31.08.05 – By Barry Green: When you’ve had the sort of week I’ve had: work getting me down, one-year-old son trying to eat all my pens and my soccer team being eliminated from the European Cup by a referee who looks like he’s auditioning for a part in the remake of The Hills Have Eyes; I was asking myself, how does one cheer oneself up after such annoyance and misfortune? My answer: by slipping his very own DVD compilation of favourite knockouts complete with chips and barbecue chicken wings and a few tins of Heineken. On completion of a most successful night’s entertainment and 10 hour sleep-off, I feel obliged to share my evening with the knowledgeable and erudite readers of Eastside Boxing and talk of the art of the knockout, by way of featuring my all-time favourite KO’s.
The knockout is, of course, the most spectacular occurrence in the whole of boxing- and perhaps all sports. It is the unpredictable nature of not knowing when a fight is going to end that is arguably its most appealing aspect.
Some knockouts have been waxed lyrical time and time again: Foreman-Frazier, Marciano-Walcott, Hearns-Duran, Weaver-Tate, that nothing more needs adding to them.
So I have compiled a list of my own ‘personal’ favourite Knockouts, one’s that are always succeeded by an exclamation that begins with the customary “Jesus Christ…” and one or two that have a slight comic element to them. Not all of them are one punch KO’s, some featured are set up by a combination or body shots in order to bring their opponents defences down, but all feature excellent, contest-winning punches.
One rule applied is that they all had to come in important and relevant fights, so no Nigel Benn vs. Rob Niewenhuizen then. There are a few you’ll all know and a few you may not have seen but I’m sure the ones you’re familiar with you wouldn’t mind reliving. Oh, by the way, there is ‘one’ knockout I have mentioned that is amongst the usual suspects but it’s so picture perfect I just couldn’t leave it out. Being the died-in-the-wool traditionalist that I am, I plumped on fifteen knockouts with which to comment, in tribute to the old number of rounds in a championship fight. So, here are MY best fifteen KOs, all great, yet totally subjective, some you’ll have seen/some you’ll want to see, written in an informal and (hopefully) pleasing manner. Enjoy!
Best: “Did you see THAT?” KO: Julian Jackson vs. Herol Graham. 1990
This was one of the very first fights I had witnessed live on the TV in my local pub. I’d just turned 19 at the time and found that everyone I knew had the same opinion on how the fight would go, verbatim: “Graham will outbox him but Jackson will only need to land once and the fight’s over.“ No one dared go out on a limb by giving a definite answer, it was that kind of fight- and boy were they right! The very next morning I turned out to play soccer for my local team and all the talk in the changing room was of the aforementioned “Jesus, did you see that last night” variety. Even to this day a conversation about boxing in factories and offices up and down the UK is never complete without a mention of this knockout. People still feel it now. Graham was winning this fight all the way, comprehensively outboxing Jackson but then Herol became too cocky and started to come in more and left himself open- only once!
Yep, once was more than ample for the murderous punching Jackson, who unleashed a massive, swinging right hand that rendered Graham unconscious before he hit the deck. He didn’t wake up for over five minutes and the realisation that he blown it again then dawned on him (he’d lost his previous tilt at the world championship, losing narrowly to Mike McCallum, despite flooring ’The Bodysnatcher.) This KO is so good that it is a definite contender for best knockout ever in my book, which was magnified by the turnaround in the fight and the amount of fine ales that me and my friends and I imbibed. I had a mullet in those days too.
Best “Surely it can’t happen again…Oops!” KO: Colin Jones vs. Kirkland Laing. 1981
No two fights can surely have the identical look that this pair of ‘crackers’ in terms of unexpected twists that is. In the first contest, Laing wisely danced around the Welsh big hitter in a similar vein that he would do against an unmotivated Roberto Duran- dancing in-and-out, moving and circling, totally outsmarting the crude Welshman and well on his way to a wide points victory when “Wham!”, Jones, nicknamed ‘The Punch’, belted Laing with a fierce right hand that ended the contest there and then. Move forward a year later- same again- Laing totally dominating the action as we entered round nine again, Laing probably wary of not getting KO’d in exactly the same round, took even more care and was boxing even more smartly on his way to becoming the British and Commonwealth Champion strolling to victory when “wham!” same punch again! Right hand, round nine, fight over! An absolute carbon copy of their first meeting. Laing, like fellow countryman Herol Graham, would never win the big one as all the skills in the world usually mean nothing if a fighter has a dodgy Vera Lynn (chin). Pity, as both were amongst the best boxers of the last 25 years never to win a world title. Remarkable ending and a punch (make that two) that has been talked about down the valleys and beyond for several years.
