The 15 Greatest Composite Punchers of All Time

By Matt McGrain on December 26, 2012
The 15 Greatest Composite Punchers of All Time
Joe Louis' hands were lightning, devastatingly accurate, and he punched with huge power.

A great fighter is so much more than a collection of physical attributes, even if they are lucky enough to possess an absolutely extraordinary one…

“I do not see anything. I do not hear anything. Everything is all quiet, and it is dark. There is no pain, there is no sound. I did not know I was on the floor. Was I on the floor?”—Dick Tiger

Dick Tiger had a jaw of iron but when the right man hits you, you go.

They’re a rare breed the true punchers. We don’t even have a word for them, not really. Has there ever been a more inadequate vernacular in sports for what these most devastating of hitters do in the ring than “big punchers”? Bob Satterfield. Joe Choynski. Aurelio Herrera. Freaks who hit so hard that anything they hit crumbled, sand where once there were cliffs, men for whom the words “weight class” were as meaningless as “big punchers”. But they weren’t great fighters. A great fighter is so much more than a collection of physical attributes, even if they are lucky enough to possess an absolutely extraordinary one. The men on this list differ from Satterfield, Choynski and Herrera in that they deliver that power with the pugilistic equivalent of precision engineering. “Composite” punching is all-aspect punching. We’re looking here at speed, technique on delivery, work-rate, accuracy, aggression, mercilessness, feinting, timing—all of which were owned in abundance by Pernell Whitaker, who doesn’t make the list. In the end unless you can reign down the silence and darkness described by Dick Tiger, you don’t belong.

Apologies to the aforementioned Joe Choynski—and Kid Lavigne and Barbados Joe Walcott and a host of others—but if there is no readily available footage of a fighter that fighter doesn’t make the list. Some of these guys number amongst the hardest punchers in all of history but there are too many factors dependent upon eye for me to be able to ignore them.

Precision engineering. Darkening power. Some special something else, granted by Heaven, or perhaps the other place.

These are the 15 pound-for-pound most terrifying offensive monsters in the history of boxing.

15 – Sonny Liston

“After Liston knocked me out I felt, for four or five seconds, that everybody in the arena was in the ring with me, circled around me, like family…I actually blew a kiss to the crowd from the ring.”—Floyd Patterson

Liston is famous for his power, and it was, quite literally, paralyzing. Three-time opponent Marty Marshall:

“Nobody should be hit like that. I think about it now I hurt. He hit me to the stomach with a left hand in the sixth. That wasn’t a knockdown. It couldn’t be. I was paralyzed. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t move enough to fall down.”

Thirty-one knockouts, eight of them in the first round, also testifies to his power punching, but it is the skills that augmented that phenomenal power that get him onto this list ahead of arguably harder pure heavyweight punchers such as George Foreman and Lennox Lewis. Two-handed and the first stalking heavyweight since Jack Dempsey to draw and counter leads with arbitrary head movement, Liston showed numerous offensive tactical adjustments in his fights, drawing fellow banger Cleveland Williams onto murderous counter-punches in their first fight, crowding and banging him out in the second. He also controlled almost every fighter he ever met with one of the most devastating jabs the prize-ring has ever seen, the ubiquitous Muhammad Ali turning in a magical performance that saw him throw punches from every angle at lightning speed the only real exception. 

As comfortable fighting right in the pocket as he was at range, Liston is one of the few great heavyweight technicians, a brutishly strong man—“the only man who ever moved me backwards in the ring” according to George Foreman who sparred with the then ex-champion—who has literally every single punch in the book at his disposal, each of them a knockout waiting to happen. Most terrifying when lifting the title from a deeply intimidated Floyd Patterson, Liston arguably lays claim to both the best uppercut and the best jab in the history of the heavyweight division.

14– Alexis Arguello

“I believe more in precision. Like when you see a mosquito and you hit it with a couple of short sharp shots. That’s beautiful.”—Alexis Arguello

Precision, he had.

“Once he’d measured the distance,” says CheckHookBoxing scribe and Arguello disciple Kyle McLachlan, “he could hit you with any punch from any range.”

This is an accurate a surmise of what made Arguello dangerous as it is possible to make. Allowing him into a fight was an invitation to your own destruction. Against Royal Kobayashi, a sprawling puncher of note in his own right, it took Arguello exactly three rounds to box his way into the fight. The fourth through the fifth saw him miss only a handful of punches as “El Flaco Exposivo” (62 of 77 victims stopped) speared the bull he shared the ring over and over again with perhaps the most hurtful one-two the ring has ever seen. Often compared to Joe Louis, Arguello shared none of the Brown Bomber’s apparent difficulty with the awkward, crowding fighters said to trouble him. Once he had found you, he had found you for all time.

As consummate a punching technician as appears on this list, Arguello wasted almost nothing, and mastered the art of variety in terms of both punch selection and target areas. The dual left-right combinations that set Kobayashi out to sea in the fifth were typical in that their brutality was matched by their precision. “A combination so good that you Americans know that combination!” is how Arguello explained it to American television—as well as countless opponents this dual-tipped spear had pierced the US consciousness. That they served, against Kobayashi, as blows that opened up an opponent for equally devastating left hooks to the midsection spoke of Arguello’s deep well of offense.

“One of the last fighters you would want to get into a fire-fight with” is Kyle’s last word on the subject.

Good enough.

13 – Stanley Ketchel

“He didn’t even bother sitting down between rounds – he just stood there like a caged beast waiting for the trap to be sprung.”—“Dumb” Dan Morgan

Ketchel cleared out perhaps the most stacked division in middleweight history with as undiluted a storm of violence as has been seen in the ring. Ketchel fought like he was literally possessed by some malignant spirit. Only Billy Papke, also a great middleweight and puncher, had any success fighting him toe-to-toe during those prime years, but running from him was all but impossible too—as Dan Morgan put it, you might as well try to out-run a hurricane.

He is known, rightly, as a savage dog on heavy chain, a chain broken upon the toll of the bell, but this aggression was harnessed and honed. In March of 1908, Ketchel’s landmark year, he was matched with Jack Twin Sullivan, a man more accustomed to meeting heavyweights and ranked by Tommy Ryan as one of the three best fighters in the world pound-for-pound. The fight began as a modern observer might expect, Ketchel forcing the action but missing often against one of the era’s defining defensive geniuses. But by the ninth, Sullivan was struggling. Ketchel punched from such a wide variety of angles and targeted head and body with equal regularity and venom. His iron chin and exceptional engine made him impossible for even the most devastating puncher to discourage. Ketchel’s quilted offense was based primarily upon this unerring variety as well as his workrate, which astonished even observers used to seeing fights over longer distances.

There was elegance, too. Ketchel employed a shifting, feinting attack. “He is the greatest fighter to ever have lived,” offered the great Abe Attell after “The Slasher” first defeated Billy Papke. “He is wonderfully clever…and can hit harder than any other man I ever saw. He uses a shift—hits with the right and moves immediately to the left. He has that down better than Bob Fitzsimmons ever did.” 

