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May. 28 2010 - 10:57 am | 19,170 views | 0 recommendations | 8 comments

Top ten hardest punchers in boxing history

Top ten lists are always good fun, so I thought I’d compile one about the hardest punchers in boxing history — a subject that usually sparks off some great debate. Measuring punching power isn’t easy to do because power comes in a variety of guises. But while there are explosive punchers, heavy punchers and hurtful punchers, there is a common theme amongst the most revered of pugilists: Punchers are born, and not made.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest pound for pound punchers in the history of the sport:

1. Julian Jackson

Jackson’s power at 154-160lbs was absolutely freakish. Despite lacking elite boxing skill, the Virgin Island Middleweight tore his way through 55 opponents, knocking out 49 of them and winning several world titles on the way. His one punch knockout of Herol Graham was one of the best in boxing history, especially as Jackson was badly losing in their title bout in 1990. The almighty right hand that knocked Graham out before he hit the canvass has been replayed in every knockout compilation worth watching. Graham lay unconscious for 5 minutes after being caught, and was never really the same afterwards. Jackson’s ability to literally touch an opponent and hurt them meant he was always dangerous making every fight he was in a must watch event.

2. Earnie Shavers

Earnie Shavers was without a doubt the hardest punching heavyweight of all time. The American born bruiser wasn’t exactly the most refined of fighters, but his power was so extreme he could turn a fight around with one punch. For the most part, Shavers Most weighed under 210lbs suggesting the Liverpudlian based American could have fought at the modern day cruiserweight limit. He destroyed Ken Norton in one round, dropped Larry Holmes, and landed one of the hardest punches ever seen against Ron Lyle. Shavers right hand was the sort of punch the caused audiences to turn away when it landed. Both Holmes and Ali stated that Shavers hit them harder then anyone else, and given their combined resume, (Foreman, Tyson, Frazier, Liston), it would be hard to disagree.

3. Prince Naseem Hamed

After Hamed destroyed tough South African Vuyani Bungu in March of 2000, referee Joe Cortez stated that the Prince was the hardest punching featherweight he had ever seen. Weighing a mere 126lbs in his prime, Hamed’s power was nothing short of incredible. Not only did he have knock out power in both fists, the young Prince could generate fight-ending force from a bewildering array of angles. After clinically knocking out Augie Sanchez with some hammering blows in 2001, many ringsides could not believe that the diminutive Hamed did not have something in his gloves. His power was so amazing that his sparring partners regularly reported it being equal to that of a middleweight or above. Stories of bashing up heavyweights in his gym spread like wildfire, and coupled with some of the most awesome knockouts the featherweight division has ever seen, it would be fair to place Hamed’s power alongside the very best.

4. Tommy Hearns

Tommy Hearns was one of those rare fighters who managed to carry their power up through different weight categories. From 147 to 190lbs, Hearns possessed crunching power that could KO a fighter with one punch. Perhaps the most frightening display of his power came when he fought Roberto Duran at 154lbs. It was one of the most one-sided beatings ever seen between two great fighters, with Duran tasting the canvass three times. The final knockout came while Duran was pinned against the ropes where Hearns landed a right hand that would have felled most heavyweights. Duran was out before he hit the canvass, and the fight was promptly stopped. Hearns gangly 6ft1 frame was enormous, and the kinetic power he could generate was genuinely scary. As he filled out in weight, Hearns had no problem turning the extra pounds into extra force, retaining devastating power up to the cruiserweight division.

5. Sugar Ray Robinson

Not only was Ray Robinson one of the most skilled boxer of all time, he was one the best punchers as well. Lithe and slender, Robinson generated his power from his perfect technique. He pivoted on his feet, torqued his hips and maintained perfect posture while delivering pinpoint accurate punches. Robinson scored one-punch knockouts all the way from lightweight up to middleweight, proving that power was not just a product of muscle size. His most famous knockout came over the teak tough Gene Fullmer at middleweight. After losing a decision to Fullmer a few months earlier, Robinson landed the most perfect left hook ever landed in the 5th round of the rematch.