Best “Timberrrr!” KO: Mark Wills vs. Greg Page. 1990
Wills didn’t achieve much in his pro career but he can at least be proud he’s featured positively in somebody’s all-time knockout list. In round nine, Wills and Page are separated by referee Carlos Padilla when Page is told to go to his corner for what looks like loose bandaging. When the action resumes in the centre of the ring, Wills throws an overhand right that is so ponderous it has a postcard attached that reads ‘To Greg, fight over, Love, Mark”. Page crashes to the mat like the proverbial tree being chopped down to the ground. Greg weighed nearly as much as your average Oak and it was surprising he didn’t fall completely through the canvas. Page gamely tried to beat the count but was so severely stunned that the contest was waved off. The commentary to support this punch was simply an astonished “Oooooh!” If the crowd burst into a chorus of “I’m a lumberjack and I’m okay” no one could have really blamed them.
Best “Just another day at the office” KO: Alexis Arguello vs. Kevin Rooney. 1982
The effortless, languid way that Arguello delivers this arrow-like straight right on the button, suggests he found his vocation as easy as sending a memo or modifying a database. Arguello works Rooney patiently throughout the second round like a chess grandmaster slowly advancing his rooks in preparation for the endgame. Set up by a steady body attack, the ‘Explosive Thin Man’ measures Rooney and delivers a crisp right cross that penetrates the centre of Rooney’s guard and lands smack on the kisser, leaving Mike Tyson’s future trainer flat on his back and instantly unconscious. The Nicaraguan was one of those fighters that fascinates me the most: the ‘pipe-cleaner build with outrageous power’ type (see also Bob Foster) that execute their punches with all the fluency and grace of Nadia Comaneci or Olga Korbut on the high beam. A great example to show to juniors and amateurs alike on how to use leverage and poise to create the correct force.
Best “Worn out my VCR” KO: Don Curry vs. Milton McCrory. 1985
If I was ever going to make a boxing movie the sound effects of the punches would all be taken from the left hook that Curry throws in the 2nd round of this fight. The actual finishing punch (a downward right hand) is not the one I’m referring to here, although it was certainly vicious in itself. That sweeping left hook that sends McCrory to the canvas initially, was the blow that really ended this fight. What I love about this punch the most, even more than its devastating power, is the NOISE it makes when it lands flush. What is more amazing is how quick it’s delivered. It looks like a left cross until one sees the slow-motion replay from the opposite angle when the swinging left hook can be seen in all its glory. It sounds like a cross between a whip cracking down and a champagne cork being popped. Bob Foster (featured later) once described his fight with Dick Tiger as “Ice cream and cake” implying the ease in which he beat an all-time great. There is a similar scenario here; rarely, if ever, have I seen a “pick ‘em” unification match so one-sided. The Cobra was venomous that night and proved what a fine fighter he really was.
Curry, from being a man touted as boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighter for a while, soon became known as the sport’s most overrated fighter following his shock defeat at the fists of Lloyd Honeghan. Twenty years on, somewhat paradoxically, he now appears to be the most underrated of those great fighters of yesteryear. He was a most excellent boxer and I think perhaps one of the all-time Top 10 welterweights. His greatness was short lived, only three or four years, but what years!! All capped off with this fantastic knockout, which is the one I think I’ve played-rewind-played more than any other.
Best: “Bet you didn’t know I was THIS good” KO: Carlos Monzon vs. Nino Benvenuti. 1970
The other year when I was watching Marco Antonio Barrera’s supposed easy defence against Manny Pacquiao I noticed a dejected look on his face throughout the fight that seemed to say “no one told me he was this good!“ Scanning through the archives it is the same look worn by the great Nino Benvenuti when taking on the (not then) legendary Carlos Monzon. Within a few minutes of tasting the Argentine’s awesome arsenal of power, jab and overall strength, Nino had that very look. At the beginning of round 12, Benvenuti was tiring but hoping to hang on a few more rounds to hopefully snatch one of those hometown decision that Italy is so renowned for, but Monzon trapped him in his corner, threw a good left that was followed by a ferocious right hand that landed flush on the Italian’s chin. Fight over…and one of the great middleweight championship reigns of all time was born.
