19.12.04 – By Don Caputo: All it takes is one punch; it’s strange how certain victory can turn into devastating defeat in the blink of an eye. It doesn’t seem fair how the better man, the more talented fighter can be stretched out cold so suddenly. He could have been winning every minute of every round, it makes absolutely no difference, he got caught. To me that’s what makes boxing so much more dramatic and exiting than every other sport. Imagine if a football match was decided by one goal, the first team to score wins. It wouldn’t matter how much possession one side had or how close they came to scoring, if they let a goal slip in it’s over, they lose the game just like that. Over the years we have seen some shocking one punch knockouts that nobody saw coming, I’m going to look back at a few of them..
Tommy Hearns LKO3 Iran Barkley, 1988: Win, lose or draw Tommy Hearns never failed to thrill audiences with his frightening aggression inside the ring. By the summer of 1988 he was WBC middleweight champion and had a record of 45 wins and 2 losses. Tall and lanky he looked nothing like one of the most fearsome punchers of all time. Taking his knockout power with him as he moved up in weight, his wrecking ball right cross had sent nearly all of his opponents crashing to the canvas.
With the retirement of the two men who had defeated him, Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler, “The Hitman” wasn’t expected to lose any time soon, and with victories over Pipino Cuevas, Wilfred Benitez and the great Roberto Duran he was a living legend. Iran “The Blade” Barkley was a decent top 10 type fighter who was coming off a good win over Michael Olajide. He had an all action style, could punch and refused to quit but was never thought to be a legitimate threat to the crown as he was simply too crude and lacked the talent to compete with the elite of the division. In the fight Hearns came out fast and established immediate superiority; he looked unbeatable as he proceeded to unmercifully hammer the challenger into a bloody mess. After nearly folding Barkley in half with a vicious body attack in the third round the fight looked all but over, sensing this, Hearns went in for the kill. Under fire and on the verge of going down Barkley launched a right hand bomb that won him the WBC middleweight title. It happened that suddenly. Although Hearns miraculously made it to his feet it was effectively one punch that ended his reign as middleweight champion.
Lennox Lewis LKO5 Hasim Rahman, 2001: One whistling right cross to the chin is all it took to dethrone the king of the heavyweight division. This was supposed to be a keep busy fight for Lewis, a tune up before he faced nemesis Mike Tyson in a mega-fight. Hasim Rahman had once been a promising contender before two knockout losses left him with an almost journeyman status. A shaky stoppage win over hard punching Corrie Sanders brought him back up the rankings but “The Rock” was given little or no chance to upset the long reigning champion, and as far as the majority of boxing fans and experts were concerned little was out of town. Lennox Lewis was coming off possibly the most impressive twelve months of his long career. In 2000 Lewis defended his crown three times. First was unbeaten American giant Michael Grant, who was being proclaimed as the future of the heavyweight division by the media before Lewis crushed him inside two rounds. A few months later he annihilated Frans Botha in two rounds, a capable former champion who boxed circles around Mike Tyson before he walked into a right hand. He then capped of his fantastic year with an overwhelmingly dominant points win over number one contender David Tua. He reigned supreme over the division and with wins over Razor Ruddock, Andrew Golota and Evander Holyfield under his belt how could he possibly lose to Hasim Rahman? Arriving late in South Africa where the fight was being staged and subsequently failing to acclimatize properly was the first sign that Lewis was not taking his challenger seriously, he then weighed in at a career high 253 lbs. Lewis looked sluggish as he controlled the action through the first four rounds, Rahman was having success behind a surprisingly stiff jab and was looking to land a big right hand behind it but for the most part it was Lewis who was in command, who despite breathing heavily was clearly the superior pugilist. Then it happened, at the 1:26 mark of the fifth a huge right hand from Rahman connected like a bolt of lightening out of nowhere on Lewis’ exposed jaw. He collapsed straight back, crashing to the floor with both of his gloves stretched out above his head. That was that. He paid the ultimate price for his lack of preparation and overconfidence. Lewis was a 15-to-1 betting favorite over Rahman prior to their unforgettable encounter which in the history of heavyweight championship fights ranks among the greatest upsets of all time.
Roy Jones Jr LKO2 Antonio Tarver, 2004: Roy Jones Jr was regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet going into his rematch with Antonio Tarver. A spectacular win over John Ruiz the previous year made him the first middleweight champ to hold a piece of the heavyweight crown since Bob Fitzsimmons in 1897. With dazzling hand speed and electric footwork Jones at the age of 34 had gone deeper into his pro career without coming close to losing than any champion in boxing history. The only blemish on his record was a disputed DQ loss to Montell Griffen in 1997 which he emphatically avenged in an immediate rematch via devastating first round KO. After packing on 20-plus pounds of solid muscle to fight at heavyweight Jones struggled mightily to make the 175-pound light heavyweight limit for his showdown with Antonio Tarver, the division’s top contender. A weight-loss-depleted Jones had to rally in the championship rounds to pull out an unpopular 12 round majority decision over Tarver in what was without a doubt the toughest fight of his illustrious career. Although Jones had a legitimate excuse for his below-par performance his bruised ego forced him to sign for a rematch, he wanted to show the world he was still the best and avenge a victory that was too close for comfort. He promised his fans a dominant win, on his worst night he had taken Tarver’s best shots and still emerged victorious so the general feeling was that a physically stronger Roy Jones could not possibly lose. A perfect counter left from Antonio Tarver mid way through the second round dropped Jones like a ton of bricks, fight over. Probably the most shocking and unexpected one punch KO of all time.