The most powerful heavyweights
By Luis Felipe Dominguez
Boxing is riddled with great fighters who have left an indelible mark on the memory of fans, and the king division of boxing, the heavyweight, has given us some of the greatest and most charismatic boxers in history.
Although some of them will forever be remembered due to their technique, their defense, their intelligence, there is no doubts that the ones that cause the most expectation are the most powerful, the ones that we know will go out to throw punches and most likely will give us what all of us who follow boxing enjoy, a victory by knockout.
Not all the great boxers have been great punchers nor have great fist power that could place them among the best… for example Muhammad Ali, who could be considered the greatest heavyweight in history, won only 59% of his fights by the way of KO, so he didn’t possess the greatest punching power… he’s still someone we all enjoyed having a chance to see him. Ali, however, is the exception when it comes to boxers who raise emotions … most of them do it for their strength, for their ability to finish the bouts before the limit.
We are going to review here the 10 Heavyweight division champions who have had the most power in the last 50 years … the most knockouts. They are not necessarily the best 10 but they are the ones who most frequently win without going to the judges´ scorecards. We will present them in descending order according to the analysis we did.
Some boxers who didn’t make it to the Top 10 are still worth mentioning:
- David Haye. British boxer, who ended more than 80% of his fights via knockout, however most of his career was at Cruiserweight.
- Francesco Damiani. He finished 24 of his 32 professional fights by KO. He had only three world championship fights in his career.
- Earnie Shavers. Probably one of the boxers with the greatest punching power in history. He had 68 knockouts in 74 wins, which is impressive. He is not included in the list he was never a heavyweight world champion. He suffered 14 losses in his career, which greatly reduces his effectiveness in overall terms.
The Top 10
10. Riddick Bowe
His record is 43 wins and a single loss. He ended up knocking out 75% of his opponents, 33 of his victories were by KO.
- Champion. He only had six championship fights, winning 5 and four of them by knockout. His reign was short indeed, falling to Holyfield after just two defenses. The fact that most of his championship fights ended before 12 rounds is evidence of his power… you have to consider that in these types of battles you face the best and logically the rivals are more difficult.
- Important fights. Although he defeated several champions or former champions such as Dokes, Tubbs and Thomas, undoubtedly the top rival he faced was Holyfield, a boxer with an illustrious career (we will mention him again later)… in the first he defeated him by decision to be crowned Heavyweight champion … he was defeated the second time by unanimous decision, losing the championship … the third, without a belt on the line with a technical knockout in the eighth round, this fight being the best example of Bowe’s punch as it was the first time Holyfield lost by KO.
- Why isn’t it higher? Simply because he had few championship fights, in fact the last two were in a newly created organization.
9. Lennox Lewis
The British Lion had a record of 41 wins, two losses and one draw. 78% of his wins were within the limit, although in his championship fights the KO percentage decreased to 59%.
- Champion. He is the last heavyweight undisputed champion and was a three times champion. He has an impressive record of 15 – 2 – 1 in title fights. During his reign he defeated three fighters who came to challenge him with an undefeated record.
- Important fights. Few champions have faced as many top fighters as Lennox. His rivals include Frank Bruno, Tony Tucker, Tommy Morrison, Ray Mercer. There are four brilliant fights: the two in which he faced Holyfield, drawing the first and winning the second by decision; the battle with Tyson, whom he knocked out in 8 rounds and; his last fight, against Vitali Klitschko, whom he defeated when the fight was stopped due to the cut he inflicted on the Ukrainian fighter. Lewis never turned his back on a good fight.
- Why isn’t it higher? He just doesn’t have a KO percentage as high as other fighters. I have no doubt that he is one of the best fighters in the history of the heavyweights, only not the most powerful.
8. Joe Frazier
For current generations that name may be almost unknown but in his time he was a very feared fighter. “Smokin Joe” had an impressive punching power … 73% of all his fights ended by KO and 84% of his victories were by the way of KO. Of his 10 world championship fight wins, 7 ended in knockouts.
- Champion. When he won his first title he was 19-0, 17 of them by knockout, he conquered the crown beating Ali by decision, it was thought that he would retain his crown for many years, but he met soon a tremendous boxer named George Foreman. He tried twice to regain the belt but Ali and Foreman prevented him.
- Important fights. He had two opponents who are among the best in history: Foreman and Ali. He had a really bad time against Foreman, falling by knockout in his two bouts, in the second and fifth round respectively. His rivalry with Ali was so great that the fights with Foreman are secondary … in his first confrontation he took away the undefeated record from Muhammad Ali defeating him by unanimous decision; in the rematch, Ali won by decision and In the third and last fight between the two, Ali won by TKO in round 14 … this fight was a real carnage between the two, they hit each other without mercy … such a beating occurred that neither of them could be the same afterwards of this fight.