This is astonishingly high praise, but it was not unusual to hear Ketchel’s contemporaries talk about him in this way. Corbett agreed with Attell that Ketchel was the greatest of all time. Joe Gans labeled him a “past master”. When we look at the very limited footage we have of Ketchel we see a thoughtless savage bereft of technique. Reading about him on the internet will generally re-enforce that point of view. A closer look reveals that a monster does exist—but one far more dangerous and pathological than popular opinion holds.

12 – Earnie Shavers

“Nobody hits harder than Shavers. If somebody hit harder than Shavers, I’d shoot him.”—Tex Cobb

When you write, you want to believe in your ability to communicate your ideas to the reader. Sometimes though, it’s necessary to step aside for some poet, some philosopher, and acknowledge that you just cannot match the beauty with which he expresses the idea you are striving for. So in defense of my high placement of Shavers and my opinion that he is literally the hardest puncher in the history of boxing, I give you James “Quick” Tillis:

“The baddest motherfucker I fought was Earnie Shavers. That motherfucker can make July into June and made me jump over the motherfuckin’ moon. Shavers hit so hard he turned horse piss into gasoline! He hit me so hard he brought back tomorrow! When he hit me, I was seeing pink rats and cats and animals smoking cigarettes. I thought I was in the corner smoking a cigarette and eating a spam sandwich. That’s how hard that motherfucker hit.”

Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Ron Lyle and Ken Norton all agree with him, though none of them put it quite so eloquently.

11 – Julian Jackson

“He’s a heavyweight trapped in a middleweight’s body.” —Mike Tyson

Early in the first round of his 1991 challenge for Julian Jackson’s WBC strap, Dennis Milton was caught behind the ear with a clubbing right hand bereft of the torque and precision usually seen in deciding punches. Milton’s reaction was extraordinary. First, he wanted to hug it out, trying to wrap his hands around Jackson’s head and draw him in, but his legs betrayed him utterly and instead he vanished into an obscene lean which left him wide open for more punches. Then he stumbled to the short rope and, left hand in the air as if warding off avenging angels only he could see, he grabbed the top strand with his right hand leaving himself almost defenseless against the man labeled by many as P4P the hardest puncher of all time. Jackson, though, looked momentarily disorganized. Perhaps the sight of Milton abandoning any notion of actually boxing and instead taking on the appearance of a man trying to negotiate an icy garden path temporarily threw him. He shouldn’t have been surprised though—Jackson’s ring opponents often put on strange and inexplicable shows for the crowd.

The reasons were simple in Milton’s case. Firstly, he was terrified. “I saw it in his eyes,” Jackson would claim afterwards. Secondly, all control of his legs by his brain had been ceased and desisted by the early warning that had been that clubbing right hand. Off the ropes and across the ring, Jackson worked harder to support Milton’s weight than he did until, around thirty seconds later, Jackson landed a real punch; a clipping right hand driven through the target on the near side of the ear. Milton tumbled over happily and spread himself on the canvas in the repost of Superman in full flight. It would be embarrassing if it were not for the fact that so many of Jackson’s victims ended their nights in such poses.

Jackson’s left hook was sometimes embarrassing and he often forgot his jab. But he was a well-schooled if not a brilliantly skilled fighter and, in the words of manager to Rocky Balboa opponent Ivan Drago, whatever he hits—he destroys. That destructive punching power granted Jackson 49 stoppages and a KO percentage in the 80s. It also earns him the #11 spot on this list.

10 – Sandy Saddler

“I fight rough, sure.”—Sandy Saddler

Sandy Saddler is a proud member of the century club. He has 103 knockouts to his name. Perhaps making him the cornerstone argument for the philosophy that a world-class offense bests a world-class defense, the savage Saddler holds multiple stoppage wins over perhaps the greatest defensive fighter in history, Willie Pep.

Perfectly described by’s Mike Casey as “the ugly duckling of the game who gate-crashed the party and kicked sand in everyone’s face,” Saddler’s cooked style made him unbeatable at his roughhouse best, especially with a cooperative referee at hand.

Raw-boned with a long reach, Saddler’s left hand was extraordinary. He did not make use of his generally superior length and height in the same way that Wladimir Klitschko or Carlos Monzon have, rather he used an ultra-aggressive pressure style in spite of these advantages and that stalking approach was built around that left hand. A long stiff jab, naturally, was crucial, but that jab could be magically transformed into a hook or uppercut at the last second. This was disastrous for an opponent of even Pep’s caliber because it imbued the jab with the virtual power of both of those devastating punches—punches that separated fighters as good as 33-4 contender Lulu Perez from his senses in one fell swoop. The right hand also worked behind disguised left-handed feints, and if Saddler could land lead right hand leads against Pep he could land them against anyone. 

The final piece in his out-fighting puzzle was superb ring-cutting footwork. Watching Saddler with Pep we see Pep take advantage of Saddler’s rushing style to spin and punch him over and over again. What we do not see is Saddler left behind by Pep’s dazzling movements. They did not impress Sandy at all—even the deftest of ring movers was never far from range.

With the distance closed, Saddler hit as brutally as any fighter ever at featherweight and with the kind of variety that stretched the most brilliant defense. But more than this, Saddler swamped his man with attacks. There may never have been a fighter so adept at discovering his opponent’s physical weaknesses. He was a horror to share the ring with and brutally jarring his opponents with wrestling, pushing and handling was as much a part of that truth-seeking violence as those huge punches. On the darker side, it is rumored that the gaping cut which stopped Flash Elorde in their 1956 encounter was caused by a headbutt and then ripped opening by repeated lacing—on the referee’s blindside, of course.

One of the most troubling left hands in boxing history married to the ultimate roughhousing style and sporting the 100 plus knockouts that only destructive power can bring, Saddler is overqualified for the #10 spot.

9 – Roy Jones Jr.

“Show me a man in control of his emotions and I’ll show you a dangerous man.”—Roy Jones Jr.

Writing about Roy Jones versus James Toney recently I described the winning performance as possibly “the best performance ever filmed in color.” Roy Jones himself described it as “about 60% of what I got—in both power and precision.” Roy’s tragedy now is something quite different and more disturbing but during the helicon days of his P4P #1 stewardship, Roy’s tragedy was rather that he seemed not that interested. As perfect a fighting machine as the world had ever seen he was generally more interested in fighting dogs, chickens and his beloved basketball. Maybe Jones did fight Toney at 60%—but that seemed some 30% more than he used for any fight that came after. Until, some three years later, Montell Griffin focused his attention. Edging a generally close fight, Jones hit Montell in the 9th after his man had taken the knee. To Roy’s displeasure Griffin made his inability to continue very clear and the resulting disqualification was something he took rather personally. The rematch would be Roy’s most devastating display.

Roy suddenly looked interested again.