This knockout is one that is rarely seen these days and it’s a real shame that this is listed as a TKO in the records books. The prefix ’technical’ does not do this KO justice, as when Benvenuti tries to get up his legs fail him (ala Trevor Berbick) and he very nearly topples over the ropes and into the crowd. This was the same year as Monty Python’s ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ sketch and I think this was Nino’s entry.
Best “Arrogant pose for the cameras” KO: Chris Eubank vs. John Jarvis. 1992
Anyone who hasn’t seen this has missed a real treat as it is one of those knockouts where BOTH fighters throw a bomb at the very same time but one connects that split-second sooner- unfortunately for Jarvis it wasn‘t his. Not only is Eubank’s massive overhand right the best punch he ever threw but then he proceeds towards the cameraman for a close-up and is only inches away when he stands directly in front of the camera with his best pose, nodding his head and pursing his lips while tapping his gloves together in recognition of his night’s work. All this while the count is still going on! One of boxing’s true maverick’s was Eubank and as mad as a box of frogs. While not everyone’s cup of tea and the recipient of some poor decisions that went his favour, his presence has been sorely missed in British boxing scene. With this performance we can remember him as a fine puncher as well as a clever tactician.
Best “Boom! There it is” KO: Bob Foster vs. Mike Quarry. 1972
When Bob Foster describes this knockout he usually uses the word “Boom!“ and that’s exactly what it was. Mike, younger brother of Jerry was 36-0 going into this fight with one of the greatest light heavyweights of all-time. Although this very much in the ‘did you see that’ category, it’s the way that Foster looks down at (his) Quarry, tilts his head and gives a little wink as if to say “36 and 1 now!” In actuality there are too many Foster KOs to choose from: Tiger, Rondon, Finnegan, De Paula, all gems, but for me this tops the lot.
Foster actually predicted he‘d do it, commenting that if any fighter was in the way of his left hook, then it’s “gonna be an early night.” Every time Foster threw a jab, Quarry slipped it but continually dropped his hands. A right hand was then thrown over your shoulder and when Quarry came back up, he walked right into Foster’s vaunted left hook, then as Bob himself said “BOOM! Goodnight!” There is something extra special about a left hook knockout, not quite sure why, but maybe it’s because there is usually more weight being shifted into the punch as the majority of fighters are orthodox, of course. It just seems more spectacular- and not many were more of a purveyor of this art form than Bob Foster and if I were stranded on a desert Island and could only take a single compilation of ONE fighter’s world title KO’s to watch, then it would be Bob Foster’s (those skinny ones get me every time, you see).
Best “X-Rated” KO: Razor Ruddock vs. Michael Dokes. 1990
Ray Mercer’s vicious beating of Tommy Morrison was a contender here but the referee’s delayed stoppage, when Tommy was being beaten like an old Four Seasons song (i.e. Rag Doll), was sickening to watch and one that I didn’t enjoy as much as I wanted to (I had good money on Mercer that day and was rooting for him all the way.) Instead I’ve opted for Razor Ruddock’s unique hook-cum-uppercut hybrid that flattened Michael Dokes and sent shockwaves reverberating around the boxing fraternity. His two-punch combo is so shocking I often struggle to watch it again, but I always do, as its savage intensity brings out the passive barbarian in us all. It amazes me that Dokes wasn’t seriously hurt after this fight, especially after the second punch where Ruddock seemed to have all day to tee off on Dokes‘ head after the former WBA champion was stunned by Ruddock’s money punch.
The main reason it was a particular favourite of mine was that it was another shot in the arm for the heavyweight division at that time. After years of mediocrity, the division was coming alive again. Douglas had proved Tyson was human, Holyfield was looking better with each fight and I desperately wanted the ‘lost generation’ of heavyweights to…well, get lost. With this performance Ruddock joined the fray and, although he never lived up to expectation (being on the wrong end of some awesome knockouts himself) he was always entertaining to watch for his sheer brute power, none a finer example than this.
