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29th July 2020
By: BOXING GURU
Watch our ‘Top 5 Light Heavyweight Knockout Reel’ video below…
Knockouts are the undisputed entertainment factor of boxing. They play a massive part in why fans flock to the sport as nobody, for so long, has been putting on gloves and technically, yet instinctively hammering away at each other over-scheduled three-minute rounds like boxers have been. There are many who have stepped inside the squared circle and consequently dropped some jaws by hitting others. Only a few have done this fight in fight out though and accumulated a plethora of stunning knockouts that fans have grown to enjoy after being hardwired over the years to find beauty in the viciousness of a knockout. In the second installment of this BoxingGuru series that will range from the big to small hitters, we rank the boxers who possess the greatest knockout reels to date and next up is the light heavyweight division!
5) Matthew Saad Muhammad
We kick this list off with one of the best offensive light heavyweights of all time. A man with a rag to riches story that would put Rocky Balboa’s to shame after losing his mother and being abandoned by his aunt and brother. This created heart and willpower that would take Muhammad to great heights in the sport.
He wasn’t born as Matthew Saad Muhammad, but it was a name that he gave himself after beating Marvin Johnson for the WBC title and converting to Islam, inspired by a certain Muhammad Ali. Saad Muhammad defended this belt a commendable eight times in an age where every fight was a challenge to retain and had a fan-friendly style that boosted his popularity. He took a lot of punishment in life and still carried on, so he wasn’t going to let punishment in the ring beat him. His granite chin and heavy hands always had fans on the end of their seat as his knockout power could turn the tide against any opponent.
Muhammad became notorious for being down on the scorecards before flooring his opponents with savage combinations earning himself the moniker ‘Miracle Matthew’. His resume gives his toughness credibility as he marked notable wins against champions and hall-of-famers such as Marvin Johnson, John Conteh, Jerry Martin, and Richie Kates. Unfortunately, Muhammad’s story ended as tragically as it started. He was broke and homeless after retiring and eventually died of lateral sclerosis. His legend will live on though and will be remembered as one of the most exciting fighters of the late ’70s.
4) Archie Moore
This man needs no introduction. If a light heavyweight today combined activity with power, they would still fall short of Archie Moore’s achievements. He has a plethora of records that haven’t been broken thanks to a successful 28-year long career. He became the boxer with the most knockouts of all time, The Ring ranks him the 2nd greatest light heavyweight of all time as well as the 4th best puncher of all time. He was the greatest light heavyweight of the century according to the Associated Press which makes sense as he is the longest-reigning champion that division has ever seen.
‘The Old Mongoose’ lived up to his name as he fought Muhammad Ali aged 46, making him the only boxer to ever fight both Ali and Rocky Marciano, a bridge of eras to our sport. Although being recognized as a King of the light heavyweight’s, Moore won it at the shocking age of 36 (recorded as 39 sometimes due to a dispute on his birth being in 1913 or 1916). Fighting past his prime regularly taught him lessons that he was able to pass down in later years as a trainer. The advice must’ve been sound as he trained George Foreman who famously won the heavyweight belt as a 45-year-old.
Moore fought as a light heavyweight for years before being given a title shot in 1952, all the while fighting opponents occasionally heavier than him. There is no better example of this than when he fought a near 210lb Embrel Davidson at 176lbs. The then 35-year-old ironically KO’d Davidson spectacularly, a knockout that makes his reel (below). Moore had tremendous power for somebody smaller than a heavyweight, this meant he would pick his punches and favored patience and accuracy over inaccurate flurries of combinations. One may wonder why he isn’t higher on the list given everything he achieved, this is because the top 3 boxed in the age where titles were more fragmented, meaning they would have to beat more champions to solidify themselves as undisputed. Regardless, whenever there is an all-time list regarding light heavyweight’s no matter the subject, Archie Moore should always be included.
3) Michael Spinks
One-half of the Spinks brothers starts us off in the top 3. He is somebody whose career is overshadowed due to being a victim to one of Mike Tyson’s best knockouts ever. This was the first and last loss of Spinks’ career, one he could not recover from which leads fans to ponder about the heights that the former undisputed light heavyweight champion could have reached in the limitless weight class, especially after already outpointing Larry Holmes for a belt in the division.
The last four years of his career as a heavyweight does not compare to the greatness he reached in the lower class. ‘Jinx’ won all his titles through unanimous decision as a light heavyweight, but don’t let that fool you into thinking he wasn’t one of the hardest punchers in the division’s history. He had an outrageously powerful and accurate overhand right, one that won him a gold medal in the 1976 Olympics as a 20-year-old middleweight. If his adversaries had a remarkable chin and managed to stay on their feet after eating one of these shots, Spinks would follow up with short lead hooks and uppercuts. The latter punch whipped away Marvin Johnson’s consciousness to decorate the KO reel.