A fighter built in a disturbed boxing lab by a father obsessed with his son’s future success, environment and genetics combined in Jones to produce a fighter on offense possibly unparalleled. Against Griffin he opened with a short hook, so short Joe Louis would have been proud of it. Two jabs so fast that the Montell didn’t even react to them were followed by another of those short hooks, this one right on the button. Griffin hurtled backwards towards the short rope as though some gargantuan black hole had materialized ringside and sucked him straight in, a standing eight-count the result. A one-two and a lightning fast but unreasonably formed ice-cream scoop of a left hook followed and Montell was on the run. He tried to establish his jab but couldn’t do so in the light of Roy’s stalking and feinting, he was hypnotized by that left hand and the coiled steel rattlesnake weaving it.

Fans of a certain age may find “Superman’s” inclusion on this list disturbing. For a different generation the fact that he doesn’t hold the #1 spot may be the offending element. For me, only Roy’s abandonment of his superb jab and his lack of focus on the attack in many fights keeps him from one of those very top spots. It is worth noting that in this fight and others, however, Roy just supplanted the jab with the left hook. His one-two was built entirely of power punches. He was that fast. And as Griffin will attest, when he landed—and he was a frighteningly accurate puncher—he was powerful, too. The one-punch finish here totally separated him from his physicality and the title reign of Montell Griffin finished as it started, with him apparently separated from his senses, only this time hopelessly trying to rise as the messages of disastrous punishment spun endlessly inside his head.

8 – Henry Armstrong

“Hall of Famers were sent spinning sideways.”—Springs Toledo

Armstrong’s reputation is of a fighter that wore the opposition down with a fuselage of punches rather than a fighter who carried dynamite in his fists. Not so. As a featherweight he was one of the hardest punchers in the division’s history. In unifying the 126 lb. title, Armstrong came up against a brute of a champion in Petey Sarron, a granite-chinned warrior unstoppable in 142 contests. He finished the 6th round against Armstrong blindly groping the ring-floor, seeking some invisible door-handle at the new champion’s feet, the finishing right hand the punch that Homicide Hank had nicknamed “The Blackout” responsible. It was aptly named. Of the 101 men Armstrong darkened, this was the punch that did the bulk of the business. During his prime, Armstrong delivered similarly brutal knockouts even up at welterweight, many of them quick. It takes an attrition puncher longer than four rounds to stop a welterweight of Phil Furr’s quality. It wasn’t a cumulative effect that resulted in Lew Jenkins visiting the canvas seven times in six short rounds. The ultra-durable Al Manfredo was stopped once on cuts and twice by Henry Armstrong punches—beaten into submission by a fighter who could stop you with one punch, but if that didn’t work, would stop you with hundreds. 

The ultimate punching buzzsaw.

7 – Tommy Hearns

“He was a killing machine.”—Ted Sares

Sugar Ray Leonard, as astonishing a boxer-puncher as ever lived, spent 35 rounds in the ring with Roberto Duran without landing blank-dealing punches of any sort. Hagler was extended the distance against Hands of Stone, one of the best middleweights ever forced to settle for a close decision win. Iran “The Blade” Barkley, a huge and aggressive one-sixty crazy was beaten on those cards. Getting Duran out of there during his prime was as impossible a task as existed in boxing. 

Step forwards Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns, a fighter who scores at least a nine out of ten in every one of our criteria for greatness. Capable of superb boxing or brutish dismantling rushes, Hearns has laser-guided accuracy to augment his elite speed and numbing power. His knockout of Duran is as astonishing and perfect a knockout as was ever perpetrated against an all-time great fighter. Those two superhuman efforts Duran mounted at middleweight, combined with the seeming certainty that he could mount similar efforts against Hearns one-hundred times and be stopped in two every single time, underlines just how great a performance that really was. The final punch, reportedly sold with a feint using nothing more than his eyes, is the cherry on the top of Tommy’s great legacy. Add 47 more knockouts to this one and consider that some of them occurred up at cruiserweight and it surely becomes apparent that this former welterweight belongs inside the top ten.

6 – Bob Foster

“Quit hittin’ them kids!  Push ‘em or slap ‘em!”—Bertha Foster to her son on the occasion of his fracturing a schoolmate’s skull in a fight

It is often said of Bob Foster that he dominated a weak light-heavyweight era. There is some truth to this. It is also true that he fought in a light-heavyweight era stacked with granite-chinned fighters of the highest durability. This did not reduce the likelihood of a Bob Foster knockout victory. In fact, it seems that fighters who trusted in their extraordinary punch resistance to save them were even more unlikely to survive. There was only one way to fight Foster and have hope of success: make sure you did not get hit.

Take Chris Finnegan. Stopped three times on cuts, only a devastating one-two from Foster saw him counted out, tangled in the ropes, his spirited resistance totally broken. Or Dick Tiger, owner of one of the most celebrated chins in history, separated from his sense by one crunching left hook.  Frank DePaula was stopped just twice in his career, Foster turning the trick in a single round with a snapping right uppercut. Henry Hank lost 31 fights in his career, but only Foster was able to stop him. Mark Tessman was stopped twice, once by a split eyelid, once by Bob Foster punches. Hal Carroll was similarly prevented from continuing twice by cuts but Foster introduced him to the 10-count in four brutal rounds. See the pattern?

It is also said that Foster never carried his power above 175 lbs. Whilst it is true that Foster never delivered a top scalp up at heavyweight it is also true that he knocked out around twenty men weighing between 180 and 215 lbs.

But power alone wouldn’t get Foster onto this list, and at #6 no less. In spite of his often aesthetically displeasing style, Foster boxed with no little art. On his devastating knockout of Mike Quarry:

“Every time I’d throw a left jab he’d slip it by leaning to his right. He’d bring his right hand back up when he returned to his normal position. I faked a jab and turned it into a hook when he came back up. Bam, I hit him right on the point of the jaw. When he went down, I couldn’t see his eyes. I thought I’d killed him.”

5 – Mike Tyson

“He throws combinations I never saw before. I was stunned. I’ve worked with Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, but I’m seeing a three-punch combination second to none. When have you seen a guy throw a right hand to the kidney, come up the middle with an uppercut, then throw the left hook?”—Angelo Dundee

Tyson used planes of movement no other fighter has ever utilized. He is heavyweight’s Albert Einstein squared, not only recognizing the possibilities of an unexplored universe but putting those theories into practice. He also represents, for this list, something of a fulcrum. Everyone in the top five was at one time or another considered for the #1 spot. It’s possible to spend more time talking about why four of these five aren’t at #1 rather than talk about what makes them great.

To get the negative stuff out of the way, Tyson was a specialist at mid-range whilst bull-rushing. His physical limitations—short arms, short stature—limit him on the outside and a propensity to allow himself to be held and walked limited him on the inside. In the period between his leaping from our television sets and his destruction at the hands of Buster Douglas, however, Tyson was a cyborg—sent from the future to show us how Joe Louis and Jack Dempsey should have done it.