Best “I thought he was throwing boxing gloves at me” KO: Muhammad Ali vs. Brian London. 1966
When I was a wee lad, my mother used to always say, jokingly, “I’ll hit you so fast you’ll think I’m throwing boxing gloves at you.“ It was my second favourite saying of my mum’s (my favourite being “You want to live a champagne lifestyle with lemonade money.“) That saying reminds me of how fast Muhammad Ali’s hand speed was in this fight and, let’s face it, what list is complete without ‘The Greatest’. This exhibition of style and grace is how fans should remember Ali, who came to London at a time in the Swinging Sixties when the city was labelled the centre of the earth. The Beatles and the Stones ruled the airwaves and the England soccer team won just the World Cup- ‘Old Blighty’ never had it so good. All’s that was left to do was hope one of our ‘horizontal heavyweights’ could annex the heavyweight crown from some brash young upstart who wished to be addressed by his new name of Muhammad Ali. As the celebrated writer and wit Dorothy Parker once reportedly said: “If all the British heavyweights in history were laid out end to end, I wouldn’t be in the least surprised.” It was a tall order for any fighter, and in reality there was more chance of Lord Nelson getting his eye back than London had of beating Ali but, ever the optimists, the Brits felt our man had a chance.
What makes it so timeless is that it’s one of the very last time fans would see this man at his absolute best (that‘s Ali not London by the way.) The main reason for this entry is because it was the film footage I saw that began my near-obsession with Ali, who while not necessarily the reason I became a boxing fan (Roberto Duran and Ray Leonard were), quickly became my favourite fighter and this KO is my absolute favourite of his. It features Ali’s great combination punching and possibly the finest example of his unfathomable hand speed. Although Ali was even more perfect a year later against Cleveland Williams, this excites me more because it was the very first time I’d seen a videotape of Ali in his first incarnation as champion (the first fight I remember watching was the Spinks rematch when I was seven years old). His hands move so fast I could swear the VCR has been speeded up- it hasn’t. He was that quick- and that final right hand to put London away was merely the coup de grace.
Best “I told you it was a fluke” KO: Lennox Lewis vs. Hasim Rahman. 2001
This is my personal highlight of Lennox Lewis’s career as it was the one fight that many of us (me included) were not sure if he still had it in him. Was the defeat by Rahman in South Africa a fluke or was Lennox past his sell-by-date? This fight would prove to be the former as Lewis dominated his opponent with his left jab before detonating arguably the best punch he ever threw- and he threw many right hands bombs in his time. Left jab, right cross, a combination that has been thrown perhaps more than any in boxing history but rarely done to this effect. Hasim became ‘Hasbeen” Rahman that night according to Lewis, a heavyweight title tenure that lasted less than seven months (the same time it takes Michael Caine to appear in twenty films.) The overhead photograph of Rahman prostrate while looking like he’s wearing the Don King crown on his head is priceless, a photograph for the ages. The best Lewis there ever was showed up on this night, whether you rate Lennox in the all-time Top 10 heavyweights or not on this performance, he would have been competitive against any fighter in history.
Best “Comeback from the canvas” KO: Nigel Benn vs. Anthony Logan. 1988
I was more of a Nigel Benn fan than a Eubank one, Benn’s fights were always better value for money: Barkley, De Witt, Galvano, great stuff. His fight with Gerald McClellan was possibly my all-time favourite…until the tragedy that followed. However, before he became a world champion his fights for the Commonwealth title nearly all feature great one-punch KO’s David Noel was a great knockout, Michael Chilambe also- although the Chilambe KO was the victim of the disease that is known as camerus interruptus- the moment of knockout unfortunately taking place in the millisecond that the cameras switched the action, causing the punch to be missed. Hmm, you just couldn’t get the staff in those days.
However, this knockout is far more special as it came in a fantastic scrap that lasted just a few minutes. In the opening stanza, Logan connected with a peach if a punch that landed flush and The Dark Destroyer’s legs were all over the place, Benn managed to regain his equilibrium and hang on to the bell. The second began like the first ended, Logan sensing the Brit was weakened rained down heavy blows, 22 unanswered ones. In fact, it looked like referee Larry O’Connell would stop the fight, when a most strange thing happened- Benn, in desperation, threw a swinging right that missed by the proverbial mile and he almost fell to the canvas, within a split-second he turned round, with Logan charging in for the kill, and threw a leaping left hook- a haymaker if there ever was one- that floored the Jamaican, who was counted out. Wow!
