Jersey Joe Walcott and Mike McCallum: two great fighters who had nothing in common with each other, aside from the fact that both tradesmen of the sport – equally unflashy yet at the same time quite brilliant – had to toil and sweat for every inch of forward movement they made in the toughest sport in the world. Both warriors never had anything easy, yet the sheer skill combined with the everlasting desire both men had saw them get through to the other side.
It’s perhaps ironic that both of these special fighters, both of them far more appreciated long after their retirement from the sport, scored an iconic, never-to-be-forgotten knockout on this day, July 18 – in 1951 in Walcott’s case, in 1987 in McCallum’s case.
It was on this day in ’51 when an aging Walcott, who had failed in four previous attempts at winning the world heavyweight crown, landed one of the finest, most perfect shots in boxing history. In the third of four battles, Walcott would have with the great Ezzard Charles (THE greatest light-heavyweight of them all), the man born Arnold Cream scored a beautiful one-punch KO.
Walking calmly towards his man in the 7th round, Joe set himself and then uncorked a perfect, devastating left hook to the head. Charles fell, his head twisted violently. At age 37, Walcott was the first boxer to have bestowed upon him the compliment that his expertise as a fighter had aged like a fine wine. Walcott scored a magnificent knockout, one we all are still in awe of some 71 years later.
On this same day in 1987, down some 40 or so pounds, the criminally avoided Mike McCallum, also a veteran of the sport, set about scoring his own screaming, never-to-be-forgotten KO. McCallum, only 31 – a mere kid in comparison to Jersey Joe at the time of his finest moment – also landed a left hook from the depths of hell, or a punch that originated from the highest of heaven’s mountains, depending on your view – to take out Don Curry.
McCallum had, unlike Walcott, already had a lengthy run as a world champion; McCallum having ruled as the WBA 154-pound champ for almost three years. Yet against the one-time pound-for-pound best Curry, McCallum was having his biggest fight yet.
Stepping in, the way Walcott had done some 36 years earlier, McCallum scored with a peach of a left hand to Curry’s exposed jaw. Curry, once looked at invincible, went down as though shot. McCallum had scored THE highlight reel KO of the 1980s (but for Sugar Ray Robinson’s textbook, one-punch KO of the rock-chinned Gene Fullmer, Jersey Joe’s handiwork would have earned him the distinction in the 1950s).
Walcott and McCallum were two incredible fighters, with both of them having overcome a tougher than tough hand. Both greats scored the kind of KO fight fans dream of seeing.
It’s up to you, fight fans, when it comes to which one-punch KO discussed here was the better.