Ultra-elastic, Tyson was taught to pivot and slip on the spot by Cus D’Amato’s teardrop sandbag, fist-sized and zipping around Tyson’s head like a giant and aggressive blue-bottle. He may have learned to punch in combination whilst ripping out these unique defensive maneuvers on Cus’s patent “Willie Bag”, named for Willie Pastrano, from whom Cus associate Jose Torres lifted the world’s light-heavyweight title. Reportedly made up of five mattresses and a supporting frame, the contraption was marked with eight numbers each of which represented a certain kind of blow, a hook to the jaw, a jab to the chest. Tyson would stand with it for hours whilst either Teddy Atlas or Cus himself (sometimes via a tape recorder) barked out numbers to which Tyson would react. Like Roy Jones, Tyson was a perfect storm of boxing brought together by an upbringing that left him thirsty for direction and acceptance as much as by those fast-twitch muscle fibers.

For a short while in what became a long career Tyson was all but unboxable. At the end of the second round against Trevor Berbick he landed two jabs, came square for a right hook to the kidney, came upstairs with a second right hook, moved back to make room for a left hook as Berbick charged and then tagged on another right for good measure. Spring-tight combinations thrown against a sprawling, moving opponent.  The shot that ushered in his “title” reign just seconds later was an absolutely superb punch in its own right, but notable because of its normality; Tyson threw extraordinary punches from angles that just didn’t exist in boxing before his time. Finding sparring partners to replicate his style was easy because anyone can walk in, but finding sparring partners to replicate his dipping, vanishing, off-kilter defense and throw punches going out and coming back from those positions was impossible. None existed. None have ever existed. Probably, none will ever exist.

4 – Sam Langford

“I fought most of the heavyweights including Dempsey and Johnson, but Sam could stretch a guy colder than any of them. When Langford hit me it felt like someone slugged me with a baseball bat. It was like taking ether. You just went to sleep…”—“Fireman” Jim Flynn

In December of 1903 the great Joe Gans stowed the gloves he had used the night before to outpoint the superb Dave Holly and traveled 400 miles in a single day to put his lightweight title on the line against a mercurial teenager named Sam Langford. Complications with the weight meant the fight would go on, in spite of Joe’s stomach trouble, without the title being on the line. For “The Old Master”—then in his absolute prime—this was a glad happenstance; the 17-year-old Langford absolutely thrashed him, outboxed and out-generalled the greatest general seen on the face of the earth up until that point. It was easy.

Fast forward to February of 1916, 13 long years and 100 defeated opponents behind him, a past-prime Sam Langford separates all-time great heavyweight Harry Wills from his senses with a single left hook in the 19th round of their 20-round contest.

Zip on to June of 1922. Langford shares the ring with another all-time great, the middleweight Tiger Flowers. Standing just 5-feet-7-inches, Langford is better suited to this weight-division, but perhaps the most storied of all ring careers has left him blinded. Fighting against shadows, the partial sight that remained him was enough to allow him to land a right hand which traveled “no more than six inches” according to author and historian Clay Moyle, which saw Flowers just about reclaiming all fours at the count of “Ten”.

Viewed on film, Langford looks frighteningly modern. A clearly terrified (and firmly beaten) Joe Jeanette, one of the great heavies of his era, provided the best opposition on video, but it is against Bill Lang that “The Boston Terrier” shines brightest. Crowding footwork maintains the perfect distance for right and left hand punches that are sold behind the narrowest of shifts and the subtlest of feints. A counterpunching pressure fighter, he was as difficult for his peers to box as anyone on this list. As a finisher he is arguably without equal, and as a pure puncher? We’ll let perennial opponent Harry Wills answer that one.

“I’ve met some hard punchers in my time, and all I can say is that the hardest blows any of them ever landed on me were like a slap in the face from a woman compared with those bone-crunching wallops from Langford…[W]hen he knocked me out in New Orleans in 1916, I thought I’d been killed.”

3 – Bob Fitzsimmons

“Whilst physicians were examining him, Ruhlin opened his eyes and faintly asked for water. This was given him as he again lapsed into a sort of stupor. Blood at this time was trickling from his ears and nose.”—The San Francisco Call

Nobody hit like Fitz.

Boxing at the then middleweight limit of 154 lbs., he stopped the granite-chinned nonpareil champion Jack Dempsey in just 13 rounds in what was described as the most scientific display of boxing seen up until that point. Then a boxer-puncher known for his exceptional poise in the ring, Fitz spent the next years adding layer upon layer to one of the most studied, devastating offenses in history. The March 9th, 1893 edition of The Times Democrat published as beautiful and complete a description of Bob’s style as can be seen:

“He will advance when his antagonist least expects it, and often when in full retreat will wheel suddenly about and meet his advancing rival with right or left just in time to borrow his momentum and add it to the force of his own blow…”

Fitzsimmons was the ultimate trap-smith, perhaps unparalleled even today at laying bait, guiding opponents onto his punches, switching the attack at the last possible minute.

“..[T]hough exceedingly apt to advance and force the fighting at times, he has a wonderful faculty of doing so just when his opponent is not ready to meet him with a blow, and by the time a blow is launched in his direction he is generally in the act of getting away…”

An opening rarely missed, Fitzsimmons would become famous in his career for picking certain vulnerable spots and landing upon them, accuracy above and beyond what can be seen in even a world-class fighter.

“…[W]ith all his violent exertion, he never seems to become tired.”

An engine almost infallible, Fitz carried one-punch knockout power of the most devastating kind to the late rounds. His 14th round one-punch knockout of James J. Corbett, which caused the champion’s eyes “to roll back into his head until no pupil was visible,” is amongst the most famous in history. Landed by hands so fast that many at ringside did not see it go in, Corbett was all but paralyzed, crawling pitifully across the ring floor, arguably the greatest heavyweight of his generation laid low by a single blow from a man fighting at the modern super-middleweight limit. 

His one punch knockout of middleweight contender Jim Hall was so violent and sudden that onlookers thought him dead; tragically, two men would indeed go to their graves behind punches landed by Ruby Red.

Other victims such as world-class heavyweight Peter Maher were dropped—unconscious—by invisible punches that left their eyes rolling in their heads, confused, when revived, as to what had actually happened to them. Speed enough to make punches invisible to the naked eye. Perhaps unequalled pound-for-pound power. Traps, feints and counterpunching skills unmatched in his era. What kind of fluidity and devastation on offense can keep this monster from the top two?

2 – Sugar Ray Robinson

“I don’t know anything about that punch. Except I watched it on movies a couple of times.”—Gene Fullmer

Fullmer was as tough a middleweight who ever lived, a man who lived face-forwards in the ring, thick-necked, his face as immobile and daunting as his rough-hewn style. Mauling, driving fighters are the easiest to knock out on paper, busy and aggressive they afford plenty of punching opportunities for the opponent. Nevertheless, Florentino “The Ox” Fernandez, one of history’s hardest pure punchers could not make a dent in the granite battlement that was Fullmer’s chin despite landing his terrifying left hook flush at least once. “The Cyclone” just took a quick moment for himself, shrugged off the punch and then went back on the attack. Rescued between rounds by a concerned manager in his very last fight, he never heard the ten.