- Why isn’t it higher? In title fights, where you face the best of the best, and more in Frazier’s day, he knocked out “only” 7 times in 12 fights.
7. Herbie Hide
I daresay it’s the least known name on this list but boy did he have power. He has the highest percentage in terms of knockouts among his victories … of the 35 fights he won, 34 were by KO (97%) and of his total bouts (wins and losses) he has a 87% KO ratio.
- Champion. He had six championship fights, winning 4 and losing two. All the ones he won were by knockout although the two he lost were also by KO. By the way, as Cruiserweight he had four world championship fights and won all four.
- Important fights. He has two as heavyweight that stand out above the rest. The first one was when he challenged Riddick Bowe in 1995 and was defeated in 6 rounds. The second is the confrontation against Vitali Klitschko, with whom he lost by KO.
- Why isn’t he higher? We must recognize his strength but the reality is that he did not face as complicated rivals as other boxers. His championship era was not so long nor will be the most remembered in history
6. Wladimir Klitschko
He has a 77% KO Ratio of his 64 bouts, 83% of his wins were by knockout. His percentages are more impressive if we consider that of his last 8 fights, already 37 years old or older, he only won 3 by KO.
- Champion. His first time as champion was from 2000 to 2003, when he was defeated by Corrie Sanders. In 2006 he would regain the title, which he would not lose until 2015 when at almost age 40 he fell to Tyson Fury … in that period he accumulated 18 defenses. Of his 25 victories in title fights, 18 were by KO.
- More important fights. He had many in his brilliant career. He defeated Chrys Byrd to take the championship from him, after he had beaten his brother in the previous fight. When he faced Alexander Povetkin, it was an historic battle against the then unbeaten Russian and defeated him by unanimous decision. The losses to Joshua and Fury came at the end of his brilliant career.
- Why isn’t it higher? Similar to the case of Lewis, not being higher has nothing to do with his quality, but with punching power compared to other champions. His knockout percentage in championship fights is not very high.
5. George Foreman
This is a complicated case to evaluate … he won 84% of all his fights (76) via KO, which is impressive … the complicated thing is that not all his rivals were of a high level and he only had 11 world championship fights, mainly related to his 10-year retirement (one more factor that makes it difficult to compare him with others).
- Champion. He became champion, overwhelmingly defeating Frazier in ’73 and it seemed that he would have a long reign but less than two years later he would lose the title to Muhammad Ali. He would return to be champion until 1994, when he was 45 years old. Becoming a champion at such an advanced age is enough to make a legend of Foreman.
- Important fights. There are three worth mentioning: the one from 1973 when he went undefeated to face Frazier, who had not lost in his career either… Foreman was crowned by winning in just two rounds, after knocking Frazier down 6 times; the second is when Muhammad Ali defeats him by KO in the eighth round in a fight in which Foreman seemed to be clearly dominating but that Ali won with his strategy, genius and greatness. The last one was when he had returned and won 24 consecutive fights, most of them by knockout and challenged Holyfield, to whom he lost via a clear decision.
- Why isn’t he higher? Even though his KO percentage is very high, many of the rivals he faced when he resumed his career are not exactly among the best in history and that somehow makes me not put him higher on the list.
4. Anthony Joshua
Although he is a fighter with few matches yet (he was born in 1989), he has shown great power so far, winning 21 of his 23 victories (91%) by KO. Six of his eight wins in championship fights have been by KO, although against Andy Ruiz he showed he can be knocked out too.
- Champion. He earned his first crown after just 15 professional fights … only one of the opponents on that list was able to make it through the third round. He had six title defenses, winning 5 of them by KO. In his loss to Andy Ruiz last year he showed his punching power but left nagging doubts about his ability to absorb punishment. He regained the title in December.
- Important fights. Even when he has beaten 5 undefeated opponents, his fights that have been most anticipated have been against Wladimir Klitschko and the rematch with Andy Ruiz. Against the Ukrainian, who was already 41, he won when the referee stopped the fight in round 11 after Joshua brought down his opponent twice in that round. In the rematch against Ruiz, in a really unspectacular fight, he easily won by decision.
- Why isn’t it higher? He has shown great power in the hands but he still has few fights. We will have to wait to see how his career continues to develop before placing him in the Top 3.
