it attracts so many fans and with the passing of former heavyweight Earnie Shavers, talkSPORT examines who the most devastating punchers in its storied history are. These ten certainly have a claim.
10. JULIAN JACKSON
F: 55 (49 KO), L: 6
Not an elite boxer, but “The Hawk” had two advantages in the ring: an immaculate flattop hairstyle and the ability to crush you with a single punch. Jackson’s right-arm bomb to decimate Herol Graham – in a fight the British slickster was dominating – remains the sport’s ultimate one-hit demolition.
154-pound and 160-pound world champion Virgin Islander Jackson treated Terry Norris and Buster Drayton in a similar, sickening style: top fighters stretched cold after tasting his raw power.
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9. DEONTAY WILDER
B: 42 (41 KOs), L: 1, D: 1
When it comes to Naoya Inoue and Gervonta Davis, only one active fighter belongs to this list. Wilder’s springy, supernatural power is made all the more astounding by the fact that, despite his 6-foot-7 height, he’s lean by modern heavyweight standards but can ruin much taller men.
He boasts a 93% knockout rate and only two opponents have gone the distance: Bermane Stiverne (KO1 in the rematch) and Tyson Fury (who tasted the canvas twice). Would be even higher if he could actually box. Don’t tell him we said that.
8. TOMMY AGREEMENT
W: 61 (48 KB), L: 5, D: 1
Detroit’s legendary “Hitman” is the epitome of a puncher: big, long levers, perfect technique, and just a little vulnerable himself. What’s special is how Hearns wielded his power. He started roughing up the welterweights, but in the end, Hearns was happily stopping the heavyweights.
Roberto Duran, a man Marvin Hagler couldn’t move, was put to sleep within four minutes. Still, it’s Jose Cuevas’ two perfect right hands that remain his masterpiece.
7. MICHAEL TYSON
F: 50 (44 KO), L: 5
Nobody has a better reel of dazzling knockouts than the brooding and menacing “Iron Mike”. Optimistically listed as 5ft 11in, Tyson specialized in destroying bigger heavyweights with his speed, aggression, footwork and malicious combinations.
Some opponents looked defeated before the first bell (Michael Spinks lasted 91 seconds), although it’s also true that if you could survive the early rounds, Tyson was getting less and less effective. Pretty big “if” though, especially when Tyson was at his devastating peak.
6. THE SAND SADDLER
B: 145 (104 KOs), L: 16, D: 2
Featherweights aren’t supposed to hit that hard. Saddler the puncher took on Willie Pep, the greatest defensive boxer of all time, for the world title at Madison Square Garden. The result: Saddler hammered Pep to the canvas twice, then knocked him out in four rounds.
A lanky 5ft 9in with a vicious wand and left hook, Saddler lost the rematch to Pep but won their iconic rivalry 3-1 and retired with over 100 knockouts. Prince Naseem devours your heart.
5. EARNIE RAZORS
W: 74 (68 KO), L: 14, D: 1
“Nobody hits like Shavers. If anybody hit harder than Shavers, I’d shoot them,” heavyweight Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb said. Despite being a two-time world title challenger, “The Acorn” had no outstanding attributes. Except an ability to hit as hard as a born man.
Of his 68 career knockouts, 23 have come in the first round, 46 in the first three rounds. Larry Holmes getting up from the short straight bomb of the fire Shavers remains one of boxing’s great recoveries – and Holmes would later swear it was the hardest he had ever been hit.
B: 137 (98 KOs), L: 4, D: 1
His nickname, “The Ghost with the Hammer in His Hand,” sounds like a new Marvel movie. Apt, because Wilde’s power was superhuman. The 5ft 2in Welshman started his career beating the snot of much taller men in fairground boxing booths (yes, they were a thing) and would go on to claim the world flyweight title.
Wilde knocked out much bigger bantamweights and featherweights with his blunt power, once rode a 93-fight unbeaten streak, and remains the benchmark for small punchers.
3. JOE LOUIS
F: 66 (52 KO), L: 3
“Like someone stuck a light bulb in your face,” James J Braddock said after being punched by Louis. And Braddock was talking about his jab. Heavyweight king Louis, the best pure finisher in boxing history, caused damage with either fist.
Max Schmeling, the first man to beat Louis was maimed in the rematch, left screaming in pain with broken bones in his back. The fight lasted just over two minutes. It was one of Louis’ 25 successful world title defenses, with 22 ending inside the distance. Ouch.
2. SAM LANGFORD
B: 211 (126 KOs), L: 29, D: 38
Stood half an inch above 5-foot-6, fought at 135 pounds and 147 pounds, but the Canadian-born “Boston Bonecrusher” was a concussion puncher up to heavyweight. Stocky, muscular but with exceptionally long arms, Langford has flattened fighters up to 50 pounds heavier than him.
The heinous racism of his day meant this great multi-weight never got the world title shots his skills deserved. But surviving footage shows a fast, fearsome and powerful slugger.
1. GEORGE FOREMAN
F: 76 (68 KO), L: 5
The sheer, dull, blunt trauma of Foreman’s punches led to two jaw-dropping heavyweight title changes. In 1973, Foreman knocked down undefeated great Joe Frazier six times in two rounds with a series of monster hooks and uppercuts.
Then 21 years later, Foreman’s right hand introduced another undefeated champion in Michael Moorer. The scary part? Big George, 46, didn’t even seem to be squeezing with all his might behind the punch. A power we have never seen before or since.
Honorable mentions: Rocky Marciano, Manny Pacquiao, Sonny Liston, Archie Moore, Lennox Lewis, Jack Dempsey, Gerald McClellan, Naseem Hamed, Stanley Ketchel, Felix Trinidad
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