Except for once.

Sugar Ray Robinson, behind on the cards and a three-to-one underdog to reclaim the middleweight title he had lost to Fullmer, landed perhaps the most perfect punch in the history of boxing. After leading with a hard right hand to the body, Sugar was bulled back and away, making space for himself before assuming the exact stance he had used to throw that right hand to the body—and then, form the hip, all gunslinger, he tossed out a short left hook, driven not by the left or the right foot, but by both feet, and you can’t see it land on film without slowing the film down, and then Fullmer crumbled, managing just a single step in support of his defense of the middleweight title, reduced to nothing less than a back alley drunk on payday, perhaps the most iron-chinned of middleweights missed gaining his feet by a single second.

Is this Robinson’s most impressive feat as a puncher? Possibly not. There’s the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre perpetrated against Jake LaMotta, a fighter legitimately stopped during action just once by this punching display so varied and savage it is likely no fighter in middleweight history could have deciphered or survived it. There’s the terrifying move through the gears in his second fight with Randy Turpin as Robinson, on the verge to losing to Britain’s greatest ever middleweight for a second time, did what all great champions do and found a solution, a fluidity on offense so brutal and alarming that even a 1950s referee couldn’t stand by and do nothing. 

As Carmen Basilio, who spent 30 rounds in the ring with Sugar put it, “He was the best puncher, he was the hardest puncher.”


1 – Joe Louis

“It ain’t like a punch. It’s like someone nailed you with a crowbar. I thought half my head was blowed off. I figured he caved it in. After he hit me I couldn’t even feel if it was there.”—James J. Braddock

“God how that man can hit. I can’t remember anything after the first knockdown.”—Johnny Paycheck.

“You’d take one shot from him and you were sure he’d have seven or eight more coming for you.”—George Foreman

“Joe Louis uncovers dynamite.”—Richard Wright

“I was worried he would break someone’s neck.”—Arthur Donovan

“He hit me eighteen times as I was in the act of falling.”—Max Baer

Joe Louis is my choice for the #1 spot. As capable a combination puncher as ever lived, his hands were lightning, devastatingly accurate, he punched with huge power and maximum economy. A superb counterpuncher but one who could force the attack with horrifying results, Louis ticks every single box required to be named the greatest composite puncher of all time. For anyone interested in a detailed breakdown of his skills on both offense and defense, one is available here, in six parts:

How to Box by Joe Louis: Part 1—The Foundation of Skill
How to Box by Joe Louis: Part 2—The Jab & Left Hook
How to Box by Joe Louis: Part 3—The Right Hand
How to Box by Joe Louis: Part 4—The Uppercut; Bodywork
How to Box by Joe Louis: Part 5—On Defense & The Shadow of Jersey Joe Walcott
How to Box by Joe Louis: Part 6—Putting It All Together

For the moment, let’s just satisfy ourselves with Joe’s own perspective on his job of work:

“He can run. But he can’t hide.”—Joe Louis

A word for the men who would have rounded out the top 20 on this list had space allowed: Wilfredo Gomez, Archie Moore, Carlos Zarate, Ruben Olivares and Jack Dempsey. A word too for Terry McGovern, excluded on the footage rule due to only his highly suspect stoppage of Joe Gans being readily available.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Sonny Liston vs Floyd Patterson

Jack Johnson Vs Stanley Ketchel

Earnie Shavers vs. James Quick Tillis Rounds 9-10 June 1982.flv

BOXING Julian Jackson vs Dennis Milton

Willie Pep vs Sandy Saddler

roy jones jr vs montell griffin II

Henry Armstrong P4P Profile

Big time Knock Out by Bob Foster

Sam Langford Montage

Bob Fitzsimmons

Sugar Ray Robinson vs Gene Fullmer II

Max Baer vs Joe Louis - All Rounds !

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  1. 02:37pm, 09/04/2019

    Wide, looping punches have the further disadvantage of taking more time to deliver, giving the opponent ample warning to react and counter. For this reason, the haymaker or roundhouse is not a conventional punch, and is regarded by trainers as a mark of poor technique or desperation. Sometimes it has been used, because of its immense potential power, to finish off an already staggering opponent who seems unable or unlikely to take advantage of the poor position it leaves the puncher in.

  2. Ray 07:32pm, 07/18/2015

    These polls are a laugh. Marciano on the ten hardest punchers, yet not even mentioned on the top fifteen. For what it`s worth, I`m 90 yrs, old. Been following boxing for 83 yrs. Did some boxing in the Navy, I might not know as much about who is the hardest and who isn`t but one thing I do know is I have never seen a fighter hit harder than Rocky Marciano and I`ve seen a lot of fighters come and go in my 90 yrs.

  3. marc delaney 04:18pm, 06/10/2015

    i agree. With most of list,  but I personally cannot imagine a list without Jimmy Wilde being on it,  voted num 3 hardest puncher in history by ring magazine,  as his weight was 6 st 8 lbs ideally he usually ended up fighting men pounds heavier sometimes more,  but as this is your personal list,  you have chosen which is fine,  and a great article

  4. rosy the battler 02:27pm, 08/02/2013

    Langford doesn’t belong, Saddler was a master of dirty and taller than most, lets not underrate Zarate and Cuevas….nor Duran….many great punchers over the years…Florentine Fernandez was another….Langford was a great fighter but it wasn’t simply his punching, he knew how to fight…Marciano left out, Graziano? Give me a break….Louis was a killer….but where’s Dempsey?

  5. Darrell 07:05pm, 08/01/2013

    Earnie Shavers had great power but I don’t see him throwing devastating combos outside of some roundhouse swinging.

    Lennox Lewis did some great combination punching for devastating KOs….he should be a shoo-in for this list.  Even Wlad has put together excellent combinations for stoppages.  Sure, the same punches, either involving combos with a left hook, left jab & straight right but combinations nonetheless.

    JC Chavez had any number of powerful combinations to stop fights too.

  6. David 01:14am, 08/01/2013

    Roberto Duran ?

  7. George Thomas Clark 12:23pm, 07/26/2013

    George Foreman is the greatest all around puncher in history.  His devastating victories over Joe Frazier, alone, prove that.  Twenty years later, at age 44, his destruction of undefeated Michael Moorer enhanced an already splendid resume.

  8. Michael Hegan 05:53pm, 07/20/2013

    ....when Joe Louis met Billy Conn…first time….Billy was tattooing the ‘Bomber’ ...for the first thirteen rounds…..
    But…the reason Billy never had problems making weight at the Lt Heavyweights… because Billy never got let into his home….after his morning run…....cuz Billy ‘s knock on the door couldn’t be heard….by anyone

  9. Michael Hegan 05:48pm, 07/20/2013

    Composite Punchers….

    OK…there were a lot of them…but the ones that were in my time….Sugar Ray Robinson….Clay/Ali…Evander Holyfield…Larry Holmes….Joe Frazier…Hector Camacho (thefknolyone).....Barry McGuigan….Carlos Monzon….