“I still don’t know anything about the punch,” Fullmer said years after the bout, “except I watched it on movies a number of times. The first thing I knew, I was standing up. I asked my manager, ‘What happened?’ and he said, ‘They counted ten.’ Up to then, I probably got to thinking I couldn’t be knocked out. And all at once, I realized that anybody can. It’s just got to be in the right place at the right time and you’re gone.”

6. Bob Foster

Foster was a monster puncher at Light heavyweight, and one of the division’s best champions. Foster was a tall and rangy fighter with superb technique and incredible knockout power. Foster was not successful in his attempts to fight heavyweights, but his achievements at Light heavyweight were nothing short of phenomenal. His one punch knockout of Dick Tiger and Mike Quarry will go down as two of the best in history.

7. Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao has been a knock out artist in 7 weight categories ranging from 110lbs to 147lbs, an astounding feat given most fighters inability carry their punch up with them. Pacquiao’s deadly combination of speed, balance and explosive muscle fiber has felled 68% of his opponents, and most frighteningly, he seems to be getting better. His left hand is perhaps the most feared weapon in boxing today, and his right has been so well developed by his trainer Freddie Roach that it too ranks up there with the best. Never was Pacquiao’s power more evident than when he challenged Ricky Hatton for the Ring 140lb belt, knocking the Brit down twice in the first round, then once and for all in the 2nd with an over hand left that rendered Hatton unconscious before he hit the floor. It was one of the most devastating knockouts in history, and it seems to have put Hatton out of action for good.
8. Roberto Duran

‘Hands of Stone’ had just that, hands of stone. Duran was an absolute beast at Lightweight with one of the best body assaults in history. Although his punch did not go up with him when he moved up in weight, the Panamanian tough man managed to compete with the very best all the way up to middleweight, a testament to how physically strong he was. The savage beating he gave Davey Moore was one of the worst in history, the punishing body shots physically lifting Moore off of the canvas from the force.

9. Rocky Marciano

It is important to remember that Marciano was not a heavyweight by today’s standard, so his stature as a puncher rises given his weight. Marciano was no more than 189lbs at the height of his professional career, but wielded one of the hardest punches the heavyweight division has ever seen. And for that reason, he deserves to go down as one of the best punchers pound for pound ever. Marciano bludgeoned his way through his opponents with a fierce determination and toughness rivalled by none. His power came from his tree trunk legs, thick torso and superb leverage. Joe Louis said of Marciano: “It hurt to bump into him….He hits harder than Max Schmeling…this kid is tough enough to beat anyone.”

10. Joe Louis

Again. Louis would have probably been a cruiserweight by today’s standards so it is only fair that he ranks above some of the biggest Heavyweight punchers in terms of power pound for pound. Louis had an amazing ability to knock people out from close range. Louis could torque his body like no one else, putting his entire body weight behind his punches. Louis’s left hook was bone shattering, and his right would simply put people to sleep. The punches that knocked out Max Schmeling in 1938 were some of the hardest seen in a heavyweight ring, with Louis hitting the German with a series of right hands that would have felled an ox. One of Joe Louis spar mates, Seal Harris said : “As he comes toward you, he seems to get smaller the closer he comes and then, he explodes at you. When he hits you, you think you been shot, and if he hits you right, you think you are dead.”


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  1. collapse expand

    I can’t believe Tyson isn’t anywhere on that list. Love him or hate him, it’s undeniable that a young Mike Tyson had quite a punch on him.

  2. collapse expand

    I don’t see Edwin Valero’s name on the list. Come on, 100% KO rate (27-0, 27 KO) should merit his name’s inclusion in the list. Also, I think Vitali Klitchko is somewhere near the top 15 (90%+ KO rate).

  3. collapse expand

    My man, I don’t think you know a lot about boxing. Where is TYSON, FRAZIER, FOREMAN in this list??

    Are you kidding me? Prince Naseem Hamed fought unknown fighters and when he fought Barera he got schooled big-time.

    And Marciano an Louis at the bottom of the list? Your list is laughable.

