Get in Line Pacquiao-Marquez IV: Boxing’s Top-10 One-Punch KOs

By Mike Silver on January 2, 2013
Get in Line Pacquiao-Marquez IV: Boxing’s Top-10 One-Punch KOs
Dead end kid Rocky Graziano is in the midst of an epic slugfest with the "Man of Steel."

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.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Classic Boxing: Pacquiao vs. Marquez IV 2012 (HBO Boxing)

Sugar Ray Robinson KNOCK OUT Gene Fullmer

Marciano KO's Walcott

Bob Fitzsimmons vs James J. Corbett Part 1

Bob Fitzsimmons vs James J. Corbett Part 2

Thomas Hearns vs Roberto Duran

George Foreman vs Michael Moorer KNOCK OUT

Joe Walcott V's Ezzard Charles TKO

Tony Canzoneri KO 3 Jackie "Kid" Berg II

Bob Foster V's Dick Tiger TKO

Archie Moore vs Embrell Davidson

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  1. Mike Silver 11:24pm, 01/27/2013

    No one has mentioned one of the most devastating one punch lights out—Joe Frazier’s belt out of Bob Foster!!!

  2. the thresher 09:58am, 01/13/2013

    Whoops, Calvin Brock’s near decapitation of Zuri Lawrence also has to be right up there.

  3. the thresher 09:58am, 01/13/2013

    The Ding-a-Ling-Man’s near decapitation over Emmanuel Nwodo in 2007 was startling. It was his least decent fight.

    Also, Sam Peter’s near decapiation of Half Man Half Amazing Jeremy Willimas almost made him a half man.

  4. clifford fulwood 03:38pm, 01/09/2013

    Jack Johnson’s KO of Stanley Ketchel not only doesn’t make the list but not even make honorable mention? U kidding me???? What are u guys smoking? Ketchel needed a new grill (all front teeth broken… FROM THE ROOT!!!)  and Johnson was brushing them from his glove. But got a few more.
    Naverette KO Boza-Edwards One of the most devastating southpaw left to the body right hooks to the head ever!
    Julian Jackson KO of Wayne Powell and Buster Drayton(TIIIMMMBERRRR!!!)
    Molinares KO of Starling. To this day Starling still doesn’t know he’s been KO’D
    Arguello KO Rooney
    Pacman KO Hatton
    Johnson KO Galindez
    Delayed KO? Check out Luisito Espinosa KO of Khaosai’s twin bother Khaokor. Never seen a delayed effect like that in my life! Khaokor never fought again.

  5. Tex Hassler 11:29am, 01/08/2013

    I am glad I got off my horse and looked at my laptop. Mike Sliver wrote an excellent article and reading it was better than eating a cold watermelon on a hot day. I appreciate Mike saying that Foreman maneuvered Moore into a right hand instead of calling it a lucky punch like the “experts at ringside did that day!” All 10 were winners!

  6. Chris Conforti 05:05am, 01/07/2013

    How about Sergio Martinez KO of Paul Williams?  That should be up there, no.

  7. Jethro Tull 12:31am, 01/07/2013

    p.s. Holyfield vs Rodrigues is a lot better than Holyfield vs Douglas.

    Douglas could have got up, Rodrigues had no chance.

  8. Jethro Tull 12:27am, 01/07/2013

    “bikermike 04:53pm, 01/04/2013
    I have to say that when I heard Hearns over Pipino Cuevas on the radio….(was on a fishing trip) it sounded really bad…......when I saw the fight…it made me start to figure there should be same day weigh ins”

    There were same day weigh ins in those days. Leonard and Hearns weighed in for their 1981 match on the morning of the fight.

    As for Duran, he didn’t belong at 154lbs anyway, despite winning a title. It also didn’t help him that he had ballooned after fighting Marvin Hagler but he was doomed against Hearns anyway.

  9. Jethro Tull 02:36pm, 01/06/2013

    “Bob Foster KO 4 Mike Quarry;”

    Actually, this is a strong contender for the best of all time and the available footage of it is excellent as well.

    The same cannot be said about Fitzimmons vs Corbett though I appreciate that Foster vs Tiger is on this list and that is a worthy entry.

