Dec 7, 2020

Ranking the 5 Most Powerful Punchers in Heavyweight Boxing History

Omar Abubakar

s we saw last weekend, boxing is a science where you cannot skip steps to be successful. This was evident with Nate Robinson getting knocked out by Youtuber Jake Paul, which to some overshadowed the main event of Iron Mike Tyson returning to the ring after 15 years by facing off against Roy Jones Jr.

Robinson's agonizing defeat makes us take a step back and analyze the 5 most devastating, powerful punchers in boxing's long history, particularly in the history of the legendary heavyweight division.

5) Deontay Wilder

Although nowhere near the most skilled out of any fighter that will appear on this list, when you analyze things from a knockout perspective, Wilder is absolutely frightening with a KO rate of 98%. 

What is even more impressive is that out of his 40 knockouts in his career thus far, 30 knockouts have occurred within the first 3 rounds.

What makes Wilder formidable is the combination of speed and size. He’s 6”7, has tremendous reach, and uses his superior speed against other heavyweights since he fights in the 220-pound range.

His recent loss to Tyson Fury proved that against a more skilled technical fighter, he still has to improve, but there’s no question that from a hard-hitting perspective, he deserves to be on this list.

4) Rocky Marciano 

Marciano is one of the most legendary fighters of all time. The combination of speed, durability, stamina, and sheer toughness made him absolutely formidable despite his small size for a heavyweight. 

Marciano remained undefeated with a record of 49-0, and 43 of those wins came by way of knockout; 26 of those knockouts coming within the first 3 rounds.

His knockout against Jersey Joe Walcott in 1952 to this day remains one of the most famous knockouts in boxing history.

Walcott, who also fought the legendary Joe Louis, was asked who punched harder, and this was his response:

“Marciano was a one-punch artist. He threw every punch like you throw a baseball, as hard as he could. I have to say, with all due respect to Joe, Marciano hit harder”.

3) Mike Tyson

Many people say that had Iron Mike’s trainer Cus D’Amato lived, Tyson would have enjoyed an even more stellar career than what he already had. D’Amato was a father figure to Tyson from an early age, and looked at him like a son; he had a profound impact on Tyson both on and off the ring.

At just 20 years old, Tyson became the heavyweight champion of the world, making him the youngest boxer to ever do so, a record that nobody has beaten and will unlikely ever beat.

During the 1980’s, no boxer has ever made the impression on the sport from an intimidation perspective than Iron Mike. He came to the scene and captured the hearts of sports fans everywhere, and his mentality of wanting nothing more than to inflict so much pain on his opponent coupled with his ability to end fights so quickly made him as formidable as they come.

Out of his 44 knockouts, 33 of them came within the first 3 rounds, and 22 of them came in the first round. Therefore, when watching Iron Mike in his prime, it was imperative that you watched everything from the opening bell, as the opponent could be rendered unconscious at any given time.

As Teddy Atlas put it regarding Tyson:

“As far as punching ability, he’s like a Mickey Mantle in baseball. He could hit from either side of the plate just as well”.

2) Earnie Shavers

Shavers was so devastating, and he hit so hard that when an opponent blocked one of his monstrous punches, the opponent would often feel a vibrating sensation go through his entire body.

Shavers knows how hard he used to hit:

“Only God hits harder than me. Only God. That’s it”.

Ask Mohammed Ali, or Ron Lyle, or Leroy Caldwell about Shaver’s power.

His notable wins against Ken Norton, Jimmy Ellis, and Jimmy Young are impressive, but out of his 68 knockouts, 51 of them came within the first 3 rounds.

With that said, Shavers isn’t considered one of the best boxers of all time because his stamina was an issue, and many have pointed out that he was a second-rate boxer but a first-rate puncher. He never won the heavyweight title, but many legends to this day still talk about that power.

1) George Foreman

Millennials only know the friendly Foreman from the grill, but make no mistake, Foreman was a knockout machine. Big George was noticed in the late 1960s, as a sparring partner for the legendary former heavyweight champion Sonny Liston. 

After approximately 26 amateur fights, and winning a gold medal in the Olympics in Mexico City, Big George dropped into professional boxing like an atomic bomb. He had spectacular knockouts, particularly brutal ones. His 1-2 combinations of a left jab followed by a devastating right proved to work wonders.

Foreman proved to destroy anyone that dared to challenge him in the ring, and one memorable fight against Smoking Joe Frazier led to Foreman knocking Frazier down 8 times in 7 rounds. People in the arena were screaming to end the fight, as they feared for Frazier’s life. 

Prior to Foreman’s famous loss to Mohammed Ali, every boxing pundit on the planet truly believed that Foreman was unbeatable. The aura around him at the time was something that was more superhuman than anything else, and people legitimately feared for Ali’s life.

After Foreman’s loss to Ali, Foreman was stunned and humbled, and he was never the same again. His loss to Jimmy Young in 1977 led him to retire from the sport, and many thought it was the last they would see of Foreman in the ring again.

After a ten-year hiatus, Foreman, now in his 40s, made a return to professional boxing in 1987 with one goal in mind: To win the heavyweight championship once again.

Foreman slowly had to make this happen, he gained a considerable amount of weight in the last ten years, but after 26 successful bouts, he got his chance against the current heavyweight champion, Evander Holyfield in 1991.

Holyfield was just 28 years old, undefeated at the time, with 25 wins and 21 of them coming by knockout. 

Holyfield later said about Foreman: 

“He hit me harder than any other fighter. He didn’t knock me down but with one shot, I thought he knocked my teeth out”. 

The fight went a grueling 12 rounds, and Holyfield won the fight by a decision. But Foreman didn’t give up on his quest to regain the title.

3 years later, he got his chance against Michael Moorer in 1994 and knocked him out. At the age of 45, Foreman became the oldest heavyweight to ever win the title, a record that to this day has never been broken.

In Foreman’s legendary career, 68 of his 76 victories came by way of knockout, and 46 knockouts came within the first 3 rounds. 

Honorable Mentions

An honorable mention is without question Vitali Klitschko, who's KO percentage was 87 percent, and out of his 47 fights, had 41 knockouts.

A second honorable mention is the great Sonny Liston, who is known as one of the most intimidating fighters in boxing history. Out of his 54 fights, 39 of them came by way of knockout.

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