  4. collapse expand

    Not a bad list, but one with some glaring omissions. I agree with Hearns, but what about Hagler? You remember him, the guy who KNOCKED OUT Hearns in the greatest five rounds of boxing ever filmed? Pound for Pound one of the greatest (if not the greatest) middleweights of all time. Marvelous Marvin, the guy who changed leads from round to round and could hit full power with either hand, a guy who could stand outside and ring your bell with a straight and then close and put your skull through the ceiling with an uppercut?
    Just what is it about Marvin that the guy never gets his due?

  5. collapse expand

    Did you ever see a guy named Iron Mike Tyson fight? You are absolutely crazy with this list.

    Also previously mentioned….no Foreman???..are you kidding me??? The guy used to bend 100 pound heavy bags in half with body hooks. And no Valero??

    Stick to what you know man.

  6. collapse expand

    Ben,

    As you said, these kinds of lists end up stirring up controversy, as there are many ways to respond.

    I agree with you on most of the fighters you posted–Jackson, Hearns, Pacquiao, Marciano, Robinson, and Foster for sure. But you failed to mention others (hey Latino boxers can punch!)such as Pipino Cuevas (Mexico), Felix Trinidad (Puerto Rico), Edwin Rosario (Puerto Rico), Carlos Ortiz (Puerto Rico), Alexis Arguello (Nicaragua), Wilfredo Gomez (Puerto Rico), Carlos Zarate (Mexico). What about George Foreman (USA), Joe Frazier (USA), and, for God’s sake, Mike Tyson (USA)? These were absolute knock-out artists. Tyson knocked everyone he faced as a heavyweight up until he fought Douglas and Hollyfield. By then his boxing skills, timing, strength, conditioning, and mental attitude had diminished due to personal, marital, financial, and legal problems.

    A knock-out puncher who gets KOd by another does not diminish his punching power credentials (e.g. Gomez KOd Zarate, Pryor KOd Arguello, Hearns Kod Duran, Marciano Kod Lewis) . Sometimes it is just a matter of better boxing technique, defensive skills, jaw, conditioning, and mental strength and, ah yes, whose punch gets there first!

    This is my list:

    1. George Foreman (he missed a lot of punches sometimes, but when he hit you, you were GONE!)

    2. Julian Jackson (truly awesome punching power)

    3. Mike Tyson – Manny Pacquiao

    4. Sugar Ray Robinson

    5. Thomas Hearns – Pipino Cuevas

    6. Wilfredo Gomez – Carlos Zarate

    7. Felix Trinidad – Carlos Ortiz

    8. Rocky Marciano – Roberto Duran

    9. Bob Foster – Joe Frazier

    10. Alexis Arguello – Joe Lewis

    Some of these are “tied” in my list, because it is hard to think who had more power. Fight record is not enough, as some foughter tougher opponents and/or above their initial weight class (some in different weight classes).

  7. collapse expand

    George Foreman is THE hardest puncher EVER!

    You know nothing!

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    About Me

    I'm a regular contributor to the Huffingon Post, and edit my own political site TheDailyBanter.com. I've written about boxing and Mixed Martial Arts for ESPN, Fox Sports, Black Belt Magazine, Secondsout.com, and Boxing Monthly magazine. I also practice Boxing, Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on a daily basis, so am well aware of what fighters go through. Fighters are amongst the toughest athletes on the planet, and I hope that my writing reflects the utmost respect for them. You won't hear me bash fighters or make snide comments. Anyone who steps into the ring deserves a lot of respect.

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    About Me

    I’m a regular contributor to the Huffingon Post, and edit my own political site TheDailyBanter.com. I’ve written about boxing and Mixed Martial Arts for ESPN, Fox Sports, Black Belt Magazine, Secondsout.com, and Boxing Monthly magazine. I also practice Boxing, Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on a daily basis, so am well aware of what fighters go through. Fighters are amongst the toughest athletes on the planet, and I hope that my writing reflects the utmost respect for them. You won’t hear me bash fighters or make snide comments. Anyone who steps into the ring deserves a lot of respect.