    Also, to not have Julian Jackson KO4 Herol Graham even as an honourable mention is criminal. Contrary to what Ali used to say, Jackson’s hands could hit what his eyes couldn’t see and Herol Graham was very hard to hit in his prime.

  10. Don from Prov 06:22am, 01/05/2013

    What a great list—and great additions by posters

    I could watch Robinson walking Fullmer into that hook all night long

  11. bikermike 05:08pm, 01/04/2013

    when I saw ‘Big’ George Foreman KO Michael Moorer…..I wept.  Foreman was behind on points…badly.  Michael was faster…younger..and was building a huge point spread.  Foreman lured Moorer into the zone….nailed him twice with the right hand….Moorer dropped for the count…..Foreman dropped to his knees to thank the Lord

  12. bikermike 05:03pm, 01/04/2013

    To be sure… Mike Silver has touched most fight fans’ hearts with this list….....Keep ‘em coming Mike…....

    Shawn O’Sullivan getting KO’d by Terry Norris is pretty brutal…...maybe it’s just me….but I knew Shawn….Several years later…he didn’t recognize me…..he got really hammered during that one…with no mouthpiece…

    Like riding a hard tail on a Saskatchewan Highway..ffs Lotsa damage to the person getting ‘rocked’

    Saw a contingency of ‘Hell’s Angels pull into Sturgis one year…all the way from California….....on hard tails…some of them (hardtail means no suspension on the back wheel…so the bike rides lower)....betcha that trip took more guys outta the Hells Angels than the DEA in five years

  13. bikermike 04:57pm, 01/04/2013

    I felt the same with Hearns Duran… way was this two guys ..the same weight ...fighting….No way…..If weight division means anything….it should be two guys at the same weight .....Same day weigh ins .....should be the rule…..weigh in at midnight on Friday…fight on Saturday… that

  14. bikermike 04:53pm, 01/04/2013

    I have to say that when I heard Hearns over Pipino Cuevas on the radio….(was on a fishing trip) it sounded really bad…......when I saw the fight…it made me start to figure there should be same day weigh ins…....even midnight, the day before the fight.  Hearns was massive…Cuevas was a regular welterweight…

  15. bikermike 04:50pm, 01/04/2013

    Zale over Graziano… that was enough to send most fighters into retirement…..Zale was very tough….could take a punch..but could really put ‘em in there

  16. bikermike 04:48pm, 01/04/2013

    Nice mix of modern and past great Knockouts…....Even today….who can say they didn’t know about ‘Ruby’ Bob Fitzsimmons knockout of ‘Gentleman ’ Jim Corbett….....What a shot !!!!  My favourite…was Jersey Joe Walcott ‘s KO of Ezzard Charles…....

    BTW…saw the interview with Joe louis and jersey joe walcott…...Walcott ...due to lifestyle…looked twenty years younger than the ‘ol Brown Bomber…..and they were the same age

  17. Mike Silver 11:35am, 01/04/2013

    Here are two more: Dempsey flattens Sharkey; Mayweather Jr. does same to Victor Ortiz. Both times the fighters looked to referee, ignoring instructions to ‘protect yourself at all times’.

  18. Bodyshots 11:31pm, 01/03/2013

    nice write-up. Hearns KO of Cuevas put an end to Pipino’s punishing run at the top. Iron Mike’s KO of Berbick was good for three KDs(?!). Evander’s about-face-face-first KO of Qawi gets an honorable mention. Lewis walloping Rahman as well. fun stuff.

  19. the thresher 01:00pm, 01/03/2013

    And Benitez did it to Hope.

  20. the thresher 12:59pm, 01/03/2013

    Didn’t Mike McCallum ice someone with one punch. Was it Curry?

    And didn’t Curry do it to McCrory?

    And Toney did it to Nunn.

  21. Eric 12:58pm, 01/03/2013

    I think Mike Weaver’s knockout of John Tate should have made the top 5 or at the very least the top 5. Definitely feel the Marciano knockout of Walcott is the greatest one punch kayo in boxing history. The Hearns demolition of Duran would have to rate as one of the most shocking knockouts. Bob Foster knocking out Mike Quarry should crack the top 10 also and Rahman-Lewis might/should get an honorable mention.