    None of these HOF guys were known so much for their ONE PUNCH KO power….as for their ability to flurry their opponent into a state of helplessness…..and were awarded TKO…..and rightly so

    OK ...Joe Frazier was a little more vicsious KO seeker….but that man could cook for fifteen rounds

  10. Michael Hegan 05:35pm, 07/20/2013

    See….what Gene Fullmer prpoved is what makes Pro Boxing so attractive…..Sometimes…the Bull beats the Matador….

    I was in Mazatlan…where the ‘B’ league bullfights were doing the rubber chicken circuit…....

    Three bull fights…..last one being the ‘star’.....the contender…whatever

    ...anyway….the second bull fight…the bull won….killed the guy right there in front of god and everything….

    They herded off the bull…and brought out the next show…as soon as they could cart that poor fkr off in a stretcher…no ambulance.. early seventies

  11. Michael Hegan 05:24pm, 07/20/2013

    Hearns and Foster wil always have a table ....when it comes to ‘the dinner’

    ..and due to both of these warriors’ contributions to Professional Boxing….
    It’s a good thing these ‘‘nine inches of throbbing gristle..with a nob on the end like a MOOSE HEART…
    ...never met in the ring… of them would have died

  12. Michael Hegan 02:12pm, 07/19/2013

    THe problem that fighters had with Henry Armstrong…was that guy could cook for fifteen rounds….regular ‘Tasmanian Devil’ ...some say that that cartoon character was fashioned after none other than ‘Homicide Hank’

  13. Michael Hegan 02:07pm, 07/19/2013

    Julian Jackson was the most horrible thing that could happen to a fighter….

    Not enough can be said about Jackson…

    Look at Stanley Ketchel….god rest his soul….

    No irreverance to Ketchel…but some tributes need to be paid to Julian Jackson

  14. Michael Hegan 02:03pm, 07/19/2013

    I’ll always remember that interview that Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb had with Johnny Carson….when ‘Tex ’ was on the rise….campaigning for a Title shot.
    Cobb was a lovable HW professional Fighter…..great for quotes..better than Two Ton Toney

    Footage played and Johnny commented that he thought ‘Tex’ was a little messy in his corner…..when he just spit out the water onto the canvas….instead of into the spit bucket….

    Cobb ....without a blink ...said…‘Johnny ...they don’t pay you a nickel more for bein’ neat’

    LMFAO….....further…Cobb got his shot against the Big Cat…..and although Cobb finished on his feet….a more severe beating was never administered the end of round seven….Cobb said to Larry Holmes…...‘HANDS SORE YET , LARRY ‘

    Not only did Big Cat continue to reign….but Boxing fans got rid of humble howard cosell…

  15. Michael Hegan 01:39pm, 07/19/2013

    Matt McGrain has the depth to include Sam Langford….

    I look forward to more of this author’s contributions.  He knows of what he speaks

  16. Michael Hegan 01:35pm, 07/19/2013

    Hey….different comparisons..different weights….different times…

    Who could exclude any professional Boxer on the list?

    Me….I’ll always be a Liston guy… I listened to them on the radio….(my mind image ..when he was in with Patterson…)

    When TV came to my area….I got to see Clay/Ali….against Liston…


    I was such a Liston Fan…..and later….I was such a Foreman Fan….

    MAN….I hated that guy…Ali…..but….......that man was tied for top spot for THE Greatest…right up there with Joe Louis

  17. Don from Prov 11:27am, 12/28/2012

    “Composite” punching is all-aspect punching. We’re looking here at speed, technique on delivery, work-rate, accuracy, aggression, mercilessness, feinting, timing—”  When one makes up such a list the guidelines dictate a lot: This particular one is not about simple “pure” punching power.  For instance, some fighters said that Max Baer hit harder than Joe Louis—but more of those fighters survived Baer than Louis because Louis was a better boxer, a more efficient fighter, and threw combinations that Baer couldn’t dream of.  Once punch?  Maybe Baer, but not as on offensive machine.  The same “might” be said of Shavers who—one punch—might have hit harder than George Foreman, but George had a jab, could hurt someone with his right or left, was incredibly strong, and had a better chin than Shavers: You are not going to get away from George Foreman (who I think belongs on this list) as easily as you are form Shavers.  And even when we make our own criteria, we sometimes stray from it: I believe Mr. McGrain said he left one fighter off because he had no left jab.  Well, I didn’t see an abundance of jabs in the career of Roy Jones jr.—and would not call it a weapon of great importance in his case; and as Mr. McGrain himself said, the left hook of Julian Jackson was sometimes embarrassing—not a complete fighter.  If this were my list I’d have Dempsey, Marciano, and maybe Fraizer on it because jab or no jab, they were very difficult to get away from and made up for a lack of jab with an excess of things like (among them) feinting, timing, speed, the ability to punch short, accuracy, relentless attack, work rate, aggression, and good chins.  But this is NOT my list, Mr. McGrain put the hard work in, not me, and I both appreciate and admire the fact that he put that work in and presented us with a forum to discuss these fighters.

  18. Jethro Tull 07:34am, 12/28/2012

    In fairness to Tex Cobb, any list of hardest chins would be incomplete without him on it and any list of stamina as well.

    I’d be really hard pushed to think of anyone who could take a 15 round gubbing from Larry Holmes and stay on his feet.

    And 10 out of 10 for taking on Shavers with so little experience. Shavers was always dangerous to rookies, see what happened to Jimmy Young, for example.

  19. McGrain 06:24am, 12/28/2012

    I told you he was brutal.

  20. the thresher 06:09am, 12/28/2012

    Shavers has created a shit storm!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Sharon Cobb 02:16am, 12/28/2012