3. Mike Tyson
I daresay he may be the most exciting fighter in the premier division in history. With 50 wins , six losses, he achieved 88% of his wins by KO (44). His first 19 wins were by KO. It is usually thought that if Tyson formula of knocking out rivals didn’t work out, he simply didn’t win … it will surprise many to know that the 5 occasions in which a Tyson fight was defined by decision, he came out with his fist raised.
- Champion. He is the youngest champion ever, winning the title shortly after his 20th birthday… he came to that fight against Berbick with a 27-0 record with 25 knockouts. Tyson seemed invincible and was a powerful hitting machine… of his nine defenses, 7 were by KO and none of those rivals made it past the seventh round and in fact four didn’t even make it out of the second. He lost to “Buster” Douglas in 1990 in perhaps the biggest surprise in history and although he would return to be champion in 1996 he lost the championship in the same year. His personal problems, which took him 4 years away from the ring, were very hard and he was not the same as at the beginning of his career.
- Important fights. The first is when he obtained the title against Trevor Berbick, when he easily defeated him and present himself to the world as an absolutely intimidating boxer. In 1988 he knocked out Holmes in the fourth round… Tyson’s power was revealed when we see that this was Holmes’s only loss by KO in 75 fights. We can’t say that the fight against Douglas raised a lot of expectation since it was thought that Tyson would triumph without problems. The two battles with Holyfield were highly anticipated although he lost both, the second by disqualification when Tyson bit his opponent’s ear. His battle with Lennox Lewis raised a lot of interest but the Brit defeat him in Tyson’s last championship fight.
- Why isn’t he higher? The only reason is that the two boxers above him on the list have a better knockout percentage… Tyson was a fierce but the first two were not far behind.
2. Vitali Klitschko
He ended his career with 45 wins and two losses … of those 45 fights, 41 were by KO, which is 91%. Of his 17 title fights, he won 12 of them by KO (out of a total of 15 wins)… 71% of knockout victories in title fights is the second highest percentage of boxers included in this list. Without as much publicity as Tyson had at the time, I daresay he was even more intimidating.
- Champion. His first title was won by Herbie Hide, who only had one loss at the time. Klitschko’s only two losses in title fights came as he had to withdraw from them, with a shoulder injury and a cut respectively…on both he was up on the judges’ cards. He won his second world title in 2004, which remained in his possession until his retirement in 2012… in that span he won 12 fights (9 by KO).
- Important fights. Throughout his career he faced 9 champions or former world champions, a very high number … he beat 7 of them. His first big fight is against Hide and coming with a 24 consecutive KO … he made good predictions and won in less than 6 minutes. His battle with Lennox Lewis where he challenged the Brit was extremely important and it was a shame that the Ukrainian had to withdraw when he was up on points. His fight against Corrie Sanders, in which he won his second world championship, was keenly anticipated as Klitschko was thought to regain what was his … he did it with a tough victory in the 8th round.
- Why isn’t it higher? He could be the most powerful in history … but Wilder has better numbers. Depending on how the rest of the American’s career unfolds, Klitschko could end up being the most knockout Heavyweight fighter in history.
1. Deontay Wilder
He is 42 – 1 – 1 … of his 42 wins only one has not been by knockout … he has a 93% KO percentage in all of his fights is the highest of all … the 98% of his wins have been by KO, also the highest … 82% of knockout wins in championship fights is also the highest. Virtually any metric tells you the same thing … Deontay Wilder is the strongest, most powerful heavyeeight in the last 50 years.
- Champion. He has ten wins, a draw, and a loss in all his title fights. The style of Tyson Fury has really been indigestible but the rest has won them with the force of his fists. He has beaten on his way two fighters who were world champions. He defended his title against two undefeated: Gerald Washington (18-0) and Luis Ortiz (28-0). Even before the tie with Fury, his seven defenses were settled before the limit.
- Important fights. First of all, we must mention the two against Luis Ortiz, a very tough Cuban fighter who he beat by KO in rounds 10 and 7 respectively, in very complicated and frankly good fights. Second, the two he had with Tyson Fury … the first ended in a draw although Wilder knocked down the British boxer twice, it was a very closed and controversial decision … in the second match it was surprising to see Fury dominate with such clarity and take down the then undefeated Wilder.
The fights in the Heavyweight division are tremendously attractive and when they include a boxer with the ability to end it at any time, even more so. We still have two active fighters of the 10 we have included in the list to enjoy. Joshua and Wilder will surely continue to deliver emotions to the limit for several more years … having the maximum knockout in the brilliant history of the emperor division still in force is an enormous privilege … let’s enjoy them.
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