Get in Line Pacquiao-Marquez IV: Boxing’s Top-10 One-Punch KOs
Marquez lands a tremendous overhand right to Pacman’s jaw. The power of the punch is increased by Manny’s forward momentum…
The sudden and unexpected one-punch knockout of Manny Pacquiao by Juan Manuel Marquez brought back memories of other electrifying one punch KOs. Following are my Top-10 choices for the most spectacular and dramatic one-punch endings. Preference is given to historically significant bouts between top tier fighters.
1. 1957 – Madison Square Garden, New York, NY—Sugar Ray Robinson KO 5 Gene Fullmer: Obvious choice for top spot. The perfect fighter throws the perfect punch. What other middleweight on the planet could take out the seemingly indestructible Fullmer with a single shot? Who else could be so supremely confident that he could do it? Only a fighter for the ages. Sugar Ray, 36 years old and a 3 to 1 underdog, is middleweight champion for the fourth time, having lost the title to Fullmer four months earlier. The Sugar Man is truly the one and only.
2. 1952 – Municipal Stadium, Philadelphia, PA—Rocky Marciano KO 13 Jersey Joe Walcott: Perhaps the best heavyweight championship bout of all time. Had all the ingredients required of a truly great prizefight. Behind on points Marciano nails Walcott with a devastating right and wins the title. A thrill fest from beginning to end.
3. 1897 – Carson City Racetrack, Carson City, NV—Bob Fitzsimmons KO 14 James J. Corbett: The fight that introduced the words “solar plexus” to the vernacular courtesy of one of the game’s all-time great punchers. Fitzsimmons wins the heavyweight championship and emphatically emphasizes the value of a well-placed body shot.
4. 1946 – Yankee Stadium, New York, NY—Tony Zale KO 6 Rocky Graziano: Dead end kid Rocky Graziano is in the midst of an epic slugfest with the “Man of Steel” for the middleweight championship. Midway through round six a battered Zale lands his equalizer—a brutal right under Rocky’s heart followed by a left hook to the jaw. But it is the body punch that does the real damage. Rocky, like Corbett 50 years earlier, has had the wind knocked out of his sails and is fully conscious while being counted out.
5. 1984 – Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, NV—Tommy Hearns KO 3 Roberto Duran: “The Hit Man” meets “Hands of Stone”. Fight fans couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Duran is mugged and totally dominated by Hearns in a one-sided blowout. Dropped twice in the first round, Duran is still dazed by the onslaught of leather when he comes out for round two. With the round barely a minute old Hearns lands two distracting left jabs to the stomach followed instantly by a thunderous right cross to the chin that renders Duran unconscious. The ref doesn’t even bother to count. Hearns retains his junior middleweight title. Still mesmerizing to watch.
6. 1994 – MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV—George Foreman KO 10 Michael Moorer: After being shellacked for nine and a half rounds the 45-year-old, 250-pound ex-champ, a 3 to 1 underdog, maneuvers 26-year-old Moorer into position for a humongous right hand punch. Ten seconds later Big George is heavyweight champion, regaining the title he lost 20 years earlier. Baby boomers all across America rejoiced.
7. 1951 – Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, PA—Jersey Joe Walcott KO 7 Ezzard Charles: Jersey Joe’s fourth try for the title. He is 0 for 2 against “The Cincinnati Cobra”. Few expect a different result. But an inspired Walcott feels destiny calling. Joe patiently waits for just the right moment to strike. In the seventh round he slips inside a Charles left jab and slams home a left hook to the point of the champion’s unprotected chin. Call it the Miracle at Forbes Field. Jersey Joe, at 37, is the new heavyweight champion of the world.
8. 2012 – MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV—Juan Manuel Marquez KO 6 Manny Pacquiao: After exchanging knockdowns Manny is taking charge in the sixth round and Marquez is getting beaten up. Then, with seconds left in the round, Manny becomes careless as he pressures Marquez into a corner. Marquez lands a tremendous overhand right to Pacman’s jaw. The power of the punch is increased by Manny’s forward momentum. He is out cold before he hits the canvas. Certainly the most shocking knockout of the new century.
9. 1931 – Chicago Stadium, Chicago, IL—Tony Canzoneri KO 3 Jackie Kid Berg: England’s sensational “Whitechapel Windmill” seems unstoppable. Fighting like a miniature Harry Greb, Berg has already triumphed over Tony Canzoneri, Kid Chocolate, Billy Petrolle, Joe Glick (twice) and Mushy Callahan (for the junior welterweight title). In their first match, a year earlier, Berg gave Canzoneri one of the worst beatings of his career. This time it is all Canzoneri. In the third round he connects with a perfectly timed right cross to Berg’s incoming chin. Berg falls forward unconscious and is counted out. As Manny Pacquiao can tell you—it happens.
10. 1968 – Madison Square Garden, New York, NY—Bob Foster KO 4 Dick Tiger: 38-year-old light heavyweight champion Dick Tiger was passed his peak but no one had ever come close to knocking him out. The end came with the suddenness of a lightning bolt. Foster’s explosive left hook almost decapitates Tiger. The once indestructible iron man is knocked flat on his back. The old warrior makes a valiant effort to rise but cannot beat the count. Bob Foster has arrived.
Honorable Mention: Other notable one-punch KOs (in chronological order):
Bob Fitzimmons KO 1 Peter Maher; James J. Jeffries KO 23 James J. Corbett; Jess Willard KO 26 Jack Johnson; Sam Langford KO 8 Fireman Jim Flynn; Sid Terris KO 1 Ruby Goldstein; Sugar Ray Robinson KO 3 Rocky Graziano; Rocky Marciano KO 6 Rex Layne; Bob Foster KO 4 Mike Quarry; Mike Weaver KO 15 John Tate; Evander Holyfield KO 3 Buster Douglas; Bernard Hopkins KO 6 Oscar De La Hoya.
Before he won the heavyweight championship in 1919 Jack Dempsey took out highly ranked contender Fred Fulton with one punch. The fight lasted 18 seconds, including the count. Two of Joe Louis’s one-punch KOs were filmed: Lee Ramage KO 2 and Al Ettore KO 5. I have no doubt that scattered among flyweight champion Jimmy Wilde’s 98 KOs were plenty of one-punch endings. “The Mighty Atom” may have been the greatest pound-for-pound puncher of them all. Speaking of super punchers, Sugar Ray Robinson (108 KOs) and Archie Moore (131 KOs) had their share of one-punch knockouts but few were filmed. In a televised 1951 bout Moore’s unusual power and accuracy was on display when he flattened heavyweight Embrel Davidson in the first round. Moore was outweighed 35 pounds.
Boxing historian Mike Silver is the author of the The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science (McFarland Publishers, 2008). The critically acclaimed book has just been reissued in paperback and in kindle version.