His brother Leon was, at a time, the more famed sibling. His preparation for his first fight with Muhammad Ali, which he narrowly won making him the first man to win a title from Ali, halted Michael’s transition from an Olympian to a pro. Spinks happily took the backseat for his brother’s career but soon enough turned pro and racked up jaw-dropping knockout finishes in his early career. He carried this form on, stopping 21 of his opponents inside the distance up until that Tyson fight, making him an undisputed superstar of the 1980s.
2) Roy Jones Jr.
This icon redefined what it meant to be a light heavyweight, encompassing both words that describe the weight class as he was light on his feet yet heavy-handed. Jones’ boxing IQ and defensive mastery allowed him to dominate the division for many years as well as stepping up and winning world honors at heavyweight. Doing so saw him vacate all his current titles, ending Jones’ undisputed reign of the Light heavyweight’s that lasted over three years.
‘Captain Hook’ was notorious for his lead left, as his nickname might suggest, and had a style that captivated those who watched him for the first time and turned them into fans whenever he KO’d his opponents. Although he was one of the greats who didn’t know when to call it quits, made apparent in the brutal loss to Enzo Maccarinelli five years back, Jones will be remembered for his supremacy and stunning knockouts in the late nineties and early millennium. A champion in four weight divisions, but ‘Junior’ found the most success and fans found his best knockouts in this light heavyweight division.
*Honourable mention: Sergey Kovalev*
One of the more recent entries to the list. This man contains knockout power with a simple jab, so when he follows up with even harder hooks and straight crosses, it is devastating. Kovalev was somewhat of a late bloomer to the pro game, making his debut as a 26-year-old in 2009 after enjoying an illustrious amateur career in Russia that spanned over a decade. He won several gold medals in different competitions as a middleweight and eventually, light heavyweight.
Four years and almost 20 stoppages later, the ‘Krusher’ was able to fight for a world title. Since then he has been winning, losing, and winning back his titles that he once unified in emphatic fashion. The Russian is one of the hardest hitters of recent times to come out of a division that always promises pain. With a 40th birthday on the horizon, Kovalev may be looking at retirement soon, but he will go down in the light heavyweight history books for always putting on a show that promises entertainment with titles at stake against household names such as: Bernard Hopkins, Jean Pascal, Andre Ward, and Saul Alvarez.
*Honourable mention: Bob Fitzsimmons*
Unfortunately, there is no footage clear enough to display the greatness of Bob Fitzsimmons’ ability in the ring. Therefore, he is included in this list without a video reel. He was the very first boxer to become a triple champion back in an era where there was less than half of the number of weight classes in the sport. Although his 100+ fights were spent at middleweight, the British native completed his three-weight division title feat by capturing the then-new light heavyweight belt hence the honorable mention. What made it even more impressive was Fitzsimmons reportedly fought and won the Light Heavy and heavyweight world titles whilst not even meeting that division’s weight.
What he lacked in brute strength he made up for in boxing IQ and invented one of the earliest switch-hitting techniques with the ‘Fitzsimmons shift’. The technique and accuracy of the triple champ can be seen through squinted eyes on old footage of his heavyweight title fight against James J Corbett where Fitzsimmons laid his opponent out with a signature shot to the solar plexus. He became notorious for his heavy shots that he followed all the way through with when throwing and unloaded many of them during a contest with Gus Ruhlin. This was said to be Fitzsimmons’s most brutal KO as he left the almost 40lb heavier Ruhlin’s face bloodied and barely conscious. The man died only three years after fighting and deserves to be spoken of as one of the hardest hitters in any division he competed in.
1) Bob Foster
He may be second when it comes to the highest amount of title defenses, but Foster takes first place on our KO reel list. He is Bleacher Report’s second hardest puncher of all time and it’s hard to argue against his devastating left hand. This hook was so powerful it could knock opponent’s down even when Foster threw it standing square, just ask Vincente Rondon. Usually, ‘The Deputy Sheriff’ used his long 6’3 frame to box with a wide stance allowing him to generate lots of leverage behind his famous lead hook, which is one reason why it was so debilitating. To be able to get into range and execute his one-punch power, Foster had to use a style suitable to his forename. He would literally ‘Bob and weave’ outside of a left hand, allowing an opening for a right hand to be followed up with his killer blow of a left. His style and ferocious power took him to the top of the game, reigning as a light heavyweight champion for six years, the third-longest in the division’s history.
In this period, Foster became an undisputed champion twice in fights against Dick Tiger and the aforementioned Rondon where he served up brutal knockouts that top his KO reel. He was a predecessor to the later undisputed champions ranked third and second in this list. Just like the others after him, he was eager to take that step up to heavyweight but unlike the others, he fell short. You can’t help but feel sorry for Foster’s timing when he challenged for the prized heavyweight belt, coming up against two of the best heavyweight champions of all time in Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Despite these shortcomings, he is still highly regarded for what he did in his respective division and is considered one of the light heavyweight G.O.A.T’s today.
Check out the knockout reels below…