    Hi Jethro Tull,
    First, I love your moniker.
    Regarding the fight, it is true about Shavers and Tex.  Tex isn’t one to brag because there wasn’t a lot to brag about, but one usually agrees that a man who had 30 somethings rounds, not fights, but rounds by the time the promoter threw him in the ring with Shavers and took out Shavers in 8 rounds, is quite an amazing feat.  Can you imagine even Tyson fighting Earnie in his mid 20s with less than 40 rounds in the ring?  Again, not fights. 
    The promoter called Tex, and asked him if he’d like a fight for 40 thousand dollars.  Tex was broke and just said “Yes.” Only later did we find out it was Shavers, and both of us were like, Oh s***.
    I have a unique perspective because I was either there, or there after the fight. or involved in handling the fight.(I had nothing to do with this one)
    But my vantage point is unique.
    Please don’t think I am saying I am better or smarter or always right, but being the only person on the board to know both fighters and know the inside stories gives me a little more info than a lot.  It also doesn’t mean I know a thing more than any of you—just a pov that probably no one else has. (Anyone else married to any of these fighters?)  Just know a little more of the inside stuff, not bragging.  My nice Jewish parents thought I could do better than a crazy boxer.  And there are so many nasty things I could say about Tex, but that isn’t what this board is for or what the readers want to read, or I want to write for that matter.  But for better or worse, justified or not, whatever else I know about him, I try to stick to what I know about what he did in the ring.  Just because we are now divorced, that doesn’t mean I am going to write bad things about him,.  I still worry about him, even though we haven’t spoken in 17 years. (Even if he never paid a dime in his alimony or child support and left me for an ignorant punk rocker who isn’t fit to carry my Jill strap—-okay, one cheap shot well deserved) but the truth is, boxing fans, myself included, don’t want to read about the negative stuff, and for the screw up he was, I am not going to lie about his fights, and I’d be in awe of any fighter who broke Shavers jaw in 8 rounds with essentially no experience, and the promoters expected Tex to lose, and he wouldn’t fall down, and a lot of people lost money on that fight—which was all Tex was to some of his managers at the time who took advantage of a big white guy they knew wasn’t that good, but they didn’t know his heart.  I admire the fights I saw him “hang in there” and never taking a step backwards or having in any in the ring, and the Shavers fight is something he earned the right to brag, but we just disagree on Tex bragging.  He was more like Max Baer in not being the greatest fighter, but a showman and the sex, drugs and rock and roll cliche.  That still doesn’t negate fighting Shavers with less that 40 rounds of experience.
    There are some fights he never should have taken, but that is when he was under the pathetic guild of the late Rick “Elvis” Parker, who was shot by Tim “Doc” Anderson.  Tex was with Rick in the mid 80s and then again in 93.  I’d say it should be a book and film, but it is.  The book is ‘Year of the Locust,’ by Jon Hotten, which I suggest to every boxing fan.  It is closest to the truth of any boxing story I have ever read, and British actor and director Paddy Constantine has bought the movie rights.  I know that will be accurate from his research which will include a retired law enforcement officer who writes for this online paper and knows very well the true stories, an ex wife who knows what was going on, Tim himself, and others who know facts and are very credible. When they(Paddy and his film crew) come to America, the retired law enforcement officer who is also an author, is going to offer excellent info, and me as well.  I digressed big time! Sorry guys and other ladies!!  But it will be something to sink your teeth into.. 
    Again, sorry for digressing, just wanted to say fighting Shavers with virtually no experience, well, I gotta give the ex his props. On that fight, they are more than deserved.  And you might feel differently, which is fine.
    Just different pespectives, and I’ll be glad to talk Ian Anderson and the rest of Tull with you as well on another venue. (His Xmas song is one of my favorites for the holidays and doesn’t get any play on radio in America except on paid radio).  Also, their opening band, Steeleye Span, a big British/Irish group who opened for Tull for a year, and they, too, were amazing.
    But as far as boxing, for whatever reason, not sure how they all ended up on one board, some of the writers, the editor, me and maybe others I don’t know, have more accurate info than any online magazine on boxing.
    Good place to be if you love boxing.  :)  Cheers.  Sharon Cobb (My moniker is Penny Lane, but at my age, I don’t use it as much)

  22. Jethro Tull 11:21pm, 12/27/2012

    Once again, Tex Cobb beat Shavers and is only praising his own win.

    Lyle lost to Foreman but said Shavers, who he beat, was a bigger hitter.

    Tillis and Holmes lost to Tyson but said Shavers, who they both beat, was the bigger hitter.

    Awful convenient.

  23. Sharon Cobb 04:26pm, 12/27/2012

    What about Michael Dokes? Fastest hands in the HW class.
    Don’t understand how some are bashing Shavers as the hardest hitter.  Everyone I know who fought him, has said he is the hardest hitter, including my former husband, who, once he could talk, said Shavers could knock the building down. (And they fought in the prime of their careers, not in their 30s or 40s)
    When Shavers would visit us, we’d go to the gym, and I couldn’t believe how he’d work over a bag, much less a person.
    Of all Tex fought, Tex wasn’t afraid of any fighter, but said you couldn’t pay him enough to fight Shavers again.  And the ex is greedy.
    One should also know Shavers is the nicest fighter I ever met during my ex-husband’s boxing career.  Patient, kind, gentle…good words for Shavers, “Gentle giant”....who can knock a building down.

  24. the thresher 02:56pm, 12/27/2012

    McGrain, I thought you were from the UK!! Not Cleveland? :)

  25. McGrain 01:42pm, 12/27/2012

    It may be “telling” that fighters who beat Shavers praised his power.  Is it also “telling” that fighters who lost to him praised his power?  All in all, I think it is just “telling” that fighters praised his power, personally.  Excessively.

  26. Jethro Tull 09:36am, 12/27/2012

    Nothing wrong with Gerald McClellan’s power at all and his match with Nigel Benn was his first and only one at supermiddleweight, all his others were at middleweight where his power stood comparison with Jackson.

    Nigel Benn himself was awesome in slugfests, it was boxers that he struggled with and his chin, while not the greatest, was not his problem.

    As for Shavers, it’s telling that the praise comes from those who beat him so they are only praising their own wins.

  27. McGrain 07:32am, 12/27/2012

    I respect your opinion friend, you know I do (I quoted you after all…) but not more than the men I mentioned.  I’ve never seen such a cross-reference of men from a cross-section of generations (courtesy of Holmes) testify to a fighter’s superior power at the expense of so many other astonishing punchers….But I do concede that I am attracted to the sparkle of Earnie’s apparent status.  I also stand by that sparkle.

  28. the thresher 06:57am, 12/27/2012

    McGrain, I’m one of the very few who believes this, but I truly think the power of Shavers was a tad overrated. Yes, his KO percentage was great and yes his ability to stun was something to behold, but his one-punch ability for clean KOs (like Wlad or Hearns) was not as great as many suspect. In fact, it was his ability to stun that pulled him out of some tight spots.

    Satterfield could almost KO you with a miss.

    That is all. Great article and one that makes me proud to be on


  29. McGrain 05:18am, 12/27/2012

    Merry Christmas gents!

    Taking these issues one at a time in as much as I can (do forgive me if i don’t mention you by name, we have plenty to get through…):

    Shavers is included because he comes out as the hardest puncher ever.  The combination of gifts he had physically and the technique that he used on delivery made him a harder pure puncher, according to testimony, than George Foreman, Mike Tyson, Ron Lyle, Sonny Liston, Ken Norton, etc.etc.  “That something extra granted by Heaven, or the other place” is where he scores highly, in addition to power - where you could argue he should be the only fighter receiving a maximum score. But it’s the former really.  Being the hardest puncher there ever was (which he is in my estimation) is something a bit magical.  As to who he’s stopped that was “hard to stop” I’d direct you towards Howard Smith and Steve Carter.  They didn’t come up in my thumbnail on Shavers, because I took a rather “different” approach with his profile, but granite chins don’t need to be attached to a great fighter to be granite.

    Gerald McLellan had great power but I do not consider it on a part with Jackson’s - that is to say he was a huge puncher but perhaps not freakish.  What puts me off him though, isn’t that so much as his loss in the fire-fight with Benn.  The guys on this list tend not to lose fire-fights, and Benn doesn’t belong on this list, or a corresponding list of granite chins.  That Benn straight-up beat him in a fire-fight pretty much excludes him for me.  He didn’t make my top 20. May make a 40.

