The Top 5 Pound for Pound Hardest Punchers of the Last 50 Years
Posted by Anthony Ivey on 11.18.2008
Our Florida boxing correspondent Anthony Ivey counts his list of the five biggest hitters in the sport over the last half century.
Everyone in boxing loves the excitement a puncher can bring to ring. That fighter who can have you on the edge of your seat, knowing at any moment he can end the fight with one devastating shot. This list examines some of the top hitters from the last half-century.
The top 5 biggest punchers of the last 50 years:
5. Nigel Benn
Weight class: middleweight - super middleweight, Record: 42-5-1 35 KO's, Pro years: 1987-1996
I think the phrase "swinging from the canvas" must have made up after watching Nigel Benn fight. A slugger to end, Benn always put every ounce of energy into each punch he through, but often left himself open in doing so. After being floored and on the receiving end of a two dozen punch assault from Anthony Logan, been literally spun around and drove Logan to mat with his hook to win the British Empire Title. Benn came off the floor again to score a knockout in 1998, this time over WBO middleweight champ Doug Dewitt. His most famous bounce back moment happened against fellow slugger Gerald McClellan. After being knocked out of the ring in the first moments of round one, Benn came storming back to halt McClellan in the tenth. Win or lose, Benn always went out in a blaze of glory
The guy who could take it: Benn had a rivalry with fellow Brit Chris Eubank. Eubank was the polar opposite to the brash Benn in style and personality, and it made for great fights. The first meeting took place in 1990 for the middleweight title, with Eubank arrogantly taking everything Benn had, and scoring a ninth round stoppage. The rematch was contested at super middleweight three years later, with Eubank's beard intact, they battled to a draw.
4. Julian "The Hawk" Jackson
Weight class: Jr. middleweight - middleweight, Record: 55-6 49 KO's, Pro years: 1981-1998
When I was growing up, a guy named Dominique Wilkins was labeled "The Human Highlight Reel" in the NBA. In boxing, that title goes to Julian Jackson. Jackson, actually nicknamed "Hawk", was a ferocious puncher at his best. Whether it was his back against the ropes wipeout of Herol Graham, or his three round demolition over Buster Drayton in which he literally "called his shot" As Drayton slow fell backwards to the canvas from a right hand. Terry Norris was out on his feet before he hit the canvas. Ismael Negron was gone in less than a minute. Check Jackson out on YouTube sometime, it's great stuff because it seems like the knockouts never end with this guy.
The guy who could take it: After scoring three straight KO's in middleweight title defenses (two in the first round) Jackson hit a brick wall that hit back. Anvil chinned Thomas Tate went the full 12 round distance with Jackson back in 92 for the WBC middleweight title. After taking a knee in round four, Tate came back to hurt Jackson in the middle rounds before dropping the decision.
3. Thomas "Hitman" Hearns
Weight class: Welterweight - Cruiserweight, Record: 61-5-1 48KO's, Pro years: 1977-2000, 2005-2006
Thomas Hearns had two nicknames, one for each style. "The Motor City" was the master boxer, up on his toes piling up points with his jab while he deftly slid around the ring. Then, there was the "Hitman", a brutal puncher who could take your head off with his right, or cave your ribs in with his left. Tearing through the ranks as welterweight, his frame and power were almost freakish. At an imposing 6ft 1in he was able to bring his power up to the 190lb division. He has plenty of impressive knockouts on his resume including champions Pipino Cuevas at welterweight and the durable Dennis Andres at light-heavy. His most memorable knockout, however, will be his crushing second round knockout over the indestructible Roberto Duran for the 154lb championship in the summer of 1984. Duran pitching face first to the canvas after at perfectly leveraged right hand from Hearns is the stuff of highlight reel material.
The guy who could take it: Iran Barkley took it not just once, but twice. Their first meeting in 1988 saw a bloody Barkley walk through Hearns' hammers, and score a 3rd round TKO. Four years later saw a slightly better result for Hearns, but still no victory as he would drop a 12 round decision to the sturdy Barkley in the rematch.
2. John "The Beast" Mugabi
Weight class: Middleweight, Record: 42-7-1 39 KO's, Pro years: 1980-91, 1996-99
They didn't call this guy "The Beast" for nothing. Even in the amateur ranks this guy could bang, stopping 126 opponents of out his 195 victories. As a pro he tore through the 154-160lb ranks by winning all 26 of his fights by KO. Knockouts over the durable pair of James Green and Frank Fletcher catapulted him in to a title shot against world champion Marvin Hagler. After 11 grueling rounds in the Las Vegas heat, Mugabi first championship challenge was turned away by the "Marvelous" one. Mugabi would win a world title on his third attempt, leaving a trail of knockout victims along the way. Mugabi didn't actually go the distance in a fight until his comeback effort in 1996, 16 years after turning pro.
The guy who could take it: Marvin Hagler absorbed Mugabi best shots and never came close to going down. In round six both men stood toe to toe to produce Ring Magazine's round of the year winner, but it was Mugabi who ultimately wilted under Hagler's iron chin and will, that evening in 1986.
Knockouts over world class competition like Ken Norton put him on the top of the list. Other notable knockouts include former champ Jimmy Ellis, and contenders Roy Williams, Joe Bugner, and Henry Clark. Came within a hair of being world champ when he floored Larry Holmes in the 7th round of their 1979 world title fight with a sledgehammer overhand that hand Holmes out on his feet for the remainder of the round. Even in the twilight of his career he was nearly able to pull off an upset victory over rising contender James Tillis courtesy of a late round bomb to the chin.
The guy who could take it: That would be Randall "Tex" Cobb, world renowned for his ability to absorb punishment, stood right in front of Shavers for the better part of eight rounds back 1981. Cobb took everything Shavers had that night and in the end exhaustion stopped Shavers more than the chopping punches of Cobb in eighth.