Best “Anyone who hits that hard should be shot” KO : Earnie Shavers vs Jimmy Ellis. 1973
Yep, I know you’re probably thinking this one’s a bit predictable but at least one uppercut had to crop up in my list and how could I leave out The Acorn. As I have mentioned on these pages before, Earnie is now a neighbour of mine in Merseyside, England and as nice a gentleman as you could ever meet. It’s a pre-requisite that he’s mentioned in any KO conversation. Tex Cobb once said the famous quote that is the title of this segment when commenting on Shavers’ obscene raw power, and I’m sure Ellis would agree. The sheer pain and unbelievable surprise that is emblazoned on his face when Shavers launches this massive uppercut is akin to the shock that nasty looking bald guy in the old Laurel and Hardy film gets when Stan loads his boxing glove with nuts and bolts. Was Shavers the hardest one punch artist in history? Ask Jimmy Ellis. But if you ever find anyone that could hit harder, please shoot them.
Best “Custer’s last stand” KO: Carl Thompson vs. Sebastian Rothmann. 2004
Most boxing careers sadly end with a brave and bold defeat that brings a tear to the eye. This was meant to be such a fight for Manchester cruiserweight Carl Thompson, a man who had fought in more battles than the Red Baron. What a fight this was and what a true warrior Carl Thompson is. Surely a distant relative of Matthew Saad Muhammad if there ever was one? Our friends across the pond may not have seen this performance, if not, check it out, it really is like the reincarnation of old Saad. Fighters of this ilk are a credit to boxing. Thompson was being beaten from pillar-to-post in this contest for the bogus IBO (International Body Odour) cruiserweight title. On the verge of being stopped, although he had floored the Israeli early in the contest, he was then subjected to a boxing lesson and was taking far more punches than he should. He regained some composure to fight his way back into the contest but Rothmann gained the upper hand once more and Thompson looked as spent as Evander Holyfield did in the Larry Donald fight and there was I (and most ardent boxing fans) lamenting the end of one of the most exciting careers in British boxing, when…Thomson, backed to the ropes, unleashed a furious right hand that nailed Rothmann who collapsed to the canvas- fight over.
Thompson, nicknamed “The Cat”, proved he had more lives than a black one, and defied the odds yet again. Similar in look to Jorge Castro’s comeback KO of John David Jackson, this qualifies for my list ahead of that because no one gave Thompson any chance whatsoever. No one ever does. Unbelievably, Thompson recently beat bright British hope David Haye to give himself another ‘stay of execution‘. Thompson will probably be due for another ‘last stand’ soon enough, but has not yet met his Sitting Bull. Whenever he does decide to retire, us fans will always remember him as the epitome of the word ‘warrior‘.
Best “You gotta put that in” KO: Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Gene Fullmer. 1957
This just had to go in. I again apologise for the predictability of this choice but of all the ‘classics’ I just could never leave this out of any knockout list. It’s the Mona Lisa, the Sgt Pepper and the Citizen Kane of the boxing world. It’s just perfect, poetry in motion. Sugar Ray twists every ounce and fibre he has into this one left hook: hip, shoulder and full body weight have never been used to such a devastating and textbook effect. Fullmer tries to beat the count but he’s gone, legs betraying him, a feat then considered impossible due to Gene’s granite chin- he had never been stopped at that stage in his career. Perhaps THE perfect example of how boxing should be done and a knockout that will still be celebrated and fawned over in 500 years time. The perfect KO, done by the greatest fighter there ever was.
So, there came about the end of my fine evening’s knockout feast. Although we as fans do love the puritan side of the sweet science and a good old chess match can be fascinating viewing also, when it comes down to it you just can’t beat the knockout the ‘KO‘. Even seeing those two initials on print brings forth excitement and wonder. I hope I’ve covered most of the knockout anatomy here: left hook, right cross, uppercut, combination etc, and you have spent 15 minutes of your life that you don’t want back. I’m off to the local cinema now to watch The Hills Have Eyes Reloaded and then get myself some new pens.