    Jack Dempsey - Dempsey does indeed come in between 16 and 20.  The same thing that keeps him from the top of this list is the same thing that kept Ketchel from the top - the lack of a great jab.  This is a composite list after all.  Lacking a great jab is a clear handicap.

    Baer.  No, not for me.  As above.  Like Ketchel he exhibits huge power but often sloppy technique on film.  Baer above Arguello on a pure-punchers list makes perfect sense - on a composite punchers list, it cannot be defended IMO.  I think there was an objection to Armstrong and Robinson ranking so high on a “puncher’s list”?  Once again, this is not a puncher’s list.  These guys are in for a reason and those reasons are expressed clearly in their thumbnails.  I think Armstrong, though, is amongs the most underated pure puncehrs ever.  He blootered guys with one punch, some of them had utter granite in their beards.

    Sorry if I missed anything, and cheers for reading, as don from the prov said - not everyone’s going to agree, i’d be surprised if ANYONE flat out agrees, this isn’t even as easy as making an ATG welterweight list…which is helluva hard.

  30. Jethro Tull 04:47am, 12/27/2012

    Cheers Jason.

    The Shavers punching power thing is annoying. Yes, he had a very big punch but who did he knock out that was difficult to knock out? And it’s worth noting that Ron Lyle fought both Shavers and Foreman while Larry Holmes and James Tillis both fought Shavers and Tyson.

    George Foreman, by contrast, wrecked the reputation of Joe Frazier who was known for his ability to take a punch and who was previously unbeaten. At 45, he was the first man to beat Michael Moorer who was not known for having the greatest chin but he was sparked with one punch all the same.

    Lewis flattened Ruddock and Golota and could be on this list.

    Tyson deserves to be on this list, being only the second man to stop Berbick, the only man to have Pinklon Thomas on the deck, the only man to floor Michael Spinks, the only man to stop Larry Holmes and the first to stop Tony Tubbs.

    Gerald McClellan used to be able to knock men down for the count with body punches in title fights so he is worth a mention as well.

  31. Jason 03:45pm, 12/26/2012

    @ Jethro. Agreed about the Shavers mention. This stuff is all a very inexact science.

    Liston deserved to be ranked higher, not sure how Tyson didn’t top out.

    At any rate, it was a noble effort.

  32. Jethro Tull 03:24pm, 12/26/2012

    Gerald McClellan to be on this list is a very good call.

    His punching power was awesome.

    Earnie Shavers is annoying though. Note that all bar one of the men who praised his power beat him.

    He doesn’t belong on this list ahead of George Foreman or Lennox Lewis, that’s for sure.

    Bob Foster is the king of punchers at light-heavyweight. Good to see him get his due.

  33. Jason 02:22pm, 12/26/2012

    No Gerald McClellan? I understand his career was shorted for obvious reason, but he still carried bombs in both hands much like Jackson as mentioned.

    Very fun article to read!

  34. peter 01:39pm, 12/26/2012

    Thank you for an excellent read. But I’d substitute Max Baer for Bob Fitzsimmons…How about a follow-up article—“The 15 Lightest Punching Champions”?

  35. Kelsey McCarson 01:05pm, 12/26/2012

    Fantastic yet I cannot help but wonder why Jack Dempsey isn’t on the list. Perhaps he’d be number 16. Or perhaps I’m just obsessed with the heavyweights! Either way, great read!

  36. tuxtucis 09:31am, 12/26/2012

    Sugar Ray Robinson and Henry Armstrong are probably the two greatest pound for pound fighters in history, but I don’ t think they can be in top 15 all-time punchers…I’m skeptical about the presence of Roy Jones too…Sandy Saddler was a terrible guy to meet, but his victims left more for cuts dues to dirty tactics than punches…I would have seen Jimmy Wilde, Jack Dempsey, George Foreman, Carlos Zarate and Wilfredo Gomez…
    Really too low the Stanley Ketchel position: exceptional ko’s average for his age, he kayoed a great light heavy as Philadelphia Jack O’Brien and knocked down an all-time great heavy in Jack Johnson…For me he contends the number 1 spot with Fitzsimmons, but really I don’t see how is possible to rank him out of top 5….

  37. Jim Crue 07:38am, 12/26/2012

    Wow.,,,.what a great piece of writing.  Thank you!!
    What I loved about Robinson was the way he stood and FOUGHT. The way he planted his feet and just let fly. His knockout of Bobo Olson are an example of that.  I wish we had more films of the young Robinson. When he fought Fullmer and Basilio he was fighting on memory, but what a memory.
    I remember his fight with Olson after the 2 year retirement. We lived in a one bedroom apt. my parents and me, and were the only ones in the apt house with a TV. I was only 8 years old but remember it like yesterday. Our little apt was packed with neighbors watching the fight. Men, women and children. Cigarette smoke in the air and highballs in their hands. Everyone was disappointed Robinson knocked him out so quickly. That was really the start of the end for boxing as a mainstream sport.

  38. Dom from Prov 07:09am, 12/26/2012

    Great piece.  I love these kind of articles—

    Don’t know that I’d agree on every choice, but that’s half the fun!

    Good stuff.

  39. Springs Toledo 07:04am, 12/26/2012

    The only boxing list I’ve read good enough to change my mind.  Christmas made a comeback with this gem.

  40. the thresher 06:28am, 12/26/2012

    A great amount of research. Thank you for the history.

    I’d put Bob Satterfield in front of Shavers, but that’s about all I’d do. And even that is tentative.

    Using “combinations”? makes this quite unique.

  41. norman Marcus 06:10am, 12/26/2012

    Matt: A great piece on composite punchers. The all around fighting machine is another way to put it I guess. The fun though of going to a fight is witnessing such a well rounded fighter get caught and KO’d by a knockout artist. The upset, the punch from nowhere, the unexpected end is what makes boxing so exciting.
    Louis was a great fighter and I see why you put him as your number one but I’ll let this quote from Jimmy Braddock explain how I feel. Braddock is speaking about Max Baer, a great knockout artist.
    “Dynamite puncher, If he hit you right, he’d knock you out in the third row. In my opinion, the guy was a harder puncher than Louis. Louis was a faster puncher and he hit you with more punches, but Baer was a guy who could hurt you. You see, Max, was a nice fellow but he never should have been a fighter. His ability was, if the guy could have got mad, you know like guys get in a fight, he’d kill you with one punch…and I think that was on his mind.”
    Now the Ring Magazine ranks Louis as number 1 in their One Hundred Greatest Punchers Club and Baer is ranked as 22. So they agree with you.  But in you definition of the best composite fighter I think you have to add in excitement and drama. Otherwise you wind up with Olympic Boxing which is a boring game of points.
    All that being said, thanks for the piece. Well thought out and interesting. Rocks!!!