  22. Tony 10:51am, 01/03/2013

    Great article—and I’d expect no less from Mike Silver!

    As one other poster said, I might quarrel slightly with the Zale-Graziano inclusion, because it seemed like the body shot was nearly as significant as the coup de grace in producing the final result.

    I’d like to offer two modern candidates for honorable mentions in the Fitz-Corbett “Debilitated But Not Unconscious” category.

    One is Roy Jones’ stoppage of Virgil Hill with a single right hand body shot.  No matter what you think of Jones, if you were watching that one, you’d have a hard time forgetting it.

    The second is a bit more of an oddity: Ray-Mercer-Francesco Damiani.  Damiani was pounding out a boring, monotonous decision over Mercer for 9 1/2 rounds.  If Mercer landed a punch before the deciding one, it didn’t dent Francesco’s chin or my memory.  Okay, the fighters involved were nowhere near those on this list for historical significance.  But for sheer “where did THAT come from?!” dramatic turnaround with a single blow, this one was hard to beat.

  23. Matt McGrain 01:06am, 01/03/2013

    Jackson’s KO of Graham should be on that list!

  24. the thresher 08:03pm, 01/02/2013

    Tim Witherspoon-Anders Eklund

  25. the thresher 08:00pm, 01/02/2013


  26. Mike Silver 07:57pm, 01/02/2013

    Thanks for the comments guys. Just thought of two more! Benvenuti KO of Luis Rodriguez and Monzon doing the same to Benvenuti!
    More will probably surface. But these two were beauts.

  27. FrankinDallas 07:55pm, 01/02/2013

    Julian Jackson ko Terry Norris

  28. maypac 05:50pm, 01/02/2013

    Come to think of it what about Pacquiao vs Hatton?

  29. maypac 05:39pm, 01/02/2013

    Sergio Martinez vs Paul Williams didn’t make your list, why?

  30. tuxtucis 01:52pm, 01/02/2013

    Excellent list, except maybe for Zale-Graziano (not a single punch ko)...
    As Italian I would like to mention Nino Benvenuti’s ko of Sandro Mazzinghi in their first meeting….

  31. mike schmidt 01:46pm, 01/02/2013

    Great list—soooo many great knockouts—one of my all times—Julian Jackson vs Herol Graham. Lennox in fight number two vs the Rockman was another big one—Tyson cruncher on Mike Spinks—Patterson’s big left hook on Ingo…. Stop me now Mike!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You could probably form a top ten on Julian Jackson’s all alone. My article from a few months back—and still probably my all time personal fav—Mike Rossman scorching Mike Nixon.

  32. peter 01:38pm, 01/02/2013

    Why isn’t Rocky Marciano’s crushing right hand number one? That punch was short, sweet, ballsy, dramatic, aesthetically pleasing and nearly ripped poor Walcott’s cheek off….The number one SNEAKY punch was Walcott’s left uppercut on Charles’s jaw. Charles never saw it coming…Mike, let that be your next article—“The Ten Top Sneaky Punches”. Nice article! Thanks!

  33. Mike Casey 12:50pm, 01/02/2013

    Hearns over Shuler was a beauty, Ted.

  34. Mike Casey 12:48pm, 01/02/2013

    Very good list, Mike. What Robbie did that night in Chicago was incredible. Nobody had ever knocked out Fullmer before and nobody ever did it again. Walcott’s little body shift before nailing Charles, Rocky’s KO of Jersey Joe, Foster’s peach of a left hook over Tiger, and two classic wallops from Hearns and Big George…. all these 10 choices here were of the highest quality. And I shudder when I imagine what it must have been like to get hit by Fitzsimmons!

  35. the thresher 12:41pm, 01/02/2013

    I love these kinds of lists.

    Shavers over Norton was a good one—maybe honorable mention. And Klit’s KO over Brock was as clean as they get.

    Hearns over Shuler was another clean one.

    But I can’t argue with your top 10.

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