Boxings Best Punchers
It’s been a couple of years since I wrote part I of the Hardest Punchers in Boxing History – Twelve of the Best so finally I decided to delve into the history books and look at ten more ferocious punchers who could have rightly been included in my first list. I will not be including any active boxer so this list will only be a blast from the past, a past going back to over 100yrs ago in some cases so let’s get stuck in and travel back in time to unearth some of the finest fisticuffs of all time.
Yep I am going back to the 19th century here and including the freckled wonder. That name may have made it sound like he took the beatings but the Fitz was the one dishing them out. Fitzsimmons was a huge puncher and one look at his wrists and forearms, moulded by years of work as a blacksmith probably explains how he knocked out 79 men amongst his 89 wins. Even more impressive and proof of his punching power was the fact that Fitz was the first three weight world champion, winning titles at middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight, the next man to become champion at middleweight and then heavyweight was almost 100yrs later(Roy Jones Jr) – he is also the lightest heavyweight champion when it comes to bodyweight(some reports say he was only 160lbs when he won the title) and was famous for a couple of moves which are still used heavily today more than 100yrs after his retirement, the lead forearm block and the solar plexus punch.
Another fighter born in the 19th century although unlike Fitzsimmons, Langford didn’t start fighting until the 20th century in the early 1900’s. Langford is often called the greatest boxer nobody knows and never did win a world title – but that was only because no one dared give him a shot at the championship. Standing just 5’7 tall that meant Langford had to fight through the divisions all the way from lightweight to heavyweight, hoping for his chance at the title. Jack Johnson famously denied Langford a chance citing business reasons and another heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey also refused to fight him. The Boston Tar Baby instead had to settle for being the coloured champion of the world and was able to beat world champions in non title bouts such as legendary sweet scientist Joe Gans. When you are a 5’7 lightweight who can go up and knock out heavyweights, you’ve got to be one hell of a puncher.
From one lightweight to another. Roberto Duran is widely recognised as the greatest lightweight of all time and when your punching ability earns you the nickname Manos de Piedra or Hands of Stone, that tells you all you need to know about how hard Duran hit. Like Langford, Duran would move up in weight over the years except that Duran was being given the chance to fight and win world titles and Duran continued to move up in weight chasing glory(and he struggled to control his diet). Duran quickly jumped from lightweight to welterweight earning an impressive win over Carlos Palomino before then beating fellow great Sugar Ray Leonard to become the welterweight world champion. Despite being only 5’7 (although some reports say 5’6) Duran was able to knock out light middleweight champion Davey Moore and knock down a huge middleweight en route to winning the middleweight title against Iran Barkley, in fact Duran was still knocking out men into his 40’s despite weighing over 40lbs than he did when he started his career.
66 wins, 63 by KO – I could probably end it right here with numbers like that but that would be an injustice to an excellent boxer from Mexico who is one of only two people to have two streaks of over 20 knockouts. The 5’8 Zarate was tall for a bantamweight and that only served to aid his punching power – when Zarate met Wilfredo Gomez(who was featured in part I of the hardest punchers) he was an astonishing 52-0 with 51 knockouts. Zarate even took 7yrs out of the game and still came back to add 10 more KO’s in 14 fights despite being over 35yrs old. One of the best bantamweights of all time and one of the best right hands too.
On to another bantamweight who can claim to be the divisions best ever – Ruben Olivares. Olivares was actually considered by some to be Mexico’s finest until the advent of Julio Cesar Chavez and the reason is plain to see especially with a nickname like Mr.Knockout. A world champion in multiple divisions, Olivares claimed 79 knockouts in his 89 victories. Mexico is known for the warriors they produce in the ring and for their famed body punchers and this is an area Olivares excelled in, hurting opponents to the body. Zarate was one half of the two boxers who pulled off two streaks of 20+ knockouts and the other was Ruben Olivares. Zarate may have had the right hand but it was Olivares who possessed the deadly left hook.
Let’s stick with the lower divisions and give some love to another – Sandy Saddler. Saddler is one of the greatest featherweights of all time, when the conversation comes for who is number one it is mostly Saddler and Willie Pep who are named. The two also happened to square off four times in a rivalry which Saddler got the better of Pep. At a time Pep was a mind boggling 134-1-1 and a defensive master who could win rounds without landing a punch because he made everyone miss so often, Saddler knocked down Pep multiple times to win by a fourth round knockout and become the featherweight champion of the world. Saddler would also become the super featherweight champion and ended his career with 103 knockout wins with the ring magazine ranking Saddler as the no.5 puncher of all time. Saddler was a master of cutting off the ring and parrying punches as he slowly stalked you into a corner to land his thudding blows one at a time.
Sugar Ray Robinson
Well it’s no surprise Sugar Ray Robinson is here because he pretty much appears in the majority of lists as he was just that damn good. Robinson could knock you out with any punch and with either hand, famous boxing historian Bert Sugar even claims to have seen Robinson knock a man out going backwards! Robinson possessed arguably the greatest left hook of all time and was extremely versatile and creative with his combinations. He also owns the perfect punch when he knocked out Gene Fullmer to reclaim the middleweight title, which incidentally was the first and only time Fullmer was ever knocked out(excluding an RTD in his final fight, retiring on his stool). Sugar Ray would go on to register 119 knockouts over the course of his 200 fight career and go down as the no.1 boxer of all time.
From Sugar Ray Robinson to a fellow middleweight opponent of his, Rocky Graziano. Even Robinson, who was never knocked out(except for heat exhaustion fighting for the light heavyweight title against Joey Maxim) felt the power of Graziano and was forced to take a knee when faced with the power of the Rock, later Robinson would say ‘No one hit me harder than Rocky.’ Graziano loved a brawl and nothing more than going toe to toe. Most famous for his brutal battles with Tony Zale the man of steel, Graziano was all action, relentlessly coming forwards throwing bombs which resulted in 52 knockouts in 67 wins, able to take out opponents with a single punch.
Kid Violent was his nickname, which makes you think Ray must have had some of that Kid Dynamite Mike Tyson like power. Elmer Ray was a heavyweight who fought in the 1930’s and 40’s and faced stiff competition including the likes of Ezzard Charles, Lee Savold and Jersey Joe Walcott. Known as a hard puncher, Ray was the no.1 ranked contender for the heavyweight title in the late 1940’s and depending on who you believe had anything from 64 to 69 KO’s in his career. Ray learnt to fight in the battle royals in the fields of Florida where up to 10 men would be in a free for all fight in the ring with one hand free and one hand tied behind their back, Ray was said to have won 61 of these battles without ever losing. Add this to Ray wrestling, playing and feeding Alligators out of his own hand in a side job it is no surprise Ray was a great puncher.
And who was Elmer Ray the no.1 contender for in the late 1940’s? None other than possibly the greatest puncher of them all – The Brown Bomber Joe Louis. Louis was ranked as the no.1 puncher of all time by the ring magazine(incidentally Sam Langford was no.2). Louis is in my opinion the most technically efficient puncher in boxing history. Louis could knock you out without even needing to pull back or wind up on his punches, from short range he could deliver devastating knockout blows to the tune of 52 KO’s in 66 wins. Louis was deadly accurate and coldly calculated with his punches. Efficient, proficient, more than 100yrs after his birth I still haven’t seen a puncher as technically correct as Joe Louis.